Thursday, September 30, 2010

How To Get More Time

We are up to our nostrils in busyness. I am scheming to get more time to either do stuff or to not do stuff. I think this will work:

1 Stop sleeping.

2 Stop eating. Eating wastes time, especially eating food that has no curry in it.

3 Surgically alter right index finger into a needle, so that I can sew on the go, wherever I am, even while walking. Surgically alter left hand into a gluegun.

4 Buy this clock.

5 Stop blogging.

6 Stop emailing.

7 Live on an aeroplane that keeps flying Westwards (or is it Eastwards?) so that I am always several hours ahead.

8 Boycott daylight savings.

9 Stop cleaning the house, and any chore that has similarly low returns and high repetition factor.

10 Stop cooking. Bulk-buy everyone those little packet meals that astronauts eat on spaceships. Surely Costco has those? Costco has everything.

11 Speaking of Costco, stop doing the grocery rounds. Plant a garden and have everyone harvest whatever they like to go with their Astronaut Snack Packs. Revolutionize the family diet to include novel but healthy options like Green Pea Juice and Tomato Torte with Whipped Jalepeno Frosting.

12 Stop making lists.

Explanation: we are having a garage sale this weekend. It has taken over our universe. We have so much baby stuff in storage that it is ridiculous. And - to add insult to injury - I unearthed old books. I used to read! Wow.

P.S. I made three plaid things for Emily since that denim skirt. I did it by ordering in pizza (no time to procure Astronaut Snack Packs). See, my list works.

Drafting Part XII- Resources

Jen and I hope you've been enjoying the posts on drafting thus far! There is so much information to pack into each topic and so many topics within the whole realm of drafting that it was hard to decide what to share and what to leave out for the sake of succinctness. While writing this series, we both found ourselves thinking about why we draft the way we do. Someone - I think it was my old school teacher - said that you never understand something so well as when you have to teach it to someone else. Can't speak for Jen on this, who's always been a fabulous drafter even as a teenager, but I've learnt a lot about my own drafting just by dissecting it to share with you.

Still, there is so much more about drafting that we will never be able to blog about here so I've compiled some resources that might take you further and deeper. The internet is a great (and free) source of information, but for those of you who prefer the written page, I have also included a list of books. Ready for some help? Here goes:

- If Only -

When our kids are old enough to sew for themselves (that would be at the grand old age of 10, y'hear, kids- are you reading this?) Jen and I shall hop on a plane to London and BEG the folks at Savile Row to take us on as free apprentices. We will make their coffee. We will unpick their seams (not that there will be many). We will lint-roll their WIPs. We will do all the ironing and pressing. Just please take us on. Please, please. Even if I don't know if I personally will ever be interested enough to tailor a men's suit. I just want to walk on hallowed ground and grovel.

Sigh. It's nice to dream.
But here is my point, and the reason I put this right at the top of the list: there
are such things as drafting courses and classes and dressmaking schools for general everyday folks that don't require sycophantic wheedling. I don't know how or where to find them in my area but I'd love to take one if I did. Nothing - not even the best print resource - comes close to learning from a real person you can hear, watch, ask, imitate. If you have the money for either -but not both - a dressmaking class or a good drafting book, pick the class (duh).

I'm only scratching the surface with these - there are so many other pattern-drafting sites available on the internet. These are just the ones I am personally familiar with.

Vintage Sewing.Info
Tagged as "your primary source or recreating vintage fashions", this is also a goldmine of basic, classic tailoring information. More text than step-by-step photos, it reads like a well-organized textbook that cuts to the backbone(s) of patternmaking. None of the glitzy shortcuts that often sadly undermine the modern sewing movement - just good old-fashioned foundational drafting, with fascinating history thrown in. A fabulous resource that I highly recommend. This is my go-to site.

2 Weekend Designer
I can't remember when it was that I first stumbled upon this site, but I immediately bookmarked it. All those pattern drafts! Sometimes all a person needs is a sketch of a draft for the light to go off in one's head - like, "oh......! Is that what an XYZ collar looks like in draft?". But to see it in proportion as a real pattern is like being given free nutella a gold ingot a whole week of free babysitting something extremely nice.

Vani's Blog
Her tagline says it all: "This Blog Deals With Sewing".
I've always had a soft spot for the more traditionally ethnic outfits of my culture, which tend to be fitted, elegant and non-elasticized, and Vani drafts these and more.

