Climbing back in the saddle

I’ve been on a quick trip to New Zealand so not much sewing recently. I found a fabric shop while walking around one night and dashed there at its opening time the next day for a hunt-and-gather before getting on a plane home. I found this cotton lawn – lovely soft stuff in colours I love. Best kind of souvenir, the one you can make something with!

I confess I skipped the last patternmaking class. Mostly because I was lazy and a little jetlagged, but also because I hadn’t tested the work from the week prior, and I just couldn’t face another battle with the teacher. In class 4 I asked him a number of direct questions and got no answers. For example, “This sleeve is too big, I need to reduce the ease. There are too many gathers at the top. How do I do that?” His reply? “Oh, waffle waffle waffle, that could be a design feature, waffle waffle.” Was driving me crazy. The point of a block is something WITHOUT design features. You add them LATER. Gah.

From here on in, I’m on my own. Which is pretty much where I was at the beginning. But many folks have left lovely comments for me and I hope that you’ll continue with the helpful suggestions when I get stuck!

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Patternmaking class #3

Well, that was interesting.

Back with the regular teacher. While he’s not as outgoing as last week’s replacement, he is very generous with his time and knowledge if you show interest and know what to ask. I showed him the better-but-not-perfect second bodice and he said no, not to do the FBA because that adds length, whereas I need more width. He also didn’t like the wee bit of gape at my neck (not really visible in that picture).

So, two things – first he showed me how to trace a template of of the neck-waist-dart-shoulder section, pare off a tiny bit at the neckline, and hide it in the shoulder dart. Cunning. Secondly, he didn’t like the big bust dart and thought much it should be moved to the waist dart. A bit of slashing and spreading and redrafting later, and he was pleased. “You’ll have a really nice fit now, a real 50s bodice,” he said. One of the happy results of this is that the corner of the bodice, the bit at the sides between the two darts, now sits on the true bias. Lovely. Will cut another muslin in the next few days and show y’all.

I also drafted a sleeve, too. I’m suspicious… it looks an odd shape to me.

The gentle decorum of the patternmaking terminology cracks me up. ‘Bust and seat’ are so coy and demure. I’m dying to just say ‘tits and arse’ but the teacher might kick me out.

Oh, and I just saw JuliaB put up instructions for a skirt block at House of Marmalade. What brilliant timing!

Patternmaking class #2

Class #2 was a revelation. The regular teacher was absent and his replacement was awesome. She was loud and bustling and chatty and, most important of all, demonstrative! She walked us through the next steps as a group, drawing up a block with us and telling us not just the whats but the whys of the process.

She took one look at my ugly, badly-fitting toile and showed me how to take up all that excess fabric in the dart. The class was really fun. And look, at the end of it, I have an actual pattern:

Something surprising to note was how rugged that white paper is. We folded and slashed and taped and pinned and the paper took it all.

At home, I made up another toile. Better, but still not good:

It’ the right length and less baggy in the armpits, but I think all those ugly wrinkles are because it’s too flat across the bust. Damn. This isn’t going to be so easy to fix – I think the next stage is to slash it open like so:

In polite circles, this is called a full bust adjustment or FBA. But that’s a bit dull, don’t you think? How about a ‘brick house renovation’ or ‘big rack attack’? Other suggestions? In any case, it looks like a drag but worth the effort. If I get this info onto my block then I won’t have to do it again.

Class #1 – the homework

Because I’m a dirty swot keen to learn as much as I can in these five short weeks, I jostled ahead and drafted a rough bodice pattern to test out the block. All I did was add in waist darts according to the handout instructions – very quick and dirty. You’re not supposed to use those honkin’ great darts from the neck to bust point in a garment. This rough test garment is called a muslin or toile.

It wasn’t great. I knew there’d be some tweaking required but the thing was just too short (which I suspected when I looked at the my nape-waist measurement taken by a classmate – I’m used to adding 7-8cm as standard to commercial patterns because I’m so tall, so the number just looked wrong. Should have double-checked). Plus there’s some truly spectacular bagginess at the armhole – the armscye on the right side of the picture has been pinned to get rid of it… it was great to have this toile at the second class to amend my block’s gross flaws before taking it any further.

Patternmaking class #1

I marched in with my pencils, pins, and enthusiasm, and plonked down for the first of five three-hour sessions.

Our teacher turned out to be a softly-spoken, rather serious fashion industry type. He gave us a slim volume of photocopies from what we were told is the standard text for patternmaking students, Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich and instructed us to take measurements. Note he didn’t instruct us how to take measurments, just to refer to the handout and do them – while explaining that measuring is an art in itself. Add this to the awkwardness of needing to ask classmates for help (trying to measure yourself is difficult and often ends in trouble) and making complete strangers fumble about with measuring tape and bustlines. It was a little frustrating.

That done, we started drawing up our close-fitting bodice blocks following the standard instructions (see pages 14 – 15 here) – a pretty simple process with flashes back to year 7 geometry, except instead of protractors and compasses, we were using these:

By the end, I’d pretty much finished my first bash at the bodice block but it looked a bit screwy to me. I was keen to go home and test it out.