MN2009 Protea / Sewalongs

Hacks For Protea

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Protea Sewalong: Hacks

Protea is a pattern that can truly be mixed & matched; sleeves, necklines, skirt styles…there are so many variations to choose from within the pattern itself! But because we can’t help ourselves – today’s blog post is jam-packed with ideas on hacks for the Protea Capsule Wardrobe to create even more options! We just love sharing tips & inspiration with our community – helping you get the most out of our patterns and to create awesome unique garments that you love wearing! So, shall we get started?

Sleeves For Every Occasion

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Protea Sewalong: Hacks | Sleeves For Every Occasion

Protea’s flutter sleeve has such a gorgeous flare to it and of course the fitted sleeve is a classic you can never go wrong with – but! Why not take it further and play around with some different sleeve types?

You could keep it simple and just lengthen the sleeves for a relaxed long sleeve version or you could create an elegant bishop sleeve by slashing and pivoting open the end of your sleeve pattern piece to then gather what you’ve added back into a fixed or elastic cuff. Alternatively – go all the way and spread both ends of your slashed sleeve out to add volume to the sleeve head as well as the cuff for a dramatic puff sleeve!

Why not add little gathered tiers (or big tiers for that matter!), a single frill or a cute tie cuff to your sleeve end? Or take the sleeves off completely and create an all-in-one neckline and armhole facing a bit like Floreat’s! It’s amazing how much a different sleeve type can change the garment and how much fun they can be to play around with and hack.

Feature Facings

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Protea Sewalong: Hacks | Feature Facings

How gorgeous are Protea’s neckline-facing finishes? One of our favourite things about them is that they are so neat and discrete. But why not turn that on its head and make them a feature instead? Facings to the front, please!

This hack is so simple because you can sew your neckline almost exactly the same. The only difference is that instead of sewing the facing to the bodice with right sides together, you’ll sew them with wrong sides together instead! That way when you turn them out the right way, they’ll be sitting on the outside instead of the inside.

To really accentuate your new feature, you could also cut them in a contrasting colour fabric, sandwich a cute trim between the facing and bodice when stitching around the neckline, or of course do some beautiful embroidery around the whole piece to frame your face. There are so many ways that you could hack your facings to create a beautiful detail for your neckline – we’re so excited to see what you create!

Protea Pockets

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Protea Sewalong: Hacks | Protea Pockets

Of course, Protea includes pockets – that’s just how we roll – but if you’re looking to make your pockets more of an aesthetic element of your garment, not just a practical one, maybe a patch pocket is more your style? And guess what, patch pockets are sooo easy! They’re just a rectangle (the size of which is completely up to you), that’s hemmed on the top edge and has the other edges folded and pressed under. Then it’s just a matter of pinning and top stitching them to your skirt, which is easiest done before you’ve gathered it up!

Alternatively, another pocket variation is waist inseam pockets which can be a subtle feature if made in the same fabric as the skirt, or more of a cute peak of colour if made in a contrast fabric. Just cut yourself 4 squares of your preferred size, finish the edges by either overlocking or zig-zagging, and then sew them just like you sew normal unanchored inseam pockets (have a look at the River pocket tutorial if you need a refresher) but instead of sewing them in a side seam, it’s in a waist seam!

Playing With Length

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Protea Sewalong: Hacks | Playing With Length

Everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to length and luckily the simple shapes of Protea make it an absolute breeze to alter your garment to be *exactly* the way you like it. You can also hack the length of the different elements in your garment, be it the bodice, the sleeves, the skirt or the skirt tiers to create completely different looks! Why not use the dress bodice cut line as your blouse length and make a crop top? You could try shortening the tiered skirt panels to make a mini skirt for a cute summer look, or if you’re looking for a lovely long dress to float around in, simply extend the skirt panel to your desired length and sew it as per the normal instructions or add in a side split just for fun. To help figure out your lengths, use the finished garment measurements provided in the instructions or simply measure your pattern pieces and compare them to your body.

