Tuesday, May 18, 2021

benefits of a basic block

To continue with my coat adventure, I thought I would step back a little and look more closely into the pattern development.

I usually draft for men, and the process is direct as in I draft a shirt, or a waistcoat or a jacket from scratch. Tailoring doesn't start with a basic block, but women's wear does; a basic block is drafted and all the subsequent patterns are derived from the basic block. 

So, one needs a basic block to start with. 

I have seen many instances online of people developing a skin tight block, they take courses on how to do it, but I have noticed that many people struggle through that process only to find that they don't know what to do with it once it is done. I guess it is good if you want to create a judy for your particular shape, or create a very fitted shell to squeeze a foam judy into.  Having a judy of your size and shape can be a real asset especially if you are not a standard shape or size, but it seems a challenging starting point for most people.

I think the better choice is a block pattern that is fitted but still has wearing ease in it. 

I have a block that I drafted using on older (late1960's) version of the Muller et Sohn method. Technically, it was a draft for a jacket but I think it gives me a lot of flexibility to make a closer fit as well as a looser fit depending on what I want to make from it.

It has 4.5 cm of ease on the half pattern, so 9 cm total ease around the bust. To compare, the Natalie Bray block (circa 1950's) drafts with 5 cm of ease on the half bust (or hips if the hips are bigger).

I like the Muller version, it gives a lot of flexibility in that it divides the body up into sections back, armhole and front. The sections of the body have proportional formulas to which you add ease. I think it gave me a good idea as to whether my personal measurements fit within the proportional parameters to start with. 

The other aspect that I like is that as the bust circumference increases, the proportions change to reflect that. In other words there are size break proportional changes. 

Here is the basic chart. the english translation caption I believe should read: back width, scye width and chest width. 

As with any drafting process, just following the instructions as written is not going to produce a perfectly fitting model. Drafts need to be adjusted for the reality of the shape you are drafting for. This is something I don't think people are aware of.  Measurements are not shape. If your measurements are not exactly what the draft calls for and your shape differs, then you still need to account for that in the drafting and the fitting.  

In order to draft a personal block, I think you need a few specific measurements. 
Here is my basic list:

nape to waist back
across back
nape to bust point
nape to waist front (going over the bust point then straight down
bust point to bust point
throat to centre front waist 
across front (upper chest)
nape to shoulder, to elbow, to wrist
shoulder width from neck.

There must be a waist tape on the body to provide a destination point for these measures and I recommend a set of photos with the waist tape on in order to double check when drafting.

I like measurements that have defined starting and ending points.  I don't like weird measures like side seam, honestly, where are you measuring? or front waist arc from side to side. Really too random for me.

Even measuring from the mid shoulder is suspect. Can you locate and apply the measurement  reliably on your pattern draft? Using your t-shirt seam as a starting point? not for me. 

That being said, I know that learning how to use a basic block for pattern development and to adjust your pattern is a steep learning curve but for some it may be a good thing. 

I think having a set of your measurements would also help the user of commercial patterns adjust them with a bit more confidence. 

If you are interested in discussions about tailoring and cutting women's wear, you might want to check out this site. click on the bespoke cutter and tailor forum link. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

perspective on home sewist issues

 Time seems so fluid these days, I can't believe a month has passed since I last posted.  

I was thinking the other day about how the pattern making process is a mystery to a lot of people.

I don't take the process for granted, yet I am at a different vantage point regarding pattern making than the average or even experienced home sewist.  I have almost 30 years of experience doing this, intensive years of learning how to draft, how to fit different bodies and how to adapt the information provided (measurements and design) into a paper pattern. 

There is always something to learn, problems to solve, and I enjoy that aspect of the work. In the absence of a lot of work (Covid issues),  I have tuned in more to the home sewist platforms and their particular challenges. 

Yesterday I read a post on Instagram (blog post here) about a sewing wiki. I found it interesting that these two women were considering this, but I think they have made a wise choice in not going forward.  I cannot imagine trying to curate the information! The thought makes me ill 😉. 

The internet has opened up a lot of information to so many people in such a positive manner, but unfortunately it also has let loose a lot of misinformation. I think it is mostly misguided, not malicious in any way. I think there has been a generational gap (or two) of knowledge and learning in the area of pattern making and sewing, and now that the art and craft of it is seeing a resurgence, the gap is showing.

 In the age of social media and the loyalties it engenders, I have noticed a certain interesting embracing of failure. It sometimes seems that people identify with the struggle and sharing the struggle, often to the point of dismissing or disregarding sound advice. I am all for figuring stuff out on your own, but why not accept good advice or pointers in favour of failure?  Eventually with time you may realize that you have been reinventing the wheel.

I guess I am just seeing it from a much different perspective than most.

Anyway, I could go on and on about it all, but I am sure that would be too much for both of us. 

I was going to post about my coat pattern here today, but this is already too long. That will be another post.

