Thursday, 16 October 2014

Bodice Block and Dart Manipulation - halfway notes on my pattern drafting class.

Although I live in a city, I'm attending a weekly evening pattern drafting course at a college in a nearby city. Well the city is nearby, only 15 miles away, but the traffic is so congested it takes me ages to get there, particularly as I have to travel at 'rush hour' as it's an evening class. But that's another story. I do consider the class worthwhile, so worth the journey. I still don't understand, though, why my local college, which has a huge textile, design etc section, which is internationally renowned, doesn't do anything for those like me who'd like to learn without attending a full daytime course.

This post links in to my previous post on Tissue Fitting, Toile Making and Pattern Cutting, as I attended a weekend pattern cutting course in Stratford upon Avon.

In Stratford upon Avon, we used measurements and calculations to draw up the bodice - based on Winifred Aldrich's work. After it was drawn, we added seam allowances and cut a test garment out of calico to test the fit. The fit was then adjusted, the pattern adjusted and another toile made. The fit was then fine, though mine did take longer than others in the class, I'm afraid.  There were only 6 others in the class so there was a lot of individual attention from the tutor.

Sunderland College has textile courses by day but this is in an adult education setting and the numbers attending are much larger, so immediately there is less possibility of individual attention though the instructor manages very well and I can't say I've been left disappointed by her response. The class is only 2 hours long and that also reduces the amount possible in the class.

Rather than use the Winifred Aldrich method, which the instructor felt suited some figure types less well, she decided we would drape. She said that drawing up would usually take the first 5 weeks of the course, leaving less time for pattern work.

So we paired up and took each other's measurements, transferring them to a sheet designed for the purpose. This wasn't directly relevant to the draping but was an important starting point.

The first week, we started to drape the front bodice (one side only) - on our bodies, not a dummy, although that's the picture I'm showing. This is a lot harder than it looks! The second week, we continued with that and added the back bodice, which was easier. The 3rd week, we trued lines, drew onto paper and then cut out of calico, adding a seam allowance of 2.5cm. My toile fits not too bad but needs the dart adjusted. I'm so glad that in addition to having a fellow student on the course as a fitting buddy, we have the tutor checking our pinning. Oh, and we don't do sleeves until next term - alongside the skirt block as that's a lot faster.

Unfortunately, I missed this week's class where some of the other students were transferring their block to card. The tutor says that I can catch up no problem next week, which is the week before the autumn midterm break, although it is actually 6 weeks in to a 10 week course.

As a student, I've been able to borrow a couple of books from the library, which is great. I've also bought a draping book, which is very interesting.

I've also looked at some of the Japanese Pattern Magic books - amazing, but I'm not sure how relevant they are to my day to day life!

Looking through, I spotted this book, which looks interesting and is available on Kindle Unlimited, so I may have a look at it.

 In week 3, we started manipulating darts. To start with, we each were given a quarter scale cardboard template of a front and back bodice. We had to draw around these and then practice dart manipulation.

The first thing we had to do was to rotate the dart, which was a standard bust dart, into the shoulder, ready for drawing a princess seam.

Although I had read about this, I hadn't actually done it before. It was rather like playing with the little paper dolls and paper clothes that I remember from girls' comics in the 50s/60s. Quite a lot of fun, though rather messy as the tutor suggested using glue sticks - at home I will use magic tape and this won't be so messy.

The next variation was a yoke top with gathered bodice. Again, although I knew the theory, I found it more difficult to do in practice. It's important that all the construction lines point to  hem level, but I had initially pointed all of mine to the bust point - as a result, I couldn't get such a big gather. Once I understood what was required, I managed this.

At home, I re-did all my little practice models and put them in my folder. I'm determined to be organised.

The following week, we continued with some slightly more involved dart manipulations.

In addition to finishing the blocks, this week was planned to start to look at designing. One of my fellow students has terrific ideas. She has a notebook full of drawings she has done - mainly vintage inspired tops and she hopes to create some of these with what she learns in class. I realised that I am not a designer - what I want to achieve is good fit in some of the patterns I already have and the tutor says that's fine.

So hopefully, next week, I'll catch up and finish my block and start to do a bit of designing - though I hope this is more about learning how to actually use my block.




  1. It looks as though you are really learning a lot of the basics in this class, so I think it is well worth the inconvenience of the drive. You will soon master the technical basics, I am sure. Then the fun will start, learning how to fit each new pattern (your own draft or a commercial pattern).

  2. Thanks, Sarah Liz. I had read how to do these things but of course it's very different in practice! I've tried to alter patterns to fit before and the results have been just acceptable so I'm looking forward to seeing how I should have tackled the changes.

  3. Looks like a great class.. Know you will learn a lot from it. And even be worth that extra travel trouble.. Look forward to hearing about the rest of your classes.

    1. Thanks, Judy. The second half of this term looks like it's going to be very interesting, getting down to the nub of the subject.

  4. Your blog is a very enjoyable read indeed. I'm glad I found you via your comment on my recent MAGAM post.

    My mother was born in Scotland and moved away in her early 20's, is now quite elderly and has no intention of ever being that cold again! Being born a Scot is integral to her identity and she has never considered herself to be English or even British! Yet she too was relieved when the independence vote went against separation.

    Back to sewing - you are doing some interesting stuff, pattern drafting is huge fun. I'd do more but I don't have access to a large tabletop at the moment.

    1. Thank you, Accordion. Class is off for a week then I think we start some even more interesting work.


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