Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rundschau jacket draft

I spent a couple of hours the other day writing out the German draft in English, which really helped me get a better feel of the system. I made a quarter scale draft as I wrote and yesterday, I went back to it in full scale on brown paper.
It was a much smoother and quicker process this time.
There were a few areas I had concerns about and I noted them on the pattern. I didn't change them at this point because I just wanted to follow the draft as written just to see how it turned out.
I cut a half muslin, stitched it up and pinned it on the stand.
I know the inside out seam allowances are distracting but please bear with me. The front doesn't look too bad, I stretched the front neck point a bit just by hand and I pinned in a modest 1 cm thick shoulder pad.

I pinched out 1.5 cm in the front skirt as directed which opens up the pocket dart- maybe 1cm pinch would have been enough, as I think the hem felt a bit cupped.

The hip width determination in the draft- The measurement of my stand made the side hip narrower, and perhaps it is a case of "if the hip is smaller than "X" use the larger proportion". The narrower hip made the centre back line pull away from hanging straight. I released it about 1/2" at the hem and pinned it where it wanted to sit and it was improved.

The shoulder seams have .75 cm seam allowance. When the necklines are drawn as indicated, there is gain in the shoulder length and shortness in the back neckline unless the curved lines are terminated .75 cm from the points on the draft. Kind of hard to describe in words. It's not a lot but it sat better when I changed it.

The only other concern I had was the obvious width of the back. I was strictly using the proportional formula given 2/10 of chest plus 1 cm rather than a direct measure. That back is 4 cm wider than the "body" in total, which seems excessive to me.
The overall body ease at the chest level was 5 1/2" which is much more than I normally get using my own drafting system.

The armhole circumference looks ok and the armhole depth isn't too low.

I think I will draft a collar and sleeve and maybe the other half of the body, and then see what it looks like.
I think this draft is from the 1950's/1960's but I'm not sure. There is little waist shaping and narrow hips so that fits with that silhouette.
I also have a photocopy of another German drafting book which I think is earlier and the draft is slightly different, so if I have time I'll try that too.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

breeches pattern

The thought for this post started when I went back to look at a pattern I made for "18th century" breeches earlier this summer. I kept the toile pattern and laid it out to compare with my final pattern, then tried to work backwards to quantify what I did and turn it into a draft that I could keep and use again in the future.
Interpreting a design and making patterns for that design is not always a straightforward process. Many people assume that to make 18th century style breeches we would just try to reproduce an historical garment by looking at the few pattern references available such as this one from The Cut of Men's Clothes by Norah Waugh.
The reality is in fact quite different. In the case of our design requirements, we didn't want that kind of period look. We wanted a more modern take on them-a bit more of the seducer rather than the equestrian. That requires a differently shaped pattern. In addition, while looking at the diagram gives you an idea of the period pattern shapes, a cutter needs to have a drafting system or formula to make a pattern.

So what is that period look? What would the breeches in the book look like on the body? If you wanted to make a scaled up pattern directly from it and make a toile you could, but if you look closely at the pattern shapes in the book and look at someone or a photo of someone you can begin to imagine what it will look like on the body.
A little visualization technique.......
First, the side seam is quite straight, and hollowed out. The legs are narrow and you can see that the inseam is quite long - look at the CF line and the front fork. Think about how that will sit on a body. In your mind's eye anchor the pattern at the outseam at the hip, down to the knee. Above that line the fabric will follow the body which has a convex curve not a concave one. Align the front waist line of the pattern along the body's waist and get that CF line sitting vertically in your mind. Remember you would join the two fronts together so that may help your thinking. Look at the leg below the hip and imagine the outseam following the outer leg of the body. Remember, these breeches fit the leg closely. What happens along the inseam at the fork? Align the back waist line on the body- look at the shape of the CB seam. What look will result over the seat of the person now?

I was looking for a good photo to illustrate this but if you've seen some of the BBC's historical movies or TV series, or the truer to period Jane Austen movies you'll see what I mean.

