Thursday, 29 October 2015

Pattern cutting course - update for this term at half way point; shirt construction project

I'm just back from my pattern cutting course and starting to draft this as I unwind before bed. I thought it was about time I updated on the course.

I say it's a pattern cutting course; in fact this is now combined with garment construction which I think is a good idea. It means, though, that there is less design and less draping than there might have been and more making up. This suits me, I confess, as my needs are more about developing the skills appropriate to make a wedding dress!

Next week is the mid term break so tonight we were handing in our portfolios to have them looked at to make sure we were going in the right direction.

So far, we have some  draping,  some TR pattern cutting and some flat pattern manipulation of bodices,  skirts and sleeves. We have also made up samples for gathering,  construction of inset corner (this being particularly useful for some potential wedding dress styles especially as also used in godet construction) and plackets. I have finally understood the difference between 'gathering' and 'easing'!

Tonight (Thursday 22 October), we started to make up a shirt/blouse. This would utilise skills in collar insertion,  placket making,  yoke insertion and of course ultimately button holes.

A preview! Front

We are using a size 12 (UK) standard block so of course the finished shirt wouldn't fit me in a month of Sundays!

In class, we managed to cut out the pattern and then the fabric. I inserted the darts and double folded over the front. Our tutor R didn't want us to try to finish the blouse at home but she wanted us to try to insert the yoke using the same clean insertion method she had and add the patch pocket.

R chose my pieces to demonstrate what we had to do with the yoke pieces. Unfortunately,  I had only cut one and so R borrowed one from Sarah.  Trouble is I had to give this back to Sarah and I hope that I can work out what to do - it seemed pretty complicated. R said she was using a standard shirt yoke construction method. I wonder, however,  if this is what some refer to as the 'burrito method' as we ended up with what looked like a burrito!

So after my bridge weekend away, which starts tomorrow,  I have 10 days or so to complete the blouse to the necessary stage and make some other replacement samples.

Up to date now

I drafted those earlier paragraphs a week ago. Today I did my homework for return to class next week, well at least part of my homework - I have quite a number of images to gather and some research to do.

I don't sleep well while I'm away from home. Instead of counting sheep, I've been going through the possible steps for the clean yoke insertion! I couldn't find it in my books, surprisingly but I did a bit of internet search and came up with a Craftsy post on  the 'clean yoke insertion'.  Later, they say this is also known by some as the burrito method, so my feeling was correct. My tutor is very traditional and working in the UK this probably isn't a term used while she was training. I didn't use the Craftsy method exactly as I remembered and had written down some of the details my tutor gave as she demonstrated.

Anyway, bear with me. I took photos of my process today and I'm going to post them here as part of my future portfolio and to  remind me of the process.

Clean finish method of yoke insertion:

I started with a back, two fronts and two yoke pieces - these are referred to as yoke and yoke facing.
I had originally forgotten to cut out the yoke facing; luckily, I had a piece of fabric big enough to allow me to do that now. My front pieces has the centre fronts turned in, pressed and pinned, though later I removed these pins for ease of manoeuvrability. I apologise in advance for white fabric against grey - though that was better than against the white of my sewing machine table where my camera completely refused to play ball!

1. Pin yoke to back of blouse along straight line, right sides together

2. Now pin yoke to front at shoulders. Again, right sides facing. 

3. Pin yoke facing to shoulders, sandwiching the shoulders and matching notches to yoke piece.The Craftsy post pinned together yoke at back straight seam here and left the shoulders until later. I found it easier to envisage  this way.
4. Same as above but opened out

5. The pieces are now sewn together using a 1 cm seam in this case
6. Looking at it from the outside, ie right side. I pressed the seam allowances towards the yoke before the next step.
7. Now the magic starts! I have carefully rolled up fronts towards yoke and back towards yoke.
8. The fronts and back are rolled up to yoke; yoke and yoke facing reach together over them and pinned
9. I then sewed the yoke to the yoke facing, right sides together, over the burrito filling of back and two fronts. I used the previous stitch line as a guide. It was important to ensure the burrito filling didn't catch in the stitching.
10. Stitched burrito
11. Start of trying to unravel everything! The fronts and then the back are drawn through the neckline gap seen in 10. above. This was more difficult than I thought - perhaps the way I rolled the fabric caused this.
12. Well, all out - terribly crushed. This is an inside view.

This is an attempt to show inside and outside at the same time. It's not yet pressed.
13. Yoke has now been pressed.
View of front of blouse.
What did I learn?

