And draft patterns, will log some of the processes here.
And draft patterns, will log some of the processes here.
I recently had an interesting conversation with a fashion marketing student doing a college project on designer’s rights – the thorny copyright issue that keeps popping up.
We surprised each other. I didn’t come down for greater designer protection, in spite of a couple of negative experiences in the past. Then my turn for a surprise. Fumbling towards explaining why extra legal rights don’t seem like a good idea, I drifted to what couturiers offer clients in return for wads of cash . Not just the novelty in the theatrical flim flam of their collections, but a quality product made for the individual . I tried to explain fit as a unique selling point. And was surprised to understand that not everyone sees it as a major issue.
In rtw as in purchased patterns for home sewing, in lieu of fitting we have grading. How do you feel about multi-sized patterns? I’m not so keen. To me, they say ‘grade nest’, and ‘grade nest’ says ‘standardised sizing’. Or actually standardised shape, caused by standardised ratio of measurements within sizes. Once you sell a client the option of several sizes, does it detract from making sure each size is right in all its detail?
Couturiers offer clients design magic made to fit. Mass production may plagiarise , but I don’t think they make an approximate copy which is close enough to be competition for the real thing. Its a different and far cheaper product. Grading may be an evil necessity, if you want to get patterns for garments in a range of sizes quickly , but as applied to home sewing patterns, I suspect a loss of attention to line and detail.
If you do want to study getting your pattern idea quickly into several sizes, ‘Grading for the Fashion Industry’ by Patrick Taylor and Martin Shoben is a good bet. In common with a couple of other books from the Shoben stable, the edition I have has a minor irritation, in that illustrations or diagrams are not always right next to the text you need to read with them. They are large and clear and well labelled though.
For a quick fix Threads have an article on cut and spread, a hands on way of changing pattern size.
The Taylor/Shoben book opens with a chapter on sizing surveys and gives several tables of measurements derived from these. The fascinating thing about these surveys is how the raw data has been used in the clothing industry.
We’re awash with cheap fashion clothing, and one reason so many of us sew, is that it so rarely fits. A table on page 12 reveals why. It shows the percentage of the population per hip size in 3 bust size categories (the survey originally provided data for six). In sizes 10 to 22 35.9 percent fall into the ‘medium bust’ category, with 22.4 per cent and 24 .7 percent falling into the small bust and full bust categories. Its pretty much a given then, that manufacturers, in choosing to give the best fit to the largest category (medium bust), are making clothing which won’t be a perfect fit on the majority. No wonder we have landfill.
Then there’s height, usually quite a simple thing to alter a pattern for. Here’s what we learn about this -
‘Another consideration is whether or not to incorportate height in the size chart, that is, whether to increase height with girth. The survey indicates that height does not increase with girth and so, according to the conclusions of the survey, height should not increase with size. However, many manufacturers would argue that if the height increases with girth then the market will widen and more of the population can be served …..’
Which is like saying
Of course we know nobody gets taller as they get wider, but that’s how we’re doing things.
I don’t know if sewing patterns get tested in all sizes. I do suspect not, and that the troubles with the super tight sleeve in Vogue 1257 which I posted about last time arise through grading the pattern two dimensionally, and then not sewing up the sizes.
As mrsmole wrote in the comments
“It does make you wonder who is actually testing these pattern, surely not DVF”.
Who is testing the patterns is probably us.
Throwing common sense to the winds again here. Disregarding cement dust, leaking water and smashed tiles to sew a little.
This time its Donna Karan V1257.
Not a new baby, and for some an unloved one. Still, as I’m altering the tissue on my knee, cutting out on the bed, and stitching in a pile of tins, cutlery and pans, I thought I might as well pile on the punishment and nurse a troublesome little pattern as well.
The front is cut like a kimono sleeve, front bodice and sleeve in one, with the added frisson of the back sleeve joining on, but as the back half of a set in sleeve. This part of the sleeve joins to the back bodice, where a regular armhole takes the half sleeve head. With me so far?
Several reviewers mentioned that the sleeve was circulation stopping tight. You don’t even need to get your tape measure out to see that, but I did anyway. Biceps is 10 and a half inches at the widest point.
