Showing posts with label Sewing Patterns. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sewing Patterns. Show all posts

December 13, 2013

A Pattern Review for J. Bernardoni's Nutcracker Cavalier Doublet Jacket

In the ballet world, the Christmas season is Nutcracker season. This year, I was commissioned to remake the Nutcracker/Prince jacket for Utah Artist School of Ballet's Children's Nutcracker. The director requested red stretch velvet but other than that I designed it. She approved the design and I had a very short period of time to build 2 identical jackets, 4 days to be exact to make photo call. The director was understanding that the jackets for photos would be wearable and only partially decorated. Within a day, I found out one of the two dancer's would not be there for photos. Since this was a short build, I bought a pattern to use from Pattern No. JB11002 Nutcracker Cavalier Doublet by J. Bernardoni, a New York costume designer. is the only source for this pattern and I believe it is not actually listed on their website but can be ordered via phone. (I am not affiliated nor was I compensated with or the pattern designer). Also this pattern comes one size per an envelope and is printed on heavy white paper. I always trace off my patterns and never cut out the original that way I can make changes as needed.

Reviewing the Pattern

In costuming, I am used to not working with pattern instructions. Oftentimes, patterns are drafted in house, cut into fabric and handed over to the stitcher, sometimes with a design sketch and brief verbal instructions. This pattern has instructions but they are written very simply and with the assumption you know what you are doing or built something similar in the past. I briefly skimmed through before I began. I noticed that 1/2" seam allowances are included. Hem allowances are 1" with 1/2 seam allowance making for total of 1 1/2" turned up. The pattern designer, included a pattern pieces diagram with a cutting guideline. He doesn't include yardage amounts nor fabric recommendations. Having made doublets in the past I estimated approximately 2 yards per jacket. My fabric was 60-62" wide which in the end was an over estimate of 1/2 yard per. Usually, I like to buy 10% more than is needed for future repairs or alterations, slightly more if the fabric has nap or one way pattern direction. The pattern designer lists two different flat-linings; coutil (for the body, epaulets and collar) and washed muslin (for the sleeves) and one interfacing of fusible hair canvas.

Fabric Choices

For my project, stretch velvet was chosen. The director wanted it to fit generically so it could be used for years to come. I was hesitant to use a stretch fabric when the look and design is for a woven. Often with men's ballet tunics, woven fabric tops can be made in two pieces,  an over vest and a stretch under shirt with sleeves attached. This enables the dancer to have full movement of arms. I have seen some built without using the undershirt method and instead stretch panels are used in the sides or wherever needed, etc... This pattern doesn't use the undershirt nor does it mention using stretch fabrics. This is where experience and knowledge of a show's choreography is necessary so changes to the pattern can be made. I chose to go completely with stretch fabrics for the jackets. My flat-lining fabrics were 4 way stretch cotton lycra for  the body, shiny milliskin for the sleeves (gives just a little bit of slickness) and rayon bemberg for the collar and tails. Interfacings (from Fashion Sewing Supply) used were shirt crisp for the collar and tricot deluxe for the body front and tail sections. (I am not affiliated nor was I compensated with Fashion Sewing Supply, just really love her products).

Applying interfacing to the jacket tails

Pictured here is a side back. The interfacing is in white and applied to the tail portion. This is where I deviated from the pattern instructions which has you apply fusible hair canvas to the tail lining. The fabric being pinned on top is the flat lining. 

Pinning the flat lining

Side back ready for flat lining as stated in pattern. 

The lining is too short
I made the side seams with 1" seam allowances as well as the
center back.
The jacket is completely flat lined except the tails. This is the way I would have created the pattern. One thing that bothered me about the original patterns is that the lining stops short of the side seam allowances. (see picture). This would look unfinished if the sides were ever let out. Most likely they probably won't be, (most dancers have similar sized bodies) but you never know. I think the pattern designer did this to eliminate bulk which in theory it is a good idea. Also, the front and back are constructed separately, sleeves put in flat and then the sleeve seam and side seams are sewn in one. I don't like this so much. I like to have the sleeves separate and and the jacket finished up to the sleeve insertion for a first fabric fitting. This way I can make adjustments to the shoulder line and arm scye if needed. I have to make a note here, I made the jackets up completely with no fittings nor measurements of dancers ... got to love regional/community theatre).  

