Saturday, 22 November 2014

Update on Pattern Drafting Class, weeks 8 and 9 of 10

I've been continuing with my pattern drafting class. Week 8.

I got my bodice block to fit well. I then transferred the pattern, without seam allowances, onto thick card and marked as instructed with notches and holes to identify all the parts of the pattern.

This class isn't about making the bodice though - it's about the ability to design the shapes you want using your block. I was very excited about this. I must admit, I don't have much imagination - I don't see myself as a designer - but I want to be able to create some of the exciting shapes I see onto a pattern to fit me. I've managed to modify paper patterns not too badly on the whole but felt it would be great to have a number of perfectly fitting templates.

I can do dart manipulation - I've now got a pretty good idea of the theory, I think. I can create a princess shoulder seamed or armhole seamed pattern no problem. I can do a number of other manipulations and create pleats and tucks. I can draw in different necklines. However, I don't feel I have enough basic knowledge here as I know from my limited experience that there are limits as to what you can do - when I modified the neckline on my daughter's dress, to her choice of shape, a low back and front square with narrow sides, the neckline at the back didn't have enough material to support the structure and I had to re-draw with more fabric included. I think it worked out fine, though - it would be even better now that I have a clearer idea of what needs to be done.

I wanted to re-create the neckline of Vogue 8593.

Even on the drawing can you see a semblance of pull across the bust?
I've seen that now on some of the made up dresses in reviews.
I like the pleats at the neckline and the slight asymmetry. I worked out that I needed to work on a whole bodice front rather than just a half because some of the detail crosses the midline. Over the course of part of a class and then at home later, I pleated some paper in a way that seemed pleasing. I tried to do it on my body with some heavy muslin, but didn't really manage that - maybe this would have been possible with some help. The trouble is, I assumed that the pleats are a dart equivalent and should in some way be pointing towards my breast points - by simply folding them, almost randomly, that's not the case. I did cut out the neckline and draw in the shoulders.

You can see how wide in comparison to block underneath; the shoulder lines are lined up.
The paper tore but as I won't need to continue with this, I just left it.
So I ended up with a very wide piece of paper (a little like the tissue in the Vogue pattern) and I reckoned that perhaps I should move the armhole dart into the neckline area, then I knew that the shoulders would be lying at an equivalent angle to the Vogue pattern. I asked the tutor at the end of the class (it seemed that we were finished with that section of tuition), but didn't get the advice I was expecting. She said to pleat the fabric as I had been doing with my tissue, on the table, and lay my block on top, with armhole dart moved down into the waist, and cut out. I know you can do that if you have fabric that has pin tucks etc. My problem is that this doesn't give me a paper pattern that I could pick up months from now and make up in the same way as the Vogue tissue. Or does it? And how do I really know that the position of the darts and pleats is pleasing or correct? It's true that a little knowledge is dangerous! As things stood at the end of class 8, I said I'd rather use the Vogue tissue - my tutor said I was so close that I certainly shouldn't do that but I have zero confidence in what I was attempting.

Week 8's class was spent first drafting button plackets for our bodice then drafting collars from our block. I like the mathematical challenge and really quite enjoyed this. We started with a Peter Pan collar. I don't suit this type of collar, I feel - it's too girly for me, or at least this is how I have felt when I try items on, though I do remember one blouse I had way back which I liked with this type of collar, so it maybe depends on the fabric chosen as much as anything. I successfully drafted the collar we were working on.

I think part of my problem with this class is that I wanted to have a physical pattern that fitted me that I could then work on to create variations which would also fit me because they were from the same basic block. Then, of course, as a beginner, I need advice on construction and this class doesn't cover that at all. I had thought that you always needed interfacing when you had a placket but we drafted a double folded one which the tutor said didn't need this. I suppose I need to see this in practice and learn in conjunction with my dressmaking techniques class.

I have since read the appropriate bits in Suzy Furrer's book "Building Patterns. The Architecture of Women's Clothing" and that was really helpful.

Week 9

Well I left my pattern cutting class last week (week 8) feeling rather dissatisfied. With the teacher saying I was 'nearly there' but feeling I had got nowhere and no prospect of a further class.

However, tonight's class (week 9) was pattern draping onto a model. The tutor demonstrated her draping a design which she made up as she went along. It was very interesting. She told us to get the design the way we wanted it on the model, adding extra material if necessary. Then all fold lines, seam lines plus shoulder seam etc had to be carefully marked. Then the calico would be opened up and used as the basic pattern (with seam allowance added in order to sew it).

Then we had a chance to try it ourselves. I tried to drape a design somewhat similar to my inspiration piece. Obviously, I knew I was using a fairly hefty calico and the dress was recommended for stretch fabrics. However, I wanted to make up a pattern from a woven and just wanted to copy the neckline folds.

I got the basic idea of the draping and did rather enjoy it. However, I was very unhappy with my design. Even taking into account the heavier fabric, there was a LOT of fabric around the bust and shoulders. My model looked as though she was wearing a heavily pleated cape. Instead of a standard size 12 (UK), she looked at least 3 sizes bigger.  

Although I could have done some additional work to remove some of the excess fabric, the tutor and I decided that this wasn't a good design for me and I abandoned making this top. As the tutor said, I found out at an early stage that this design was not for me. She sees this as one of the key functions of draping. (Though I've since thought I might make up in a knit as per pattern and see what I feel about it).

Had the pattern worked for me as I draped it, I was very clear about the next steps. I would have ended up with a pattern to fit the model - not me, of course, but that would have been an easier next step.

So I still had a top to design for class. I decided that as time was now short - next week is the last week, I would be better to chose a simpler design.

Here is a picture of my inspiration piece, taken on a shop model. Again, the inspiration top is a knit but it should work okay in a woven.

So my steps are:
  • Draw out basic block
  • Change armscye dart into shoulder dart Princess seam.
  • Change neckline
  • Draw two central portions. One to be left unmodified, the other to have three pleats added at side seam.
I've drawn the pleats and cut measured and spread on the outermost layer; the innermost layer stays as is. At the moment, I'm somewhat puzzled by the neckline but we will be continuing that next week, I assume. Of course, the purpose is not actually to have a finished top but to know how to create a pattern for one.
Next week, we're doing TR patterning (I have no idea what that is - might not be TR, can't remember the initials.)
I've signed up for next term.


  1. I need to share some of my imaginative streak with you, Anne:). I have it in abundance and visual-spatial skills - my father was an engineer. I tend to do things by immersion - lots of trial and error, lots of mistakes, working out what went wrong, and working out what to do better next time. I guess that is also what you are doing, and it is certainly, as you say, quite frustrating. Still, I think you are learning a lot- and as you are finding out, it is an iterative process. Good luck with the top.

    1. Somehow I missed out! My father was also technical and imaginative and my children are, too. Unfortunately, I haven't found any way to get a portion. I'm happy to do by immersion, I agree, although I like to read and study about things in advance. I am learning a lot - I've come a long way from when I started just over a year ago. I'm glad I have found a tutor who can point me in the right direction when I stray. As far as the top is concerned, I have a skirt and a jacket currently WIPs, so it will have to wait. Thank you for your comment.


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