I cut through the pattern front from underarm to neck point and added a wedge in, increasing the sleeve head by 3/8ths and the underarm by one inch, then added five eights to each side seam, altering the back so it would match up. The result in my two way stretch jersey was a reasonably comfortable fit. I think the pattern measurement is closer to leotard tight, so maybe it would be ok if you use a stretch lycra and can take having your upper arm encased in a sausage skin fit. Or have very skinny arms of course.
Other pattern beefs? The neckline has the usual problems of gape and plunge, I stitched some elastic along the facing edge. The knot makes extra bulk, where pleats in both the bodice and skirt also join bulkily. I did some ad hoc hacking with messy hand finishing inside to get rid of the unseen bits of the pleats and the underside of the knot. You could use a lighter jersey, but wouldn’t you want a skirt lining if you did? The pattern doesn’t have one.
Photography is still minimal I’m afraid. A selfie in the boxroom was all flash, so here it is, flat out on the bed again.
When Henry Ford said something along the lines of ” You can have any colour as long as its black”, did it cross his mind that not every black is equally black? Probably not – black auto paint is as black as it gets.
Its not so simple when it comes to fabric is it? In a building lull yesterday, I made Very Easy Vogue 8825. It was Very Easy. I used a yard and a half of dirt cheap jersey from a fabric stall in Watney market, priced at either £1 or £1.50 a yard, I forget. The fabric was originally intended for something else but became a dress for the price of a cheap tea towel.
Vogue 8825 has the Vogue signatures of a plunge you need a camisole under, and a very generous tie belt. The belt goes someway to explaining the two and seven eighths of a yard they tell you to buy. How hard is it to match blacks? I think I got away with the belt, the closest black I could find in stash, but match the black in the print it does not.
At the weekend I met up with some sewing pals from The Sewing Forum. We did Berwick Street.
I focused on collecting samples of sinfully expensive blacks – cheapest £39 a metre, least frugal £60 a metre. Er yes a blue and a black tulip snuck in there when I was off my guard, but mostly I kept to the plan, silk or silky of cocktail dress persuasion.
There’s a black velvet with tulips embroidered in a delicate line of silver thread and a chiffon with a narrow stripe from Misan Fabrics, as well as an embroidered black on black, a nice crepe and something with a crinkled surface texture from The Cloth Shop, and nice medium weight silks from The Silk Society, Broadwick Silks, Biddle Sawyer Silks. You couldn’t find an exact match amongst the different qualities though. Fibre and surface texture must alter dye take up and shade.
Having stuck to my guns and not bought any lengths before drafting a pattern, I needed a treat.This beaded yoke piece will find its way onto the boat neck of something one day. All of these shops and a few more are either on Berwick Street or just off it on a crossing street. Berwick Street leads off Oxford Street between the tube stations of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Circus.
When I got the batch of patterns including Vogue 8825, in an unusually organised streak, I checked who had made them up, who had reviewed them, and posted a summary of their comments on the back of the envelope, before the excitement of new patterns wore off.
The jersey I used was medium weight and quite soft. A heavier jersey could make the layers in the cross over at the waist seam unduly bulky. There are pleats folding at the same point, and a grown on facing. The only changes I made to the pattern were a teeny FBA and ignoring the cuffs in favour of bell shaped sleeves.
The parcity of posts lately might lead anyone to suppose I’d pricked my finger on a microtex and fallen asleep for a hundred years. Actually, I’ve been a busy bee, but my camera suffered an operator error or two.
Before this London trip , spending on duty watching hopefully for signs that some frogs will Princely turn a duff kitchen into something more worthy of a Princess to rustle up her Porridge in, before too the hiatus of mulled chouchenn* and imported mince pies in France, I was here and made a coat. Really, I did, though the photos were way too fuzzy, and can’t be retaken yet.
It started well – that is, it provided the right excuse to pay a visit to a new to me fabric shop.
