Sunday, January 19, 2014

Adventures in: Pattern Drafting

It's been a whirlwind year, friends. I have always been scared to not use a pattern to make any textiles, especially when I was young and sewing was a skill I had yet to truly acquire. Learning how to sew from Japanese pattern books was a great start - the fashion style I was working on was achieved through several basic shapes, and the books showed you how to modify given patterns included into the shapes needed. Sometimes those basic shapes were drafted out fully as well (which helped when I purchased one second-hand and received no pattern sheet). It taught me a lot.

So did Jen's video on apportioning scales, to be used with The Edwardian Modiste and The Voice of Fashion (and a few other books). I think they are amazing things and I don't know why more books and scales aren't produced like this. You would get a good fit nearly every time, no matter what size or shape you were! How wonderful! But you do have to put a lot of work into it to start with, and in our modern consumerism and busy personal lives, I fear only the truly dedicated would use them (probably myself included... I am awfully lazy sometimes). Alas.

Pattern drafting is SO not news to historical costumers. What few commercially patterns are available are pretty much exclusively from small pattern companies. Very few of us are able to walk into any craft or fabric store and purchase one on a lark. Sometimes we don't have time to wait to receive a pattern in the mail, or we don't want to spend as much on shipping as the pattern itself. I've been using Reconstructing History's 822 (Robe Anglaise) to construct my newest dress, but in the end I'm using it more for general shapes without having to work on drafting one myself, which I'm still very much learning. I was also pleased to realize that I'm a very close size to Gown #3 in Costume Close-Up by Linda Baumgarten, which I could use again to get general shapes down.

Let me tell you, friends. 18th century clothing construction is not an exact science. It is art. I would certain recommend RH's pattern as a good place to start, as it fit me rather well with very little adjustment and I consider myself to be "oddly shaped", and the JP Ryan one is highly praised by others. But you really, really need to take the time to fit and make mock-ups. You really can't open the package and start sewing.

I'm sure that's not news to some of you, and it certainly wasn't to me either, especially since this is a new era for me and I have come so far since I started over 10 years ago, I want to do things "right". The pattern that came with RH822 is, for me, not appropriate. It may work in an earlier setting, I'm not sure. My primary interest is the last 30 years or so of the 18th century, which appears to require narrower sleeves than the given pattern would make up. I first attempted to pinch in the pattern and recut my mock-ups, but before I even stitched them up, I carefully slipped one on. And hated it. It was too tight in the arm hole but still too loose through the arm and elbow. Rubbish. I didn't want to spend the time adjusting the pattern, since I don't really know where to start, even, and decided to instead scale up the sleeve pattern from Gown #3.

This worked for me, mostly. I don't really know anything about drafting patterns beyond what I've picked up by constant reading and staring at diagrams.

First, I traced the pattern onto a small piece of paper, touching two points to a side. I figured out what the scale I wanted to use was and made all the important calculations.


Then I made the important lines. French curves or a tailor's or quilting curve would be of great benefit in getting some of the curved lines. Mine ended up as near perfect matches.


Hey look, a pattern!


Then I cut it out and taped it edge-to-edge in a tube to slip onto my arm. It was fine in the armpit but too narrow through the meat of the arm. I had to split the pattern and add a little extra width, then taped it and tried again. The final adjustment was to take a small amount out of the wrist edge to narrow it further.


Then I cut out new fabric mock-ups. It was quite late by then, so I hand-basted them together and then pulled out my first mock-up to attach them and see the fit. The photos are a little hard to see; I attempted to correct them but dark fabric + nighttime indoor photography = poor photos.

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And they were nearly perfect. I've already cut, made up and attached them to the dress (which is very nearly finished!) so they will have to suffice for now. The only changes I would make would to change the angle around the sleeve head a bit and perhaps use a slightly larger scale for more volume around the arm as I haven't tried them on over a shift yet since I still don't have one. I am really pleased with the results though! The changes are minor and I can correct them for a later dress :3

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