Tail lining

Finished linings in the tail. 

Pinning the trim to the jacket front
Almost done!

I only have a female dress form so the jacket looks a little odd. As I was pinning the trim on, I made the decision to hand tack the trim. Velvet can be quite finicky and I didn't it want it to stretch the fabric out. I think a walking foot on a machine would have been nice. One day I will buy one...

Nutcracker Cavalier Doublet Jacket

Even with hand tacking, I got some weird pulling but on stage it was not noticeable. I also got some bagging out on the sleeve, probably due to the flat lining (milliskin) fighting the velvet. These are some of the reasons I wished I used a woven fabric instead. 

Overall, I really liked this pattern. I could tell it was made by a costumer who knows what they are doing. Personally, I would have been fine without seam allowances included. I look forward to trying out more of his work. 

Full Nutcracker ballet costume with jacket
The Nutcracker

Nutcracker jacket on prince
The Prince

September 16, 2013

Organizing my workspace : Storing patterns cut in tag board

T-shirt pattern cut out of tag board

Well over a year ago I had made the final adjustments to my t-shirt pattern. I usually draft my first patterns on medical examination paper. It is a less expensive paper to draft on, but more durable than regular tissue paper. Once I feel the pattern is perfected (or good enough for now), I transfer the tissue paper pattern to tagboard. It took me well over a year to transfer my pattern to tagboard. Really, it is amazing I managed to keep all the pieces together without losing any. The pieces floated between my craft table and the floor in all that time! Now I can use these pattern pieces for some other design ideas that have been floating around in my head. I store the tissue paper patterns in 6" x 9" envelopes for future reference. Both the tagboard pieces and the envelope are labeled with the style number, size, piece name, seam allowances, and cut quantity.

Pieces cut in tag board are put on pattern hooks and then on racks. I prefer punching a hole in the pattern with a smaller hole punch so I can use book rings. The book rings are used to hang all the pieces of a style together but make it easier to remove one piece from the collection. The pattern hooks can be looped around the book ring and then hung on a rack.

*There are different work flows for pattern making. This is mine. Some professional pattern makers do all of their pattern making directly on oak tag and some are CAD only. Also, I do things a little differently in my home studio versus work. For example, the t-shirt pattern pieces are cutout in half because I place the piece on the fold at home. This would not happen in a factory. Generally, a production ready pattern would be the full piece (left and right sides) and not placed on a fold. It's not always so simple though. The pattern pieces are created to meet the specs of the fabric and production facility so variations may exist.

January 24, 2013

Review of Simple Modern Sewing pt. 2 : Sewing up a sample

I have to admit that I put off the rest of this review. It's hard to be so down on a book that I had so enjoyed perusing. You can read the gushing in part 1 of my review. First the positive:

The photography and layout of Simple Modern Sewing is great. The instructions are adequate for experienced sewists. The patterns are printed on sturdy white paper.

And then when you pull out the pattern sheet, this is what you get:

Pattern sheet from Simple Modern Sewing

As you can see, nearly all the pattern pieces and sizes use the same exact black line. It would have helped to at least denote the different sizes with different line types and colors for different styles in the same way that Burda does. You have to really look carefully for notches, because they are easy to miss despite extra notations on the pieces. And in just this one snapshot of one part of the pattern sheet, there are 5 pattern pieces that overlap.

The issues with the pattern sheet are relatively minor though, especially if you are comfortable with Burda patterns. I did manage to trace everything off for the wrap blouse and dress. I had to select the large size since that matched up with my measurements best. There did seem to be some discrepancy between the measurement chart, printed finish measurements in the pattern instructions, and the actual pattern pieces. I didn't take the time the track it down and it could be just differences in how one measures. For me, it resulted in a bit more room (which was actually needed) than I expected. One good thing is that the shape of the armhole and sleeve was along the lines of what Kathleen recommends.

A bigger issue did present itself once I started checking the pattern. There is a grading error on the shoulder seam of the bodice pieces of the wrap blouse for the medium and large sizes. In order to fix the large size, you will need to pull the shoulder point of the back shoulder seam in about 3/8 inch. The other smaller sizes match up just fine. I debated whether this was indeed a grading problem because sometimes the back shoulder is eased instead of having a dart. On boxy, loose fitting styles there is no easing or dart, which is what this style is supposed to be. Since the smaller sizes matched, there could be no other explanation. No other bloggers have mentioned the same problem, so I'm not sure if it is just an anomaly on my copy.

