Metric Pattern Cutting

It’s fitting that Neighbour Helen decided to buy me this book for my birthday, as she’s the one who got me interested in drafting recently, and she liked it so much she bought one for herself, too!

I’ve heard that this is one of the best pattern drafting books around (alongside the Armstrong book, but there’s a £60 price difference there, too!), and I can see why. It’s certainly not an easy book to get to grips with, but if you’re a visual learner like me, then you probably really only need the drawings to be getting on with anyway. The book is absolutely packed with different blocks and various sleeve, collar, skirt, dart, yoke, etc drafts, with precious little else included. It’s a book that doesn’t mess around and gets straight to the point, which is great as it doesn’t take up much space on the bookshelf, either (frankly, I’ve seen thicker magazines!!). There are no wasted pages here, and Winifred Aldrich certainly doesn’t mess around!

Book Review: Two Pattern Grading books

I’ve got not one, but two books to talk about today, both on the subject of pattern grading, which, to be honest, has hardly any books published on the topic and seems to be a bit of an industry secret or something.

If you’re not familiar with what pattern grading is – it’s the process of taking one pattern and adding or subtracting amounts at various points to make it another size, or multiple sizes. This isn’t just a simple equation of “well, size Y is twice as big as size Q” because humans’ shapes don’t grow at the same rate (ie: the difference between a size 0 and a size 18’s shoulders aren’t likely to be as great as the difference in hip sizes). In general, the measurements around the body change much more than the vertical measurements, so you need to follow some rules to know how far to move different points and in which directions.

Now, there’s an old-fashioned way of doing this with paper patters, scissors, tape, a special “grade ruler”, and several hours of your time, and this was covered pretty extensively in the September 2014 Threads Magazine (#174). In my personal opinion, this is fine if you only want to change one pattern to one other size, for instance if you have a vintage pattern but want it in your own size. Doing more than one size this way is a great way to end up throwing everything into the bin after several hours of swearing.

In my opinion, the far less stressful way to do pattern grading is digitally. You select a point, tell your software (like Adobe Illustrator) to move it xx cm vertically and yy cm horizontally, and you do that to all the points around the pattern. No taping, no cutting, and no weird ruler. Plus it’s way more accurate. So with this in mind, my reviews of both books are skewed heavily towards how they deal with digital drafting.

Let’s look at “Grading Workbook” by Connie Crawford first. It’s been out as a print book for a while, but I bought an early edition of the pdf ebook last year, which has been extensively cleaned up and digitised. I checked about a month ago, and there haven’t been any revisions so the copy I’m reviewing here is indeed current.

The book is targeted at someone who has some knowledge of pattern drafting, but is a beginner at pattern grading – most home sewists would be able to follow along with the introductory chapters which explain the methods and theory, and how to select different grades.

For each of the grade tables (ie: bodice, skirt, sleeve, stretch, child, etc), there are a few pages which show which point is being selected and which direction to move it, shown in a series of diagrams, like these two:

Asymmetric Drape Drape tee

Happy Friday! To celebrate, I’ve got the last of my made-on-Easter-weekend, photographed-in-Baltimore makes to show you!

This one’s from the second Drape Drape book, which I received as a Christmas present this past year. Even though I’ve had the first two books for a while (and just received the third this weekend!) this is the first thing I’ve made from the series.

I think part of my hesitation comes from the very Japanese sizing – this is drafted for ridiculously tiny Japanese ladies – in their sizing I am an XXXL!. For this pattern there were only two sizes, though: S-M and L-XL. I made the larger and just crossed my fingers that my Burda size 42 body would fit in okay at the hips (the only even remotely fitted area).

Unlike the Pattern Magic books, these patterns are traced from sheets at the back of the book rather than drafted from a block, so it’s not as easy to just adjust the design around your own measurements.

But anyway, I needn’t have worried, because the L-XL size fits me beautifully, hooray!

In case you’re wondering, the Drape Drape patterns do include seam allowances but seamlines are also indicated, so if you would rather trace along the seam lines and add your own allowances later, it’s an option. I always like it when patterns do this, but obviously it’s something you can only do if you offer a few sizes, otherwise it really clutters up the pattern sheets!