You find it off Brick Lane, by the way. Turn down Quaker St. Its open on Sundays, which so happened to be my first day in London that trip. Too serendipidous. Brick Lane maybe off the tourist itinery if its a first London visit, but on Sundays is good for pleasant stroll past stalls selling multi cultural hot food, others selling vintage bits and bobs, and checking out the ever changing street art in (amongst others) Hanbury St, which crosses it. You’ll come across one of the most comprehensive art materials stores a short way down this street, and that too is open on Sundays.
I found a nice navy wool and burgundy lining, valiantly resisting all other covetable wools and wool/silk blends.
Looking for a velvet for the collar took me later to the Sewing andCraft superstore in Balham, which didn’t have the right one, but was good for lots of irrational haberdashery stash building and a couple of pieces of leather. They had a great selection of large black buttons, but not navy.
So that’s it, coat is sewn. Pictures will follow sometime, and with it a quick perusal of the methods of binding buttonholes.
Meanwhile, on the method melée topic, which direction do you press your darts? I was taught waist darts pressed to the centre, bust dart upwards. You read that right. The rationale is that its the outside of the garment which counts, and having waist darts pressed to the centre gives a visual impression of a narrower panel – inch reduction again. The bust dart going upwards because it is seen from above, so on the outside, the fabric stand slightly proud, and reduces the chance of being aware of the stitched line of the dart cutting across the bodice. What’s your preference?
* try it, warm it up just until it looks frothy. Happy 2014.
Have a good 2014, fellow stitchers!
Have you made a list of sewing resolutions? Perhaps the one that goes something like this -
‘ I will eat my stash, conquer pad stitching, learn bead embroidery, make a dozen coordinating outfits, and turn those scraps into patchwork cushion covers, oven gloves and bread bags’
Me? I’m throwing in the towel. Facing facts. Accepting the inevitable. Last year’s rezzies bit the dust well before Spring had wafted in. Might as well admit it, planning isn’t my forte. But maybe you have hit on the winning formula, the right ratio of inspired madness to methodical plodding? Can you muster up the discipline to not only make the list, but get it done?
In lieu of the grand list, I’m merely going to resolve to catalogue some techniques this year. Starting with
Lining a sleeveless dress or top
The all time favourite method of course is the one I used in the babydress posted here. The roll up. In summary:-
Lining serves as facing. Stitch the shoulder seams, but not the side seams. With RS of lining to RS of garment, stitch, trim, understitch and press the neckline. Then, the clever part, roll up the garment so as to bring the right side of the armhole lining to the right side of its corresponding outer fabric, the whole dress shoulder width crammed into the width of one shoulder piece. Stitch and pull through.
The advantages are obvious – such a beautiful finish when it works, with no hand stitching.
It would be the only method you need, if only all fabrics and all shoulder widths were obliging. When your fabric is bulky, or the shoulder pieces very narrow, you can get your dress or top well and truly jammed. Have you ever done this? The only remedy I found was to carefully unpick the narrowest part of the shoulder section, pull through oh so gently, and very gingerly tuck in the already trimmed turnings, slip stitching the armhole seam closed. A solution with a high cock-up risk.
Next up, the Open Shoulder
I was taught this by my couture teacher. Its got good points. Maybe you have a garment in fabrics which you don’t want to bulk up with heavy facing and interfacing, or maybe the fabric is delicate, and stretches easily or the neckline shape is daring you to stretch it out of shape. Its a Vee on the cross, or a scoop. It will laugh off stay stitching and stretch between cutting table and machine.
The method has its bad points too – actually one major bad point. You have to line up the edges of the shoulder seams exactly, there’s no room for fudging.
Treat the front and back as flat pieces, facing with either a lining or continuous facing piece, leaving the side seams and shoulders open, or after doing the side seams – either works. The greatness of this method is that a dodgy fabric or neckline shape can be tamed without interfacing, stay stitching, seam binding or other paraphernalia. You can even leave cutting your neckline shape until after you have stitched on the facing/lining. If you have ever wept as a scoop gets scoopier when you gingerly lift your piece to the machine, this is the method of choice. Just chalk the stitch line on the WS of the lining piece, and cut the shape away after joining the pieces.
Its the next part which knocks this method out of first place.