After correcting the pattern and adding seam allowances, I proceeded to cut and sew and got this:

DH said it looked like a medical scrub, except it didn't even fit that well. The dart points in the wrong direction, which means I probably should have done a FBA or something else. The skirt part of the blouse has an extremely small gather ratio, less than 1:1.25, which makes the gathers look like a mistake. The result of all of this is that it looked terrible on.

I probably could spend the time to fix the pattern and try again.

But it would take too many iterations.

This project caused me to loose my sewing mojo. Who else hates spending time on something with such disappointing results? I think I can now understand beginning sewists frustrations.

Having said all that, I can recommend this book only for its design and styling inspiration. Go elsewhere for patterns which are similar.

I cannot recommend this book to beginning sewists at all. If you have more experience altering patterns and don't mind endless fiddling, then maybe this book is for you.

January 04, 2013

Review: Simple Modern Sewing pt. 1

Simple Modern Sewing one of the new how-to sew books at my library. I was excited to review this because Japanese sewing books have a reputation for precision and design that elevate the average sewing book. The Pattern Magicand Drape Drape series of books are two notable series that pattern making enthusiasts rave about. I knew that our local patrons would not respond well to Pattern Magic or Drape Drape, but they would probably respond to Simple Modern Sewing.

This book is written by Shufu To Seikatsu Sha. The photography and styling of the designs really grabbed my attention. I personally found the designs very appealing and in this case something that I would actually make and wear. In comparison, I did not find any of the designs in the books I reviewed previously inspiring enough to put in the work necessary to make them up. The book consists of 8 simple patterns that can be used to create 25 garments. Each grouping of patterns can be mixed and matched interchangeably to create the different styles.

The book is divided up into three general sections. The first is the photography/inspiration section that shows each of the style variations. The second is general pattern and sewing instruction. The third contains detailed cutting and sewing instruction for each style variation. This includes a pattern layout, diagrams, and a list of sewing instructions.

The styles in the book are sized for the average Japanese woman. The average American woman may find some of the styles a bit on the small side. Some of the styles are intended to have a lot of wearing ease, so the largest size may fit some American women anyway. There is a size chart and finished measurements for each style, which helped me determine the correct size to trace.

Overall I really like the styles in this book. I selected the wrap blouse, shown on the front cover to sew up as a test for the dress. The biggest downfall of the book is the pattern sheet. It is nice to see the patterns are printed on sturdy white paper rather than tissue paper. But the pattern sheet is a dizzying array of overlapping pattern pieces in multiple sizes in solid black lines. All the patterns and all the sizes are solid black lines. Burda patterns are similar, but they are much easier to sort out. Each style is a different color and the sizes are differentiated by different line types.

To finish up part 1 of the review, the book is inspiring and lovely to look at. The general sewing information and detailed sewing information appear to be adequate for sewists who have some experience. The cutting diagrams and pattern prep require a bit of work. Because of the difficult pattern sheets, I don't know that I can recommend the book for beginning sewists. The styles are simple enough that one could find similar patterns from the Big 4 without the hassle of interpreting the pattern sheet.

Anyway, I've traced off the blouse and dress pieces and begun the pattern checking process. So far I've spent maybe 4 hours just in prep work. Updates as I work my through it.

November 12, 2012

The blouse pattern revisited : recutting tagboard pieces

Bodice pattern pieces cut out of tag board
About a year ago I cut my blouse pattern out of tag board. I had cut the interior of the darts out because I thought it would be more convenient to just trace the dart onto the fabric. Sometimes this is done in the industry, but there is a better way. Anyway, this didn't work out very well.

Recutting blouse pattern pieces out of tagboard

So after I had made my most recent modifications, I recut the front and back blouse pattern pieces. This time I drew the darts in with the addition of drill holes. You can't really see them in the photo, but I used an awl to poke holes into the tag board. A pencil tip fits into the holes to mark the dart on the fabric. This should work better

Now I'm finally ready to buy some more fabric for blouses.