I must be one of the few people in sewing blogland who doesn't read this on a regular basis (no time), but I wish I could. All sorts of garment sewing stuff here, and sometimes drafting and pattern alteration. Check out the section on Fitting for pattern-drafting tips and tricks.

5 University Extension Services
I chanced upon the New Mexico State University (NMSU)'s extension service months ago while googling some sewing thing (forgot what it was) and realized the wealth of information in some of these educational publications. Clothing being textiles-related, was within the main Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Studies department, so obviously, you'd want to focus on the section within your interest boundaries and not stray off to, say, crops or water treatment technology.

My sister-in-law Joy made a neat list of the different sections within another university's extension service (Texas A&M) that deal with specific fit issues.


Jen and I both like our old Homec textbooks! And another couple of books which are similarly out of print: Drafting, Cutting and Sewing in Dressmaking and Designing and Drafting Office and Casual Wear by Pauline SE Gan who ran a dressmaking school in Singapore and published these books in the late 80's and early 90's. Sadly, these books can now only be found in reference libraries in some obscure part of Asia. I'd love to be proven wrong about this, though, so if anyone finds them on ebay or somewhere, tell!

Here are some non-extinct books I've either read, heard about or browsed copies of while with the kids in bookstores. In order of decreasing price (i.e. most expensive first):

1 Patternmaking for Fashion Design (5th Edition)
by Helen Joseph-Armstrong

Of all the drafting books I've heard about/personally flipped through/somewhat read, this is the one I'd buy. If I hadn't already spent all my sewing allowance on fabric, I mean. It has great reviews from a lot of sources. But since I don't actually own this book (yet), let alone use it, I can't say more.


both by Winifred Aldrich (who also has a men's wear version, and another on using the individual qualities of fabrics for flat patterns). Not as comprehensive as Armstrong's, but slightly more affordable, with also generally good reviews from various sources. Again, I don't own either of Aldrich's books, so I won't say more.

4 How To Make Sewing Patterns
by Donald McCunn

A no-frills, affordable alternative to the earlier three books that has sloper drafting instructions. I actually own this book, and read it in one sitting on the interminable aeroplane flight to Singapore in March. The approach in this book relies quite a bit on draping with a muslin to achieve a final fit but it is a useful first book for very beginning drafters.

5 Make Your Own Dress Patterns
by Adele Margolis

This book will not teach you to draft slopers but it will show you how to make a lot of different patterns from them.

Q Why this is such a short list?
A Probably because I've not personally read any others or even heard about what other people have said about them.

Q Why haven't you included some of the very popular pattern books that are on everyone's blogs? C'mon, you must have seen them!
A Yes I have! And it was exactly because they were all over blogland that I was curious and flipped through them in the bookstore. Part of their charm is that they are visually gorgeous. However, I found them heavy on application (lots of quick patterns) but skimpy on foundation (principles, basic blocks, explanations and sloper-approaches to patternmaking in general). Nothing wrong with that at all - just not adequate as a drafting textbook or reference book for folks wanting to really learn to draft from scratch.

Pattern Grading and Standard Measurements
These are not really in the realm of custom drafting but are very useful if you are making commercial patterns yourself and aren't keen on measuring every random child in your neighborhood to get a good range of sizes (not to mention that hounding the neighborhood children is insane and will get you instantly and permanently labeled as the Community Weirdo among the other parents). If you are a purist custom drafter, you will probably never use these tables, but I included these links because I know some of you want to make or are already making patterns to sell and want to grade them in different sizes. You might want to remember that standard measurement tables may not fit real people, but they are a good starting point.

Here's an overview on standard clothing sizes, more for buying clothes than sewing them.

Burda has a similar chart - again, more for conversion than drafting.

Threads magazine explains what pattern grading is, and how it's done here.

And here are two links to actual measurement tables - this one and this one are based on the
National Bureau of Standards Body Measurements Tables, of which this is the document for children and infants. Here is another set that includes measurements for men and women.

And now it's your turn: what sites, books, videos, forums, groups, courses or classes have you tried and found useful in your own drafting and sewing-from-scratch? I don't have the time or inclination to trawl the internet for sites but I know there are dozens of great websites and blogs on which a person can find actual patternmaking and pattern adapting tutorials. Please feel free to recommend them or review them in the comments below. Or blog about them and link back to your own post in the comments so everyone can read them!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tip of the Iceberg

Okay, everyone, don't laugh, but I made this ruffle denim skirt for Emily. This is so not my style of denim skirt.
This is my idea of a denim skirt:

Yes, yes, I know - it's not something a 6-year old should wear. Or even her mother.

