Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sleeve Practice

I hope I'm not driving you all nuts by flitting from cardboard to circuitry to sewing to drafting and back again. Good thing I'm not adding baking/cooking to the mix, eh? I don't like to cook, unless it is spicy, curryish and/or Indonesian/Malaysian/Nyonya. I love baking, but I'd decided long ago that I wouldn't do any food stuff on this blog. Too ecclectic as it is.

Anyway, just wanted to check in about sewing and say that I've been doing a lot of drafting (and thus not much actual sewing) this fortnight. I've been practising on family members, only some of whom were willing. The practice on different bodies is essential to testing out the methods I've used for years but only partly quantified into systematic rules in my head. As Auntie Laura says, "It's unorthodox but it works."

Drafting slopers is easy and even exciting in a Ooh-Let's-Sew-Clothes-From-Random-Curtains sort of way but the sleeves and armscyes just about did me in. I foolishly tried to follow the lovely instructions in some drafting books I own. I even consulted internet sources (yes, very desperate) . All disastrous. After several nights of Very Ugly And Tight Sleeve Drafts - and I could already tell they were wrong on paper before I even cut them out in fabric and basted them onto garments - I finally and literally closed the books and did them free-hand like mum taught me. And they are working - at least on paper. Tomorrow when I actually cut them out in fabric to test them on my unwilling models, I'll be able to fine-tune the fit, fingers crossed. With that, I am sort of back to square one in that drafting is still an inexact art rather than the explainable science that I was hoping to turn it into.

Also my wing-needle experiment is a dismal failure. It worked satisfactorily on scrap fabric but completely butchered my actual up-till-then-perfect yellow tunic. And since nobody in their right minds should unpick hemstitching, I am stuck with massacred sleeve cuffs. I'm calm now but when it happened some nights ago, I was quite motivated to give up sewing forever. I am not the sort to hurl sewing machines against the wall or curse (pity - it would have helped), so all I did was sit there and give myself There Are Other Fish In The Sea pep talks - you know, like
  • "Hey, at least you didn't run your unlocked rotary cutter over it by accident."
  • "Could be worse - at least you don't have an incurable disease."
  • "Think of the people who are starving in other countries who don't have sewing machines."
  • "Be grateful that you weren't forced at gunpoint to sew clothes out of polyester printed with hibiscus and lobsters."
  • "Your tunic could have had Very Tight And Ugly Sleeves." etc.

So if you were wondering why there aren't yet any photos of that buttery yellow tunic, well... you know now.

Summary: two mangled sleeves, and three good drafted sleeves - an overall positive. And it's finally stopped raining. I can finally stop sewing and start playing.


  1. Please share your free-hand sleeve drafting wisdom? Sleeves are my personal sewing nemesis (nemeses?), and I REALLY want to learn how to do them so they fit AND look nice!

  2. I would love to learn how to draft my own patterns. I know your mom and aunt have passed this knowledge onto you, but what books would you recommend for someone to learn on their own?

  3. MaryAnne: Yes, soon :)

    Nikki: I have heard of a few books that are circulating on sewing blogs that have to do with pattern drafting. Most of them have the basics (skirt, upper body and pants) and how to adapt the basics for different types of garments, sleeves etc. Some even have how to adapt patterns for special body needs e.g. rounded shoulders, pronounced abdomens, maternity etc. All of them have their fans and their non-fans. I bought one of these, called "How To Make Sewing Patterns" by Don McCunn which is very basic and and is very easy for a beginner to use, but it relies heavily on muslins to check for fit. Another popular author is Winifred Aldrich but I have also read comparative reviews about, for example, her sleeve drafts as having far too much ease and therefore more suited for casual styles. Another author to try is Helen Joseph Armstrong. I use some out-of-print textbooks for reference.

    I often read for specific pattern-making topics.

  4. totally unrelated (but I did already leave a related comment on this post! I assume it's still in your moderation queue) - I found a bubble tumbler the other day at TJMaxx!! Hooray! It's perfect - except Ben did drop it over the fence into the neighbor's yard, but hey, nothing spilled.

  5. How can one help but lurk around your blog. You do such brilliant, creative, interesting, stimulating things. Sorry to hear about the yellow tunic. My condolences. When I used my my wing needle to punch holes for a crocheted edge on a pillowcase, I used dissolvable(?) thread in the bobbin -- I probably read that trick somewhere on your blog! I too have dabbled in pattern drafting. I bought the Don McCunn book and learned lots -- but produced some highly undesirable results. Have you ever considered teaching workshops somewhere? How fun it would be to take a hands on class from you!

    Keep up the inspiration / entertainment. I feel like I receive a little gift each time I check your blog and find a new post!



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