In a nutshell, the excess length in the inseam is great for riding horses, the length and breadth provided by the shape of the back and the CB seam allow for the expansion of the buttocks and thighs while on horseback. When standing though, that excess length sits in the front fork and the excess breadth in back drapes over the seat area.

That is what we wanted to avoid but still have a "period" interpretation. Fall fronts, buttoned leg closures, narrow fitting legs, clean fitting fork and some - but not a lot of - extra fabric over the seat. Tight, but with enough ease that the actor could sit, kneel, lunge, squat, and fence in without problems.

Back to the drafting board!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


When translating drafts from German gets to be too much (and I spent a good amount of time on it yesterday) I knit.
These are thrummed mitts for my husband. They are very warm to wear because as you knit, you knit in wisps of wool roving that fill up the inside. You can see the roving inside the unfinished thumb of the one still on the needles.
Very cozy.
I found that writing out the Rundschau draft myself, and drawing a quarter scale draft as I went really made the draft more accessible. I had a German English dictionary at my table, and although many of the technical words were not defined, it was relatively easy to dissect the words into their components and look them up and then I could translate some of those long words.
Back to the full scale version today or tomorrow.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

trying out a suit draft

After I had my fitting on Friday,I had a couple of hours free, and I thought that would give me an opportunity to try out the Rundshau Draft that I downloaded from The Cutter and Tailor. It is a "modern" drafting system -mid 20th century I guess - and I always like to see whether drafts work as written, and whether I can make any use of them.
I decided to just use a stand to measure and draft for, so I got our my measuring tape, measured the stand and I started.
Well, the first thing is that I don't speak or read German, and neither Susy or Silvia were around to help me translate. I just had the draft and a rough translation that someone posted. I'm not the most patient or dedicated follower of instructions, but I was determined to make the effort, but to quote my husband, "Those Germans have a different word for everything". Long, long words, and although I had to keep referring back and forth to various pages, I did construct a basic suit jacket pattern.

There were a few things I felt were a bit off.

The measurements I was working with were chest 100 cm, waist 86 cm and hip 100 cm.
Following the written instructions didn't produce the same visual pattern as the one they had. So when things didn't look right, I just made decisions that looked better to me than the ones that the draft provided.
I was stymied so I started by looking at the measurements for the sample draft. Chest 96, waist 88, hip 104.
There was 8cm difference between chest to waist which is very little.
The waist to hip difference was 16 cm, which is more usual, but the hips were 8cm bigger than the chest, which I thought was not usual. There was no mention of whether the measurements were standard sizing or not- not that I could have determined that, since, as I said, I don't read German.
So, I'll try cutting it out in muslin and pinning it on the stand to see what it looks like.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

corset suit second fit

I had a second fitting for the corset suit yesterday.
Jennie had to take the jacket waist in a fair amount from the last fitting, so she concentrated on doing those alterations and wanted to check them before going forward with any other details.
So, the sleeve is just roughly pinned in place for now. The skirt has been altered and needs a lining and a press as well as a few minor tweaks. The jacket peplum needs a few changes too and then we'll have another fitting.

I'm showing you the back because Jennie is using a temporary lacing placket that we use quite often in the theatre. It is easily made from muslin, duck or coutil and consists of a double layer of fabric with casings/channels for spiral steel boning. The boning is placed right along the outside folded edge and again, just past the eyelet section. This keeps it from crumpling when laced and allows it to be pinned in place as Jennie has done here, or it can be sewn in place for a fitting.
This, of course, allows you to figure out the correct position of the eyelets without actually committing to putting them in at the fitting stage.
Once the fit is determined, the temporary placket is removed and the garment finished with its own boning, eyelets and lacing.

I need a blouse of some sort to wear underneath so I am looking at some 1940's designs and maybe I'll make myself something to go with it. There's a project........

Monday, September 20, 2010


Sorry for the delay in bringing you some new posts.
My corset suit is delayed by the dreaded September back to school colds- new germs brought home, and both Jennie and I have been suffering from those.
A project I had thought would happen has fallen through, so I find myself at liberty and looking for gainful employment until my teaching project starts in November.

