Etsy shop

June 28, 2016

Gosh, it’s been a while! How the devil are you all?

My Etsy shop is now up and running. It’s a work in progress and will develop but the bears are there and they are looking very handsome.


Do please pop along and like RCMUK and feel free to buy a bear! Don’t forget, I make to order. You supply the fabric, I’ll create the bear!

Love you all.



Figuring Out What Size You Are According To A Commercially Available Pattern.

October 1, 2015

When making yourself clothes from Commercially Available Patterns the first thing you need to do is figure out the sizing of each company. There should be a degree course in this. Someone could study this for a PHD.

First. Measure yourself – or get a close friend to help out and make a party of it.

Here’s an excellent guide to measuring from Tailor Store.

Now, check the size chart on the pattern. WARNING. These are NOT immediately obvious. The sizes on the packets appear to have nothing to do with sizing you have seen anywhere else! I have no idea what an American size 34 is or what its corresponding European size 44 is. (This is on a Burda pattern for a shirt.) How do I know what size is right for eg 100cm chest? Answer – download the size chart from the website OR take the pattern out of the packet, open it up and look for the size chart printed on the pattern! The sales assistant will LOVE YOU!

It doesn’t stop there. Once you’ve found the right size for you MEASURE IT! Measure the pattern. Check that the measurements on the paper correspond with your measurements. Do NOT trust the size chart!

If I choose a shirt pattern by neck size, I end up with something a 14yr old might wear. If I go with my chest size, I end up with a Harry Hill collar.

Harry Hill, for the uninitiated

Harry Hill, for the uninitiated

In both cases I end up with sleeves that finish just past my elbows!

Several of the bloggers I’ve contacted say they hunt out 70s shirts because they are a slimmer fit and have less ease in them, something I’m going to try out!

Here’s another warning. If you download the Burda size chart for menswear, it does NOT tell you that they base the size of trousers on the SEAT measurement, not the waist. They do mention that elsewhere, just not on the PDF!
I made a pair of trousers for my waist and seat size and they came up 35in waist and baggy. Had I measured correctly I would have made a pair of trousers for a 31 in waist – I’m a 33! GO FIGURE!

So, Measure, Measure, Measure. There is NO SHORT CUT!

Ok. I’m British. Maybe everyone in the USA and Europe know what a 34 or a 44 is but wouldn’t it make more sense and be more accessible, to use cm and inches as your sizes? At least then we wouldn’t have to scare the bejesus out of nice ladies in haberdasheries as we have mini-meltdowns trying to work out what size pattern to buy!

Maybe the pattern makers could come up with a size chart, based on measurements, that they all use!

Well, we can dream.

 N.B. When I refer to ‘pattern makers’ I’m referring to the ‘big 7’!  Vogue, Burda, New Look et al. NOT the great independents that are springing up.

Welcome to Ricky’s Thoughts on Commercially Available Patterns (which are generally pretty dreadful)!

September 23, 2015

On Monday (21/09/15) I gave a talk on making menswear from patterns to the Dressmakers Social here in Brighton.
Here’s the section on patterns.

First, A brief history of the paper pattern.

The first paper patterns were designed by Ellen Curtis Demorest. Starting in 1860, these patterns were sold through a magazine, Mme. Demorest’s Mirror of Fashion. They were a single size.


Patterns with tailor’s markings were first produced in the 1940s and the multi size patterns that we are used to, the 1970s.

Since the earliest patterns, the big companies have asked well known designers to design ranges for them. From Edith Head to Mary Quant. Schiaparelli to Geoffrey Beene.

Menswear has definitely been a poor side kick. Looking through vintage patterns menswear is mainly Pyjamas, shirts. Pyjamas. Shirts. Boxers. Robes and pyjamas.

Menswear styles change slowly. The waistline moves, the length of jacket shortens, a button is added. It wasn’t until the 50s that workwear was adopted as casual wear and not until the 60s and 70s that men started having real fun with clothes. This is reflected in vintage patterns. Until the 60s most menswear patterns appear to be very traditional.

Here comes my moan!

As a man who likes clothes, there is very little in any of the pattern books that I would buy if I saw it on a hanger in a shop! Almost nothing. It’s like the powers that be haven’t noticed what guys are wearing. Guys under the age of 90 anyway. Most of the patterns look like something that you would buy from the ‘Shop of Comfortable Clothes for the Style Deficient’ or ‘Tasteless Clothes for Men who Don’t Care’. I’m surprised they don’t come packaged with a bottle of ‘Eau de Stale Urine’.


See what I mean?

I regularly skim through the menswear section of the pattern books to remind myself why I’m a pattern cutter!

