Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Drafting Part VII - Adapting a Basic Sleeve for Other Styles

Now that you've learned how to draft and fit a basic sleeve block, you can use it to draft all types of sleeves! In this post, I'm going to show you how to adapt the sleeve block to create 4 different styles of sleeves; roll-up, gathered, puff, and bell. In some places on the internet, drafting books and on commercial patterns, different names are used for the various styles, but the ones I've used are sufficiently descriptive to limit future confusion. Also, I'm only going to show how to adapt the pattern on a short sleeve block.

Let's start...

Roll-up sleeve

Like the name implies, this is a sleeve with a roll-up band at the bottom of the sleeve (or the sleeve hem).

Take your short basic sleeve block and draw a reference line above the hem line, according to the width of your desired band. In the example, a width of 3/4" (three-quarter inch) is shown.

From both ends of this reference line, square down a line of 1.5" (twice 3/4").

Draw a line across from point to point.

From each end of the original hem line, square down again a line of 1.5".

Draw another line across from point to point.

Draw lines to connect the new extended side seams you've just created.

This drafts a double roll-up sleeve band. Please remember that this draft assumes you will add your own seam allowances later. You can sew the side seams together first, and then roll-up the band, giving you a detached roll-up (meaning you can roll it up or down at will). Or you can roll-up the band first, and then sew the side seams together, which will give you an attached roll-up (meaning it's permanent as it's sewn in place at the side seams).

Gathered sleeve

This is extremely like the standard set-in sleeve, except there is a lot more ease at the caps, so that you have to gather the excess fabric there, instead of just easing it into the armscye. This is unlike the puff sleeve (which is described below) in that it doesn't puff as much because the depth of scye remains the same.

Put your basic sleeve block over a larger (than the sleeve) piece of paper. Please also have scissors and tape at hand.

Cut the sleeve into two along the centre line.

Lay both halves on the piece of paper so the centre lines up properly again. Weigh down the right (or back sleeve portion) with something handy like a can of baked beans. Or if you have proper pattern weights, all the better. Or else you can tape it down with low-tack tape (for easy removal later).

Using the point on the hem as the pivot point, rotate the left side piece (or the front sleeve portion) 1 inch to the left.

Now tape the left piece down at this new position. Then remove the weights on the right piece (or un-tape it if you've done that instead) and rotate it 1 inch to the right, again using the point on the hem as the pivot point.
The dotted line shows the centre line, which must remain in-situ

Now tape the right piece down in this new position. Draw the centre line again on the piece of paper underneath. Then connect the separated cap at the top with a gentle curve.

When you sew the sleeve, you must gather it first to match the bodice armscye. You should make the most gathers at the top of the sleeve cap.

Puff sleeve

This is the sleeve that is most often adopted in children's clothing. It is cute and, if elasticised at the hem, accommodates a growing bicep. It is also sometimes called a balloon sleeve, to distinguish it from sleeves which only puff at the top or the bottom (see below). The following instructions drafts a sleeve that puffs both at the top and the bottom.

Draw vertical lines on the sleeve block 1" apart. If your sleeve is small and, therefore, narrower, you can reduce this width or reduce the number of lines (segments). Make sure the centre line is exactly between the two adjacent drawn lines. Cut along each of the drawn vertical lines.

The next steps aren't complicated but bullets are necessary I think:
  1. Lay the pieces next to each other in the same order on a piece of paper.
  2. Tape down the centre piece (the one with the centre line).
  3. Shift/Spread the pieces adjacent to the centre piece 1" (or less) away from the centre piece. You must keep the hem aligned straight while shifting.
  4. Tape the shifted pieces down.
  5. Now shift/spread the next pieces 1" (or less but must be consistent throughout) away from the previous ones.
  6. Tape them down.
  7. Keep shifting/spreading and taping down in this way until all are done.