Trim and turn the lining/facing, and press. All neat and looking good, but the shoulder seams have to be joined by stitching the outer fabric front and back pieces together, matching the neck and armhole edges exactly. Then the lining is turned under and slip stitched on the inside. On a good day and with the right machine, you can stitch some of the lining shoulder seam in a continuous run with the shoulder seam of the outer. This makes for a stronger, neater edge. But, if you don’t get those edges lined up its there for all to see. You have been warned.
Separate facings and lining
Classic and foolproof, but also pretty tedious, and bulky. For this you need to have or to cut separate facing and lining pieces. This post discussed planning them, if your pattern doesn’t have them.
A facing in the same fabric as the outer avoids having the lining showing during movement, but can create a lot of bulk too, especially at the seams. Joining the lining to the facing means stitching curves together, so accurate turnings help, but unlike the method above, bodges are all inside.
Thats my three dress lining/facing methods, have I left any out?
What’s your least used sewing gadget?
Vying for first place I have
Seldom I remember that I have some dressmaker’s carbon, and rarely does it turn out to leave a useful mark . Its probably great if you always use smooth textured pale and washable fabric. Shirtmakers, this is for you.
Then there’s these things – honestly two needles in the ironing board work so much better.
And then there’s one of these . I have used it for cutting binding, but clearing space for the self healing mat, pressing uniformly and firmly on the steel ruler, not wobbling and avoiding slicing a finger tip, rapidly blunting blade – I’ll take the shears.
Got any space wasters lurking in your workroom?
What do you/would you sew yourself for yourself, or, probably more to the point, what don’t you bother to sew? Here’s my list.
socks, tights, bras, knickers
jeans 50/50 (ok, sometimes I’ll make them, but as you can pick them up for peanuts in sales…. not often)
How about you?
Hayboxes and similar methods of getting food cooked in its own heat after bringing it to boiling point are not new, some version has probably been around as long as cooked food. I once posted about making sewn versions, Betsy asked if I can make a pattern available for those who want to make their own. This post is to explain how you can make your own pattern.
(Its a bit more elaborate than some, because I have removable cushions for the polystyrene, and easier to pull drawstrings.)
First measure loosely round your cooking pot from the centre of the base to the centre of the top, holding the tape measure two or three inches wide of the side and top. You need this to be wide because there will be insulation around the pot. Use this measurement as the radius and draw a circle.
Cut the circle out and fold it so as to get eight segments and draw lines along the folds like the spokes of a wheel. Mark one inch in from the edge on each line with a dot.
Trace a segment off. Add half an inch turnings to the two straight sides.
Measure or calculate the circumference. Draw a rectangle three inches by half the circumference plus one inch.
Draw round the base of the pot and add an inch all round this circle.
This is going to rely on text with the odd diagram. I removed most of my photos of the process when I took down the old post, I’m limiting my sewing while the ligaments in my hands come to terms with my having played lumberjack .
(Picture of my doppelganger from here)
Materials cotton or linen fabric with a close weave, cord, tape or ribbon for drawstring, polystyrene beads or other insulation.
Cut 2 of the large large circles. One is lining, one is outer, so you might want to have pretty fabric for the outer.
Cut 4 small circles – these make a base cushion and a top cushion to help the insulation.
Cut 16 segments. These make cushions that tuck in between the outer and lining, so scrap fabric like old sheeting is fine.
Cut two rectangles which will bind the edge of the outer circle making channels for the drawstring to draw it up around the pot.
Fold the large circles pressing the folds so that you have guidelines for stitching the 8 segments. Mark on the lining piece the dots you put on the pattern an inch from the edge.
Hem the edge of the lining circle by turning in the edge 1/4 inch to the wrong side, stitching along the fold, turning a second time taking 1/2 inch and stitching .
On each strip of binding, turn the short edges under 1/2 inch and stitch. Fold in half lengthwise and press the foldline.
Bind the edge of the large circle like this:- stitch one piece of binding to the edge starting from one of your segment lines and ending half way round, putting right sides together and taking half an inch turnings. Ease the binding in as you go, it will be slightly longer than the line you’re stitching it to. Do the same to the second half with the other piece of binding. Fold half an inch under on the other long edge of the bindings and stitch down enclosing the raw edges on the wrong side, along the first stitching line or close to it.
