Productive weekend

So when I got home from my pattern drafting, I was keen to try out my new skills.  I had enough fabric for three pairs of trousers, and some dress fabric I’ve had lying around for a while.  I had master patterns for trousers and a bodice.  And I was keen to fly solo with my new skills, and make sure I’d understood everything correctly.  So on Friday night, I cut my first pair of trousers out of a rather lovely polyester/viscose pinstripe flannel I’d got from Abakhan.  It’s lovely, soft fabric.  I cut the inner waistband and pocket bag out of some cotton left over from a quilting project, and went to bed.

When I came downstairs, I discovered that the Tailor of Gloucester was just a fairy tale, and no mice had visited in the night to sew my trousers.  Which was good, because I was looking forward to sewing them myself.  They went together quickly and fitted beautifully, as I expected.  But the waistband didn’t sit right.  In the past, this would have given rise to a tantrum and abandoning the project, but this time… oh no!  I calmly took the waistband off, re-drafted the pattern with the correct angle at the back waist, put it back together and put the new waistband on the trousers.  Bada bing! Perfect.

See how they fit at my waist?  And are delightfully loose and casual while being smart and pinstripey and perfect for work?? Perfect.

So I cut another pair from some purple cotton moleskin from Croft Mill.  These flew together without waistband troubles, and by the time I went to bed on Saturday I had two new pairs of lovely, wearable trousers.  I also had forgotten to eat anything at all, or drink any water all day.  So I was knackered and headachey, but happy.


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On Sunday morning, I found myself browsing Pinterest, looking for ideas for simple, A Line dresses.  I wanted to see if I could work out how to extend my simple fitted bodice into a dress.  I found something I liked very much.  A simple wool-like dress with long sleeves that looked as though it could be adapted from my bodice realistically.

I thought about it while I ate my breakfast – evidence of learning, Vicki, well done – and got my dot and cross paper out.  I found the measurement I needed to take the bodice to knee length, and remembered Jules’ advice not to extend the side seams out more than about 4-5cm from the centre line, as that risks looking weird – any more flare than that would need to be added in the volume of the skirt.  And I didn’t want a waist seam.

After a bit of calculating, drawing, and measuring lines with my big ruler and dressmaker’s curve ruler, I was sure I had something with the right points of symmetry that might look credibly dress-like.  I decided to make a toile in lining fabric, on the basis that if it worked I would have a lining ready to put into an eventual dress.  Well, I made the calico and went to show Freya.  Who said something along the lines of “Did you make that??  Wow! It fits really brilliantly!”.  It did, in all the places that matter – it lay flat  across my shoulders, fitted perfectly over my bust and was exactly the right back waist length.  But the neckline needed deepening (it was a little chokey) and the sleeve head needed making a little smaller.  So I chalked the lines I wanted onto the toile while I was wearing it, and set about making the adjustments to the pattern.  A silly slip with the scissors meant I needed to actually make a fresh lining for the actual dress, but once again it flew together.  These are truly dreadful photos, because they were taken by a teenager in a hurry to leave the house, but please note that it fits well, and I did a bloody amazing job of pattern matching (which, as everybody knows, is technically a cutting skill rather than a sewing skill, but still…)

I have some learning from this dress.  I made  full lining, which was necessary for the fabric which is a very light wool, but really I should have hung the lining off a buddy facing.  Because the dress fabric is so light, it doesn’t pull at the neckline, but in a heavier weight fabric it would and the lining would be visible.  It also really needs the structure of interfacing which a buddy lining would allow me to have.  So next time I make it…  Also.  Lining fabric is sweaty as hell.  So I might consider whether the sleeves really need lining, and if they do perhaps a cotton lining might be kinder!

So that was a productive weekend… next, I want to play with trouser widths.  I want some wide legged linen pants for smart casual type use, and I’d like to figure out turn-ups.  I also want to narrow the leg for some chino type pants.  And there will be infinite dress variations to consider…

So I’m having lots of fun playing with my new skill!

Pattern Cutting course

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!

My Body measurements

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.

S47v6YwrRaOUCuUsH9bz6AThis 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. COmDeHQ8TzCD4z3F+xUQIQ 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…