Monday, 20 July 2009

Hacking the block into a pattern

Once you've made your block, you need to put on the markings i.e. mark the Centre Front/Back and put in any foldlines or grainlines). Then trace the block onto some dressmaker's tracing paper so that you can hack into it.

Using a hard pencil so that I only do faint lines, I mark the yoke. I want to make it about 10cm deep, so I mark 10cm onto the side and centre lines and join them freehand. I then draw a line vaguely perpendicular to the hem and yoke line, to divide the skirt into panels.

Then I mark the grain lines on each pattern piece. The grain runs down the Centre Front/Back of the skirt so I mark the grain lines exactly parallel to that line. While I'm fairly haphazard with most aspects of sewing and drafting. I always measure grain lines very carefully because if they're skew then your garment will never hang right. So measure once, measure twice and check them again before you take the scissors to the pattern. Ensure that each individual pattern piece has the grain line marked before you cut it out.

Then I make the godet piece. There are no instructions for this in the book so I'm kind of winging it here.

So... I measure the length of the skirt from the yoke line to the hemline. It's 21cm so I draw that line on the tracing paper. I then get out my set square - I want to draw the kind of triangle that has two lengths the same - in this case, 21cm. I have no idea how to do this so I decide to take my 21cm line as the middle line of the triangle. From that, I mark two lines on either side of it each 45 degrees from the centre. I extend each line to 21cm and freehand draw a gentle arc to join them. The centre line is of course also the grain line.

I cut out all the pieces and see how they jigsaw together. I trim the tops of the side and centre panel a little so that they are a better fit with the yoke - this is a bit 'suck it and see' but I'm hoping it will work.

Friday, 17 July 2009

I should be sewing a custom order...

or even finishing the skirt tutorial, and instead I'm surfing the net, seeing what lovely stuff people are making and blogging about. Blogger doesn't seem to have an internal search function (or am I wrong?) so I'm googling like mad, finding the sewing and craft sites out there. And then doing links because otherwise I'll never be able to find them again! Great fun but not very productive...

Hopscotch Camis GIVEAWAY!!!!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Pattern-cutting Part 3 - Drafting a skirt block.

I guess I should start by explaining that a block is a very basic pattern, from which you trace your own more exciting patterns. I am going to draft a skirt block for my 2 year old, and then trace off a gored skirt from it. There are only 4 measurements to be taken for this - I am using the standard measurement charts from Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting for Children's Wear and Babywear, but if you want a perfectly fitting garment for your child, then you will need to measure said child!

You will need:

  • squared dressmaking paper - I should imagine you can do it without this, but it would be very difficult and require much use of a set square [shudder].
  • A sharp pencil, more like a 3H than a 3B.
  • A longish ruler.
  • A calculator - again, you can do this without, but it's easier with.
  • A rubber/eraser
  • tracing paper
  • The following measurements:
  1. waist,
  2. hip,
  3. waist to hip, and
  4. waist to required skirt length.

First step: taking the measurements.

Ensure wriggly child is only wearing whatever she will be wearing the skirt over - whether it's pants or a nappy. Get wriggly child to stand still (I find that CBeebies is marvellous for helping out with this!) Measure her around her waist - this can be hard to find on small children, but if you look at where most skirts come up to on her, this will help you to find the right place. And it isn't the end of the world if you don't get it quite right because the chest, waist and hip measurements are pretty similar on small children.

Then measure her around the fullest part of her hip/bottom. You then measure the vertical distance between the waist measurement and hip measurement , and finally the waist to skirt length - I have used a favourite ready-to-wear skirt to take this measurement.

If you want to use standard measurements, then this link: is not a bad place to start. Remember though that while these measurements are cut for nappies up to age 2, they are not cut for cloth nappies.

We can now start to draft our skirt block.

Mark point 0 on your squared paper. This is going to be the centre waist of your skirt, so do not put it at the furthest left edge of the paper because you will need to go still further left when you square up to the edge of the skirt. You'll see what I mean when we reach that point! Two or three centimetres in from the edge should be fine. Please note: the drawings that follow were prepared on Paint and are not to scale!!!!!! They are just to give you an idea of what you should be doing.

Then draw a line across the bottom of the page ("square across"). Mark the length of your skirt on this line as point 1. Then mark the ((waist to hip) +1 cm), as point 2. Draw perpendicular lines up from 0, 1 and 2 ("square up").

On the line you squared up from 2, you need to mark off point 3, which is 1/4 of the hip measurement, plus 1.5cm for ease. You then square left to 4 and right to 5. Join the points horizontally.

Next you need to mark point 6, which is on the 0-4 line, at (1/4 waist measurement) + 0.5cm.
Point 7 comes next. This is where we do the waist shaping. You don't quite square across to 7 from 6, it's more of a slight diagonal line, 1 cm above 6. The picture makes it more clear.

We now mark point 8, which is 2cm up from point 5. If you like more flare to your skirt, then you can hack into the working pattern later.