So back to Emily's denim skirt. I don't do ruffles. I've said that before. But my little Emily - she loves ruffles. And while we were out clothes-shopping for school earlier this month, she saw a denim skirt like this in the store and wanted it so badly. But it was just barely long enough to cover her behind, I kid you not. So I said no, but that I'd sew her one like it, except modest.

So here it is - fitted front
elasticized back
and some printed cotton to line the waistband and the inset pockets. If you look closely (no, I don't mind at all- that's why I'm showing you the photo) you can see my inferior tension-control in the stitching on the bottom of the waistband.

On hindsight, I think I'd have liked it more with shorter tiers - maybe three instead of two. And without the top-stitching. Yes, plain blue denim. Seriously. But Emily - who isn't me - loves it.


She grabbed it the minute I finished it (she never does that) and ran off to choose a shirt to go with it so she could wear it to school tomorrow.

So what's with the title? This is the first of the school clothes I'm supposed to be sewing. I bought vast amounts of corduroy, french terry (I think; I'm awful with fabric names), plaids and knits. I cut out 4 skirts before the weekend, all kilt-y-like, and have my sketches - knife pleats, box pleats, inverted box pleats, rubbish pleats, gored, whatever. There are also supposed to be pinafores in denim, corduroy and twill. And I weakened and bought fleece-on-sale for trial-run winter coats for the girls. All three girls. Lined with plaid flannel. With welt pockets. If they turn out nice, I'll splurge on wool melton. And I told Emily, "go sketch out what you want to wear for Halloween" and asked Jenna if she still wanted to go candy-collecting as Ariel-with-legs, dressed in pink.


(wiping eyes)

And where will I find the time to do all this supposed sewing?
I fool myself. Always I fool myself.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Drafting Part XI: Princess Seams and Dartlessness

Princess seams

are scrumptious.

Everything about them - the smoothness, the neatness, the snugness - I love. I especially love how they make the armscye so ungaping. When I first started sewing them as a teenager, I wanted to put them in
every garment I made - bustiers, spaghetti strap sundresses, gowns, everything. It drove my mother crazy.

Drafting them from a regular french-dart sloper, though, was not as straightforwardly Let's-Slash-And-Pivot-The-Old-Dart as the drafting books say it is. There's a lot of fit-refining to do, even up to the shoulder seam. I took in
so much almost everywhere that I eventually redrafted the whole thing from scratch again. Either I'd forgotten all I ever knew about princess seams and dart rotation, or I've lost some pounds (unlikely, given the vast amounts of snacking I've been doing this summer), or I don't know how to read drafting books. Or maybe I should just stop reading drafting books.

Anyway, the short term goal of all this was to produce this dress:

Pardon the multitude of creases - we took the photos after a whole day of running after children at a party and- yes, in this dress -playing basketball with them.

Weird expression on face - not sure why, but I do this a lot in photos.

I suspect my most current sloper - the one made in March - is already out of date. There is a lot of ease in weird places that I never noticed before. The scoop neckline required 4 pintucks/mini darts to lie flat - despite my being very, very careful in handling it. Shocking, what just a half inch of unwanted ease in the wrong place can look like.

The long term goal - apart from revisiting my teenhood princess seam obsession -is to sometime sew a winter coat. With top-stitching. Without horrible shoulder pads. I'll need to move the princess seam up to the shoulder. More fit-adjustments. Ho hum. Maybe next winter.

But wanted to introduce princess seams because
they are supreme and every garment should have them of their streamlining effect. I mean, even wetsuits and leotards have them, so they must also be aerodynamic. Plus, because they are darts, depending on where they originate on the bodice, they can reduce fullness in particularly effective ways for different body shapes. When they open into the armscye, for instance, they minimize the humiliating, undergarment-revealing gaping sleeveless armholes that plague the more well-endowed among us. And make our waists look oh-so-much-tinier.

Am I making sense? Not really?
Hm, howzabout we do a mini-tutorial on darts?

This is a typical dart for a woman's front bodice.
This kind of dart is called a Chest Dart, because that's the area it opens into. Its function is to enhance the bust area by reducing fullness in the hollow regions surrounding the bust - in this case, the side of the chest. Point A is the bust apex. If you remember from our sloper posts, we always plot the point of the dart a short distance away from the actual apex, to avoid over-conical-ness.