Thread a length of ribbon or tape through each of the channels you just made, passing it out in the spaces between the two bindings.
With the lining circle wrong side down on the wrong side of the outer circle and the segment lines matching, stitch along the segment lines, stopping at the dots you marked and back stitching to secure. Stitch across these ends for about an inch each side of the line (less if you’re making a small version). This T shape stitching is to help hold the segment cushions in place, but you need to leave a big enough gap to push them in.
Now you will have a large circle with eight pockets and you make eight segment shaped cushions to fill with beans.
To make and fill segment cushions put two segment pieces wrong sides together, stitch round, leaving a gap at the pointed end. Turn right side out and using a funnel fill it with polystyrene beans about two thirds full. Stitch the gap closed. Repeat for the other segments. Tuck them into the pockets.
This was the make-shift funnel I used to fill the segments, cardboard lashed up with parcel tape. I recommend filling outside if possible, the beads go everywhere.
To make and fill top and bottom cushions stitch two of the small circles wrong sides together leaving a small gap, turn right sides out, fill loosely and stitch closed. You’re done!
The pot sits on one cushion, another goes on top, and the sides are drawn round by pulling up the drawstrings.
Ready made sewn cooking bags in attractive fabrics can be bought from this company. I have no affiliation. I read that they set up to help the cooking fuel problems in South Africa, and now sell in many countries. Please only use my instructions to make something for your personal use .
I have made this with eight segments, but if the pot is large you could make more, say ten. Then you will need to use a protractor to get the segments even, and you will need to cut yourself a guide for stitching the segments.
Simpler versions don’t have the segment cushions and tape channels. They are made with two circles, stitched together along the spokes , the segments filled directly and closed at the wide end, a single channel made at the top by turning under the edge of the circle and threading tape through it. I am indebted to another maker on The Sewing Forum for the idea of making the drawstring channels as separate binding pieces. Its definitely a neater solution for making at home. For users with not much strength in their hands, you could have the channels in four pieces instead of two, to make pulling it closed even easier.
Advantages of my version for making at home :-
its easier to manipulate the small segment cushions under the machine without getting filling jammed in your feed dogs
if you spill casserole on your bag its easier to launder with separate little cushions
Straight binding for the channels is easier to get neat than a wide fold round a circle
Two drawstring openings make it easier to close the bag round the pot.
You could make a pot shaped container instead, circle for base, sides with pockets created by stitching straight strips divided by vertical lines into pockets to the base circle and a lid cushion. These could all be filled with polystyrene sheet recycled from packaging.
Any insulating material should work instead of polystyrene. You don’t need to purchase new materials to make insulating bags. Any recycled cotton or linen is fine. Other fabric may be ok, but check that it stands up to the heat of a just boiled casserole before cutting and stitching.
Betsy asked about pots with handles. Pots with those small handles on the side should be accommodated by the squishyness of your insulation . I use my second example with a pot with side handles.
If you want to make something to fit a lidded saucepan with a long handle, you would need to have a space for it. I haven’t tried this but I think if you make the straight sided version in the last sketch you could easily have a small gap at the top of the seam where the side pieces join. At this small gap you would tuck your turnings in and top stitch near the edge to keep it neat. The drawstring closure would be at this seam, so little heat should escape.
To make something like this, I’d draw a circle a couple of inches or more bigger in diameter than the pot, to allow for insulation and cut five of them. Four would make top and bottom cushion, the fifth to serve as the base to stitch the sides to. To make the sides I’d cut 2 rectangles the length of the base diameter plus turnings and stitch channels in them, finishing a little below the top. These would be seamed leaving a handle gap and joined to the base and have a drawstring channel made at the top.
An advantage of making your own, which Betsy pointed out, is that you can change the size to suit the pot. The top example, first one I made, is small. I use this more often in our family than the larger one, its very good for cooking rice which we don’t eat by the bucketful.