I would be interested in your opinions on this, 


Friday, April 2, 2021

lockdown project- a coat for myself

It seems that spring is here, and it is time to switch out the winter clothes for something slightly lighter. That makes me remember that I had another lockdown project I can tell you about. 

I made a coat for myself. 

I still have the first coat I ever made for myself, way back in the early 1980's. It was a Vogue pattern, I believe, I bought the fabric at Duthler's in London Ontario- they had nice fabric in the day! Sigh.

It was a classic cut, DB camel coloured tailored coat. I haven't worn it in decades, I did love it, but, it was time to make a new coat. 

First-design- I had to pick a style. Oh gosh, I had so many pins of women's overcoats on Pinterest that I liked but I couldn't decide on any of them. Then, I saw an online ad for a winter coat at the Bay, and I liked it enough that I thought I could use it as a jumping off point. 

I did a little drawing first. 

Then I got out my base/block pattern that I drafted and fit on myself last year.


I made a pattern, started a mock up and realized it had way too much ease allowance, so I started over,  made a new pattern and cut right into fabric. I figured I would baste it together and try it on as I went and make adjustments to the style and fit on the fly.

Maybe not the best decision, but in my defense, I had what I will call "Covid Brain",  very fuzzy thinking, and I had the time to spend. 

This project also provided something I had been lacking since the lockdowns, and that was a deadline! I planned to have it finished in time for my working gig in Montreal.

I muddled through. I am sure Lela thought I was crazy at times when we were working in the studio together but it all worked out in the end and I got a coat out of it.

I will show you some of the stages in the upcoming posts.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Drafting on the computer

     I have been trying out some new things this past year of Covid woe. For someone like me who is used to having problems to solve on a daily basis, this year has been a challenge in the absense of a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

    One of the things that I am using for a brain exercise, is learning some new things on the computer. I have been seeing so many patterns by Indie designers out there available for digital download, and I wondered what software some of these people were using.

    I thought that I could learn to draft patterns with the computer and started a search for software (affordable) with which to do this. 

    I have no experience using the computer for this task and I love, love, love, drawing patterns on paper, so I am not likely to give that up by any means.

    I started this journey with Inkscape, and began teaching myself some of the tools of that program. It was quite enlightening, I learned a lot - much of which may not have lodged firmly in my brain, but it opened up a door to a place I had never gone before. It was interesting and there are so many helpful YouTube videos out there that made the steep learning curve ever so slightly scalable- hats off to Logos by Nick for an excellent set of tutorial videos, even though I had to stop and start constantly because at his slowest I still was struggling to keep up.

    I decided that Inkscape was not the pattern making solution for me.  I am keeping it in my back pocket but decided to look further afield.

    I encountered a program called, Patternmaker Pro (closed down recently)which also did not work out for me- I could hardly get started and I was not looking for plug and play solution. I want to be able to control the parameters of my own drafting.

That then led me first to Valentina and then Seamly2D

    I am still learning the software and the tools with in it, but I have been encouraged by my progress so far and also by the welcoming and helpful forum of users.

Here is a little learning exercise I did recently.

This is a replication (just as written) of a vintage waistcoat draft.

It is a challenge for a paper and pencil gal to adapt, as following the process as written works well with paper, but isn't in the best order of operations for the computer.  I do like a challenge and this has been a lot of fun to do.

I don't necessarily have a plan beyond learning right now, but who knows, this may come in handy in the future.

I might become an indie pattern designer of period menswear😉

What do you think? Do you use a drafting software? Any advice?

Monday, March 8, 2021

Acknowledging the women I work with.

 On this International Women's day, I want to acknowledge all the fellow women I work with, and have worked with over the years.

Women who are tailors and seamstresses, cutters, dyers, milliners, craftspeople. Women who make jewellry, and boots, who dress the actors, stage manage the shows, buy the fabric, make the props, sell the tickets, manage the patrons, run the facilities and do a lot of the grunt work that is hidden to the public.

The actors and to a lesser extent the designers get almost all the public recognition that takes dozens of unacknowledged people, many of them women, to make what you see on the stage and screen come to life.

I always make sure that people know we are a collaborative kind of art, and my work doesn't exist without their expert hands. 

Thank you all.❤️

Sunday, February 28, 2021

sewing tips: inserting jacket zippers

      I am sure that it is something many people already know, but for me I am not routinely inserting zippers into coats, but when you need to do it, you figure it out and get on with it. This sample represents a coat with a centered zipper, an offset facing, and has a Peter Pan collar. It was also quilted, but that is neither her nor there really, just an added layer!

Step one. My pattern is Nett so all the lines are sewing lines. I have my centre front stitched through the quilting and the backing. Press the seam allowances of the CF back to give it a light crease.

Measure from the centre of the zipper teeth to the edge of the zipper tape. That is 1.5 cm by my ruler. 

Mark a line on the CF body seam allowance  1.5 cm away from the CF. 