Finally, you join the dots. This calls for a degree of artistry that I cannot reproduce on Paint! Essentially, the lines will be straight from 8 to 3, straightish from 6 to 3, and very curved from 6 to 7, and 1 to 7. To put it at its simplest: you want it to look like the front half of a skirt!

And that's the skirt block done. Next post will be how to turn it into a pattern.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Can we fix it? Erm, I think so!

In the warm light of day, the t-shirt looks no better. I try it on Laura and it doesn't improve. If there were ever a 'just plain wrong' sleeve length, these sleeves are it. And the body is way too short. That should be easy to fix so I'll deal with that first.

I could just sew a strip of co-ordinating jersey to the bottom of the top, right sides together, to create a single-layer longer body, but I think that making a faux two layer top would be prettier. So first I hem the red polka dot, using a narrow rolled hem sewn with a zig zag stitch, and s-t-r-e-e-e-t-c-h-i-n-g the hem as far as I can while sewing it. This creates a really pretty ruffled finish (called 'lettuce edge') for a stretch fabric. I then cut a wide strip of white jersey, join the two ends, and stitch it to the wrong side of the polka dot, about 5 cm up from the hem.

All I need to do is to lettuce edge the white strip as I did with the polka dot, and that will add about 6 cm to the bottom of the top. I do just that and the top already looks much better. But aaaargh! those sleeves are hideous!!!!

So... I could cut them short and re-bind them with the foldover elastic, but I suspect that this won't really help. The armhole is too easy-fitting to attractively accommodate a puff sleeve. So I decide to just cut the sleeves much much shorter, and then do the lettuce edge hem. And all of a sudden, the top has come together. It's feminine, pretty and in proportion. I really like it!

And that is the beauty of sewing with knit fabrics. It's really forgiving and endlessly adaptable. And if you use a stretch needle, and a zig-zaggy kind of stitch to sew it, it's easy to sew too. Go on - have a try!

Next, I'm going to have a try at drafting a pattern for a godet skirt with a yoke. There are only 4 measurements to be taken in order to do a skirt block, so it would be perfect for a draft-and-sew-tute. I hope you agree!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Sewing the t-shirt

I need to test out the t-shirt pattern so I'm going to 'make a toile'. This is seamstress speak for knocking up a garment from cheap fabric so that you can see if the patten actually works and what you need to do to it if it doesn't. I have some cheapish jersey that is pretty nice so if the pattern comes together the toile will be wearable.

I've cut the pieces out using a rotary cutter and a cutting board. The equipment is marginally more expensive than dressmaking scissors, but much easier and quicker to use. I've added seam allowances to the pieces as I've cut them - about 1cm to all the seams apart from the neckline, which I shall bind rather than seam, and a few centimentres to the t-shirt hem. I'm starting to think that the top might not be long enough, but I'll worry about that later.

First, I iron thin strips of lightweight interfacing to where the back shoulder seams will be. This will stablise the seams and keep the garment looking better for longer. Next I join the back and front pieces, right sides together, at the shoulder seam. USE A STRETCH NEEDLE for sewing stretch fabrics such as jersey or interlock. You can sew the seam using a straight stitch, but the seams are more likely to pucker and end up generally squiff if you do that - I always use a zig zag stitch or, even better, a stretch interlock stitch. The stretch interlock seam is sewn in a 'two steps orward, one step back' movement which keeps the seam straight and even. It sounds slow work but it's effective.

Then I press the seam allowance to the back of the top, and topstitch it with a straight stitch. I do this with all seams - it makes for a much more professional looking finish.

Next I need to bind the neckline. I was going to cut some ribbing for this, but couldn't find any with good enough stretch and recovery (i.e. pull the ribbing across its grain, and see how quickly it returns to its normal position) so I've used some foldover elastic instead. The actual sewing of
this is very different from sewing ribbing or jersey binding, but the technique for working out how much you need and attaching it evenly is pretty similar. So, first I work out how much I need. I measure the neckline - only roughly because I'm using the ruler on my sewing table (can't be bothered to find a measuring tape). I then cut some elastic to 75% of that measurement. I mark the approximately halfway point, and then the quarter points. I do the same on the neckline and pin the elastic to the binding, matching the marks.

I sewed the foldover elastic using the same technique I'd use for sewing ribbing. I sewed the elastic to the right side of the neckline using a narrow-width medium-length zig-zag stitch, stretching the elastic as far as I could while sewing it. I then folded the elastic over to the wrong side of the neckline, and top-stitched it with a straight stitch, stretching both the jersey and the elastic slightly. The experienced seamstress will know that this is not a great technique for sewing foldover elastic - it worked on this occasion, but I was lucky to get away with it. Generally for sewing foldover elastic, I would sandwich the fabric between the folded elastic and just do one seam using 3-step zig-zag. What can I say? it was late and I wasn't thinking properly.