October 10, 2012

Book Reviews : Dressmaking, Collette Sewing Handbook, and Burdastyle

Our library recently acquired three new how-to-sew books. Sewing is picking up in popularity and the numbers of books coming out about sewing reflect that. I took some time to flip through them and here are my thoughts. All of these books give the impression of being exhaustive in their subject. They are also project based meaning the how to sections are emphasized by the included projects.


Published by DK, Dressmaking has the fantastic photography one comes to expect from DK. The book is written by Allison Smith who previously penned The Sewing Book: An Encyclopedic Resource of Step-by-Step Techniques also put out by DK. The layout and organization of Dressmaking is above average. The how-to photography is clear and easy to understand.

The projects are in the back of the book with additional instructions to complete each project. This means the how to section is designed to support the projects. So, you will have to flip back and forth to get a complete how-to. It also means that the how-to section is not comprehensive. You will likely need a more comprehensive how-to sew book such as the Reader's Digest Guide to Sewing to supplement what is missing. What is missing is the info to complete some other project not included in the book. Much of the information can be applied to other styles. But you may want to do a project with some design feature that requires a different technique, which is not included in this book. Thus the need for some other sewing manual. For advanced sewists, this is not a big deal, but then again an advanced sewist probably wouldn't need the how-to section anyway.

The styles are pretty basic. The graded patterns are printed on grids at the back of the book. This means you would have to enlarge them yourself. Since I didn't make up any of the styles, I can't tell you how accurately the patterns are drafted. I also can't comment on fit. You will almost certainly have to spend time testing the pattern in muslin. The process would be time consuming.

The biggest problem with this book is the binding. It is a large book and while the binding is sewn, it is cheap. Many DK books of this size fall apart with semi-regular use. In the library, we have replaced one very popular DK book several times, which begins to fall apart after only two circulations.

The Collette Sewing Handbook

Written by Sarai Mitnick, the book was written to support Mitnick's indie sewing pattern company Collette Patterns. The book is spiral bound, so it will lay flat when open. The layout and photography is also pretty good.

Mitnick spends time explaining her five basic principles: a thoughtful plan, a precise pattern, a fantastic fit, a beautiful fabric, and a fine finish. I only spent a few minutes reviewing the sections on fit and sewing. The information presented is pretty basic and you will need supplemental resources if you do not have the fit issues described. The sewing information is also basic but will at least help you sew the projects in the book. The patterns are apparently drafted for a C-cup, which means that if that is not you, expect alterations. The patterns are printed on tissue and included in the back of the book. I didn't take the time to check the patterns or sew them up as the styles didn't appeal to me.


This sewing manual is written by Nora Abousteit, a Hurbert Burda employee and Alison Kelly, a Project Runway alum. The book is designed to support the Burdastyle website and Burda sewing patterns. The book is spiral bound so that it will lay flat when open with the patterns included in the back.

I have an admitted preference for Burda patterns because I have used some of them from the magazine. They are usually drafted pretty well, though the instructions are very anemic, which is a challenge for beginners. This book explains how to use the Burda patterns from the magazine. It explains the pattern notations, how to trace off the patterns, and how to add seam allowances. Burda patterns are based off a European sizing system. It is important to measure yourself to find the appropriate size on the Burda size chart. Unfortunately, the how to measure instructions are pretty pathetic with simple, flat line drawings. The sewing instructions are pretty basic.

There is one thing that I really liked about this book. The book encourages the reader to experiment and redesign the styles. There are only four projects in the book, but the reader is shown several variations. There are instructions for a project with no alterations and then there are instructions for a variation. Additional variations are show in a photograph with no additional instructions in the hope the reader can figure them out on their own. The variation with instructions demonstrates how to alter the patterns to achieve the desired effect. I like how the authors encourage their readers to experiment and play because I feel that is the best way to learn. I think this may be a challenge for beginning or brand new sewists.

I think most of the projects are pretty achievable. I didn't sew any of them up because the styles didn't appeal to me. The jacket would be the most challenging project, especially the variation.

A few final thoughts

All of these books will help either a beginning or intermediate sewist with lots of hand holding for the included projects. Though, I expect there will be some frustration with the patterns and some of the instructions. Additional support material is definitely required for more complete coverage of the subject. The Reader's Digest book is still a gold standard due to it's comprehensive nature. Older how-to sewing books are also better. There really isn't anything new presented with the exception of the included patterns.