Tip: Don’t forget about seam and allowances! Whether you are measuring a pattern piece to check the length against your own body or calculating how long you want a finished skirt panel to be – remember to account for those allowances is a must!

Cute Crop Tops

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Protea Sewalong: Hacks | Elasticated Crop Tops

So you’ve had a go playing with the length of your Protea top, but you’re looking to turn it into something a little different? A cute elastic hem crop top hack might be just the thing! There are a couple of ways you can create this sort of look, the first and simplest is to use your hem as a channel by leaving a small section unsewn and inserting elastic. We have a fantastic tutorial that covers a method just like this which Holly wrote for an Olive blouse hack – check it out here! Alternatively, you could create the channel as a separate piece (the width of which would need to be equal to the width of the top hem) and attach it like you would a waistband (check out the Protea skirt waistband instructions for this method).

Another option might be to add the elastic further up from the hem which will double in also creating a little peplum-style frill. This can be achieved by either stretching the elastic as you zig-zag stitch it in place on the inside of the garment, or by creating and stitching a lightweight fabric channel to the inside and threading the elastic through.

Tip: Pre-made bias binding can make a great elastic channel and already has its raw edges folded under and ready to be stitched to your bodice!

The possibilities don’t end there though – why not try some shirring? Or if elasticated looks aren’t your thing, you could create a drawstring or tie waist, or gather the top hem and attach a fitted band which opens up with a placket at the side seam.

Simple Shifts

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Protea Sewalong: Hacks | Simple Shifts

Simple, clean and chic-shift dresses are always a classic and comfortable style which you can absolutely create using your Protea bodice! Just extend the hem of the blouse to your desired length, taking your hip (or wherever your widest point is) measurement into account to make sure you’ll have a comfortable amount of ease all the way down. Continuing the angle of the original bodice sides down will give you a slight A-line style, or if you want a little more shaping, get out your french curve ruler and add a gentle tapering below the hip to create a slightly narrower hem.

If you’re wanting to add a little more pizazz to your shift dress, adding the gathered skirt tier back in at the new hem length is also a gorgeous look! Depending on how long you decide to make your bodice you could create anything from a retro drop waist skirt to a long mermaid frill hem dress. You can also play with the length of your bodice front compared to the back to give a slight train effect or to go full mullet, there’s so much you can do!

Something to note for this hack is because we’ve given our waist seams the flick and Protea’s pockets are designed to be anchored in the waist seam, we’ll need a different style of pocket! Have a look at the River pockets for the kind of shape you’ll need and to make sure you get your pockets in the exact right place with you, hold up your pattern piece or cut out dress front against your body and do a little test about where your hand naturally wants to sit!

Peplums & Frills

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Protea Sewalong: Hacks | Pretty Peplums

The gorgeous gathered volume in Protea doesn’t have to be reserved only for the dresses and skirts! Why not use a shortened skirt panel to create a peplum top hack for the ultimate compromise! The length of your peplum is completely up to you, whether it be an almost-skirt length or just a little hem frill. You can also play with where you want the peplum to start – either using the original dress bodice length cut line or creating your own higher or lower. And then, for something a little different, why not make a layered peplum, with two panels of different lengths attached to the bodice? Or maybe a peplum cut from a beautiful broiderie anglaise border? Get creative with it!

Playing With Proportions

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Protea Sewalong: Hacks | Playing With Proportions

Protea’s tiered skirt & dress are designed with equal-length panels, but that doesn’t mean they have to be that way! Playing with the proportions of the tiers is a ridiculously easy hack and a simple way to change up the look completely. Why not cut one tier with the full skirt length and the other with the shorter cut line for a hint of mermaid skirt vibes? You could also shorten your second tier to just be a hem frill or cut a shorter top tier to give a drop waist look. The variations are endless and it’s as simple as extending or shortening the skirt panel rectangle to whatever length you like!