Have you ever noticed where the menswear is in the books? It’s always with the sleepwear! And in the case of Vogue, Intimate apparel. I say. Run yourself up some P.J.s and a matching neglige! Of the 25 menswear patterns in Kwik Sew, 5 are sleepwear. Butterick is almost all sleepwear and a cassock! Go figure!
And what shape do they think we are? No wonder so many of us hunt out 70s patterns! You’d think we were all slightly stunted rugger players, if you went by the size charts! Willing extras for any fantasy featuring troglodytes.
I have always had to lengthen the sleeves and torso of any pattern I’ve used and, with trousers, go down a couple of sizes and add a couple of feet to the length!

Here’s a brief review of the top 7 companies. When I say 7 I probably mean 1 or 2. I have a feeling they have merged over the years.

Simplicity does exactly what it says on the tin – nothing too difficult or too stylish and all very simple!
McCalls – couple of OK things but pretty dull.
New Look – don’t bother.
Vogue – very classic, not bad styling if a tad dull, but if you want to make a DJ, or start on a classic suit, probably the place to go.
Kwik Sew – also does what it says on the tin but the jeans pattern has been recommended.
Butterick – great for sleepwear and cassocks.

The only company that does anything vaguely trendy is Burda who have some new stuff in their catalogue – skinny jeans, drop crotch chinos and a couple of really nice jersey tops. They have a rather good section of downloadable patterns online – Burdastyle. They also came out top in my very unscientific poll of men who sew.

Menswear is definitely an after-thought to the pattern companies. It shouldn’t be. There are enough of us chaps who sew and enough women who make stuff for their men.

Things are changing. There are independent companies out there that understand that we want decent, stylish patterns that reflect how we dress NOW, not in some fictional old peoples home.

Thread Theory – probably the best of the bunch. Only a few patterns but all considered, well styled and adaptable. I have the Jedediah pattern on order – I will report when I get started.
Colette – a shirt, a bag and a coat. It’s a start chaps – keep up the good work.
Hot Patterns – cool casuals, classic American workwear. Great tutorials on site

Ryuichiro Shimazaki (he of the Pattern Magic books) has a book of coat patterns and one of shirts, both of which look excellent. If you google Japanese patterns, you’ll find quite a lot of cool stuff but the sites are unfathomable! You will need a Japanese friend to help you!

My message to the big companies – PULL YOUR COLLECTIVE FINGERS OUT! 90% of the patterns for menswear are CRAP! Unconsidered, badly designed and absolutely style-free.
I want classics that have been considered. I want patterns that have been designed not created. I want patterns that reflect the times – it’s 2015 FFS! I want fresh and interesting.

I am available for consultation!

Next stop – making what is available work for you

As promised, Patch Pockets

September 9, 2015

One thing I’ve learn’t over the last couple of days is make NOT do things in miniature when you have hands made for bricklaying. It makes it very hard to be as exact as one may like.

These are the basics, the variations are endless.patch1patch2

Dressmakers Social OFFICIAL poster! EEK!

September 9, 2015


Getting ready… Pockets!

September 8, 2015

I’ve been sampling pockets for the talk! I’m a tad out of practice so have had to search YouTube for help!Sample welt pockets. Double, single and flap

Here we have a double welt, a single welt and a welt with flap. When it comes to modifying patterns, it’s a good plan to have these little beauties in your repertoire.

Excellent tutorial here

Next, patch pockets!

The Dressmakers Social

September 5, 2015

My first announcementdressinggowns

I’m giving a talk about menswear at the Dressmakers Social in Brighton.

Squeaky bum time!

The Dressmakers Social was set up by my friend Emma who’d come across a similar thing in London. It has taken off big time. Talks have been given by Gill from Ditto Fabrics, who knows everything there is to know about fabric, and Wendy from Make It Yourself, who knows everything you need to know about sewing.

Now it’s my turn, and I don’t know very much about anything!

That’s a lie. I know more than I let on, It’s a gift.

What started off as a moan about finding interesting patterns for menswear has started me really looking into menswear as a whole. I used to think it was cool to put men in dresses and had a distain of the tradition and history of men’s clothing. Now I’ve learn’t so much and my view has changed dramatically.

So, people, that’s my starting point! Come to the Marwood Cafe on 21st Sept and see where I’ve got to! I hope I don’t make a total arse of myself.

Long time no see…

September 1, 2015

Hi Chaps.

Once again, I’ve neglected you. Once again, I’ve been having far too much fun and haven’t given you an iota of thought. Once again, I should say sorry, but life’s too short and saying sorry ain’t gonna pluck no parsnips as they probably say in Norfolk.

