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Make Your Own Pattern: Reese


Just before the weather turned, I was shopping for the warmer temperatures at a few local stores and in the distance in one store, a blue, floral printed top caught my eye. The colors were vibrant and that’s just what I needed after a winter that wouldn’t go away. I walked over to the table where the blouse was perfectly folded and when I held it up in front of me, I realized that it was just two rectangles that were shirred, sewn together, and had straps attached. My mind goes nuts when I discover things like this. Nuts! Madeleine Vionnet, a fashion designer during the early twentieth century, was known for transforming simple shapes like squares and rectangles into both chic and flattering garments. On body, these garments drape and highlight every type of figure.

The goal of my blog is to take the fear out of pattern making and teach other enthusiasts the tricks of the trade. Unlike sewing, pattern making is a closely guarded skill. Unless you’ve had experience in the industry or you’ve had a great mentor, many of the fundamental pattern making skills, like armhole balance, are unknown and hard to learn.

About an hour before my bus ride back to Philly on one of my trips to NYC, I met Lindsey, Editor at Kollabora, for coffee. It was the middle of winter so naturally we talked a lot about the summer. She wanted to make a simple top for a summer festival she was attending and asked me for direction. I gave her one suggestion of how she could create a pattern for a simple tank using the pattern making technique of slashing and opening but when I discovered this blouse, I thought it would be the perfect project for her. “Lindsey, I have an idea…” I wrote to her in an email around April or so. I told her my story and pitched her my idea. She was totally up for it. So over the past couple of months, I created and tweaked a tutorial that shows how you can make a simple summer top, named Reese, from two rectangles. Lindsey and her intern, Cina, tested the pattern making DIY along the way to make sure there were no mistakes and that my directions were clear. Today, Kollabora and I are releasing the tutorial to you – to download, click here or the footer of this post. We also created a Pinterest board for inspiration – check it out! If you decide to make a Reese top, upload a picture to instagram with the hashtag #Madalynne. We, Kollaboara and I, would love to see your interpretations. Plus, you’ll be able to check out all the tops that were made if you’re on the fence about making one.

For those of you who make your own Reese, Lindsey and Cina are here to tell you about their experiences. Hopefully, it will guide you as you work through your project and answer any confusion you may have.

Cina: Making the Reese top was a pretty new experience for me. Being a fashion student, it is easy to get stuck in complex pattern constructions and seam finishes. This top was super easy to cut,  just simple rectangles, and had no shaping to it. I thought that it would be pretty quick from there but I realized that getting the gathers even and sewing the basting stitches for the gathering took so much more time than I thought it would! It was a good lesson in being patient. 

I love how the top turned out! It is the perfect top to wear on a hot summer day because it is so airy and loose fitting!

Lindsey : I’m an instant gratification type of girl (also maybe a little lazy…?), which usually means I “measure once, mess up twice, just keep going anyway.” This has resulted in me knitting tanks that could fit toddlers and hacking sewing projects at the last stages because I inevitably missed a step or didn’t read the instructions all the way through before starting. Of course, I did this with the Reese as well. Basting stitch, what? Who has time for that? 

So what happened (after I pulled my shirring out twice and broke a machine needled) was that the bulk of my fabric ended up at the back of the tank but created this really cool cropped, avant garde shape that I love. I also hacked the strap a little bit so I could adjust it at the neck which created more of a dip in the neckline rather than it falling flat against my chest. 

I absolutely LOVE my Reese and I can’t wait to make another one but I have a feeling that it’s going to turn out slightly different than the first. I’ve worn this with high waisted jeans and shorts and funky asymmetrical skirts and every time I wear it someone always asks about it.

reese_5_edited reese_6_editedreese_2_edited

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  1. Reply

    Natasha Estrada

    See one, do one, teach one in action

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      If I have your approval, Natasha, I know it’s good. You’re a tough critic (in a good way) 🙂

      • Reply

        Natasha Estrada

        LOL I think I lose some of my softness over the internet somehow.

