Learning Pattern Drafting

Learning pattern drafting is actually fairly easy.

I am not meaning this to imply that it is easy in any way to create a good professional sewing pattern. The practice required for professional level skill takes, well, professional-level work. You have to design to a wide range of body types, making a sewing pattern that will be flattering on the largest range of figures possible.

I don’t know how to do that.

Professional design ability also means that you know how to create a very wide range of design elements suitable for not only current fashion trends, but in encouraging other fashion looks.

I don’t know how to do that, either. I am not by any means a professional clothing designer.

What I can do is take a set of measurements, make a sloper, and then design something relatively basic from that. The results are so much nicer than a commercial pattern (custom usually is) that fancy design elements are almost unnecessary. Never underestimate the beauty of well-fitting clothes.

The thing is, I’ve noticed that people who are used to commercial patterns will sometime freak out at dart width and placement on something they’ve created for themselves, especially women who wear quite a large cup size, or have a bust measurement a great deal larger than the waist measurement. If you’re used to the two inch dart on a commercial pattern designed for the “average” B cup young woman with perky breasts, that seven inch dart for the F cup designed for the woman of a certain age who hasn’t resorted to surgery looks downright freakish when drawn flat on the fabric. It’ll make you scared to cut the pattern out.

But after you sew it… Ahhh, what a thing of beauty a custom designed pattern is. Narrow shoulders? No problem. Ever had a armscye hit exactly at the shoulder joint? It really improves the look of the garment. A bust dart that actually shapes the fabric to your body and ends where your nipple actually is? It makes a much smoother line. A garment that has the waist where your waist actually exists, and flares out appropriately to the real wide point of your hips?

You can’t get that stuff in ready to wear, and even have to do a lot of pattern redesign to get it in a commercial pattern.

The book from which I learned how to do this (Patternless Fashions) is unfortunately out of print. Part of this is because the styles in it are dated and the instructions really aren’t as clear as they could be. But since the point of being able to draft one’s own patterns is that you can add any fashionable design details you want to, the fact that the drawings in the book look a bit 1960 doesn’t matter but so much.

If you like to sew and you like to make your own clothes, I can’t encourage you enough to learn to draw your own patterns. The fit is amazing.

Final SWAP Piece

I make most of my own clothes, as I’m sure my readers have gathered by now J.

Last year, I bought enough fabric to make a purple capsule for my wardrobe, and I’ve finally gotten around to making the last piece – a jacket with kimono sleeves. It’s really easy to sew, but I’d been stalling about making it. Partially, this is because I just have been slammed with other projects, but it is partially because there’s a part of the sewing process I absolutely despise.

You see, I hate to cut out patterns. Always have. Don’t ask me why. It’s not like it’s difficult. But I don’t like it. I’d actually sew more than I do if I could get out of it in some way and still be able to make clothes. I have a plenty large surface at a good height to cut things out, good scissors, chalk and anything else you’d need to cut out patterns comfortably – even one of those dangerous pizza cutter type things the quilters use! Even so, I still I don’t like cutting out patterns.

What’s spurred me on is that I really want that purple jacket so that I can put together outfits more interchangeably. When you do a combination wardrobe and find yourself with a hole in it, it really starts to cramp your style when putting outfits together for the week!

The next thing I’m going to make is a black broomstick skirt. I have one that’s a bit too narrow at the hips and too short. I want a proper full and long one. I tend to keep black fabric on hand, because I do wear a fair amount of black, and well… it goes with everything!

<sighs> I like my interchangeable wardrobe, but I still miss my salwar suits. Damn, first impressions…

Learning to Sew

Sewing is on my mind, what with doing a lot of it right now and all.

My mother taught me how to sew.  She sews quite well, but doesn’t do it often.  I don’t think she’s been much into it since she was out of her twenties.  But she did break down and make a prom dress for me for my senior prom.

I had lost my taste for ruffly, frilly numbers or metallic shades of bright pink and blue at a time when they were really fashionable.   I saw a pattern for this long, slinky Grecian-inspired dress that I just had to have for a prom dress (in black.  I had started a serious black phase), so Mom agreed to make it for me.