Extend the centre line upwards 1". Then draw a new curve (sleeve cap) to meet the extended centre line. This extension will create the 'uplift' at the cap typical of a puff sleeve.

The hem line will also receive a similar treatment. Extend the centre line 1" downwards. Draw a new, curved, hemline from about an inch in from the side seam, meeting the extended centre line at the bottom. This extension and curve will create the puff at the bottom of the sleeve and accommodate the fabric take-up* that will occur as the gathers are later made along the hemline.

*when you gather a lot of fabric, the fabric above or below the gathers will want to strain vertically along the grain, causing the hemline to curve upwards towards the sleeve.

When making up the actual sleeve, spread the gathers evenly along the sleeve cap (red curved line above). Same for the hemline.

You can add a band to secure the gathers at the hem:
  1. Cut out a rectangle of fabric the length of the original hem line (or less if you want a snug fit around the upper arm), and twice your desired width.
  2. Add seam allowances.
  3. After gathering the sleeve hem, attach this band to the hem by sewing one long edge down onto the hem over the gathers (RS together).
  4. Sew the side seams together.
  5. Fold half the band under and into the underside of the sleeve.
  6. Turn the seam allowance on the raw edge of the band under and hand-sew it onto the sleeve.
Or you can attach an elastic tape to make the gathers at the hem:
  1. Cut elastic tape as long as the length of the original hem line.
  2. Turn the seam allowance along the hem line under and sew down (in other words, hem the sleeve).
  3. Pin one end of the elastic to one of the side seams about 3/8" from the hem edge.
  4. Sew the elastic down with a 3-step zig-zag, stretching the elastic as you sew, until you reach the other end (which should match the other side seam).
  5. Sew the side seams of the sleeve together.

Or you can insert the elastic into the casing already created by hemming the sleeve :)

Puff-top sleeve

This is a variation of the puff sleeve described above. In this version, the sleeve block is spread only at the cap and not the hem, creating a puff only at the cap after gathering.

Start by drawing vertical lines as in the puff sleeve example above. You can use the centre line as one of the vertical lines to be cut later. Remember, you can reduce the width of the segments or reduce the number of segments.

Cut along the centre line (as one of your vertical lines) first. Do not cut the other lines yet. Weigh down or tape down with low-tack tape the right piece (back sleeve portion) onto a large piece of paper.

Using the point on the hem as the pivot point, rotate the left piece a half inch (0.5") towards the left. Put tape only of the first segment of the left piece and tape down onto the piece of paper underneath.

Remove the tape/weights from the right piece. Using the point on the hem as a pivot point, rotate the right piece 0.5" towards the right. Again put tape only on the first segment of the right piece and tape it down onto the piece of paper underneath.

Redraw the original centre line on the piece of paper between the gap. It must be exactly centre.

The 2 sides are now spread an equal distance apart from the centre line (total 1")

Now you can cut out all the other segments. Rotate the ones on the left piece 1" towards the left. Do this one at a time, on the segment adjacent to the one previously rotated, until all have been rotated 1" to the left. Remember to pivot on the point of the hem and ape down each one after rotating.

Do the same for the segments on the right piece, rotating 1" to the right instead.

When all have been rotated accordingly, the length of the hem line should not have changed from the original, only curvier now. The sleeve cap, however, has increased with all that rotating.

Extend the centre line 1" from the top. Redraw the sleeve cap to meet the extended centre line.

There is no need to extend the centre line at the bottom as there will not be any gathering there. The hem line will straighten out when the gathers at the cap have been made.

Puff-bottom sleeve

This is yet another variation on the puff sleeve, this time the puff being only around the sleeve hem, obviously!

To start, draw vertical lines on the sleeve for the segments. However, this time, the segments directly left and right of the centre line is narrower than the other segments. The other segments are therefore slightly wider than these 2 middle ones.