Next I pressed the neckline and was pleased to see that although it looks very odd from the inside - red thread against brilliant white elastic, yuk! - it looks just fine from the outside. I now sew the second shoulder seam (topstitching over the elastic binding as well as the shoulder seam) and then start on the sleeves.

First I attach foldoever elastic to the hem of the sleeves, using the correct 3-step zig zag technique. This gathers the hem nicely into the elastic binding.

I then mark the middle top of the sleeves and sew a line of long straight stitch around the top of the sleeve, starting from and ending at about 5 cm in from the sides. I pull on the bobbin threads to gather the top of the sleeve - this makes the sleeve puff up. I then pin the marked top of sleeve to the shoulder seam of the armhole, right sides together, and arrange the gathering so that the sleeve fits nicely onto the armhole. I do this for both sleeves and then sew the sleeves to the armholes using the useful stretch interlock stitch. This is the most fiddly bit of the t-shirt but it's worth spending the time to get it right.
When I've finished, I seam up the right sides of the t-shirt to the armhole, and keep going to join the two edges of the sleeve. Repeat on the other side of the t-shirt. it's then that I realise a number of pattern errors: the sleeve is miles too long and the body could do with being another 10 cm longer. These can be fixed: what could be more tricky is that the easy-fitting t-shirt style does not lend itself well to a puff sleeve! The sleeves look very odd and I think I'll leave it for tonight and see if I can dream up a solution.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Part 2: Messing around with the sleeve block

I'm using tracing paper to transfer the sleeve pattern block onto a working pattern that I can hack into. I won't cut out the pattern blocks until I know that they're good to use - that way, I can amend them if necessary. Once I've cut out the traced sleeve, I can start cutting it up.

Here you can see that I've sliced the sleeve lengthwise into four pieces so as widen it ready to be gathered.

And here, I've sticky taped the pieces, with 1 cm between each, to some more tracing paper. I've traced around it, adding 1 cm or so at top and bottom. You can just see the new cutting line.

I can now cut out the three pattern pieces and I'm just about done. I'm not going to add seam allowances to the pattern - the European patterns that I mostly use come without seam allowances so I now prefer to just add the allowance as I cut. I also won't try and make a pattern yet for the neck binding - my plan is to sew the t-shirt together, find some binding fabric, and then working out how long the binding piece should be.

Next step - making the t-shirt! Sewing with jersey fabrics is something that I was scared of doing until very recently, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's easier than I thought. Well, it could hardly have been harder... So I'm going to do the t-shirt as a kind of tutorial.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Pattern-cutting Part 1 - Drafting the block. And it really is easier with a calculator

I've been setting up a home business making cloth nappies, hats and clothing for children. Although I can sell clothes made from Farbenmix, I want a better range of basics, which means I need to draft my own patterns. So.... this is where I start.

I want to make Laura a crew-neck close-fitting t-shirt with puff sleeves, and I find that I don't have a pattern for one. (How can this be? marvels my DH, eyeing the pile of patterns and magazines in the den).

I've faffed about trying to put together three Ottobre patterns to get the one I want, and was only moderately successful - it took some remedial hand-sewing at the shoulders and even the addition of some poppers to make the t-shirt wearable. A proper seamstress would shudder to see it so please, proper seamstresses, don't look at the picture on the left!
So, now I'm going to have another try, using my new copy of Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting for Children's Wear and Babywear. It's been my bedtime reading for a few weeks (which is not probably something to put in a first post, but it's best you know the kind of person you're dealing with here...) Now I'm going to see if I can put it into practice.

Winifred tells me that a calculator is a necessity to take the tricky calculations out of the proceedings. Now that's a bit scary hearing for someone with only CSE 1 in maths. But once I've sat down with the ruler (a bit bendy but it'll do for now), pencils, squared paper, pencil sharpener, and make a start, it all starts to fall into place and the calculator is definitely a necessity. After a false start, I realise that it's easier to do the calculations before marking the dots on the paper, rather than doing the maths, making the mark, doing the maths, you get the idea.

Once I've got that taped, I do the close-fitting t-shirt and realise that it's probably going to be slightly too close-fitting for comfort since I'm not going to be using super-stretchy jersey fabric. So I do the basic one next. I'm using the standard measurements for size 92 (age 2) rather than doing Laura's actual measurements. Firstly because it's hard enough getting the child to pose for a picture, never mind taking 7 or so measurements, secondly because size 92 is a fairly good fit for her and I doubt if I could do much better - certainly not on a first attempt, and thirdly because my aim is eventually to sell these t-shirts and I'd rather only cut one pattern block for size 92.

The final pattern blocks look OK. I would have liked more help from Winifred on drawing the necklines and armholes, given that these are where I tend to go wrong when I'm amending commercial patterns, but we'll just have to see.

Tomorrow I'll try to turn the sleeve block into a puff sleeve pattern. Fortunately, Winifred has step by step instructions for that too.