It was sooo cool.  Looking back, it was a fairly difficult dress to make, though the pattern itself wasn’t too appalling.  It was the fabric.  The fabric was a slinky knit that is the very devil to sew, especially if you don’t have a serger – which few but the most fanatic of home sewers/quasi-professionals did in the spring of 1987.   Mom didn’t have a serger.  I didn’t know at the time about this, and Mom has never mentioned it.  It’s only knowing what I do now that I can reconstruct this.

What I remember was how awesome it was to have something totally unique to my own tastes.

At a Doctor Who convention in the early 1990s with Sylvester McCoy and Sophie AldredIronically, one of the first things I made for myself some five or six years later was pink – a jumper.  Mom talked me through it, held my hand through the sewing process, and doing some of the hard parts.  Yes, there were parts that were difficult and confusing for me when I was learning to sew!  It was this wonderful soft corduroy.    The skirt was supposed to be gathered, but we pleated it instead.  I forget why, but I’m pretty sure it was a screw-up on me not following directions properly or something.  The mistake turned out okay, though.

I wore that jumper out, and kind of miss it.  Too bad they aren’t too fashionable right now.   Maybe I’ll make another one anyway.

Sewing Wardrobes

I got a nice compliment this morning.  Someone mentioned how beautifully my clothes always match, and asked how in the world I can keep finding skirts, tops and jackets that match so well.

I mentioned that it was by specific design, as I sew my own clothes and make sure everything matches everything else.  I did not admit how difficult I find this when shopping for store bought clothing.  I’m sure there are people who can put together a proper wardrobe where everything matches from buying stuff in a store.  All I can say is that I’m just not that talented.

Speaking of talent, as is often the case, I got the “Oh, you’re so talented” routine.  Though she didn’t add, and I was grateful she didn’t, the “and I couldn’t do that” addendum I often get.

While of course I like it, it’s funny to me when people act impressed, as the pattern  I use for my clothes is actually a Simplicity Easy to Sew pattern.  Yes, I’ve made a few alternations1, but I wouldn’t hesitate to use this pattern to teach someone to sew.  It’s beginner stuff, and really about as complex as I would want to handle on a regular basis when sewing my own wardrobe.

I’m looking for some patterns for some long-sleeved tops I can add to the mix. Yes, I can draft my own patterns, but it’s a PITA to design something if I don’t have something specific in mind.  Sometimes I do want to take something that someone else has done, and just add one or two embellishments.  At that point, a store-bought pattern is easier.


1lengthened the pants, added waist darts to the top and re-drafted the armscye so that it doesn’t gap so much from being graded up instead of properly resized for fat lady

Knitting with a Plan

There are times when I am very glad I learned to knit.

This week has been fantastic from a professional point of view, but teaching a week’s worth of all-day classes is exhausting.  I don’t know how full time teachers pull it off and not burn out.  That’s some high-energy stuff if you want to keep your students involved and engaged, and do a good job.

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A seamless yoke sweater

 

So, the knitting.  Knitting is how I relax when I’m too brain-fried even to write a blog entry. It’s soothing with enough repetitive motion to calm me down while I watch Torchwood.

Last summer I sewed a series of garments in a plan called a SWAP. (Sewing with a Plan).  Basically the idea is that everything is supposed to mix and match well with everything else.   I had garments in black, burgundy and a floral/Japanese print.  This winter I added a capsule to it in dark forest green.  So, I have this great, basic interchangable wardrobe.

In cotton.

For the most part that’s fine. Between the fact I made shells and jackets, this means it carries me through a lot of seasons.  What it doesn’t help a lot with is those cold months of a New England winter.   Luckily,  I knit.  Getting good sweaters is no more difficult than following the Seamless Yoke pattern that Elizabeth Zimmerman explained in Knitting Without Tears and adding whatever colorway and yoke design takes my fancy.  I’ve done pirates, Heathen symbols, abstract symbols and Autobots in the yoke and turned out some warm, unique garments.