This is a guideline for sewing the zipper in. lay the edge of the zipper tape against the drawn line. Stitch the zipper in approximately .5 mm in from the edge of the tape.

Fold the CF edge back on the crease you ironed in. Check to see that the teeth are in a good position. The stitch line is 1 cm away from the CF line.

Next the facing. The next stitching line needs to be marked 1 cm from the CF. Mark a line 1 cm inward from the CF on your facing. This line will be sewn to the previous line of stitching you just created. 

You can work it out so you have a line to visually run the edge of the zipper tape against or you can just pin the facing in place and stitch line to line. 

The facing seam and the previous stitch line for the zipper are right on top of each other.

Done? Now you will fold back the CF of the body again and see that on the inside, the facing is now set back 1 cm back from the CF edge. 

Nice! If you have a stand collar where all the seam allowances will live up inside the collar you can go ahead and catch all the CF  layers down by topstitching, or if you are careful, and things look fab, stitch either just beside the facing seam through to teh fronts, or edgestitch the facing edge from the inside. 

If you have a collar such as I do- a peter pan style, one that requires the seam allowances of the neckline to be opened, then you must wait until the collar is installed before topstitching the CF.

 This type of garment has a fabric facing around the whole neckline. The only place the facing and body are attached at this point is the CF zipper insertion.

 Bag out/ prepare your collar as usual. 

Open up the front body and facing at the CF so they are flat. Match the CF seam of the under-collar to the CF of the body at the neck. Pin or baste it all around the neck.  Stitch*.  (*it just may make it easier to have one section already stitched while you pin and prep the top collar/facing neckline side). Pin or baste the top collar all around the neck line of the facing, pushing the seam allowances of facing/zipper seam away from the CF. Stitch.

As I said you can do this all in one go it you wish.

Here you can see what happens at the CF area. 

Trim, clip and press the seam allowances of the neckline open, on the body and the facing. 

Press and whack it with a hammer if it needs encouragement!

Turn right sides out and check the placement of everything.

Go back inside the facing at the neck and hand stitch or machine the opened neckline seam allowances together face to face.

I think you are done. 

Topstitch as desired.

One advantage to this is that all the seam allowances are not all concentrated at the CF which can get quite bulky. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Childen's wear drafting and trying to find information

     I recently needed to produce a few garments for a child, and it occured to me that I had only one drafting book to reference for children's wear.

That book is the Winnifred Aldrich's  Metric Pattern Cutting for Children's Wear and Babywear. 

I have an older edition so out of curiosity I borrowed a newer edition just in case. I found there were  some changes to some of the basic drafts which made me wonder. 

Things like the calculations for neck width used 1/5 neck minus 2mm now its 1/5 neck plus 2 mm on some drafts.Were there errors in the older drafts or just typos? Strange.

     I wanted to find a draft for a one piece snowsuit. It is not a garment covered in the Aldrich book. The child would arrive after quarantining, go for fittings, alterations would be done there, and then be on camera two days later.   They didn't want a waist seam in the snowsuit, so I had to get it right the first time. I needed to find basic torso girth measurements for children so I could have some kind of reference point. "It shouldn't be difficult" I thought to myself....... Anyway, it sent me down a rabbit hole of internet searching.

I did finally find a study of children's measurements here, done in 1939. So I waded through all of this and got a number range for height. 

I called friends with children too! "how tall is your child? Can you take a measurement of his torso girth for me?"

What a run around for information! Oh I forgot to mention, all I received was height and a chest measurement taken by a parent. That is all I was working from. What a business! and let's not talk about the deadlines.

What else did I find? I found a snowsuit draft on a Russian website, which I downloaded for reference and I could follow along looking at the diagrams. My desktop translated the pages, except for the sizing tables!! because they are photos not text! Drat!

I was on Pinterest and I found an Italian children's cutting book. In Italian, of course. Again, I could follow along by "reading" the diagrams. But I don't think there was a one piece snowsuit draft there either. That book, by Antonio Donnanno is available here in English.

I decided to basically stick with the Aldrich using the flat overgarment blocks for jackets and the flat two piece trouser block, and melded them together so they looked right ot me.

Once I made the basic draft, one of the things I had to take into account was the thinsulate lining. My base pattern was for the lining, but the outer fabric layer needed to be bigger than the under layer. I think I read somewhere about re-calculating the draft for the amount and type of insulation being used, maybe it was on the russian drafting site, maybe on a german site....I can't remember now.

Anyway, in the end, I figured out how much bigger to make the shell and made a pattern for that too. 

It was lots of work mentally and then a lot of work just cutting and sewing them. (yes, plural! I needed to cut two of them) I think they turned out really well, The best part is that they fit. I breathed a sigh of relief. 

We did get stuck waiting for zippers to arrive, but all in all it went fairly well. 
The shutdowns have made getting supplies a bit more challenging! So many things are being shipped its a miracle everything gets to where it is going.