  1. Firstly, this wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared.
  2. Secondly, the stitching is trying to come away at the edges. I used a big stitch length for ease of unpicking if needed. There is a lot of pressure on these edge stitches while turning through, so I should have reinforced the ends or finished off better.
  3. My turning out might have been easier if I'd  rolled the fabric differently
  4. To be careful with which side of yoke facing is stitched - I found it counter-intuitive when I was going to attach along back edge (wrong side to right side there) but easier to envisage on the shoulders as the seam lay in an easier direction.
  5. I don't think the cutting in class was as careful as it could have been. It's important to cut out carefully, mark all notches and match these while sewing.
Patch pocket
I'm not doing a step by step photo journal here - to be honest, I didn't even think of it at the time!!

The patch pocket was cut out in class using a paper pattern we had cut from the cardboard templates (not blocks as these had seam allowances on them). 1 cm turnovers again. I cm at the top and then 2 cm. The position of the second turn was marked by snipping.
I chose to make a cardboard template with the seam allowances removed as that allowed me to fold the edges over the cardboard and press.

Excuse the distortion of perspective! The sides are actually parallel. I couldn't get a better photo tonight but will do better for my portfolio

Scanned from an old pattern instruction sheet

10. Press under 1cm on upper edge of pocket.
Turn upper edge to OUTSIDE along fold line, forming facing. Stitch along seam line on raw edges as far as the main pocket. Trim seam allowance in the facing area to 6 mm
11.Turn corners RIGHT side out, turning facing to the WRONG side; press, pressing under raw edges along template edge.
Stitch facing close to inner edge.
12. On OUTSIDE, pin pocket to left front. I didn't have markings on the blouse front so used the front edges to ensure my pocket was straight and guesstimated from pictures of shirts blouses. Personally I wouldn't put on a pocket for me - disastrous in this position!! Stitch close to side and lower edges.

I tried the shirt to this point on Missy, my small model.

Front view - the side seams are not stitched

View f yoke - the side seams are not stitched 

Pocket close up.
 I haven't to carry on at this stage as we will be doing collar, cuff and sleeve placket in class next week and apparently the sleeve placket is inserted while the sleeve is flat.

Model renovation and correct sizing

On another note, my little model is falling apart and I need to modify to use for Helen as I don't want to spend a lot buying a new one. I think this one should do as although Helen is 6' tall, her length is largely in her legs, which are endless! I've lengthened the model as much as possible - the overall height is tiny but the body is not too bad, I hope at least.. My tutor said then to pad the model out to Helen's sizes, using a toile I've already fitted. I have a few problems with this. Sure, although I expanded to the correct size, the proportions are not the same so I will shrink down again. I need to fill in the gaps where the adjustment mechanism is. Missy's cover is tatty and I bought a new one but can't yet get it on! Missy's shoulders are rather large, I think. David thought it might be a good idea to build up with mouldable high density foam. Anyone have any experience of this?

I'm planning to start some sewing that's not course related tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that.



  1. Your course sounds as though it has quite a lot of work attached to it. As you say, useful learning but not quite right for bridal wear. I guess you will have a learning curve ahead of you with making these special dresses. But really, they are just dresses, and you have made those before.

    1. Thanks for being positive! I don't feel it and am rather scared. I see the leaving curve and am afraid to tackle it. Yes, there is a fair bit of work in the course but I have 30 weeks to do what we did in 10 last year so I'm not concerned about that, except it's an excuse to procrastinate on the bridal wear!

  2. This is a very nice and well illustrated post. I don't make many shirts so have not yet tried the burrito method, but I will one day. So I will save this page. I don't know what to suggest about making your stand the right size for Helen. I think I would use some soft padding material and try to build it up a bit.

    1. Thanks. I'm thinking of trying a grandson-sized shirt - have ordered some fabulous fabric that seems just perfect! I think with the model as with the sewing, I have to stop procrastinating and bite the bullet!

  3. Such a charming creation!You have a great blog:)

  4. The burrito technique can be confusing the first time you do it but it does result in a nice finish with all seams enclosed.
    I've padded and covered multiple dress forms and you might want to look at my posts from April and May, 2014 for some tips. You should be able to work with your existing form as long as the shoulders aren't too large. Shoulders are impossible to cut down but anything else can be padded to shape. Let me know if anything is confusing.
    Good luck with your wedding sewing. Yes, it's just like sewing a dress so don't get too stressed.

    1. Thank you. Yes, the technique was confusing but does result in a lovely finish.
      I will look at your posts. Thank you for pointing me towards them. However, I'm just about to put up a post about the model and think it may not be possible to use it ... Unfortunately, too, the shoulders are impossible! I bought a new cover and can't get it on. Also, one of the dresses I made Helen wouldn't go over these shoulders. Maybe I should get a collapsible shoulder model!! (I won't be doing that any time soon!)


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