What I don’t have (yet), are several sweaters in my SWAP color palette.  Oh, I’ve got a gray, purple and burgundy one that goes okay with my black and burgundy pants and skirts.  I have a gray and purple one that goes okay with the black, but nothing else.  This sweater I just made will go with all the skirts and pants I’ve sewn quite well.   I need to sit down and plan two or three more over the course of the winter.

The thing is, these babies are warm, warm, warm.  Stranded knitting (that’s how you get the colorwork — strands of yarn carried behind the main fabric) of various sorts is definitely popular in the colder countries for a reason.  You basically have two layers of yarn for a much warmer garment.  Nordic sweaters look the way they do at least in part for practicality.  If you’re lucky enough to own a real one, you know what I mean.  So, they’re not something I wear year-round, but only when it gets really cold.

New Clothes

Finished a pair of pants yesterday.  No, no picture.  They’re just dusty forest green pants with an elastic waist and wonderful deep pockets.  Nuttin’ fancy.

I know I go on and on about how much I’m liking a wardrobe where all the pieces match all the others.  When I was a youngster and I shopped with my mom, I’d get “outfits” and let me tell you, I did not buy with an eye that whatever I got should “go” with other stuff in my closet.  When my clotheshorse mother (well, really my dad… he was the one making the money) was footing the bill, why bother to think about it? Yes, I’m sure Mom gently nudged me in that direction, but I’m not all that conscious of it.

When I was on my own, I learned to sew, but still tended to do so according to fancy, rather than an eye to a whole.  Then I went through a period of mostly wearing tunics or salwar suits, and again didn’t think much about my clothes in terms of a finished wardrobe.  So, it wasn’t until I was nearly 40 that I really had one, and I’m enjoying it.  I can dress things up or down with scarves or jewelry, everything matches with several pieces and I can go almost anywhere except a fancy dress ball and be dressed appropriately.  Since I haven’t worn a ball gown, nor needed to, since my last prom at 18 this particular wardrobe lack is less than urgent.

What’s also nice is when I get a wild hare to sew, I can design to a pre-established background. I’ve never really thought in terms of matching wardrobe presentation before.  What I really like about it is that once it’s done, I don’t have to give presentation a great deal of thought.  The wardrobe is there hanging in my closet and I don’t have to root through a bunch of mis-matching garments in the hopes of finding something. Or worse, I don’t have to have that sinking feeling that all my matching outfits are in the wash.  I can guarantee that I’ll have something appropriate in the closet even if it is not my bestest and most favoritest combination.

I’ll be making the green shell next week.  Garment construction is going to be limited to one a week simply to keep me from getting too into this at the expense of working.

I also need to get my butt over to the fabric store for some facing.  When my kimono fabric arrives, I definitely want to be able to get on that!  I’m making my next one unlined, just so I can have a summer yukata for visiting.  The lined kimono is really a rather heavy garment and really only nice for winter.  Though for winter, it is very nice, indeed!

Walk n'Roll America

Diabetes can have dangerous and life-altering effects, as Micah Bernabe of Portland, OR discovered. He lost his left leg up to the mid-shin due to diabetes complications and often must use a wheelchair to get around.

His wife, film student Holly Bernabe, decided that diabetes awareness deserves a dramatic effort and has decided to walk across the US to prove it.  She started the Walk n’Roll project, where she, Mr. Bernabe and their children will be walking and rolling fifteen miles a day across the continent to New York to greet the Statue of Liberty.

What made them decide to do something so impressive?

“What is driving us to do something so incredibly insane and potentially dangerous? We’ve got lots of reasons! My husband wants to do it to help raise awareness about diabetes (how he lost his leg) and hopefully raise some money for the American Diabetes Association. I want to do the walk to support him, and he to support me. Through our documentary, we plan to show why we are attempting this trek. As we progress, we will more than likely discover many new reasons along the way. I also plan to compare our experiences with other people who have braved this walk before us, and get inside their heads and hearts. I think it will be the experience of our lifetimes.”