How good are these at saving steam and smell in the house? I cooked some pre-soaked dried pulses – actually chick peas – a couple of days ago. On the hob only this takes around 40 minutes boiling. Using the bag, five minutes on hob, transfer to bag, leave to cook for remaining time. (I don’t have a pressure cooker) You might want one just for camping/picnic trips, as a classier alternative to wrapping your dinner in your sleeping bag.
I’ve had this book for years, much consulted, as you can see from the state of the cover.
My review was all planned and then I stumbled on an excellent one here. No need to reinvent the wheel then!
‘Dress Fitting’ follows through from the author’s pattern drafting books, uses the same terms, and expands the information in them to the problems of individual fit. Chapter eight deals with altering her blocks to fit individual measurements, a shortcut for a bespoke designer/dressmaker to making a personal block for a client. Whilst you could follow the method with any drafting system and table of measurements, its obviously easier if you’re using the same one as the book.
There are modelling exercises ( draping exercises) designed to develop an understanding of the basic blocks, ease and grain, the distribution of fullness and darting. Then the book moves to fitting for specific figure individualities, in the order which the alterations would normally be tackled.
I found her notes on sleeve fitting problems to be very comprehensive and logical. What is especially helpful about this book is its undogmatic approach, there is a lot of hands on wisdom in suggesting alternative ways of arriving at a reasonable fit where there are several problems impinging on the same garment part, or where the dressmaker finds herself with insufficient seam allowances to make the ideal adjustment. Unlike modern fitting books which use lots of photographs of individuals, this book relies on diagrams. I find this no disadvantage. Photographs can sometimes muddy the waters, in that it isn’t as easy to focus on the problem in hand when you look at a real life figure presenting several ‘problems’ at once.
As you would expect, an excellent book. The ‘Classic Edition’ is still available.
‘The Art of Dress Modelling : Shape within Shape’ by Lily Silberberg and Martin Shoben is a more recent purchase, mine is the 1998 edition. Its a slim paperback, about A4 format.
As you’d expect from these authors, its packed with step by step illustrations, covers the essentials of fabrics for toiles and toile evaluation in a couple of pages, then bangs straight in with detailed work on styles. The style pages have a fashion sketch illustrating what your aiming for, text and drawings for the process.
Wonky scan of ‘Wrap over bias cut dress with front drape’
The book has three main sections, the first section has fourteen styles (includes the one above), next section is Bridalwear, last is Basic Modelling skills.
The bridal section limits itself to adding elements specific to bridal wear, with some work on trains, veils, bows and surface decoration. While the examples aren’t extensive, there’s enough there to spring your own design from.
The third section on basic skills has so many little drawings of the stages that its the next best thing to having your tutor looking over your shoulder. There’s a useful page on evaluating your toile too, what to look out for when you think its looking ok, but aren’t quite sure if it will pass muster when its transferred to fabric and stitched up.
For example the paragraph ‘ Has the cloth been over-stressed in modelling?’ lists the tell tale signs, directs you to an illustration , and gives a probable cause – stretching the fabric horizontally when forming darts.
There’s a pattern to make a padded arm for your dress form, so you can work the sleeve designs, several collar examples, strapless bodices, skirts and dart manipulation.
Jeni has a post about draping from this book. If you’ve never draped on the stand before and feel you need extra visuals Academie de Poitiers has a series of instructional videos, which are brilliant. Don’t be put off if you don’t speak french, its pretty clear what’s going on without the commentary. Here’s an inspirational video from Dior too, on working from sketch to toile.
Other news – no sewing since the 3 dress marathon, but I’ve cut some patterns – a jacket with a (I hope delicious) portrait collar, a sheath dress cut in my size and drafted up in a range of sizes and cup sizes, a top with a pleated cowl, and a jacket for me with an asymmetric front fastening and collar.
I messed up my hands with tree-related work (don’t ever hurt a tendon in your fingers by the way, boy does it hurt) and haven’t turned out any toiles yet. They’re getting better thanks to my new bionic gloves. This sounds like a plug but I’m not affiliated in any way to the makers or suppliers of these. Its just that every time I put them on I bless the little cotton socks of the designer, so if you too sew and do ridiculously heavy gardening you might want to try them.