Book Review: Patternmaking for Underwear Design, by Kristina Shin PhD

You’ve heard me mention this book a few times as I’ve been experimenting with various drafts, but I felt it deserved a full review because, frankly, I’m a little obsessed with it right now. My mom surprised me with this when I was ill with shingles and the subsequent nerve damage pain, and it gave me something to focus on right as I was in the midst of my last bout of lingerie sewing.

It’s “Patternmaking for Underwear Design”, by Kristina Shin, PhD, and here’s a (pretty bad) shot I took of it’s cover:

It’s primarily a book for drafting your own bras and lingerie (but much more, too), and the biggest difference I’ve seen here in that these bra drafts all start with the underwire shape, and build from there. Every other bra draft I’ve seen starts with a bodice sloper, which is then adapted into a bra shape. The approach taken here makes a lot more sense to me for getting an accurate fit, since there’s so much variation in breast shape and distribution for women who even wear the same size bodice. As anyone knows who’s ever sewn a bra, finding the right size underwire is absolutely key, so it really seems right here to use that as a starting point. And it helps that most women can make a small incision in a well-fitting bra and just trace off one they know fits them!

There’s not really any construction or sewing instructions included in this book, but there are a few pages at the beginning with stuff like tips on cutting lace…

…and the wide variety of bra backs you can use once you’ve got your basic draft sorted out…

…plus several pages of various tables of measurements for different sizes, and exactly what to measure, both for the breasts and the rest of the body.

Here’s an example page from the leggings draft so you can see the style of instructions and diagrams. I personally found these easier to follow than Metric Pattern Cutting and WAY easier than any of the Pattern Magic books!

Hooray for the Vogue 1280 DKNY sheath dress pattern!

Even though I live in London, I grew up in America, and my family all still live there. A week or two ago, my mom saw there was a pattern sale coming up and very kindly offered to buy me a few if I wanted! There were two Vogue patterns on my Wish List – one was a Michael Kors knit dress that’s now OOP (and her Hancock’s didn’t still have it), but she was able to buy me one of the new DKNY Vogue patterns I was after, plus ship it to me, all for less than half the price we pay for Vogues in the UK on sale!

(Ever wonder what sad souls pay the full list price printed on envelope patterns? Yeah, that’s us. Little wonder I mostly sew with pattern magazines!)

So Vogue 1280 arrived in the post yesterday, and I immediately set about devouring the instructions and construction details of this.

It’s a really interesting, asymmetrical knit sheath dress with a characteristic (for DKNY) lack of side seams, so there’s a lot going on here!

Here’s a better shot of the tech drawing from the envelope. On Vogue’s site, the tech drawing is really too small to see that nearly all the seams are lapped, with a raw-edged piece of trim inserted, and then double-stitched (hello, coverstitch!) on top.

Revisiting pattern drafting and the vintage tab dress muslin

Remember the vintage dress pattern I graded down to my size a few weeks ago?

Well, I made up a muslin with my grading changes in place, and though I didn’t get any photos of it on me, I did get some on Susan. I realise that diagnosing fit issues on a dressmaker’s dummy is particularly futile, though, so you’ll just need to take my word for it!

On first glance, the worst issue is that there is way too much fabric in the upper back, but also I think I may need to raise the waist seam by an inch, and narrow the shoulders by an inch or so, too.

The skirt length is d-o-w-d-y so I’ll need to shorten all those panels, too (happily I’ve got a “lengthen or shorten here” line on both the bodice and skirt pieces).

While the sleeves themselves fit nicely, there is an unholy amount of excess ease in those sleeve caps, omg. So I’ll need to shave down those caps to take a good few inches out of there.

It wasn’t necessarily the list above that made me lose enthusiasm for this dress, but I can’t really put my finger on what it was. But it turned out that doing all the boring grading reawakened in me a desire to conquer pattern drafting, which I dabbled in when I received “Metric Pattern Cutting” by Winifred Aldrich last year, but didn’t get far.