Cut through the centre line first, and tape/weigh down the right side piece (etc, etc). Using the point at the cap as the pivot point, rotate the left piece 0.5" (or more/less) to the left. Tape down on the first segment of the left piece (etc, etc) and then rotate the right piece 0.5" (or same amount as the left one previously rotated) to the right. Tape down on the first segment of the right piece (etc, etc).

Now you can through all remaining segments. Using the same technique described for the puff-top, rotate each individual segment 1.5" (or less but must be more than the combined total of the centre 2 spread, which in this case is 1") correspondingly to the left or right.
Let me re-explain the amount to rotate in a summary:
  • the 2 centre segments can rotate any distance you like (but be warned that a big amount means great bulk after gathering).
  • the 2 centre segments must rotate equally to the left and right, so that the centre line stays put. Please redraw the centre line at this stage.
  • All other segments must rotate left or right (correspondingly of course) by a distance more than the total of the rotation in the 2 centre segments.
  • Do not rotate the other segments by a distance more than twice the combined total of the 2 centre rotations. In fact, exactly twice is going to be too much.

Now extend the centre line 1" towards the bottom only. Redraw the hem line, curving it to meet the extension at the centre line. Also, redraw the sleeve cap so that the curve is smooth.

There is no need to extend the centre line at the top as the puff is to be created at the hem only.

You would have noticed in the drawings above that the last segments on each end remained uncut and unrotated, although the vertical lines were drawn. I merely wanted to show by example that you may, as before, increase or decrease the number of segments you create. You can also increase or decrease the widths of the segments but keep in mind that the centre 2 must be narrower than the others, otherwise there will be too much bulk at the centre of the sleeve.

Gather the hem to create a puff bottom the same way as in the puff sleeve hem, either with a band or with elastic. You can also choose NOT to make the gathers, thereby creating the following and final sleeve type in this post, the...

Bell sleeve

This sleeve has a bell-like silhouette, hence the name.

As said, it is drafted exactly the same way as the puff-bottom sleeve, with just one omission - you don't have to extend the centre line at the bottom at all. After slashing and rotating, just smooth out the curve at both the cap and the hem. Since there is no gathering, there is no need to compensate for fabric take-up, as you would have to with the puffs.

When making up the sleeve, do not make the gathers at all. Let the sleeve fall in soft drapes against the upper arm, therefore especially suited to soft and swishy fabric like silk, satin, organza, etc.

With this post, you've reached the final installment of the 'Sleeve' episodes. A lot of the inch amounts I've given are not absolutes. You can change it up or down as it suits your model and design. Please don't be afraid to experiment (on cheap remnants, ok?). It's quite fun.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Drafting Part VI - Fitting The Sleeve Block

Welcome back from the weekend! Last week, we drafted a basic sleeve block with Jen from My Measuring Tape. Today we'll be looking at that sleeve in muslin and refining the fit on the wearer so that it sits right, feels comfortable and looks fabulous! Here's Jen!

When I trace out my sleeve block onto fabric, I like to include the centre and bicep lines, as points of reference when I check for fit. A good fit on the sleeves should locate these 2 lines where you'd like them to lie, following the line of the upper arm (centre line) and parallel to the bicep (bicep line).
Good alignment

Rubbish - but see where the centre line should lie

If the centre line does not follow the line of the upper arm, this could be due to either of the following reasons (usually!):
  1. too much width in the draft of the sleeve below the bicep line, resulting in too much fabric below the armpit and a flappy sleeve.
  2. too much ease in the bicep measurement, causing the sleeve be - er - flappy and listless.

If the reason is no. 1:
reduce the width of the sleeve below the armpit by pinching out the excess fabric. Like so:

Pinch out only about 0.25" at a time. Do this with the arm raised to ensure you do not pinch out too much causing the sleeve to be too tight across the upper arm when the arm is raised. Check to see if the centre line has been adequately realigned. If it is still misaligned, then assume that the reason is no. 2.