There is one popular book that I have not reviewed and that is Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing. The primary reason is that I don't have access to a copy and a full review would be unfair. But, I am admittedly biased against the book already. The content is just an updated version of previously available information. Gertie got her start by working her way through a Vogue sewing manual, and that is the primary source for her book. Some of her tutorials found on her blog have been lifted off of at least one other website. Also, from what I have heard, Gertie is the fit model for the included patterns, which are then graded up and down. If you aren't Gertie, then expect needing to make adjustments.

July 30, 2012

A question on newborn sewing patterns

Pam had this question
Supposedly the XXS size on commercial patterns (McCalls, Simplicity, 
Butterick) is supposed to be for babies 7 lbs or less, but they swallow 
newborns up.  If you read around the Internet, there are lots of frustrated 
grandmothers and mothers-to-be that want to sew for their new or expected  baby, but can't find a pattern that will fit.  I read that doll clothing  patterns don't work because the neck is wrong for a human infant. I tried buying vintage layette patterns from Etsy and they were just as bad.  I  want to know how to downsize a commercial XXS dress or romper pattern so it fits a NEW 7-8 lb baby.
I had similar challenges sewing an infant shirt from a Butterick pattern. You are right that the sizing is just not right. You are also right that doll clothing patterns are not proportionally correct either.

There really is no easy way to fix the sizing issue. Perhaps the easiest would be to fold out some of the extra width and length to make the pattern smaller? Maybe try grading the pattern smaller -- though that won't solve the other problems that probably exist in your pattern. I can't really tell you how much to reduce the pattern because I don't know what pattern you are using. Even then, it would hard to advise you because I ended up redrafting the pattern I used above to even get it to work right.

One suggestion is to go to a thrift store and buy clothing in the size you want, take it apart and trace it off. Don't forget to add in proper seam allowances - as the existing seams have probably been trimmed off.

March 29, 2012

Book Review : Sew Serendipity

There seems to be a trend in new sewing books for the home sewing market. Some are written by fabric or textile surface designers as a way to expand their personal brand, others are written by indie pattern makers. Usually, they include basic how-to sew information and patterns. My local library received two of the Sew Serendipity sewing books written by Kay Whitt, an indie pattern maker (though she does sell to McCall's). The first book I brought home was the book featuring skirts and coats.

The book is organized with basic sewing how-to first followed by common instructions on how to sew the designs featured in the book. Finally, the designs are featured with beautiful photography. I have to admit I skimmed most of the how-to sewing instruction as I am probably a bit more advanced. There are some photo step-by-step instructions and each design has additional illustrated step-by-step instructions. A beginning sewist would have to flip back and forth several times to get complete instructions.

There are three basic designs, a skirt, a tunic/dress, and two jackets. Variations are presented for each design with changes in embellishment, design details, and fabric prints while the basic pattern pieces do not change. I do like the basic shapes of the styles presented, though some of the design details are just not my taste. The patterns are sized XXS to XXL and her measurement chart seems to follow a regular grade, which is nice.

As a pattern maker, I was very pleased when looking at the actual pattern pieces. The line width used on the pattern pieces is very fine, which is so much better than the Big 4. Also, the notches were not the traditional outward V notches but rather slit style notches. I did trace off the tunic pattern and walked some of the pattern pieces and they matched up really well. It is important to read the pattern sheet carefully because there are not a lot of markings other than notches and the piece name. Seam allowances are 1/2 inch unless otherwise noted. In addition, you have to read the instructions for the selected design and the basic how-to for the section. As an example, there is no sleeve cuff pattern piece because it is just a rectangle, but the dimensions are given in the basic how-to section.

A few of the seams needed a bit of refinement, but should not bother most home sewists. One area that will probably cause difficulty is the coat facing. I recommend redrawing the outer facing edge just to make it easier to sew. I think the facing has a sharp inward corner to make it easier when topstitching the facing down, so the facing shape is probably intentional. As an option you can use some other guide while topstitching and still smooth out that shape to make it easier to edge finish. Just my personal preference.

Overall, the book has a nice presentation and the designs are generally appealing. As I mentioned, I did trace off the tunic blouse to sew up but I have to put it off until I get a zipper. So the review is a bit incomplete but I think a beginning sewist will enjoy it.