Then there's the garden to work on after I've neglected it for most of the summer, packing the camping things up, music rehearsals, everyday family life and adjusting to the weather which somehow went from summer to fall in an instant.

So, I'll leave you for a moment with a few of photos I took just outside my back yard. Travel can be an eye opening experience- we travel to see new things and experience new people and environments-but often home can feel so familiar that we forget the beauty that is all around us.

Friday, September 10, 2010

corset suit project

More camera issues- my batteries were dead the day that I had my first fitting of the "corset" I am modeling at the upcoming Creative Festival in Toronto. The only person with a camera handy was Linda from Farthingales (the driving force behind the project) who snapped this one as Jennie was just pinning me into the jacket.
I was expecting to be fit in a toile, but Jennie was daring and had cut right into the fabric for both the skirt and the jacket. I don't have a picture of the sketch to show you, but you can see the corset boning details and that she has cut some of the panels of the jacket and the skirt on the bias. The skirt will be getting some kind of detailing at the hem as far as I can remember. There will be sleeves. Honest.
The jacket will fasten at the front with regular buttons and holes and the lacing will be in the back. It was much too big in the waist, even after the lacing was drawn as tightly as possible, so I think she will be taking at least three more inches out there.
I will have to inspect it more closely next week at my next fitting as I'd like to have a better look at the way she is dealing with the transition between the laced section at the back and the upper portion with the collar.
I had a momentary Cinderella moment when she brought out the vintage shoes a half size smaller than what I normally take. They were beautiful and I squeezed into them without removing any toes!
This week-end I believe there is a meeting with the milliner who will create a hat to go with the look, and one of the theatrical jewellers has also made some jewellery crafted something to go along with it.
I saw some of the other corset projects that people were building and they range from true period corsets to very modern interpretations. Linda is showing the progress of a few here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

waistcoat pattern alterations

Continuing on with the waistcoat at hand.

Let's look at the back.
When I measured him I made note of the fact that he had a fuller upper back. If the person has significant figure issues it is best to deal with them at the first stage of pattern making. In this case I didn't make the changes in the pattern first because the difference was not huge and I thought it would be interesting to illustrate the process.
Again, a list of issues from the fitting.
The CF did not close exactly on the line from the pattern. It was off by 1/8" at the waist area.
a) If you look at the fitting photo, you can see that in profile the front of his waist is forward from the front of his chest. Not unusual- he is young and has yet to fill out, and he cycles a lot.
Men's back and neck muscles are easily developed, especially if the person weight trains, or participates in a sport like swimming or biking.
b) if the back is being distorted by not having enough length, it can cause issues with the front closure.

I noted as well that the back seemed a bit short overall, and there was an excess of fabric being drawn in by the back belt. This points to an area of fullness (upper back) that the pattern has not compensated for. I will usually draw on the toile and here you can see (sorry, rather faintly) that I have circled the fullest areas of his back. I also marked a very small pinch out of the right back armhole.

This is where tape is my/your friend= pattern alterations!

So I need to allow for some more length in the upper back area of the pattern. I have cut my pattern straight across and added a fat 1/4" evenly in length. This will cause a couple of things to happen.- it will allow the back to drop into the waist a bit and release the tension on the CF line a bit. It has increased the back armhole line but has not controlled the fullness over the prominent area of the back.

I need a dart basically. Right where the fullness is.

I cut along from the armhole towards the blade and make another cut from the shoulder line toward the first cut. I have then overlapped most but not all of that fat 1/4"which then opens out the shoulder line. This has to be enough to ease in rather than be sewn as a dart, so there is a limit on how much easing can be done. This amount is easily accomplished.