Sometimes, we see instead, this kind of dart:

This is called a Waist Dart, because it opens into the waist. It also shapes the bust but by reducing the fullness in the underbust area. When present in a full-body sloper or pattern, it connects to the waist dart in the bottom half (skirt or trousers). Many commercial patterns have this kind of dart.

At the risk of repeating what is in every single drafting book, I will share this sketch:
It shows some of the common positions of this front bodice bust-enhancing dart.

1 = Neckline Dart (sometimes spread out over the neckline, sorta like my 4 mini darts in the dress above)
2 = Shoulder Dart
3 = Another variation of the shoulder dart
4 = Armscye Dart
5 = French Dart (favored by more youthful figures with slenderer waists)
6 = Waist Dart
7 = Chest Dart opening into the center front.

Here's the point (pun unintended)- all these darts serve the same function - to enhance the bust area. In other words, you could use any one of those dart positions for your bust dart. Which one to choose depends on several factors, including:
  • the kind of garment (jacket, gown, loose blouse, for instance)
  • the print of the material - the dart will interrupt the print. Stripes are especially susceptible to this.
  • the body shape of the person - the dart is usually positioned where it is most flattering. This often means where the body is most hollow.

The smaller/narrower the dart is, the neater the overall look. Sometimes a wide dart may be split into two darts so that each dart is narrower. Like this combination of Waist and Chest darts:

Or this combination of Waist and Shoulder Darts:

which is especially effective because of its symmetry. I see this a lot on jackets.

Now let's talk a little about commercial patterns, which I actually know practically nothing about (so, ooooo! this should be funny). Often, commercial patterns will come with one of these bust darts. When you try on a pattern, you might find that
(i) the bust apex is nowhere near yours
(ii) the dart is the wrong size, darn it

so you will spend some time shifting the bust apex point, and redrawing the dart and adjusting the armscye and waist and side seam. This is annoying but it is a necessary part of fitting a pattern, so it's all good.

Sometimes, you'll want to move the dart to a different position. Maybe you have a favorite pattern whose dart configurations you use without exception on every other pattern. Maybe your body shape is of the sort that favors certain dart positions for modesty and/or vanity. Maybe you're like me and want to make princess seams in everything. Nothing wrong with that.

So we do something called Slash And Rotate or Slash and Pivot:

In brief, it goes something like this (crude sketches below):
  1. You extend the tip of the dart right to the bust apex.
  2. You draw the new dart's position.
  3. You cut open the new dart to almost the bust apex point.
  4. You close the old dart by rotating the whole pattern about the bust apex.
  5. You tape the old dart closed.
  6. You redraw the side seam/armscye so that the lines are smooth and not pointy.
  7. You admire your new dart and feel clever.

Then, if you are in the Princess Seam Fan Club, you will further
  • slice right through the bust apex to separate the bodice into two pieces,
  • smooth the edges of the pieces that form the dart and
  • dance for joy at your superior and incomparably fabulous princess seam pattern.

Two points about princess seams:
  1. This particular princess seam originates from the armscye but it can also originate elsewhere, like the shoulder (very common in coats) or shoulder point (very common in dressforms).
  2. Princess seams are nicest in close-fitting garments. They must run directly over the bust apex or risk looking very daft. So either draft them from scratch or adapt a pattern with zero ease. I've discovered that some companies selling commercial slopers offer two styles - the standard two-dart sloper, and the princess seam sloper. I wonder if it is their interpretation of slopers-with-ease and slopers-without-ease, respectively.

And now that I've gone on and on about darts being supreme and the princess seam being the most streamlined of all fullness-reducing darting techniques, let's break the rules and embrace the other extreme - hellooooooo dartlessness!

Here is that bias-cut linen blouse -

actually being worn!

Look, ma -no darts!

The fit is in the bias drape of the fabric itself and a little bit of waist shaping in the side seams. Easy! And comfortable. And not huggy-clingy like knits. And not tentlike, like one might expect from dartlessness. But you'll need to start with either a sloper or a very snug bodice pattern with zero ease. And a good-weight fabric that hangs well and has a good amount of give along the bias, so nothing light like seersucker or quilting cotton or stuff like that. And good foundation garments, so there is actual definition to the bust under all that draping.