December 10, 2008

A Free Christmas Stocking Sewing Pattern

Chistmas stocking ornament
This is a mini-Christmas stocking that I was selling in my store. Now that the store is closed, I am making the pattern available to every one as a thank you to my blog readers. The pattern is being released into the public domain. You can make stockings and sell them, or whatever you want, just make something pretty and give it to someone.

I am releasing the pattern only - no sewing instructions. The pattern has 1/4" seam allowances on all edges, but you can ignore them if you want. This is so you can use your own imagination in whatever you create. Have fun with it! Click on the image below to enlarge it and print it from your browser window.

Free Christmas stocking ornament sewing pattern

April 18, 2008

Grading Complex Styles pt. 2

Part 2 of this series continues the discussion of how to grade complex styles. It is not necessary to have the Handford book to understand the concept, but some experience with grading would be helpful.

This part of the series was going to contain a lot of explanation with lots of examples. There are two reasons that I held off on that. The first is I am considering writing a book on the subject. I am sure it will be a best seller and I will be able to retire early [eye-roll]. The second is that it would be impossible to discuss every possible scenario. It would be best to explain the principle and let you work out your specific grading problem on your own. You will benefit with having to struggle with the material and learn lots in the process.

Just a side note, these pieces have been simplified, no darts or extra gathers. I am also ignoring the seam allowances. The grading is done the same way regardless. This demonstration only shows how to figure out a length grade. The same principle works for widths.

Anyway, let's move on to the examples....

Graded nest of a bodice pattern piece

Bodice pattern split for a midriff

In order to grade a complex style, you need to have basic blocks that are already graded. On top I have a basic block that is already graded. Below that is my ungraded pattern pieces for a bodice with a mid-riff.

Measuring the difference in length between sizes

There are many ways to determine the total length grade. In this case, I just want to know what the length difference is between the graded basic block and the ungraded pieces. I want to grade my pieces up to the next larger size. To do this, I just lay the ungraded pattern pieces on top of the next size and align the pieces along the horizontal and vertical axis. My drawings are missing the horizontal, but you can pretend there is a line that runs from the side-seam/armscye points across the pieces. BTW if you would rather, you can figure all this out mathematically....

Once you know the length grade difference, you can then decide where you want that length growth to occur on your ungraded pattern pieces. In the examples below, you can have that length split between the two pieces or all of it in one piece or the other (shown in red).

Growth split between the top and bottom pieces

Growth occurring only with the top pattern piece

Growth occurring only with the bottom pattern piece

The question you have to ask is:

How much should a seam move to maintain proportions?

This is where the beauty of computerized grading happens. I can play with the grade as much as I want - plugging in different numbers until the proportions look the way I want for each size. Hand grading would be a little more complex. The more complex the style, the more difficult the grade can become when doing it by hand. Handford's suggestion to tape the pieces together with long strips of tagboard can work in hand grading. The grader will have to determine if additional grade points should be added and how much movement should occur. This can be done by using Handford's red lines of distribution. Sophisticated manipulation at each grade point can only occur in CAD.

Still the principle works the same regardless of how complex the style or method.

1. Determine your total length/width grades.
2. Calculate the length/width difference between sizes at the grade points.
3. Decide where the growth should occur by comparing the total grade and the difference between each size at the needed grade points. What proportionally looks correct? How is my fit affected?

April 13, 2008

Grading Complex Styles pt. 1

Part 1 of this grading series will make more sense if you have a copy of Jack Handford's Professional Pattern Grading book. Unfortunately, the book is now out of print. Still, this entry may be helpful in grading complex styles, especially part 2...

An anonymous reader left this comment:

I love your blog. Thank you so much for all the information. I've recently started grading patterns. I can grade simple styles by following Handford or other books' steps no problem. But when it comes to complex designs, such as clothing that has unusual shapes and consists of multiple panels, I have trouble placing the "distribution lines" (red lines in Handford's book) on the patterns. Handford suggests by putting the patterns on the mannequins and draw the red lines. But sometimes it isn't practical as I'm using a CAD program.
Any suggestions?

This is a good question and can be confusing. The first thing I had to do was go back and look at Handford's book to see those red lines. Sometimes when I read a technical book my eyes glaze over and I skim until I find the info I am looking for. To be honest, I have had to study Handford's book several times to grasp what he is saying. In any event, I couldn't recall those red lines....