Yes, I’ve been gallivanting. Croatia for a few days, sunning myself on the deck of a pal’s launch – ie getting sunburnt on a little put-put with an awning the size of a postcard home. Reading Festival to hang out with Metallica  – I took cake, like you do, and it went down very well. I’m sure I’ve done loads of other stuff but my brain has been addled by fine wine, caviar, cured hams and other things I won’t mention.

But I have news! Exciting news! I’ll tell you about the scary thing in the next post and then in a future post I can let you in on the less scary but very grown up thing!

Tis V exciting!


Me and My Body

November 25, 2014

Inspired by this conversation with the legend that is Cary Franklin…twitterconvoFar too much to say in a tweet, so here goes.

I’m not going to go into what is done to photographs to create the ridiculous standards that the fashion industry expects us to aspire to because I’ll just end up shouting in capitals, hyperventilating and probably breaking something. I will say that I’m 51, tall, skinny and do not fit into any fashion industry standard of male beauty. I’m not a suit and tie guy. I’m not a trackies and trainers chap. I’m atypical! My own little fashion experiment.

Instead I’ll write about ME – my fave subject – and my body – not my fave subject.

When I was 4 I had the fibula of my right leg removed. Cancer, apparently – I only found out a couple of years ago. I have a scar running from my ankle to just below the knee on the outside of my calf. Very feint now, but it’s there. I had an operation on my ankle when I was 16 to correct the way my ankle had developed without the fibula and now have a scar on the inside of my ankle and a little nubbin where the steel staple that holds everything in place protrudes. Also feint.

A week or so before my 24th birthday I had a lump removed from my neck. The scar is tucked behind my collar bone so not very visible. Got the results of the biopsy on my 24th birthday. “Happy Birthday, you’ve got cancer.”
I had 6 weeks of radiotherapy.

The radiotherapy caused scar tissue to form in the entrance to my left lung. To cut a long story short I had a left pneumonectomy in 2006. Yep, they nicked my left lung. Admittedly it wasn’t doing anything, just making me ill, but I had some affection for it. So, from that op, I have a massive scar that runs under my left arm and follows the line of my ribs almost to the middle of my back. (I tell people I was gummed by a shark) There is also the drain scar. My spine is now twisted due to muscle wastage on my left side.

So, I have one leg that is thinner and shorter than the other and my torso is twisted and lopsided. I’m the perfect candidate to play Richard III or the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

I’ve had my moments. After my ankle op, my foot looked gross. Swollen and bruised. After my neck op I looked hollow and thin. After the radiotherapy I was sunburnt and bits of my hair fell out. I looked like an uncooked side of pork ready for the oven after my pneumonectomy. When I saw it for the first time after my op I almost threw up. It was horrible. They were all horrible experiences and after each of them I felt ugly, deformed – not nice for other people to be around. Who wants to see my scars and lumps and bumps?

But NO!!!
I’m a show off! I’m not going to let such things take me away from centre stage. In fact, I’ll use them to make sure I stay centre stage!

I loved showing off my fresh pneumonectomy scar and watching people blanch. I loved shaking my torso so people could hear the colIagen sloshing around in the empty space of my chest. I loved pulling my hair out on the bus, turning round grinning maniacally at the person stay behind me. I loved going dancing with my leg in plaster.

Yes. I celebrate my scars every day. I am aware of them all the time. I am aware of my body constantly. I’m amazed at how it has adapted. In X-rays of my leg you can see a ‘ghost’ of a bone where my fibula used to be – a tiny ribbon of tissue (?) where the bone has tried to re-grow and reconnect. My right lung is massive and even fills some of the space vacated by my left. The left side of my chest naturally filled up with collagen to stop the rest of my internal organs form invading the space! I’m proud of my scars. They are what I’ve been through to get here. They are my story. They are my battle scars, my war wounds. Without them, I literally wouldn’t be me. I’d be dead.

I look in the mirror now and see a body that is unusual. I don’t see ugly and deformed. I see battered and wonky – but it works. It doesn’t work as well as I might like it too and boy do I let everyone know when it’s playing up but it does work. I’m amazed it works. I love that it works! I love my body! It’s fucking amazing!

My scar and my birthday suit!

My scar and my birthday suit!

I’m a member of a group on a well known social media platform. We’ve all lost a lung or have a child with one lung. There are loads of reasons for people having a lung removed – cancer, TB, accidents – but I think I can say we are all proud of our pneumonectomy scars. Without them, we’d be really sick people with no future. With them, we have a chance – a bloody good chance – of living long, happy, useful lives. This is the photo that was used for our group calendar.

RC-M versus the WI part er whatever

November 25, 2014

Cherry swirls!

cherryswirls1 IMG_6256

The mixture was so thick it broke my piping bag, hence no swirls!

They taste OK but if you don’t like glace cherries, don’t bother!