Asymmetric Plum Lace Top

The latest installment in my post-coat winter sewing plans is the asymmetric pleated turtleneck, Patrones 296 #14.

In this design, you’re given the pattern pieces for a turtleneck top, where the front has been cut diagonally across the front. So if you’ve not got this issue of Patrones, just go and draw a curvy line across your favourite turtleneck pattern!

In the magazine photo, the sleeves and upper front piece are pleated and underlined, but I chose to overlay lace on mine instead. Patrones provide the pattern pieces for the post-pleated fabric (allowing you the fun of working out exactly how much fabric you’d need for whatever size pleats you choose!), so it was super simple to just use those finished pieces to cut out the lace overlays instead.

The plum fabric here is a gorgeous bamboo/lycra jersey that I bought from Ditto in Brighton last month, and it’s so unbelievably soft, and with a nice, beefy weight and good stretch. I loved Wazoodle’s bamboo years ago, but this stuff is even better as it’s thicker and doesn’t wrinkle anywhere near as readily. I am utterly in love with this fabric! I’ve got another of their bamboo/lycras in red and I’m itching to make something from that now, too. The green stretch lace I bought at Tissues Dreyfus in Paris last summer, and I love how the two together give a bit of an antique look….

Sequin running vest and purple leggings

I’m going to break from tradition here and actually post my next two outfits out of sequence from when I made them, mostly because I just shared my elastic waistband tutorial with you, but also because I’m really freaking excited about sewing exercise gear right now. Honestly, it’s starting to become nearly lingerie-levels of hysteria with me – super quick to make, easy to fit, and lots of wild colours and patterns in small doses! But you’ll get to see my “civilian” top and trousers later this week, so no worries if you’re starting to glaze over at all the lycra…

For this set of running gear, I’ve paired up the Papercut “Ooh La Leggings” pattern (UK stockist here) with my self drafted knit block (from Metric Pattern Cutting). And in the case of the top, I altered the seam lines and armhole shape to suit!

You may remember the ex-Prada sequin trompe l’oeil fabric from a few years ago when I used it to make a cowl top. I wear that all the time, but I only had a small piece leftover in my stash, and it was far too lovely to throw away. But with a bit of creative thinking, it was enough for this! Though I think I’ll lower the curve a bit for my next running vest so the peak is just at my underbust…

As you can see with the leggings (or maybe not, the purple fabric is quite dark!), there are no side seams here! The shaped front and back yokes give some really cool, curved seams, and they merge nicely into front- and back-leg seams instead.

Self-drafted leggings

I bought this ASOS ruched tunic back in April and I love the design of it – the ruched panels are really flattering, it’s a viscose knit and it’s entirely lined in lingerie mesh. But when it arrived, I realised it was way too short to wear as a dress, but too long to wear as a shirt and looks just plain lumpy when worn over regular trousers or jeans. And with the panels going at weird angles creating an intentionally uneven hem, there wasn’t a natural point to cut it off and shorten it, either.

So I filled the wardrobe hole by creating some leggings specifically to wear with this top!

Bits and Pieces

Ok, so to take a brief break from reading material, I thought I should update you with what I’ve been up to in the sewing room…

Bridesmaids dresses

I had the first fitting of P’s muslin, and there are surprisingly little changes to be made – raising the neckline and armscye, pulling up the waistband by a centimetre, and that’s about it.

So I’m doing a second version of the bodice for her to try on this weekend, and then I unpick the skirt off that muslin and attach it to G’s bodice (the skirt is enormous and I didn’t have enough knit muslin for two!) and have her first fitting while I get down and dirty with the waistband pleating. I’m anticipating the pleating to be the most time-consuming part of both the dresses… (Earlier post about the dresses and colours here)

A spring dress

I finished a nice Springy version of BurdaStyle’s Heidi dress yesterday (finally!).

It was just waiting for a hem for nearly a week, which is a long time for me. It’s nice timing as Spring (or maybe even Summer!) arrived this weekend and it was gorgeous outside on deck with the barbecue going and everyone hopping from boat to boat. I’m hoping to do a photoshoot tonight now that we’ve got daylight for longer in the evenings…