If it is aligned, then measure the amount you have pinched/pinned out at the sleeve opening (only on one side). Redraw the sleeve block, reducing the total width of the opening by the same measurement (say 0.5") on BOTH sides.

If the reason is no. 2:
just redraft the sleeve block with a reduction of 0.25" (at a time) on either side of the bicep line. Measure again the lengths of each armscye to ensure that there is some ease (up to 0.5") on each scye. (see Steps 22 and 23 in previous post).

Sew up the new sleeve block and attach to the bodice. Check the centre alignment. If it is still off a little, then reduce the ease again by another 0.25" (1/4") on both ends, as above, and try again.

If you are not sure if it is no. 1 or 2:
try no. 1 first because it is a simpler fix compared to 2. That is not to say that you can always do no. 1 as an easy way out of the problem!

The 2 reasons described above aren't the only ones to fix a misaligned centre line. But I've found that they are the commonest when fitting a child's sleeve because small children's arms are much less defined with muscle/bulk.

The Importance of Sufficient Ease

There are 2 areas of the sleeve where ease is necessary - at the bicep and on the sleeve cap.

Let's discuss the bicep ease first. Remember that there really should be a bicep ease of at least 0.5" total. Otherwise, you will find the sleeve very tight across the bicep when the arm is raised.

If however, you've drafted the armscye on the sleeve block lower than the depth of scye by 1" (that is, an ease of 1" in the depth of scye), then you really should draft the bicep on the sleeve with a 1" ease total.

If you lower the depth of scye even more (let's say 2"), then add ease to the bicep by the same amount.

After this, redraw the seam on the upper arm to curve in until a point somewhere in the middle of the upper arm.

Sometimes it won't look and feel too tight when the arms are hanging down by the side. But when the arm is raised, the problem is much more obvious, and very uncomfortable. The fabric pulls at the armpit and wrinkles form at there.

looks sort of okay when arms are down...

...but look what happens when arms are raised.

To reduce and eliminate the wrinkles, redraft the sleeve, adding more ease to the bicep (0.25" at a time) on either side, as described above. To prevent yourself always redrafting as you work out the sufficient amount of ease to add on, make sure you cut a big seam allowance (about 1" width) for the entire sleeve. Then it's only a matter of removing the sleeve and redoing the underarm seam to accommodate the additional ease to the bicep.

blue lines = new underarm seamline (sewing line)

Now let's move on to the sleeve cap ease. Ease at the cap allow the fabric to lie smoothly and comfortable over the rounded part of the arm which makes up the shoulder/arm ball and socket joint. On adults, sometimes accommodation must be made for the presence of muscle development there as well, so more than normal ease should be added. On children, however, you have a relatively simple task of just adding enough ease to fit nicely over the ball joint. As mentioned in the earlier post, for a standard set-in sleeve, the amount of ease should really be no more than 1" maximum, divided (unequally is ok) between the front and back sleeve cap.

If there is insufficient ease, the fabric at the cap will strain over the ball joint (black arrows), causing the sleeve to ride up the arm and create wrinkles running upwards from the underarm seam (blue arrows).

In the picture above, the problem occurs only at the back cap. A mirror result will develop if there is insufficient ease in the front cap. To create a smoother fit over the ball joint and reduce or eliminate the wrinkles, redraw the sleeve cap for more ease where the problem mainly is ,front or back (red lines).

In the process of working out the best amount of ease, there might very well be a lot of doing and undoing, forwarding and backwarding. This is normal. But please don't be deterred. Just keep at it and the satisfaction you get when it turns out just right is quite worth it...because it will fit well and wear comfortably!

Coming up next - how to adapt the basic sleeve block for different sleeve types.

She Bought Print Fabric

..... when she does not
like print fabric so you know it's not for her.

It's for the small daughter, Emily. Emily is turning six in three weeks, so of course she gets fabric for her birthday! So she can build her own stash and leave the mother's alone. The mother, however, weakened slightly upon seeing
this print fabric

and bought a little bit for herself in case the day came when said mother might want to make a slew of little kid aprons.