        Speaking of armhole balance have you read this?

        The Development of a Hybrid System for Designing and Pattern Making In-Set Sleeves

        • Reply

          Maddie Flanigan

          No, I haven’t, but I’m headed on over to check it out.

        • Reply

          Maddie Flanigan

          whoa! I just opened it and read a couple of pages. It’s long but super interesting. Have you read it?

          • Natasha Estrada

            Not all of it. I opened it and it was like mind *boom*.

  2. Reply

    Cirque Du Bebe

    I love this! Going to check out the tutorial right away.

  3. Reply

    Daughter Fish

    Love this, Maddie! Super cute!

  4. Reply


    I love the top! Too bad it might come off as maternity wear for girls with larger busts (me). But, hey, it would be cute as maternity wear, too!

  5. Reply


    I’m so very excited about this!! I’ve been doing some more complicated projects lately, so it will be nice to whip up something simple. Plus, this top is just beautiful! Love the layout of the directions. I can’t wait to share mine. 🙂

  6. Reply


    Thank you so much! Can’t wait to get home from work and download the tutorial! Looks like an awesome top..

  7. Reply


    I just printed out the tutorial, it is so nicely done and pretty 🙂 I am excited, this will be a fun project without having to worry about fit! Thanks for all of the work you put into it!

  8. Reply

    Heather Lou

    Love this! Gonna whip one up, maybe this weekend!

  9. Reply


    So adorable, when the wedding planning is done, I will have to make one!

  10. Reply


    This is such a great idea! Can’t wait to sew one!

    Also, the tutorial is stunningly beautiful!

  11. Reply


    This is super cute, but I’m already very confused by the instructions… Is the neckline finished raw edge or is the twill tape turned under? How is the twill tape applied to the keyhole? What keyhole? I don’t see one in the sketch or in the pictures of the garment. How are the twill tape straps applied… legnth of halter(?) and is the bow at the CB a part of the strap measurement? Perhaps there is a page missing… the first and last page are identical and there doesn’t seam to be a “voila” moment.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Grace, I’m sorry you’ve run into some confusion. If you look at the sketch for step 9, you will see that the neckline is finished raw. Also on the sketch for step 9, you will see that the keyhole opening is formed by inserted a separate piece of twill tape into the twill tape along neckline. The straps are threaded through this opening and tied – which holds up the garment. Does this make sense?

      • Reply


        Ooooooooh! So it’s kind of like a loop, rather than a keyhole? The instruction #6 says “keyhole” and the way the sketch is drawn make it look like it’s a keyhole opening in the CB seam. Doesn’t that make the CB neck edge flip out when worn? I think I’ll insert mine the opposite way with the loop on top.

        • Reply

          Maddie Flanigan

          I apologize. I see how that word, keyhole opening, can be misleading. I updated the tutorial to say loop.

          On my top, the way the loop is inserted, which is downward, doesn’t cause the neck edge to be flipped out when worn. Whether it’s inserted the way the tutorial states or the way you suggest, the loop will face up when the straps are looped through it and tied.

          • Grace

            Hey, no worries. Now that I understand what’s going on it makes total sense. I’m looking forward to seeing all the versions of this top!

          • Maddie Flanigan

            thanks for the callout. I appreciate honesty.

          • Grace

            Hey Maddie, I just tried to send you a message, but the contact form didn’t work. The instructions for Reese are missing the step where tier 1 and tier 2 are sewn together.

          • Maddie Flanigan

            You know what I did? When I updated the tutorial, I eliminated the last page (the first and last page are repeated). I updated it. Sorry again about the mistake.

  12. Reply


    What a great warm weather project. I love the sweet and flow-y silhouette. I can’t wait to give this tutorial a try once the weather cooperates with me a little.

  13. Reply

    Sohini Sarkar

    Cannot wait to try it out!!! I am also thinking about lengthening it to make a dress with that interesting hemline… has anyone tried it?

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