Here’s why two Fridays have flown by without a pattern book review. This is one of ten or so giants brought down last week in the chaotic rocky hillside that masquerades as a garden chez nous. The top of this one, too high to see before, drips with hundreds of little baubles in purple, cream, yellow and chocolate brown, some already opened to let the seeds out, some tight closed and unripe. Masses of gold and green fronds twist round them.
Incredibly lush and beautiful, I wish I had time to paint them, but everything has been put on hold in the interests of splitting and stacking great piles of trunks and branches.
Before this carnage, the semi-planned post was ‘ Pattern Cutting for Lingerie, Beachwear and Leisurewear’ by Ann Haggar.
This book works with the metric system. Its a textbook for pattern drafting, and doesn’t include making up techniques.
It has a comprehensive range of blocks, clear illustrations and diagrams, and a good layout for instructions.
There are size charts from 8 to 18, and enough adaptations or variations to get you close to whatever design you are aiming for.
Here are some of the styles covered (several variations for each group) :-
waist petticoats, full length petticoats, camisoles, vests/singlets, bras, corset, basque, bustier, waspie, briefs, bikini, thongs, french knickers, cami knickers, nightdress, nightshirt, pyjamas, sleep suit, dressing gown, bathrobe, negligée bed jacket, kimono, swimsuit, bikini, tankini, strapless bodice, shorts, playsuit, beach wrap, beach pyjamas, hipster trouser, housedress, tube dress, bodysuit.
Doesn’t just reading that list make you glad you’re a woman (who sews!). Boxers and a tee – no contest.
There’s also a stretch guage at the back of the book.
A couple of sample pages to give the flavour of the diagrams :-
These by and large conveniently face onto the instruction page, and illustrations are usually on one or the other of these pages, minimising the amount of irritating flipping back and forth you have to do.
A good textbook then, not, obviously, as comprehensive on each section as those books specialising in just bra making, or corset making, but one which will teach you the basics of the pattern making for lingerie and close fitting garments. I’ve tested most of the blocks in this book and found them good.
Can’t leave the undies issue without a blast from the past. These two pages come from ’The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft’ reprinted in 1946 by Odhams Press Ltd.
Dainty? Who remembers those white rubber buttons and wire hooks then?
One of my favourite books is up for a quick review next. I have had ‘Pattern Cutting and Making Up for Outerwear Fashions’ by Martin M. Shoben and Janet P. Ward for a couple of decades. Its as a clear, well illustrated no nonsense guide to outerwear as you could hope to find. Don’t buy it if you want flashy photos of inspiring makes. Don’t buy it if you want to learn labour intensive slo mo tailoring, all horsehair and hand pad stitching. The design elements are standard, and the methods are ‘trade’.
Do buy it if you ever say to yourself ‘Surely there’s a better, quicker way to get this zip in’, or ‘Which bits of this jacket should have stay tape’.
The only annoyance I have found so far is that an illustration of a step and the instruction that goes with it is not always on the same page. This seems to be a side effect of having very large, clear drawings. Its not a big deal, but for the procedures I use quite often (and still manage to forget between times), I work myself a crib sheet, with a layout I like.
Here’s a page with some of the instructions for a collar and rever. The book is A4 size – see how great the illustrations are?
A far cry from Burda WTF instruction style. There are some pages on techie matters like thread twist and needle size, and common stitch problems, information on seam types and neatening, and how to manipulate fabric under the machine (there is a right way?). There’s also a very useful memory jogging page on edge finishes for hems and waistbands. Outerwear block drafts are included of course. An excellent book. Get it if you can.
I allowed myself to be shoe-horned, flattered or intrigued into making dresses, in a rush, model nowhere hereabouts, to be posted with fingers crossed. I allowed myself to think I’d be bound to have the right stuff lurking in stash, or that the local store would surely have something if I dropped in.
What is it about seamstresses and these surely doomed but somehow irresistable challenges? What blythe but brainless spirit beguiles us with thoughts like ‘you can easily do that’ and ‘you can use this to test that pattern’ and ‘wouldn’t it look great in that fabric’?
