Drafting Sewing Patterns

Another sewing blog, with an emphasis on making patterns for garments.

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Quilt Progress

It’s looking as though I’ll have to rush off again in a few days, but, happily, I was over- thinking the quilting. A microtex needle and an open toe foot is dealing with it.

I made a couple of samples machining various versions of quilt plans and settled for the obvious – follow the main lines and motifs. More time and more spare fabric might have thrown up some nice free motion lines that would work with the pattern, that’ll have to wait for another project. I bought some of the only wadding available in the local fabric store, and decided to split it in half through the depth. Have you ever done this, was it completely crazy? The full depth sample had a touch of  the duvet look. Half as thick it’s still quilted, but more subtle.

This is the back pinned to quilt.one In case you’re wondering here’s how I found pinning versus tacking. On the sample, tacked, the toe of the open toe foot had the irritating habit of picking up a tacking stitch and pulling up the fabric. Some of the motifs have tight curves, so whilst concentrating on keeping the stitch to the correct line the foot would grab a tacking stitch. On the full back piece I decided to try pinning only. This was ok as far as holding the layers, but the pins further from the bit being stitched tended to fall out as I swung round the curves, probably because the piece had to be rolled up to pass through the machine. After doing about half of it with pins only, I tacked again. This time not using the classic slanted stitch but straight lines. Better.

two

Here’s the back again mostly quilted, main bow shaped lines and single motifs picked out.

three

On scraps I tried stitching close to the motifs, framing them, working the lines, and adding short vertical lines. This piece has the full depth wadding in it.

I decided to seam the bodice part before completing the quilting, in order to be able to enclose the seam allowances. The wadding was trimmed off beyond the stitching line and the lining turned in and hand stitched.

four

This photo is with the main bodice seams done and some of the quilting complete, but ….. in my haste to get this together before leaving, I forgot to insert the pockets planned for the side seams. I hope to wangle these in at a later stage without too much unpicking.

The sleeve to bodice seam is going to be bound,  the jury’s out on which technique to use for the underarm sleeve seam.

 

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Quilted Jacket

I was given a length of fabric at Christmas.

fab1The background is a warm grey, with a matt finish, textured with bumps created by the long floats of metallic gold in the woven pattern. This is what the reverse looks like.

fab2The gold is almost a rose gold, a warm colour. The fabric is supple, the metallic threads haven’t made a stiff fabric.

I’m planning to make a hip length jacket in a very basic style, but quilting the fabric, aiming for a top layer warm enough for cooler Spring days. I’ve cut a pattern with princess seams from the front armholes and a back with waist darts, high neckline to have a mandarin collar (or similar stand up style). The drafting was quick – as luck would have it I found that I’d already drafted and saved a jacket and sleeve adaptation of my bodice block. I’ve cut it out with wide turnings, and extra hem length in case I change my ideas!

No decision yet about the quilting, but some excellent advice from Stitchers Guild members. I know what I don’t want – a stand up all by itself garment, a Michelin man look, quilt stitching fighting with the pattern or breaking up the gold threads. Some samples are in order.

 

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Silk Velvet

It’s been a while since the last post. Difficult and sad family events took me away from making things, taking photos and writing. I made one dress.

A beautiful deep blue silk velvet bought from Angus International before they ceased trading had been hoarded for far too long, so one daughter negotiated a dress. We decided on a very simple style, a loose A line shift, drafted with bust darts from the side but no waist shaping, and slightly belled sleeves.

If you’ve never worked silk velvet, there are some things to keep in mind.

The pieces need to be cut all in one direction, because of the risk of the velvet shading. You can’t dovetail for economy, it’s not worth the risk even when you don’t think you see any difference in tone before cutting.

You need to use a needleboard to press, or if you don’t have one (I don’t), press gingerly onto a scrap of velvet, pile sides together. Any creases from folding the fabric are best steamed out by hanging the piece in a steamy atmosphere or using a steamer from the underside whilst it’s hanging.

It’s worth drafting the pattern with seam allowances, after you have a toile perfectly fitted. The seam allowances help to keep accuracy when the fabric is moving about on the table. The pattern needs pinning at very frequent intervals to stop it slipping during cutting.

Some velvet marks if you pin or stitch, so keep all pins in seam allowance. Lace pins are safest. I think it’s worth tacking  darts and seams with a fairly small tacking stitch, because the fabric also slips and travels under the machine foot. Tack fractionally outside the stitching line. Tacking doesn’t take much longer than pinning, but holds the fabric far more securely.