I wasn't going to get a chance to see or fit this in the fabric because of my schedule- it was going to be made up and finished, so I did a few more things to the pattern. I slashed the pattern parallel to the CF and I added a miniscule amount at the waist to nothing at the top (just in case dropping the back wasn't quite enough). I took out a tiny wedge of fabric from the outside edge of the neck strap, as it rippled in the toile and I didn't think that the chosen fabric would respond well to shrinking and stretching there. I increased the dart take up in the back darts slightly. I made the changes to the style that we decided on.
I cut it all out, delivered it and then I worried whether I could/should have solved the problem some other way- I like to torture myself obviously- but in the end, I did see it finished before he was off home and it was all good. Just waiting now for pictures from their end since I was not prepared when I did see him wearing it.

A postscript.
If you have a judy to drape on, you can play with how this works. With difficult figures you can use what you've drawn on your toile, pad the judy to make the same problems happen. If you don't have the correct sized judy, you can approximate the changes by cutting a correct piece to fit the judy at hand, then pad the judy in the problem areas, create the same problems and explore the best way to fix them.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

waistcoat fitting

Here are the photos of the waistcoat toile from the fitting.
As you can see, he is a tall slim young man, and I thought my rather quickly drafted pattern made up well.

I also have to say that taking photos to look at later is such a great fitting tool. Often, when we are doing fittings at work, there is such a time constraint and when you are in the moment, you can sometimes be too close to things to see either the overall picture or to see some of the small details really well. Looking at a fitting later in a photo can sometimes point these out.

One more thing when making your toile- it is helpful to mark a horizontal matching point along the closure edge- this helps you to pin it closed properly. I have pinned this waistcoat just a tidge crooked because I forgot the matching mark.

So here's the process I go through in general.
Help the client put the garment on. I am standing behind the person so I can then make sure that it is sitting cleanly at the back neck area.
Go to the front, smooth the garment in place as needed.
Pin the garment closed at the front- if it will not close on your CF line -which should be marked- pin it where it sits and think about why it won't close on the line.
Tighten and pin the back belt in place.
Stand back and have a look.
So what I saw was the right shoulder is slightly lower- totally normal- you will rarely find people with symmetrical shoulder slopes. This causes a slight collapsing of the front on his right side. This, by the way, was hardly noticeable under normal lighting- it is the flash on the camera that has picked it up and made it more noticeable. Another plus for the camera.
The CF didn't pin exactly line to line CF- it was just off the line (not closing enough) at the waist level.
The back waist seemed a bit short in length and there was an excess of fabric being drawn in by the belt at the waist. This is consistent with what I noticed when measuring -he has a full upper back. I could see a bit of tension in the fabric on his upper left side. I like to actually circle the full areas in pencil right on the muslin.

Stylewise, we liked the overall silhouette- we decided to lessen the angle of the front hem from the side to the points by lengthening the sides by 1/4" but keeping the level of the front points as is. The armhole line looked good and the shoulder width was fine. I marked that right on the muslin as well.

After I have all the info I need, (including photos) I mark the way it is pinned closed, then unpin and remove the garment.

One important thing to remember is that a toile is not the be all and end all. It is a tool to help you get closer to a better fitting garment in the real fabric. It will save you from making major changes in the expensive fashion fabric. You will probably still need to make minor adjustments in the real fabric as it will behave differently from the toile fabric.

Next thing to do is alter the pattern before cutting it out in the fabric.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

waistcoat toile

I like to make a toile for a garment if it is the first time I have made something for that person. A "toile" is a trial garment, used to test out the pattern for a first fitting. In some places, people would refer to it as a muslin.

You can make a toile out of any fabric I suppose, but I generally use an unbleached cotton or muslin, but not a wimpy drapey one. This one is a bit more tightly woven- more like ticking in feel. You don't want to spend a lot of time or money on the toile fabric because it is going into the round file after the fitting. It is important though, to chose a fabric that will give you a good "reading" of your pattern, and isn't too far off the weight and drape of the final fabric. For instance if you are making an overcoat, you could choose some heavier cheap "unknown fibre" yardage rather than a thin muslin that would be more suitable for a blouse.
I like a fabric that is easy to draw on as well- either with pencil, tailor's chalk or a sharpie marker.

