I am currently doing a pattern cutting course at Sew Me Something, in Stratford. I have Jules’ book, which I use as a reference often. And I have often wished I could do something a little more sophisticated than my usual Betty Bodge approach to altering patterns. I’ve tried to teach myself to draft patterns to fit my own measurements but…. have you ever *tried* to measure your own body rise? It’s not easy. And of course, it’s downright impossible take your own back measurements. So there’s always been that.
Jules asked us to bring something we wanted to work on. The thing I’ve never been able to make is a really well fitting pair of trousers. My back is very hollow (I have a spinal lordosis, or ‘sway back’) and because I’m a short arse, my waist is high, and my boobs are too small (which, admittedly, doesn’t affect a trouser. But it does make getting a pattern to fit kind of tricky…). What this means in lay terms is that I don’t go properly in at the sides, or out at the front, but oh my days! I go all the way out at the behind. A commercial pattern just doesn’t cater for that, and I really don’t know how to alter one to make it fit better. I mean, I can kind of bodge it, but it shows. It looks like I’m wearing homemade trousers.
But yesterday, I learned how to draft a pattern… and lo and behold, if you take your measurements properly and do the right amount of dividing by four and adding 2cm here and there, you can translate that short, proud aft onto paper and thence onto fabric and bada bing! Trousers which have neither a saggy crotch nor a camel toe. Imagine that, if you will. But not too much. In fact, that’s probably enough imagining. Yes, you! Stop!
The first thing was to take my measurements. It turns out, when compared with measurements for commercial garment sizes, my funny little small boobed, big arsed, sway backed body is all over the bloomin’ shop. I range from a size 6 to a size 22… I mean, I should say we measured top arm and wrist pretty loosely. My top arm has fairly well developed biceps, but my wrist is actually tiny. Honestly. Teeny tiny, stick-thin wrists. But still. Apparently they’re a size 22. Go figure. But this, my friends, is why ready-to-wear clothes (and even standard pattern-made clothes) don’t quite fit our whole bodies, and we learn to compromise with dresses whose bust post doesn’t quite meet our nipples, or skirts with saggy hips, or whatever….
Anyway, once the measurements were taken, there was some calculating to do, and I followed the instructions from Winifred Aldrich’s book to translate the measurements to a pattern block. It turns out that this is quite intuitive once, y’know, someone explains what on earth the code means!! By the end of the day yesterday, I had an initial master pattern, and a working calico pair of trousers. They fitted pretty well, but there was too much fabric in the back knee. I’d used a straight waistband, which obviously didn’t work with my sway back. So last thing yesterday, Jules re-pinned the back knee and took a couple of small tucks in the waistband.
This morning was mostly spent taking the calico apart, using the pinned alternations to redraft the master pattern, recalculate the angles where the side and centre seams meet the waist, and draft a curved waistband. When I remade the calico, it was even bloody better. Honestly amazing.
So right there was a standard pair of trousers with a fitted waistband. But it could only be made with an invisible zip inserted in the side seam. Which is all well and good, and I probably will make some like that. But I also wanted the option to insert a zip fly. So last thing I did today was to draft the fly. This confused me. I’m not good at visualising in 3D, so I needed to make a paper model to figure out how the pieces would go together.
Tomorrow, I just need to finish the master pattern piece for the front trouser and draft a curved waistband that opens at the centre front instead of the side seam. I mean, how hard can that be??
And then, if there’s time, before the course is done I’d like to draft a bodice. Something that allows for my flat chest and short, curvy back. And then I figure I should be able to add a skirt and draft myself a dress, or turn the block into a simple top.
And bada bing. There I’ll be with my very own capsule wardrobe. In kit form…