But back to the first person now, and the topic of birthdays. We're doing a tea party sort of birthday for Emily this year. She is so excited that, mere hours after mentioning it to her, she's already exhausted us with her Let's Get Ready Now! suggestions. To regain some measure of calmness and order in the preparation, I drew up this chart of the various tasks that she can be involved in:

She is allowed to pick one thing each day to do, but Mom gets to pick the time of day to do it, and
never immediately after getting out of bed in the morning.

P.S. I know you are going to ask, so here's the answer: "I bought them at JoAnn Fabrics."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Drafting Part V -Drafting A Basic Sleeve Block

We've finished the basic block aka sloper and and we're ready for sleeves! I've drafted a lot of sleeves in my lifetime, and always by feel. Utterly useless as a means of teaching other people to draft them, of course, so I tried some of the methods in drafting books, hoping to find some scientific formula for sleeve-drafting and -- ugh -- never again, I swear. Enter my good friend Jen from My Measuring Tape, to the rescue. Read her introduction here. I tried her method just last night, as a fun experiment on a dress I'm working on. Can you see me smiling? You have to try it - it's easy and it works! Read on!

Hello Readers of Ikatbag! LiEr has very graciously invited me to do a few posts on the Drafting Series, and I jumped at the chance to be temporarily a part of such an amazing blog! I hope I do it/her justice and not seem too pedantic in comparison.

Let's jump right in then.

There are many seemingly different methods to draft a basic sleeve block. Although the practical aspects (steps, procedures) may differ, the objectives of each step is constant, no matter the how. But admittedly, some methods are easier to follow than others. Old school tailors and dressmakers would take only 2 or 3 measurement points and rely on instinct to draw out the sleeve cap and armscye, like LiEr's mother and Aunt, free-handing the curves about as often as they use French curves.
The cutters on Savile Row all do it that way still, and I read somewhere that straight/square rulers are off limits to the apprentice cutter because nowhere on the human body is to be found a right angle! But of course, it takes years to go from apprentice to pro on The Row. We, (un)fortunately, only have a post or 2.

So here goes...
This method is adapted from (wonderful free resource) but re-processed in more straightforward language and I've modified one or 2 things which I've found make very little difference one way or the other. I chose it because it has proved a good method with very satisfactory results. It will draft a straight, long sleeve. From this, you can shorten it to 3-quarter, half, or any length you want. The procedure will seem lengthy at first, but don't be put off by this. And there is a neat summary at the end for easy reference.

Required measurements:

  1. Bicep circumference (typically around the arm adjacent to the armpit, but if the widest circ. is elsewhere on the upper arm, take that measurement instead)
  2. Overarm length (from shoulder point to wrist, arm slightly bent)
  3. Underarm length (from arm pit to wrist)
  4. Wrist circ.


Step1 - take a piece of paper, sufficiently large, and fold it in half, lengthwise.
Step 1

Step 2 - measure and mark out the overarm length on the fold of the paper. Label the top mark A and the bottom mark B.
Step 2

Step 3 - from point B, measure towards point A, the underarm length and mark this C on the fold.
Step 3

Step 4 - add 1" ease to the bicep circ. measurement and divide the answer by 2. [ (Bicep+1) / 2 ]

Step 5 - from point C, draw, towards the left, a horizontal line equal to the no. derived in Step 4. Mark the end point D.
Step 5

Step 6 - add 0.5" ease to the wrist circ. measurement and divide the answer by 2. [ (Wrist+0.5) / 2 ]

Step 7 - from point B, draw, towards the left, a horizontal line equal to the no. derived in Step 6. Mark the end point J.
Step 7

Step 8 - open up the paper (unfold it). From point C, draw, towards the right, another horizontal line equal to the no. derived in Step 4. Mark the end point E. The bicep line is now complete.

