Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Transferring To Paper

Are you following along with my sloper misadventures? If so, here's the next chapter- the one in which we transfer the muslin to paper. Note that the usual sequence is to draft the sloper from measurements directly onto paper and sew a muslin from that.  Then I'd simply note the changes (usually very few) on the worn muslin and make those same changes to the paper pattern. Very easy and fast. However, since I am making my sloper this time by adjusting an old muslin, I must now turn the muslin into a paper pattern. So infuriatingly backwards! However, it may actually be the natural sequence for many people because
  • they use commercial patterns and (if they can be bothered to) make a muslin, wear it, make adjustments to it and then transfer it to paper, or
  • they make their own patterns by tracing around a "well-fitted" favorite garment, either in part or the whole. 

So... I thought you might like to see how I do this transferring thing myself. 

We begin with unpicking. Yucky. And slightly depressing, given how hard one has worked to sew up the muslin in the first place. Which reminds me that I must share three important tips with you: 
  1. Always sew your sloper with longer-than-usual stitches if you intend to take it apart at any point. 
  2. Before taking it apart, press all the seams and darts well. This, along with the next tip, will help distinguish the final, correct seam and dart lines from the countless earlier versions that were eventually voted out. 
  3. After pressing the seams and darts, draw directly on the RS of the seams with a marker (you can see the light blue marker lines on my unpicked sleeve in the next photo). When you've unpicked the muslin, you will be glad you marked those seam lines, especially if you hadn't done a thorough job of pressing earlier. 
Now that you've unpicked the muslin, you will need to trace or otherwise transfer the seam lines onto paper. Some people use tracing paper, laid on top of the fabric pieces. I use brown kraft paper because it's sturdy and has those useful vertical lines on it for alignment purposes. However, it's also opaque, so tracing is out of the question. I lay the garment part (in this case, the sleeve) on the paper and pin the reference lines (in this case, the center line of the sleeve - not shown in picture) to the paper to keep it from moving about. If the seam allowances, having been pressed earlier, can be tucked or folded away neatly, I can trace the stitching lines easily around their folded outline. However, sometimes it is easier to poke the stitching line with a pin. In the photo below, I used several different pins to demonstrate the process but in reality I just took a single pin and punched it repeatedly through the fabric-and-paper along the stitching line,

so that, when the fabric is removed, the stitching line is left as a series of perforations

which can then be easily drawn over in pencil or ink.

Q: Why not just trace around the edge of the fabric? That way you can include the seam allowances in your paper pattern!
A: Two reasons. One, I don't include seam allowances in my patterns or blocks -they are distracting. Two, sometimes after adjusting a sloper, the seam allowances are no longer uniform: if I'd taken in a seam, the SA will now be wider and if I'd let out a seam, the SA would now be narrower. 

This next bit is how I do the seamlines (or stitching lines) around darted areas.

First, I cut out the block/sloper/pattern/whatever with a lot of allowance around the regions of the darts. Next, I tape the darts closed and draw the seamlines continuously over them (in the photo below, these are the blue lines in the armscye region and side seam).

Then I cut along the seamlines, removing the excess borders and allowances, 

and reopen the darts. All the pointy zigzag bits will look otherwordly but they are correct. Just like with this sleeve, remember? When the fabric has been laid and cut out and the darts sewn up in the garment, the seamlines will be continuous and smooth, just as they are in the photo above. Incidentally, there is another method that doesn't involve folding and messing up the paper - we do it by measuring the legs of the dart and keeping them the same length, as if they were radii of a circle, and then adjusting the seamlines to meet those new equal-length legs. But this folding method is more visually obvious and far less mathematical, so I picked that to show you. 

Finally, we notch the dart points,

like so,

so they can be marked on the fabric during the layout.

Voila! Foundation block done!

The next thing to do is move the darts (again!) to make a princess seam block. In the process, I can merge the french dart and armscye dart into one so that I have only two front bodice darts overall, instead of three. So boring, right? I feel like drafting foundation blocks ranks up there with cleaning toilets - nothing to show for after, sucks while actually in progress but necessary for improved general quality of life in the long run. At least that's what I tell myself to keep going!


  1. I've only ever used SA patterns, or my own when I'm making stuff up on the fly, and I've nerver really understood how best to work with no-SA patterns. How do you then transfer your pattern seamlines to the fabric, just trace around them on the wrong side? And then what method do you use to match pieces together before sewing, if they aren't cut concurrently, such as a sleeve-to-armseye seam? Do you laboriously stick a pin through from wrong side to the other wrong side and match up the lines? What's the clever way to do it?

    1. sms: These two posts might help:

      First, this is how I transfer pattern points and lines to fabric:

      and this is how, after I've cut the SA into my fabric pieces, I sew the pieces together:

    2. Thanks! I've actually made your racerback dress (I made Laverne and Shirley versions for my kid hand her friend. Shirley's has a little tied scarf collar, and Laverne's has an L, of course) and I totally got and loved your explanation of the SA and how to choose how large to make it. Your pattern really taught me a lot about working with knits. I was thinking more of when people make things with extra-big SAs for on-the-body fitting/draping, and the SAs don't match up, but you seem to take the more mathematical approach than the i'm-lazy-so-gulp-and-give-it-a-try thing I do. :) I can sew OK stuff, but I'm trying now to be more precise in my work. It's good to have goals, right?

  2. Actually, not at all boring. I'm so grateful that you're blogging this process.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Amy! I was like, "Oh, only one comment (now two). I must have lulled everyone into a coma." Am glad this is actually interesting to someone!

    2. no comas here! I definitely learned a thing or two

  3. It has been good that the weather in MN has been so awful. It lets you finish your sloper and not bask in the 3 actual days of sunshine in the month of April.


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