The red lines are illustrated on page 1-2 of Handford's book. He uses the red lines to indicate where a pattern grows or shrinks. The rest of the book has more illustrations of basic pattern pieces that show this. The key is to read page 3:

Obviously the cutting and spreading or overlapping of each part of each pattern to grade it one size up or one size down would be far too time consuming and invite much chance for error to be practical.

In other words, a grader could draw those lines of distribution on each pattern piece and then cut the pattern apart to spread or overlap them for the next size. He is absolutely right that such a task would be extremely time consuming, error prone and tedious. This is the failure of the Price/Zamkoff book on grading because this is how they explain grading. It was the primary reason I was so confused about grading too. If you were to grade by hand, could you imagine making duplicate copies of your base pattern so you could cut it apart? You would then need to carefully align the pieces, tape them securely, redraw the pattern, and cut it out. Then you would have to start the whole process over again for the next size. Yikes!

I don't mean to be so hard on Price/Zamkoff because they explain the concept of grading correctly. The problem is that it is not practical, even in a CAD environment.

I am not sure why Handford places those red lines in his illustrations other than to illustrate where the growth is occurring as you grade using his method. In his method, you move a pattern piece a certain direction at each grade point. The grade points are related to those red lines but are actually located at a pattern edge, usually a corner or mid-point.

Anyway, the reason I didn't remember seeing those red lines is because I ignored them. As a CAD grader I simply select a point and enter in the amount of growth. In my head I know a piece is growing in the middle of the pattern even when I assign the growth to an outside corner or point.

Anyway, I have blathered too long.... The commenter is correct that with complex styles the growth/shrinkage must be placed properly. Handford illustrates a slightly more complex style of a bodice with midriff on pages 93-94. The pieces are taped together with strips of tagboard and graded at the same time. On page 89 Handford makes the suggestion of placing the style on a form to determine where growth/shrinkage should occur. While his suggestion is valid, it is difficult to make the conceptual leap from a 3D form with lines to a table top with flat pattern pieces.

I have never done this. Partly because I have only graded children's pattern pieces. There have only been a handful of styles that I would consider very complex. Since I did this on CAD I had the luxury of playing around with the grading until I felt it was correct. I came up with my own method that works for me. It is not much different from putting a jigsaw puzzle together and only involves a little bit of math.

CAD makes grading complex styles very easy. Unfortunately, the night is getting late and so a complete explanation will have to wait. For now, you must know your total width and length grades, say for a bodice pattern piece. If you have a bodice with a midriff and the total length grade is 1" (I don't know I am making this up...), divide the total length grade between the two pieces so that the growth looks proportionally correct.... Anyway, more later...

November 09, 2007

Standard Pattern Blocks- Flat vs. Classic

Tiki left some questions in comments and I thought I would address them in a separate blog entry.
I am reworking some of my patterns and have both Aldrich's and Armstrong's books as well. As you mentioned, I have noticed that my own kids' clothes from various manufacturers are drafted "flat" as Aldrich describes it, with the front and back patterns basically identical except for the neckline, but was wondering if you could explain more why that is the standard.
Here is a picture of what Tiki is talking about. Aldrich is the only other person I know of that addresses this topic. It is true that most childrenswear manufacturers work off of flat blocks, especially for infants. Aldrich only presents it for infant casual clothing. But I have seen variations of the idea spanning all children's sizes.