Like a legendry old crone in the french revolution, knitting and watching heads roll off the guillotine, I’m both impressed and appalled when someone takes on those last ditch stand bridal jobs, jumps in to the fire and runs up a party costume for a friend for the weekend, or knits a little bonnet and bootees for a baby shower in a week. Tut tut, I wouldn’t let myself in for that would I? Just say NO. But I didn’t.
So three dresses in two days, not much inside finishing, slapdash detailing and no pictures to show. Dress 1 was the self drafted different sized version of this one,
The fabrics I used are these, teeny scraps left. Self draft in the black with white blobs, Vogue in the two different sides of the blue/grey with the crepey finish, one matt one shiny, and Burda in the rather interesting rayon with one side purplish brown and the other side a soft greenish colour, with creases permanently steamed in.
Needless to say I didn’t pick the Vogue for the seriously strange ladies with worryingly small extremities on the cover, (foot-binding?), or the Burda for its jolly hockey sticks presentation. They came closest to the requested style, and I didn’t think I had time to draft these as well.
The Vogue pattern, natch, comes with tentish ease. Per finished measurements printed on the pattern there’s seven inches at the bust.
Its a 1947 model. 1947 in the UK was an exceptionally cold almost fuelless winter. Might this have been another American gesture of support, generously drafted so ladies could get three cardigans on underneath? Nah, its just Vogue. Keeping to Vogue tradition it also has a sleeve head too vast to ease or shrink into its armhole, and, you guessed it, I just ‘redrew’ the line under the machine, yanking the head curve further over the line. .
Burda sleeves, despite being mangled by me to remove the puff, slid into the armhole without a whisper of complaint. The styling and the instructions on the Vogue are good, the good part of the Burda styling is the collar and revers. Its a nice shape and very simple to put together as collar and revers go. The instructions are blurgh, as are the absurdly narrow facings.
I got an email today to say the self draft and Burda have arrived and ‘fit a treat’. That is little short of a miracle under the circs. and has lifted my mood.
Another Friday flip through one of the drafting books on my shelves. This time its the 1987 edition of Helen Joseph Armstrong’s tome.
The first chapter is about things I suppose you might not know if you’re just starting out, like what tools you need, what terms you might come across, how patterns are marked, how darts are drawn and sewn. There’s some logic to starting a textbook from the very basics, and this does it.
The next chapter is devoted to figure differences. It should probably come with a Government Health Warning. “Could cause severe body image issues if seen by your angst ridden teenage daughter or her mischevious younger brother”. Park your self delusion and find your double.
Measurement taking is comprehensive, with more direct measurements than is the case with many drafting systems. Most systems work off a few direct measurements and some ‘givens’, relying on fitting to sort out individual quirks like a different shoulder slant, or lower bust line. I haven’t tested the HJA block draft, tumbling rapidly into grumpy old woman mode when I found no comprehensive size chart. Confusingly, there was one for the sleeve draft but the measurements were listed under ‘sizes’. OK, so I might get to grips with finding out what the author means by size 6/7 etc one day, and what the European equivalent is, but so far, not done. I like to have a standard size chart, with bust, waist, hip and back nape to waist as a minimum . Of course, standard size charts aren’t standard, but its nice to know what the author is working with.
That’s about the only omission, the book covers drafting for most types of garments including outerwear, swimwear and actionwear, has information on altering commercial patterns for fit, fitting problems, and adapting patterns for stretch fabrics.
Most useful for me is its comprehensive, well indexed, well illustrated adaptations with clear diagrams. If you wonder why I have so many drafting books its because you can never have too many adaptations to browse through. The styles will become out of date, but the basic ideas keep on going.
This is a typical page layout, fashion drawing, instructions and pattern diagrams.
And many pages include suggestions for alternatives, like the yoke designs on the left page below. The right shows the draft for a flange, not often included in pattern cutting books.
I’ve read some complaints of errors in HJA from other sewing people. I haven’t found any yet, but then I tend to eyeball adaptations and work them directly without referring to the ‘recipe’ of measurements. Some errors in drafting books are probably to be expected, in the nature of the text, so if I find one or two I won’t hold it against the author. Its a good book, well ordered and logical.