Well, that was a little deviation from drafting for children. I thought I'd slip this into our series as a follow up to that last post on drafting for boys, men and women. Incidentally, mum hasn't actually seen this princess seam dress yet - she'll probably roll about laughing, knowing that I've reverted to my bad old ways.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

....must.... finish...... before..... apocalypse...........

........ one million months and counting..............

Unrelated, our garage door died yesterday. Half-up, half-down, stuck at a jaunty angle, it was quite the conversation starter among the neighbors. Also complete strangers. One of these complete strangers gave me the contact number of
his garage guy. While waiting for our scheduled repair guy to turn up, we called him, and he came and did the job for a modest fee. We now have a working garage door, a safe haven from burglars and a new garage repair guy. This was what providence looked like this week.

Which thing in our house is going kaput next? Please not the sewing machine. I should start a new blog: The Malfunctional Family - Living Each Day, One Fewer Appliance At A Time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Drafting Part X - What About The Boys?

And the men? And the women (who are actually doing the sewing)?

When I planned this drafting-for-children series, I knew it was going to look heavily skewed in favor of the girls. I also knew that there would be readers who'd ask if they could use all this stuff for boys. And, by extension, for men. And - because that's who most of us are - for women.

So here's the good news: yes to boys, yes to men, and - to a limited extent - yes to women. I made a lot of gender generalizations in order to write the next few paragraphs - so to my readers who are more familiar with quite different gender clothing styles, I beg your pardon. And in drawing out differences between boys and girls, and men and women, to explain why we draft their patterns they way we do, I chose to go with good ol' biology.

If you remember, the slopers (front and back) we drafted were for children, with children's specific features in mind, like
  • flat fronts i.e. the absence of front darts
  • proportions unique to toddlers and young children including round tummies and large waist measurements

Bearing in mind that because prepubescent boys and girls are alike in their general body shape, girl slopers and boy slopers are therefore the same.

However, where girl slopers become girl patterns, the differences begin. For instance, in becoming a dress pattern, girl slopers take on new and interesting shapes that are quite unboyish, like A-lines, and fitted waists and flared skirts. So unless you are making kilts and such for your sons, nephews and grandsons, best to keep to the more traditional style of boys' clothing.

But let's get to the point already.

For boy patterns, here are some ways to adapt the basic child sloper:
  • Retain the jewel neck and shoulder area for a good fit (you might like to add a little ease to the shoulder width).
  • Add a little design ease to the chest circumference and draw vertical side seams.
  • Cut off the sloper below the navel or even closer to the hip line.
  • Add a basic stand collar or mandarin collar (i.e. just the stand)
  • Add short sleeves or longer roll-up sleeves with or without cuffs.
  • Add a front overlap button placket
  • Add a back yoke

and you get the basic shirt pattern for a boy.

My main principle for adapting a sloper or pattern for a boy is
ease. The contours of boys' bodies are never hugged, unless it is for a gym unitard or similar stage costume. So for a top (like a shirt or Tshirt) the side seams are straight, the hem is way below the waist and there is ample ease at the chest and even some in the shoulder width.

Older boys and men have a more developed muscleature than young boys, particularly in (for the upper body) the chest, shoulders, neck and back. This requires more precise fitting in those areas of men's slopers and custom patterns. Personal preference, vanity and fashion trends dictate the design of men's patterns, so that the whole idea of a custom fit is no longer limited to women. If you've ever had trouble buying a shirt for a guy because the arms were too long or the collar too small, you'll relate to this: even in men's clothes, one size does not fit all, nor is the S, M, L system of sizing necessarily sufficient. I know so many frustrated friends who are between "sizes", whatever "size" means! I'd love to sew shirts - and I don't mean the aloha-print billowy Target variety - for my husband someday, but whenever we discuss this, we both roll our eyes and guffaw - there is just no time to sew custom-fit stuff for all the people in our live whom we love, is there? So the poor man wears shirts whose sleeves could be a couple inches different and dreams of the perfect bermudas. Some day, dear, when the kids are in college and I am no longer scraping dried string cheese off the kitchen floor. Some day.

In spite of all that grousing, the same principles apply to men's slopers that apply to girls' and boys' - there is no bust and therefore there are no bust darts. Lose the back dart and remember that men's tops hardly ever see a back opening, so give lots of straight ease (unless you are tailoring a fitted blazer or business suit, which is another story altogether) and front openings. Or make them out of knit, call them T-shirts and pull them on over the head :)


The Back
Women are girls grown up. And since it is most significantly their
fronts that grow up, their backs stay basically the same, except bigger. So the back sloper for women is drafted the same way as for girls. Women's waist-to-hip ratio is usually smaller than that for girls, so expect more slanty side seams or waist darts, or both.