When pressing seams, slipping a scrap of paper between the seam allowance and the body of the garment helps to prevent them from marking the right side.  I overcast the raw edges of the seam allowance by hand. This is a very old fashioned technique, it’s lighter than either zigzag or overlocking. The single thread  is far less likely to mark or show through.

Still on hand stitching, the hems were carefully slip stitched, catching just one thread in the garment body, with a longer stitch in the hem. I like to use betweens, small fine needles, for this pernickety work.

I don’t have a photo of the dress (it’s now in London), but I learnt from this garment that a very simple shape can look luxurious in the right fabric and colour. We spent time playing with more complicated ideas, noticing how beautifully the fabric draped. In the end, the draping qualities work well with an unfitted shape, giving it fluidity and movement. It looks unfussy and relaxed.

Spare moments and travelling time during these weeks mostly got spent on reading. Hilary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ felt like a must, given recent events. I learnt so much, and wonder that the resource of her experience in foreign affairs has been discarded by the electorate. I also read ‘Blank Slate’ by Steven Pinker, and in a related vein  ‘The Nurture Assumption’ by Judith Rich Harris, then ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ by Bessel Van der Kolk, ‘American Pastoral’ by Philip Roth, ‘You Talkin’ to Me’ by Sam Leith, and dipped in to Woody Allen ‘Complete Prose’, and half read ‘Chanel’ by Edmonde Charles-Roux.

Now I hope to catch up on reading my favourite blogs!

 

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Drafting a Larger Block (aka sloper)

Last post I touched on a possible approach to drafting a block in a size larger than the given size chart in Aldrich.

Size 12 is used as an example in the instructions, here’s the 12 with the 30.

Blocks 12 and 30

Blocks 12 and 30

The 12 has the bust dart moved to the underarm position. There is an increase in height built in to the size increases, one element that might need changing for an individual. Changes in height are relatively easy to make, usually distributed between the length from the nape to the underarm line, and the underarm to the waist.

Aldrich size charts have an addendum for ‘short’ and ‘tall’, giving a plus or minus 2cms for nape to waist, a plus or minus 0.8 cms for scye depth. Individuals might choose a different arrangement to keep the armhole at a comfortable depth.

See how the larger sizes also have more length in the front bodice above the bust? This is a frequently needed fix. Here’s a toile being sorted by the fantastic mrsmole. Scroll down for where more fabric goes in above the bust. Only the toile stage of a personal block can guarantee to sort all fit issues, ( putting fabric in where it’s needed and taking it out where it isn’t), but taking measurements on the body and comparing them to the draft gets you some of the way.

Aldrich is a good system, but the instructions are on the terse side and the explanations minimal. A problem for many working on their own is measurement taking. The armhole depth, back width and back nape to waist are critical, but hard to get right on your own. It can help to work a ‘standard’ block first.

Lets look at what a size chart above 30 might look like.

difference per size
bust + 5cms                                 132 / 137/ 142/ 147/ 152/ 157
waist + 5cms                               112/ 117/ 122/ 127/ 132/ 137
Hips+ 5 cms                                137/ 142/ 147/ 152/ 157/ 162
Back Width + 1.2                        45/ 46.2/ 47.4/ 48.6/ 49.8/ 51
Chest + 1.5                                  45.5/ 47/ 48.5/ 50/ 51.5/ 53
Shoulder + 0.3                            14.9/ 15.2/ 15.5/ 15.8/ 16.1/ 16.4
Neck + 1.2                                    47.6/ 48.8/ 50/ 51.2/ 52.4/ 53.6
Dart + 0.6                                    12.4/ 13/ 13.6/ 14.2/ 14.8/ 15.4
Nape to Waist + 0.2                   43.6 / 43.8/ 44/ 44.2/ 44.4/ 44.6
Front shoulder to Waist +0.5   46/ 46.5/ 47/ 47.5/ 48/ 48.5
Armhole Depth + 0.7                 26.3/ 27/ 27.7/ 28.4/ 29.1/ 29.8
Waist to Hip +0.2                       22.9/ 23.1/ 23.3/ 23.5/ 23.7/ 23.9/

It’s extrapolated from Aldrich , using the size difference between 28 and 30 to create more sizes. There’s inbuilt fudge in this approach, because maybe the average increase in, say shoulder length, isn’t the same for 30-40 as for 28-30. As we know average and personal measurements are rarely the same. When there is a big difference between a personal measurement and the standard, the drafting system could give a result that still doesn’t work well. The back shoulder is drafted onto a line one fifth of armhole depth measurement minus 0.7. If you use a much shorter shoulder length this results in a sharper slope, which might not be useful.

