Archive of ‘Patternmaking’ category

The Mariner’s Suit

I’m such a copycat.

Grease was my first big person’s movie (not, you know, Tubby the Tuba). So of course I really wanted an Olivia bodysuit, just like Christine’s. Then I wanted a nautical chevron-y one, just like hers, to go with my new red shorts. I have an insane amount of blue and white striped modal jersey that was perfect for this (when you see good stripes, you gotta go for them, right?). And of course I wanted to try out sewing in bra cups, just like she did.

So you saw the bodysuit in action yesterday, and here’s the scoop. It’s super easy and fun to draft your own, thanks to her awesome tutorial. All you need is your favorite pair of undies, a ruler and some paper.

She also has a good tip on how to cut matching chevron stripes. Y’all have probably learned this the hard way, but sometimes a serger wants to push the top layer when you first start a seam, and that causes all sorts of mismatchiness even after super-careful cutting. So sometimes, if I’m really feeling perfectionist, I’ll baste the seam first with the sewing machine, than serge. That’s what I did for the center front. Other times, I will pin about an inch down from the beginning of the seam and then push the top layer upwards a bit so that by the time it goes past the knife, the two layers are even. This takes a bit of experimenting to get right but I’ve got the hang of it on my machine.

On the geeky pattern side of things, I’ve been meaning to draft my own bathing suit for awhile, and perhaps use it for other tight-fitting knit tops. Occasionally, I stalk the Pattern School website, which has all kinds of stretch patterns one can draft, including a basic one-piece block. I spent an hour or so drafting this from my measurements, and two bodysuits are pretty darn close, except for the neckline.

For the sewn-in bra, I made a lining from the same fabric and stitched in foam cups just like the tutorial.

It might have worked better if I stitched the cups to the inside rather than the outside (in the wrong light, they definitely show through!). And next time I will probably cut the lining from a beefier knit, perhaps a cotton/lycra, or some kind of supportive stretch mesh…. experiment, experiment, experiment! My jersey is very light and flimsy and definitely not support material, but at least it’s holding the cups in the generally correct location! I’ll be experimenting a bit more with making these, but it was fun to just jump in with what I’ve got laying around.

I messed around with the bottom shape a bit and I made a separate gusset. A gusset can either be its own piece that is sewn in to both front and back, or it can be part of the front or back pieces. You can also use the gusset piece to cut out a lining (a light cotton knit is the best for this, but I just go with whatever jersey I have on hand).

The only thing missing from mine is some elastic for the leg openings. I really like plush-backed elastic. (And it’d also feel nicer than the waistband elastic that I used on the bra lining.) Some folks like fold-over elastic. I should probably stash some basic colors for my lingerie adventures!

Has anyone else made self-supporting tanks or t-shirts? I’d love to hear your tips! (Steph published a great tutorial for sewing in a bra for a woven pattern. I’ve been meaning to try that one, too.)

Cocoon Coat in Progress

I should probably write that title on the door.

Actually, we know to keep this door shut anyway, since cats + sewing area = tsumani. I won’t even get into the story about what I found after they snuck in a closet overnight and managed to take down a high shelf of patterns and fabric. Or the time they discovered the delightful sounds of pattern tissue. (Anyone have any cat-sewing-disaster stories to share?)

So I worked hard over the weekend getting all the pattern pieces together for my coat, including drafting separate facing pieces and a lining. This kind of work is really fun for me, like problem-solving as much as I can ahead of time rather than in process.

So many pieces! (And I’d love to hear any hints from folks who work with rolled patternmaking paper like oak tag–no matter what I do to flatten it, it just wants to stay rolled.)

Originally, I’d planned to use a leather binding on the neckline and sleeve hems. After puzzling through a few ideas, I decided to use facings instead. Hopefully, the facings will turn out less bulky than a binding, especially at the corners of the center front.

All my little facing pieces…

I was excited to see that Peter of MPB might be making a faux fur coat and he had a good tip about good patterns for fur: the simpler the pattern details, the better. My fabric has such a thin, low pile that it might not matter but this is something to keep in mind if you ever go faux! My pattern doesn’t have any intricate seams and no eased areas (not even the sleeves).

Of course, I’ve managed to make things more complicated by deciding to sew in the zipper rather than just slap it on top of the folded front as per Burda. That meant that I had to change the “cut-on” facing to a separate sewn-on one. This could make my zipper area kinda bulky. But if my idea works, I’ll share how I changed a pattern to facilitate sewing in a center zipper down the front.

And now I must run and do some interfacing tests on the fur and leather. Hopefully I can get to a-cutting by the weekend but when I do I feel like the whole pattern will be engineered to sit up and talk!

Lounge Set in Brushstrokes

My new lounge set came together last week. I feel like a Hundertwasser painting.

Or perhaps a tropical soldier?

