Rouleau Loops

In my previous tutorial for a reversible skirt I used rouleau button loops.  I had originally planned on making ordinary button holes but changed my mind.  As that tutorial was quite involved (to say the least) I thought I would leave the bit about how to make rouleau loops until today.

Most of my clothes have rouleau loops instead of button holes.  My sewing machine has a choice of about ten different button holes which it cleverly does automatically, but I just really like the look of the rouleau loop.  You can make them in the same or contrasting fabric to your garment and can match or contrast them to covered buttons. Most shop bought clothes use button holes so the rouleau loop makes your garment look handmade and special. They can be a bit fiddly, and you need a rouleau loop turner but I think it’s worth the effort.

I had worked out my own way of making rouleau loops which I will share with you.  The difficulty I always had was deciding how long to make them.  Luckily last year when I was looking for a book on using luxury fabrics I stumbled across a fabulous new book by a bridal gown designer called Becky Drinan, The Wedding Dress who solved this dilemma.  I very nearly overlooked this book as I wasn’t wanting to make a wedding dress. I’m so glad I didn’t.


This book is really very good.  It has plenty of hand sewing and machine sewing techniques that I’ve not seen anywhere else.  She has found much simpler ways to achieve really professional looking results.  I particularly like her lockstitch which she uses for hemming, so similar to many others but I think she has perfected it.


This book has lots of lovely photographs and patterns for gorgeous fashionable wedding dresses.  But the best thing about this book is the template for the corset which forms the basis of all the dresses.  I’m not sure you can see it very well in the picture, but it is a map that you plot your own measurements on (quite a lot of them) so that you get a completely customized, fitted bodice.  I’ve tried it and it works.  It gives a perfect fit.  I made a white floral top which you can see on my tailor’s dummy in the background of my post about my new sewing room.


So, anyway, back to the rouleau loops.

You need to cut strips of fabric on the bias (diagonally across the grain) so it is stretchy.  If you’ve not done this before, fold a square of fabric into a triangle and cut along the sloped edge.  I cut mine approximately 2 cm from the folded edge giving me a strip of fabric about 4 cm wide.  This makes a nice fat rouleau loop.  I then shortened my sewing machine stitch and sewed a line of stitches 6 mm from the fold with right sides together.  At one end I moved the stitching further away from the folded edge to form a wider trumpet shape.  Then I stitched a second row next to the first for added strength.


To turn it the right way round, I pushed my rouleau loop turner into the narrow end and secured it at the funnel shaped end and just pulled it back out.  That sounds far simpler than it is.  Not that it’s difficult, it’s just fiddly to get it started.  But once it’s going, it turns really easily.

Now to decide how long to make them.  I won’t tell you how I did this before I discovered Becky Drinan’s book.  I’m just grateful I did find her book of common sense.  She says that each rouleau loop needs to be the circumference of your button plus 3 cm (twice your seam allowance).  Common sense, really.  I don’t know why I didn’t work that out myself.  I have amended this slightly to suit my own preferences and it depends on the shape of buttons I’m using.  I like my buttons to fit the rouleau loops very snuggly (so they don’t decide to open at an inopportune moment) and I like to make sure there is no gap in the opening of my skirt or dress, so my formula based on Becky Drinan’s is:

2 x the diameter of my button + 2 x my seam allowance.

For me this makes the perfect rouleau loop.

Next week I will be showing you how I made the pintucks on my reversible skirt.



Reversible Skirt Tutorial

This week I came up with an idea to make a reversible skirt.  I wanted a reversible skirt that didn’t look like a reversible skirt.  My aim was to have a normal looking skirt which just happened to be reversible.  After buying the fabric I wanted, I thought I would check other reversible skirt tutorials before starting to sew.  There aren’t that many and I noticed a lot of people are asking questions about how to make one.  So, this is my version and how I made it.

The first thing is to take some measurements.  You will need your upper hip measurement (a) (this is where the top of your skirt will be) , your hip measurement (b), the distance between where your upper hip measurement was taken and where your hip measurement was taken (c) and the length of your finished skirt (d).  Then you need to transfer these measurements to a piece of paper with seam allowances to make your pattern. This is actually really easy to do and not something to panic about.  The front and back skirt are the same so you need just one pattern piece for both.  As the skirt is symmetrical, each piece will be cut on the fold, so the pattern piece you draw is for half the front/back (a quarter of your hip and upper hip measurements).

Hopefully, nobody actually has a figure like this one, sadly my drawing skills are lacking.




Fill in your measurements, remembering to divide your hip and upper hip measurements by 4 as shown and add your seam and hem allowances on.  I don’t tend to put in much ease on my skirts but if you want yours a bit roomier around the hips just move the line slightly further out.  (Every 1 cm wider on the pattern will increase the width of your skirt by 4 cm!)

I have drawn this pattern as a slight A-line, wider at the bottom.  This is up to your personal preference as to whether you prefer a straight cut or A-line skirt.  However, do bear in mind that you will need enough room to walk but if you make it too wide you won’t be able to fit both pieces on one width of fabric, so will have to buy twice the amount.  I usually adjust my patterns so that both pattern pieces just squeeze onto my fabric.  I bought an 80 cm length in each fabric for this skirt which was plenty.

Cut out two pieces of fabric on the fold in one fabric and two pieces on the fold in a second fabric but make this one about 6 – 8 cm longer than the first. (You’ll see why later.)  You will also need a strip of fabric in each colour measuring about 7 cm wide and 25 cm long.  This will form a button placket or tab to fill the gap behind your buttons and loops.

Sew and finish the side seams of both skirts leaving a gap at the top of one side measuring ‘c’ + 1.5 cm.   (This will give you enough room to get the skirt on and off.)  Try both skirts on at this point to check the fit.  My skirts are always too wide at the waist at this point partly because my measuring is so bad and partly because I’m worried I might make it too tight and then I would have to start again.  Last time I used this pattern I altered the top to make it fit first time, but I still cut it larger this time just in case!  So I had to do my side seams twice.

Make four rouleau loops and attach them to the top opening of one skirt flush with the fabric edge.  I sewed about three lines of stitches across the rouleau loops to secure them.


Sew the placket with right sides together across the top down the side, along the bottom and a little way up the other side.  I have interfaced mine.  Trim and clip the seam allowances and turn to right side and attach to side opening. Check that the raw edges match up with the opening on your skirts (leaving a 1.5 cm seam allowance at the top) and that the finished end of the placket extends below this edge by about 5 cm and attach it to one skirt opening.

Sew both skirts together along top seam allowance with right sides facing.  Turn right side out.  Top sew along placket, across rouleau loops and around top edge of skirt, sandwiching the placket and rouleau loops.  Sew four buttons on opposite the loops.  This can be on the seam allowances of the skirt or on the inner edge of the button placket, whichever you prefer.  Then reverse skirt and sew four more buttons in the same place onto the skirt now showing.

Hem shorter skirt to desired length.  Fold longer skirt, iron and hem so that about 2.5 cm is showing behind the shorter skirt and making sure that the hem is hidden from view.

I hope this tutorial has been helpful.  There will be follow on posts on how I made the rouleau loops and some of the other techniques I used to make this reversible skirt, such as the pintucks on the brown fabric and the decorative hem I used on the duck egg blue spotty fabric.