Shoulder slope

Shoulder slope

You can, of course, input the bespoke measurements right away and draft from those. If you can take those measurements accurately in the right place and level and understand how they relate to the draft this could be your choice. I like to look at a ‘standard’ block in an appropriate size first,which helps to throw light on wherethere are individual differences .

My diagram is in half scale, measurements from my extended chart bust 157 cms, which is around 62 inches. Aldrich drafts the bodice to the hip line, which is pretty usual for drafting systems. It relies on having the ‘standard’ difference between waist and hip. For many figures, it’s actually easier to work the bodice to the waist only.

Size 40 Bodice Block

Size 40 Bodice Block

The bust point in the Aldrich drafts is placed 2.5 cms or about an inch below the armhole depth line. Often this needs to be moved, similarly the balance between the front and back block may need changing, for different cup sizes. Sometimes, just taking a standard block in a bust size a little smaller than the personal measurement and doing an FBA results in the right fit. Next post, how this would look on the 40 Bodice.

 

 

 

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More Scraps and Bigger Block Drafts

Real Life is still curtailing sewing here, so I contented myself with using scraps for bags.

Shopping Bag

Shopping Bag

This shopper (cut last week) is also from Sew Serendipity bags, more or less made up per pattern. The differences were to shorten the body by two inches because of limited fabric, and lengthening the straps so that it can be carried over the shoulder. Its made in a scrap of furnishing fabric, lined in African wax cotton. The front pocket is gathered at the bottom and elasticated at the top. The pocket is cut double so that it can be turned inside out. That’s what you do when you fold this bag into itself for storage between shopping trips. The sides are turned inwards to form a pleat. The bottom of the bag is sewn last, both layers together with the bottom of the pocket caught in the seam. This has to be a french seam, hard work in my fabrics. It would be easier in a couple of quilting cottons or old sheets. Once done, it’s good. It had a trip to the supermarket yesterday and holds a good amount. I guess my obsession with shopping bags has something to do with the fact that my house is on a hill with the ground floor one storey up from the garage.

A daughter eyeballed the scraps from the scrap which made the previous shopper and bagged it (sorry), for a simple shoulder pocket.

Bag from Scraps Left from Bag from Scraps

Bag from Scraps Left from Bag from Scraps

Two rectangles, facing, lining with  a couple of pockets, long straps to go across the body, all simple and quick stitching.

On a roll she eyeballed the scraps from my cloqué skirt, for a simple make up bag.

Cloqué Make-Up Bag

Cloqué Make-Up Bag

I made this by drawing round an olive dish for the base circle, and cutting a rectangle for the rest of it, circumference by height plus two inches to face, then cutting a lining (height less facing depth). It has a channel to thread the ribbon through, but could also be done with eyelets and cord, or an elastic closure. Christmas gift projects anyone?

Bigger Blocks.

In  keeping with my scrappy sewing, here’s a scrappy run through of some issues in drafting a block for larger sizes. Everyone has their favourite method, I’m going with Aldrich for the purposes of this post.

RTW often makes a hash of bigger sizes, basically because when government surveys of women’s sizes were carried out to try to help clothing industries cater for populations, they went for averages. Faced with choices like should you cater for taller and/or wider they picked the ‘and’, figuring to fit both groups that way.

How well that worked can be judged by the number of people who started sewing because they couldn’t find rtw fit. Some gravitate towards trying to draft their own block, because they can’t reconcile existing patterns with their shape.

When learning to draft, I think it helps to draft a standard block first. Most directions are given for a fairly small size. It’s still useful, because you get the feel of how the draft works without having to fuss about the maths.

The next step can be drafting the nearest standard block to your size, and for this you need a measurement chart. A good drafting book will include one of these, as well as a diagram explaining how the measurements are taken.

Here’s the largest block (30) you can draft from the measurement chart in my edition of Aldrich ‘Metric Pattern Cutting’.