An example of a modified classic pattern block
My basic blocks are a variation of the flat method. The armholes and shoulders of the front and backs pieces are identical. The body widths match (the long vertical line indicates the center back/front). The flat fit is a little more boxy and loose. My fit is not too boxy, but it does allow for some growth. You can see the fit of this bodice on one of my dresses. The patterns are not too boxy because the side seams do taper inward and my front waist has some curve. Aldrich's patterns have a straight side seam and waistline. BTW, I am not done refining the shape of this pattern - I am considering narrowing the shoulders and reducing the armhole. You have to start somewhere with your patterns, and they will evolve as you refine your fit.
I have read the discussion of armhole and sleeve shaping from Kathleen's blog and book and was wondering if the standard in the children's wear industry is due to simplicity in drafting, etc (perhaps because there is more ease built into the design of the garment itself) or if there is a specific anatomical/physical reason that makes drafting the asymmetrical sleeve/armhole unnecessary in children's wear. I guess, in other words, is that only the standard in loose children's garments or would drafting a more fitted children's garment with the same symmetrical sleeve still be correct/standard?
I can't say for sure why this is the standard. It is definitely not something I learned in school, but rather on the job. Tiki's instincts are probably right. There is a simplicity in the drafting of flat pattern blocks, and it does save some time. There is a physical limitation too. The smaller the size, the less practical it becomes to draft a classic block. A flat block gives some wearing ease and allows for growth. Children, after all, grow and a little extra ease allows the clothing to be worn longer. And yes, you can draft a more fitted bodice block with symmetrical armholes/sleeves. That is what I did with my patterns because it is what looked right to me. Here are some pictures of a classic, fitted block with asymmetric armholes (click on images for a better view).

Pattern draft of a classic fit bodice blockThis is a set of classic bodices sized three month. You can see the small armhole - there is little room to draw a nice curve. The back armhole is nearly a straight line. These drafts are based off of Aldrich's book. A classic block would be more appropriate for larger sizes.

Pattern draft of a sleeve with an asymmetric capThis is a corresponding sleeve with an asymmetric sleeve cap. The sleeve cap seems really high and the curves are abrupt, IMO. These blocks could certainly work, but they require more refining. I opted to modify my blocks so they were semi-fitted and flat. The curves are easier and sewing is easier.

There is a relationship with children's body shapes and the flat method. Young children are simple round cylindrical shapes until about the age of 5 and it makes sense to keep the patterns simple.
I'm having difficulty understanding from Aldrich's book what makes the "flat" block or "classic" block more appropriate for a particular style, so I wondered what was standard practice here in the industry. I hope this makes sense.
I look at it this way. Flat blocks are good for casual styles, like t-shirts. Classic blocks are good for more formal looks. Flat blocks are good for infant sizes, classic for older. Your fit and look defines your design and you can opt for either method. Usually I see a modified classic block for fit, but with symmetrical armholes and shoulders (perhaps more of a convention rather than a standard). I have seen some designers use only classic blocks and others only flat. Really, the decision is up to you.

This is a topic I am still researching and trying to understand. I hate to label flat blocks as a standard because there are several possible methods that may be considered "right" or the "standard". Pattern making is considered a technical, rigid system, but don't be afraid to do things your way. I learn things from those who do not have formal training and are not afraid to do things a little different. Sure there are certain accepted standards for labeling patterns or placing notches. Acceptable shaping and fit is open to interpretation.

November 07, 2007

Americana Apron from a 1950's sewing pattern

Ok, this is day 7 of the Sew, Mama, Sew challenge of 30 gifts in 30 days. Here is my entry that was supposed to be for day 1. Of course, I made two, because I was in desperate need of a new one. DH used our only apron to carve some elk - let's just say it's not too pretty anymore. From here on out, I am only doing one of each item on the list that I can manage to accomplish.

1950's apronI chose a pattern I had made as a teenager - it came from an old high school Home Ec manual of the 1950s. I loved this pattern as a teenager, but what I failed to realize is that I (ahem) am not a teenager anymore. The original pattern has a cute bib with ties. I am thinking my younger, shorter sister, aka Twiggy, should be able to wear this with no problem. She recently has expressed an interest in cooking, so I will tuck a couple of my favorite go-to recipes in the pocket.

I know that I said most of my gifts would be made from scraps. Well, I purchased this fabric from the thrift store for about $2 and it has been collecting dust in my stash for at least 5 years. I think it counts - plus, this fabric may show up in other scrappy projects.

1950's apron without the bibI left the bib off of my apron, which works just fine. DH says it makes me look like a 1950s housewife. Not sure what to say about that..... Anyhoo, both aprons are trimmed with some left over ribbon along the hem and pocket. And yes, I am wearing socks with my shoes because the mountains are chilly this time of year.....

Homemaking for teenagersHere is the book that I acquired as a teenager. I still love it. I wish modern Home Ec books were so practical about making a home as this one.

Up next on the list for Nov 8th is "Whimsy". I have no idea what I will come up with. I may browse some books at the library for ideas. Whimsical is something I am not so this may be a good design exercise.