The Front
Is, unfortunately, vastly different. I'll do a quick mini-tutorial on the bust dart in an upcoming post, I promise. It won't teach you to draft a women's sloper (that's a whole series in itself!) but it might help you adapt women's commercial patterns to fit you a little better.

The Lower Body
Good news - apart from being more curvy in general, women's lower bodies are also the same as girls'! At least in a drafting sense. So you can use our sloper tutorials to draft a skirt for you! Whoooooo!

A consideration:
As mentioned, the waist-to-hip ratio for women is smaller, so expect to need wider/deeper darts or more than one dart (will explain more in future post on darts) to take in the fullness at the waist. Mum and I use to exaggeratedly describe the waist ease by the number of chickens (or whatever arbitrary animal was funniest at the time) one could stuff into one's waistband. So we'd be in a store and try on a skirt or pair of jeans that clearly needed a deeper back waist dart and exclaim, "Three chickens! Who was this drafted for - a man?"

Little girls hardly ever need front waist darts in their skirts. Women, however, may need them if they have particularly wide hips or protruding abdomens. So draft in some front waist darts if you need to - there are probably many skirt-drafting tutorials out there on the internet to get you started.

Below is a cheat sheet showing how to adapt the lower body sloper for three very popular and classic skirt patterns.

1 The Pencil Skirt
follows the sloper almost exactly, except for the addition of a front waist dart. The side seam is let out by exactly the same amount at the waist, as the width of the dart, so that when the dart is sewn closed, the waist is the same size as before.The side seam continues below the hipline either vertically or (if you are superslim) slanted inwards slightly. You'll need to insert a zipper either at the center back or the side. And because it is such a snug fit, an open pleat (or some other kind of opening) at the back or front hem will help in walking!

2 The A-Line Skirt
is the easiest, most flattering pattern I know of - it draws the eye to the small waist, skims the curviest part of the lower body and has a high comfort level without the bunchiness of gathers at the waist. I like mine to sit just below my natural waist and I usually omit the front waist darts.

3 The Gathered Skirt
Since this usually begins as a rectangle, you can really make it without needing a fancy schmancy sloper. You only need your hip measurement, because the skirt needs to fit over the widest part of your lower body when you pull it on. But just for completeness, I've included it in the cheat sheet to show how it evolves from the sloper.

One last question I anticipate: What about pants? Girls wear pants, too! Yes, they do, but the trouser sloper is another different draft altogether. Maybe someday we'll work on it together!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Drafting Part IX: The Bottom Half

Hello again, drafting followers!

Apologies for the long break - after reviewing scheduled drafting topics, I decided to add a couple more in before Jen came back on again. Then I disappeared to sew actual clothes and organize a birthday party and make cardboard stuff. So easy (and enjoyable) to get sidetracked!

Anyway, here's where we are with our drafting series: we've finished the full body sloper (front and back) and sleeve block. Up to that point, we'd been talking featureless slopers and blocks, but with Jen's posts on different sleeves and necklines, we moved into "pattern" territory. Today we're going to work with the lower half, and create some basic templates for even more patterns.

I sketched these cheat sheets two nights ago, and included a garment idea with each adaptation. Many of these garment ideas border on costumey, but I'm going with them for two reasons. One, halloween is drawing nigh so it's a good time to use that sloper! Two, it is usually for costumes that I keep my sloper dimensions as is - otherwise I introduce so much design ease that the garment loses its custom fit and can be worn by half the children in our neighborhood.

A note: when a garment is fitting (i.e. has little or no ease), putting it on and taking it off will be tricky, if at all possible. We will need openings and fasteners, like button plackets, hooks or zippers. Sometimes we can get around this by using wide necklines and stretchy knits. Sometimes we need elastic. The point is that while there are ways to facilitate getting in and out of a garment, we have to first decide if said garment requires an opening or not. If it does, this must be drafted into the pattern/design from the beginning.

So here we go!

1 FLARING from the CHEST
One of the easiest patterns to make is the A-Line dress, or tent. It only has to fit from the chest upwards, below which it flares into a tent-like shape to accommodate almost any body shape. Without adding any ease, it is a regular A-Line dress; with ease in the chest and armscye, it adapts into a jumper or pinafore for layering over an inner shirt.