Size 30 Bodice Draft

Size 30 Bodice Draft

(Front has several sizes marked on it, look at the outline shape)

Size wise it’s roughly the equivalent of size I in Vogue’s Today’s Fit. Their range goes one up to J. There’s no reason though why you shouldn’t use the drafting run through in a size 12 and the measurement chart to take a draft up more sizes if that’s what you need.

The important bit is the difference between measurements from one size to the next.  Bust sizes in Aldrich go up in 5 cms per size, roughly two inches.  Use this measurement to figure out how many extra sizes to add, and increase each measurement by the appropriate increment by checking the difference in sizes in the chart.

Despite my bad photo, you’ll notice that the front block is longer from the neck point than the back block. Aldrich gives increases in height here for larger sizes to reflect the need for more length as well as more width over the bust. There are some differences in the measurement of the armhole curve as well, but the overall shape is not substantially different from the shape of a size 12.

Next post on this topic I’ll look at some of the places where an individual often differs from the closest standard block.

 

 

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French Patrones and Scrappy Sewing

Sewing time is still in short supply, I made a couple of bags scrappily. The first is from a really nice fabric remnant gifted to me, combined with some furnishing fabric left overs.

Fabric Gift

Fabric Gift

Insert

Insert

Bag Closed

Bag Closed

This pattern was made up on the hoof. The criteria were internal pockets to fit passport, phone, cheque book and airline or train tickets, glasses case and kindle, with enough space to carry water, crochet, a sandwich or to pile in bits of shopping. Key holder essential. Strap long enough to use on the shoulder, but short enough to carry in the hand. I made it on a pointed oval base, with an insert to widen the top.

Base

Base

It has one zipped pocket, and closes with a magnetic catch. The interior is made in a strong double faced fabric – drill on one side, a slinkier jersey on the other.

Interior

Interior

The second is in remnants from skirt made for DD, lined in recycled drill (DH’s trousers) and trimmed with recycled cotton dress fabric.

img_2448 This pattern is in Sew Serendipity Bags, though you probably wouldn’t buy the book for this alone. It’s basically two rectangles with a pocket, and strong handles. I’ve made a couple of these, and one other style from the same book as shoppers. Both styles fold up neatly.

Folded

Folded

Here’s the other style from the book I’ve used, cut out ready to sew. This one has a pocket sewn on the front into which the bag folds.

img_2449

I can’t imagine why I ever used those nasty plastic bags that supermarkets now have to charge for. Five or six home made shoppers take care of a bootful of groceries, look and feel much better and don’t cut your hand or threaten to split. All that, and the happy feeling of not using something that could end up wrapped round marine life.

Couture Actuelle

Can anyone resist browsing and buying patterns even if you end up drafting your own?  I found ‘Couture Actuelle’ in the papeterie section of a supermarket.  I believe it’s a French print version of Patrones. I had Patrones on order from Spain for a couple of years, but isn’t it nice to pick and choose from a rackful of magazines? The styles are well presented, all smart basics with a twist this time.

Style Page

Style Page

I like the collar on this jacket.

Jacket

Jacket

This blouson looks good.

Blouson Jacket

Blouson Jacket

A good wardrobe staple.

Tailored Jacket

Tailored Jacket

A great style in plus size.

Plus Size Dress

Plus Size Dress

There are also a couple of children’s garments to sew and a cute top to knit (top right on the style page).

 

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The Best Laid Schemes

2016 is going down as the reality check year. Another month of lo-sew, a few bits were completed in between real life emergencies and damage control efforts, but the big plans of turning the fabric stash into lovely projects are definitely shelved. I came back to France the slow way this time, via Brittany ferries. If you’ve never used them, consider trying it, if only for the on board restaurants. Travel food is usually pretty dire, but their facilities are a far far remove from motorway service stations and the dismal little trays airlines offer.

One piece of stored silk, a Thai duppion in silver grey, was used in London to make this rerun of a dress for dd, first made in navy poly a few years ago. I hadn’t saved the pattern, so it was redrafted. The original also had a large pocket at the front hem, but in the silver silk it looked over the top. The buttons came from John Lewis and the belt is from H&M.

Neckline Closed

Neckline Closed

Neckline Open

Neckline Open

The skirt part is a slight A line, there are double waist darts shaping the waist, the cuffs are fairly deep and shaped so that they can be worn down or folded back and the front fastens with one visible button at the top of the fly front and two buttoned tabs to fold the neckline closed.

 

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