So, Operation 10 Chocolate Bars has begun. It is not the funnest process in the world. It takes a long time to fit a foundation block (aka sloper). And - although not to deter you from making your own because it will be totally worth the effort-, the whole thing is fraught with problems.
Problem #1: When to do it. A person must not attempt any kind of cerebral-ish sewing when the children are conscious or when meals need to be cooked. All it takes is a break in concentration to get a snack for someone and the sleeve cap will get sewn to the armpit (yes, it happened). This means drafting at night. And sometimes when a person is on a roll, a person will forget to go to bed. Now, assuming that, finally, a person can be alone to concentrate, there is
Problem #2: how to measure yourself. I can't. And the people I trust to measure me accurately (because they know what to look for) are all in Singapore. So, as much as I'd wanted to draft my new blocks from scratch measurements, I couldn't. I had to resort to adjusting my old muslin. Which brings us to
Problem #3: Old muslins must be first unpicked. And since unpicking is my absolute favorite thing in the world to do (see guest post by my obnoxious seam rippers for commentary on all the ways I'd rather use them than for unpicking), it's no wonder I've put this off for 3 years. But, well, I unpicked. I had to unearth some very old CDs to play on loop-repeat in order to get through the task, but it got done.
Then came Problem #4: How to ensure all the alterations were symmetrical on left-and-right-sides without a paper pattern (i.e. paper version of this block). I did the best I could, drawing all over myself with marker and poking myself with pins and so on. And when these symmetrical alterations involved shifting darts, it got particularly exciting. Now, as the sloper came together and became increasingly well-fitted, it got harder to get in and out of. And herein lay
Problem #5: The sloper is like a skirted catsuit made of unyielding quilting cotton. This translates to some funky acrobatics in the bathroom at 1 am, wondering if one's marriage vows of "for better or for worse" includes the husband being woken up from blissful slumber at some ungodly hour by the clearly unbalanced wife lurking in the darkness in an unflattering skin-tight outfit, hissing, "I'm stuck. Can't reach the zipper. Help."
Hugely entertaining, I know, so long as it isn't happening in your household, let me assure you. And so let's just skip over Problems #6,7,8,9 and 10: taking photos of yourself in the mirror to check the back, without raising your arms; trying to pin back darts while completely stationary so as not to shift the waist position, etc. etc. and get to the part where I emerged, victorious (and I didn't wake the husband afterall). First, a reminder of what Version 1.0 looked like, from way back in 2010.
Even back then, this was not a snug sloper. Mum and I drafted it "comfortable" with the understanding that I was still sporting the post-natal bulges and chunkiness from having had three children in five years and would look better in garments that weren't overly fitted. In that 2010 version, the neckline was too open, the shoulders were overwide, the hips hung loose, the armscyes and sleeve caps were ease-fests
and the upper chest area was so roomy that, when a scoop-neck dress was made from this sloper in that same year, it required neckline darts to prevent gaping:
However, the dart points were correct and the shoulder slopes were accurate
even if the shoulder seams themselves lay too far back.
So that was 2010. I'm not sure what happened since then, but it doesn't fit at all now. It wasn't just a matter of taking in the ease in various places - even the darts themselves had to be shifted and reshaped and the side seams unpicked and repositioned to accommodate for that. Want to see the full list? Here:
- Shoulder seams unpicked and moved to the front
- Shoulder point moved in
- Waist dart moved outwards
- French dart point moved
- Armscye dart inserted
- Waistline moved down to accommodate for new armscye dart
- Side seams unpicked and repositioned to accommodate for new waistline and waist dart positions
- Back darts changed to accommodate for relocated side seams
- Hips taken in to accommodate for waist dart changes
- Armsyce taken in all around and redrawn to accommodate new armscye dart
- Sleeve (2 versions) cap redrawn, taken in at seam
- Neckline raised and narrowed
Anyway, so now we have Version 2.0 - the one with the narrower shoulders, higher neckline (which still needs to be smaller for mandarin collars, etc.), better shoulder slopes, correct bust fit, and so on.
I want to show you the sleeves. I did two sleeves. This first one was drawn by formula. I used the one in our tutorial.
It's a pretty sleeve, with a nice fit at the armscye and (see very first photo) very sleek and aligned from the side view. But only 70% comfortable when I raise my arm. This is the same draft that I used for that princess seamed dress
but when adjusted for this new sloper, the sleeve cap wasn't ideal. I think it is less to do with the formula than the bulkiness of my biceps and shoulders (and no, it isn't muscle). Anyway, this is Sleeve Number 2, which was drafted free-hand, the way Mum taught me. No formula, just what-looks-right as far as shapes go.
Better, you think? Personally, I think I should go with sleeve #2, even if it doesn't look quite as sleek. I need to send these pictures to Jen to ask her. Why aren't you my neighbor, Jen? Like when we were kids?
Here are photos I took of the sleeve blocks, for your analytical pleasure. The red block is Sleeve #1 (formula). The brown block is Sleeve #2 (free hand).
Two interesting observations - may be useful for those of you who complain about commercial sleeve patterns fitting badly or who, like me, don't have skinny arms. First, notice the red sleeve block has a higher sleeve cap.
This sleeve cap is too high for my particular armscye and shoulder shape- the fabric peaks in a fold at the shoulder.
Here, I'll zoom in:
I saw this pattern in JoAnn some years back and couldn't believe they were actually selling this. So I took a photo. Without even looking at the patterns inside the packet, a person can tell that the shape of the sleeve pattern is going to be wrong for this armscye. And it's not a style element, incidentally - look at the sketches next to the photo on the packet - these are regular set-in sleeves without puffed sleeve caps or anything like that. But what really boggles the mind is how no one told the model to not raise her arm for the photo. I mean, that's not a good advertisement! If she had let her arm hang at her side, nobody would be the wiser, right? I can't get over it.
Second, the brown sleeve has a wider bicep area,
which means that while the overall sleeve might not look quite as sleek near the armpit, it is a lot more comfortable when the arm is raised. Especially for us folks who don't have skinny shoulders.
Using red block Using brown block
and the other from the shoulder, like with Fleur.
Pretty, huh? For January. Not almost-May. Mutter.