What you want to avoid is making changes to the pattern that an unsuitable toile fabric may cause you to do.
Once you have a toile fabric, give it a good steam press or even wash it so that you aren't accidentally shrinking your toile as you are making it. Unwashed muslin will easily shrink at least 1/4" t0 3/8" in length on a waistcoat if you don't press it beforehand.
In a toile, it is important that you leave enough "inlay" or seam allowance to make alterations in the fitting, or in some cases, like trousers, to sew a change without having to recut a brand new toile. This means giving a bit of thought beforehand to the possible fitting issues and the changes you might need to make as you fit.
You have to leave enough allowance to do this without distorting the fit.

On a waistcoat I leave inlay at the shoulders and sides that are pressed in one direction rather than pressed open. This makes it easier to unpick and repin without fighting the pressed back seam allowance. I leave extra to turn back at the CF to give some stability- same as the hem- it will give a better idea of the finished line. I don't bother to turn the armhole seam allowances back, but stitch the line and cut about 1 cm away through the curve and leave a bit more up at the shoulder area.

You need to see your design lines from the right side of the garment, so use whatever method works for you -tracing or machining or hand basting the lines as needed. We usually try to machine the lines to the right side as it saves time. Mark your details like pocket or button placements and sew your toile up with a long machine stitch that won't be too tedious to unpick, or baste by hand securely if you want to. We always hand baste the fronts back and the hems up as it is really irritating to try to unpick those in a fitting if they are done by machine.
Give it a good press as you go- make it look good.

It is also important to include the elements that will affect the fit in your final garment, put shoulder pads in and crease the trousers for instance. I don't think you should fully canvas your toile or make fly buttons by hand and you don't have to put the sleeves in a jacket at this point but try to get close to what you want it to look like in the end.

In terms of saving time, fabric and money, a toile is well worth it. You may not think so if your toile requires little, if any changes, but you will appreciate it on those occasions when things don't go as smoothly.
It was made more clear to me recently as I was able to track the times of three similar jackets made by the same person this year. The jacket that had a toile made for the first fitting took about ten hours less than the jacket that was cut directly into the fashion fabric, fit, taken back to flat then finished.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

new waistcoat pattern

This summer, Silvia's nephew arrived from his home in Switzerland to live here in Canada for a few months before he continues on with his education.
He expressed an interest in making a pair of trousers for himself so I made a pattern and under his aunt's instruction, he did a very good job making them up.
To compliment his new 1920's style trousers, Silvia asked me if I would make up a waistcoat pattern as well, which I happily did. He chose the fabric and she made the waistcoat for him.

I chose a complimentary 1920's style of waistcoat- single-breasted, 6 button, 2 pockets with a close spread to the front points, and a fabric strap at the back neck.

The pattern is fairly straightforward- my own draft which is one that I have developed over the years.
I draft my waistcoat patterns with a 1 cm seam allowance at the CB, the side seams, and the shoulders. All other edges are "net" which means the pattern line is the sewing line. I like to have that definite style line for the centre front, armholes, darts and hem.
I also draft not knowing what fabric may be chosen so I have to assume that the fabric will not be able to be manipulated with stretching or shrinking as the old drafts/methods require.
As you can see from the picture, I change my mind and reposition aspects of the draft as I go. Yes, here in ballpoint pen no less (same as doing the crossword). Not necessarily the recommended tool for either task.
Standard drafts will set out the "rules " by which you are to draft that specific model and the draft controls the proportions and the standard placements of details. The drafts were also for a proportionate model -usually 5'8" in height and using a 36" chest as the base .
I used to worry about the rules, but they are there as guides and I think it is important to come to the realization that when making patterns you have to deal with the figure at hand who is likely to be quite different from the standard shape, and you need to develop an eye for drawing the style lines. I advise this: draft and learn what works, practice, but allow yourself the freedom to draw and develop your "eye".

That is why my pattern look like they do- it is a drawing- not a blueprint. The proof of the drawing comes at the next stage - the toile and the fitting the toile.