Your faithful scrivener agrees.   I’ve known Holly for a few years in an online forum where her wit, compassion and kindness have been a fantastic contribution to the group.

If you want to follow their progress or give your support (the project is of course in need of money and some donations), check out Walk n’Roll and cheer them on!

New Album Release!

frontSquee!!!!!!!!!

On March 7, my cousin and his band have an album coming out!  I already have a copy, nya nya nya!

Click on the image to check ’em out and listen to some clips.

Soreness and Recovery

I’m still painfully sore from leg day on Monday.  No, let me rephrase that.  I’m more sore today than I’ve been since I did the workout.

That’s okay and I expected it.  I had a good lie-down in the sauna after my weights today (upper body), but I also know that today is likely the worse of it.   I also chose a restaurant within walking distance of my house to meet a friend for lunch today, because I knew that I needed to force myself to take a small walk and get the blood flowing a bit.   Thankfully tomorrow is cardio, so I’ll be swimming.  I think I’m gonna need it.  I’m wondering if I am going to be too sore to do leg day on Friday or not.  Sure hope not.

I’m a little worried, also, about my upper body workout.  I did a pretty intense upper body workout today and I’m wondering how I’m gonna be able to do swimming.  I’m already starting to feel that torso tightness that feels like I’m wearing a well-laced bodice.

My son is growing out of his sweaters, so I’m starting a new one for him today. He wants another Transformer’s sweater, but this one is just going to be an Autobots one. Maybe after I’m done, if he wants one, I’ll make a Decepticon one, too. I want to make myself a sweater, but don’t really need one just yet.  As far as wardrobing, what I think I’m going to be needing for winter is a couple of wool skirts and a couple of pairs of wool pants.  Not as cheap as the cotton I’ve made, but these outfits are pretty interseason, what with the jackets and all, and I have sweaters that go with them.

Pleasure and Profit

I’m finishing up a pair of burgundy pants.  Since I already have a pair of black dress pants that fit well and go well with the new wardrobe I made, these pants will be the end of Stage One of my Sewing with a Plan experiment.

I was talking to someone who said that sewing isn’t cheaper than going to Wal-mart.

Now, I do shop at stores like that often, and sometimes do find deals there!  But the money-saving wardrobe aspects really depends on a lot of factors.  Because I’m a reasonably experienced seamstress (hem! hem!), it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever be able to get something off the rack that will fit nearly as well as something I’ve made myself.  I can’t buy something in Wal-mart with a custom fit.  It’s simply not available.  But even throwing fit aside, can I find clothes at Wal-mart “just as cheap”?

Eh, sometimes I can. And when I do, I buy them.  I’d be highly unlikely to make myself sweat pants, a sports bra, or a t-shirt I was intending to work out in.  While I learned to sew to save money, it was more for historical costuming (which is gut-wrenchingly expensive if you cannot sew) than it was for a personal wardrobe.

I wouldn’t recommend sewing as a money-saving technique, necessarily, unless you really like it.  I do, which is what makes it worthwhile.  Yes, I get a garment whose material price is cheaper than what I’m likely to pay in a store,  I get the hours of pleasure making it, and the additional kick out of wearing something I made myself.  I don’t think I’ll ever get over that!  Opening my closet and seeing the garments I made for myself hanging all neatly organized gives me a wonderful sense of satisfaction.  But even the process of sewing, the smell of the fabric when I’m pressing down a seam, the sense of wonder of turning a 2D piece of fabric into a 3D creation, the puzzle-solving satisfaction of putting together a pair of pants with pockets, the way that the machine loops the thread to make a stitch in a way that seems like magic, all of that is all just fun to me.

But if I didn’t enjoy sewing, I don’t think it would be worthwhile at all.   All those hours of aggravation would not be worth the money I’d saved doing it, even if I did force myself to develop the skill necessary to sew well enough to be saving money.  I think that’d be too much like work and I could earn more money in other, more pleasant ways.  Ultimately, sewing is just a hobby I have that pays for itself, that’s all.