Tiers & Trims

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Protea Sewalong: Hacks | Tiers & Trim

While we’re on the topic of tiers, as well as mixing up their lengths and proportions – why not add more?! Add one or add five – they can be long or short, equal lengths or all different – it’s totally up to you. Just remember that if you’re creating gathered tiers, each one needs to be a larger width than the tier above it. The exact gathering ratio depends on how voluminous you’d like it, but a good ballpark ratio is x by 1.5.

For example the first tier uses 2 skirt panels, so 2 x 1.5 = 3 panels for the second tier.

A third would be approximately 5 panels, and a fourth would be around 8 etc.

To add a little extra detail to all those extra tiers you’re going to add, why not also play around with adding trim, lace or sheer panels between the tiers to break them up? Alternatively, just cut yourself some nice long strips of your main fabric, hem one long edge and gather it up to create a little frill to sandwich between your tiers as you sew them together!

Beautiful Button Downs

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Protea Sewalong: Hacks | Beautiful Button Downs

Whether it be a faux placket just for the look of it or the real deal, adding a button-down detail to your top can change the look completely! It can also be a practical and useful hack for those of us who struggle with over-the-head entry to garments or those who need different access points like sewers who breastfeed.

To create a functioning button opening down the centre of your garment, you’ll need to add to the centre, previously “on the fold”, edge of your pattern piece. If you’re planning on creating a separate placket facing (or extending the neckline facing to include the placket edge), add 1/2 the width of your planned placket so your centre edges will have some overlap and 5/8″ (1.5cm) for seam allowance. If you’re wanting an in-built placket though, like Darling Ranges, you’ll need to add 1 1/2 placket widths, plus an allowance to fold under and enclose the raw edges.

Tip: When you are attaching this extra amount to your bodice front or back, use a piece of paper that’s longer than the pattern piece so you can fold up the placket section and trim the top and bottom edges in line with the curves of the neckline and hem. That way all the folds of the placket will line up perfectly with your bodice when they are folded up in the fabric version!

If you’re creating a faux placket though, you can keep your bodice front or back as one piece and just create a folded pleat-like detail that gives the illusion of two separate pieces! To do this, just add 1 x placket width to the “on the fold” edge of the pattern, adding a notch marking to the neckline and hem 1/2 way through the width of this added section. When you cut out the bodice (on the fold), the notches will show you where to make the folds of the placket and the bodice will get pleated back up to its original size. Then you just need to press, the top stitch in place (you may wish to hem the bottom edge first), secure the top edge by attaching the facing and add buttons!

I hope you enjoyed all of these fun Protea hack ideas! If you’ve some hack ideas of your own let us know in the comments – we’re always looking for more inspo!

We absolutely love seeing what you make, so don’t forget to tag your creations with #MNprotea and @megannielsenpatterns when sharing on social media, and check out what everyone else is up to!


  • Sewalong: Staystitching, Darts & Shoulder Seams
  • Sewalong: Neckline Facing (this post!)
  • Sewalong: Side Seams & Sleeves
  • Bonus Protea Hack: Sleeveless Protea
  • Sewalong: Dress Drawstring Channel
  • Sewalong: Pockets & Skirt
  • Sewalong: Tiered Skirt
  • Sewalong: Attaching the Skirt to the Bodice
  • Sewalong: Dress Drawstring
  • Sewalong: Skirt Waistband
  • Sewalong: Hem
  • Bonus Protea Hack: Elastic Puff Sleeves
  • Bonus Protea Hack: Removing Bust Darts


Order Protea today in sizes 0-20 and Curve sizes 14-34

About Author

Naomi is the Design Assistant here at Megan Nielsen Patterns, and our resident helping hand. She stays busy assisting Meg with pattern development leg work, getting super excited about good instructional diagrams and making green coloured fabric suggestions for every sample we make. She’s a problem solver, a fabric addict, a serial tea-forgetter and a passionate maker.

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