  • Begin at the bottom of the armscye and flare out the side seam as shown. How slanty to make this side seam is personal preference - as long as it is flared enough to accommodate the hip (or protruding tummy in younger children), it will work.
  • Add ease in the chest and armscye depth (none shown in picture) if you want it to fit more loosely at the armscye, as in the case of jumpers and pinafores.
  • Extend the hem to meet the new side seam.
  • Insert a button placket or zipper through the chest area to facilitate putting on and taking off, especially if you didn't add any ease in the chest area.

2 FLARING from the WAIST

Again, keep the bodice as is, and slant the side seam outwards from the waist, extending the bottom hem to meet the new side seam. This gives a dress with a gentle and flattering side flare to just the skirt region. Classic nurses' uniforms in the old days followed this style.

Here's another variation -you could also flare both the side seam and the center front seam as shown below.

When laid out on fabric, this new front pattern must now be cut out as two pieces and no longer cut on the center front fold as previously. It will also have a seam in the center front, and not just a fold. This gives a fuller, 4-gore skirt that flares symmetrically. It is a popular style for many costumes, including princess type dresses.


Also known in its shorter variation as The Babydoll.

The babydoll is a short dress that has its waist higher than the natural waist. It is fitted in the bodice through the chest region, below which the skirt begins.

Chop off the sloper at the chest area, and insert a skirt. This can be an A-Line skirt (trapezoid in shape - like Kate's Strawberry Shortcake suit), a gathered skirt (rectangle in shape, and gathered to fit the chest circumference) or circular or part-circular (donut or segment thereof).


Two variations:

The first has no ease at the waist.
The sloper is chopped off at the waistline, and a separate skirt joined to it. Here are three- of many- common skirt variations -
  • the gathered skirt (which can be made into multiple tiers),
  • the circular (or part circular) skirt and
  • the paneled/gored skirt.
The circumference of the skirt's waistline is the same as the circumference of the bodice's waistline, so they connect exactly.

As these designs are fitted to the waist, you'll need a zipper or button placket that extends through the waist and as possibly as low as the hip. For more instructions in the construction and dimensions of the skirts themselves, you might like to mosey over to my ancient summer skirts tutorials.

The second variation has ease in the waist.
Again, chop the sloper off at the waist, but (duh) add some ease to the waist.

A gathered skirt can be added to the bodice just as before, but the entire waist area - including the bodice - will be gathered. A popular version of this is in knit, with elastic sewn into the gathered waistline itself (serge directly over the elastic while stretching it!) so that it pops on and off over the head without needing a zipper.

This can also form the basis for overalls or bib-shorts, if a trouser pattern is added instead of a skirt.


The opposite of the empire line in that the skirt begins below the natural waist.

In this first variation, there is no ease added.
The sloper is chopped off below the natural waist and a skirt joined to the new waistline. This new waistline can be horizontal, assymetrical or V-shaped/curved. I used this adaptation for the Renaissance Festival costumes for the girls here.

The second variation has ease added to the waist, and then chopped off below the natural waist.
A simple skirt is then sewn to this new lower waistline. I like pleated skirts a lot, and this makes a cute school-uniform-style pinafore.


The simplest of all uses of the sloper, the bottom half itself has a fancy name - it's called The Skirt Block/The Skirt Sloper. This means it is a stand-alone sloper for just making skirts! Here are some examples of fitted (non-elasticized waists) skirts:
  • Pencil skirt
  • Wrap skirt
  • A-Line skirt
  • Flared panel skirt
  • Drop-waist flared skirt
Some of these designs are deconstructed in those summer skirts tutorials mentioned earlier. Some good news: you can use the skirt block for yourself (i.e. yes, women!!!) too, so it's not only the kids that have all the fun. I'll mention this again in the next post where we take pity on the boys, men and women and invite them to our drafting party!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tea Party

Emily turned six last weekend.

She had nine other little girls come over for a tea party
and we were blessed with incredible weather.
My mother-in-law very generously provided us with a
real tea set, to which we added real cloth napkins and
real (iced lemon) tea. We resisted the temptation to do
a dress-up tea party with boas and gowns and gloves
and hats because, at least in our home, Real Girls Use Glue
And Wield Baseball Bats And Run Around Fast.

Some photos and some links to the various things we did
at the party, for those of you who want to read more
about the various handmade things herein.

Food and friendship











We now return you to our (ir)regularly scheduled
program -
Our Drafting Series!