Step 9 - from point B, draw, towards the right, another horizontal line equal to the no. derived in Step 6. Mark the end point K. The wrist line is now complete.
Steps 8 & 9

Step 10 - draw a line from point A to point B to mark out the overarm length marked out earlier. This line will also function as the grainline.
Step 10

Summary so far

Step 11 - connect points D and J, E and K.
Step 11

Step 12 - divide line DC into 4 equal segments. Mark the first point F. [ DF = 1/4 DC ]
Step 12

Step 13 - divide line CE into 8 equal segments. Mark the last point G. [ GE = 1/8 CE ]
Step 13

Step 14 - add the lengths of DF and GE. From point A, draw, towards the right, a horizontal line equal to DF+GE. Mark the end point H. [ AH = DF + GE ]
Step 14

Step 15 - multiply the length of DF by 2. From point A, draw, towards the left, a horizontal line equal to 2DF. Mark the end point L. [ AL = 2DF ]
Step 15

Step 16 - connect the points F and L.
Step 16

Step 17 - mark a point, 1, on line FL, equal to the length DF. [ F1 = DF ]
Step 17

Step 18 - connect the points G and H.
Step 18

Step 19 - from G, mark a point, 2, on line GH, equal to the length of GE. [ G2 = GE ]
Step 19

Step 20 - from H, mark a point, 3, on line GH, equal to the length of AH. [ H3 = AH ]
Step 20

Step 21 - using a French Curve, draw a smooth curve from point A to 1, then 1 to D. On the other side, A to 3, then 2 to E.
Step 21

Summary of Steps 2 - 21:

  • AB = overarm length
  • BC = underarm length
  • DE = bicep + ease
  • Point C = mid point of DE
  • JK = wrist + ease
  • DF = 1/4 DC
  • GE = 1/8 CE
  • AH = DF + GE
  • AL = 2DF
  • F1 = DF
  • G2 = GE
  • H3 = AH

Step 22 - mark the left half of the pattern 'Front', the right half 'Back'. The front has a curvier sleeve cap, the back sleeve cap is less curved.
Step 22

Step 23 - measure the front cap from point D to point A, and then the back cap from point A to E. Compare to the front and back armscye on the bodice. The front sleeve cap must ideally be up to 0.5" (max.) bigger than the front armscye. Same for the back cap and armscye.
You can increase or decrease the sleeve cap measurement as shown below. The total length of the sleeve cap should be anywhere between 0.5" to 1" (max.) bigger than the total armscye measurement of the main bodice block (sloper).


Red lines = increase
Blue lines = decrease

An important point to note:

The drafting of the armscye curves on the sleeve is rather arbitrary. There really are no hard and fast rules/formulae to developing the one with the best fit. The previous steps simply aid you towards drawing a front scye that will accommodate the forward-jutting ball joint the shoulder, and a slopier one for the back. You must constantly measure and remeasure both the scyes on the bodice and the sleeve to ensure the ease differences as explained in Step 23.

Finally, you'll want to adapt the long sleeve block for a short sleeve. This is very easy to do. First, measure down from the centre of the bicep line the length of the short sleeve desired. In the example below, this length is 1.5".
Shortened to 1.5" below bicep line

You can also choose to measure from the top of the sleeve cap down along the centre line to a point where you'd like the sleeve to end.

Then draw a line, perpendicular to the centre line (or parallel to the bicep line), across the width of the sleeve.

Cut away the pattern below this line and you have your shortened sleeve.
Cut along the new hemline

A short sleeve!

Simple, right?

And that's basically how you draft a basic sleeve block. Just like a body sloper, you can adapt this block to create different types of sleeves, a few of which I will show you how to in another post. Coming up next - solving fitting issues with sleeves.

p/s very sorry about the total lack of in-action photos. My only model is a 2-year-old-can't-sit-still type. I promise to try to add some in the next post :)