But this head to toe print is only going inside the house! I wanted to photograph these a week ago but the weather has been downright gloomy and dark for days. (I’m not complaining, though! We’ve needed the rain terribly.)

I went ahead with my idea to design one based on a New Look pattern, giving me an excuse to further tweak my t-shirt pattern beyond recognition. This version at Behind the Seams first drew my attention to the New Look pattern, probably because the fabric was in a similarly swishy print. I liked how she used bands for the sleeves and an exposed facing for the neckline rather than bindings so I did the same.

I also copied the idea to make a flat hip band rather than New Look’s ruched/gathered look. It would be very easy to change to a ruched band if I were to make this again. I originally cut the band to be two inches narrower than my total hip measurement. That was a wild guess–I know nothing about negative ease guidelines–so I basted it together for a test and then took out another three inches.

The original pattern is pretty cheap but I like a challenge now and then, and this was pretty easy to draft. I’ve been playing a lot with Burda Style’s Lydia pattern over the last year and a half, and at one point came up with a dolman-sleeved top that I love and wear quite a bit. You can see here how I used the dolman top as the basis for the PJ top:

I also have a skin-tight bodice block I drafted in Illustrator way back when, but never got around to using. I finally figured out that I could simply use it as a ruler of sorts–to see where my waist, bust and other important lines are and get an idea of the ease in a pattern. (I have a paper version too.)

I really love how this turned out, and in a next (and there will be a next!) version I’ll refine the sleeve shaping. As it is, the underarm curve is just a bit too sharp and the sleeves a little narrower than I’d planned.

The pants were a very simple drawstring-waist pattern from Burda November 2009 (#131). Although they recommended silky wovens, I decided to risk it as a jersey pattern–good enough for bedtime!

The drawstrings are attached to elastic, a detail I’ve seen in other patterns (like my watercolor dress), which I love. It allows the comfort of elastic to hold things up, with the ability to tighten or loosen with the drawstrings.

Most of all I just love how this fabric feels. It’s a lovely cotton lycra that I bought specifically for PJs and has a nice weight with the bonus of a soft flannel-like texture on the wrong side. Perfect for staying cozy!

(Oh yeah, I hemmed these to my perfect inseam, but underestimated the jersey’s desire to lengthen. This seems to happen to me on every knit garment. Must plan on this more.)

Sweet dreams, all!

Digging into Patternmaking Again

About eight years ago, I dug out my dusty broken-bobbin-hole Brother machine after many years of not sewing. I sewed for much of my teens and made almost all of my clothes in college, but after that I went in tiny spurts–partly because I was able to afford nicer fashion than what I had been sewing. I’ve always loved fashion and spoiling myself with clothes when I can.

Still, I could never get rid of that sewer’s itch every time I looked at a gorgeous piece of fashion: “how did they *do* that?” And all my sub-dreams of learning fashion design would rush to the surface.

[From a current exhibit here in Austin, I loved this enormous print by contemporary Argentine artist Nicola Costantino. Credit and the fascinating history behind this photograph, a self-portrait.]

So when my husband asked me to make him a vest–and he went into elaborate detail about what this vest would be, what shape of pockets, lining, fit, type of buttons–I took it as a challenge to make a pattern from scratch. The one vest pattern I could find at Jo-Ann’s was a horrible boxy McCall’s thing straight out of the 80s so that wouldn’t do. This was before Pattern Review, sewing blogs and the onslaught of vintage sewing mania so I didn’t have much to work with.

I googled “patternmaking” and the only things that came up were an expensive (to me) patternmaking textbook and Lutterloh. I decided to enroll in some college courses in fashion design but got sidetracked once I took the illustration courses, which I loved.

Long story short, it took me a few more years before I’d find a vintage pattern and make something of D’s dream vest.

I have a few patternmaking books now, which help me with details I want to add on to an existing pattern, but I’m itching to learn more. I like theoretical knowledge and am rarely satisfied with just learning techniques. And some patternmaking books just give you a long list of things to do–rather than teach you why you’re doing them. Over a year ago, I made some slopers from Elizabeth Allemong’s European Cut and she does have some little gems of “why you are doing this” teaching. Although the slopers are very basic and have no ease–at all–I had a few lightbulbs go on while working on them. Perhaps I’ll do a review of this book in another post.

After someone recommended it, I decided to order Winifred Aldrich’s Pattern Cutting for Women’s Tailored Jackets over the weekend. This might be a bit backwards as I don’t have her introductory book, but I’m really keen on making my own jacket block, perhaps this winter, or modifying my silk jacket draft to do other things. Does anyone have this book and what can you say about its drafts?

I’ll be taking it with me as holiday reading next week. Yes, I’m a geek who reads stuff like horticulture manuals in bed. Don’t worry, I’ve got poetry going with me, too.

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