So, this is what happened:
- In the spring of 2013 (yes, that's more than 3 years ago), I saw a slideshow of The Duchess of Cambridge in her glorious, impeccably-tailored outfits.
- Which reminded me that I had a wedding to attend in June later that same year, not that I saw myself looking anywhere as svelte as TDOC.
- Which reminded me that I couldn't sew a dress for the wedding until I'd updated my blocks/slopers.
- Which I did, using chocolate and shame as positive and negative reinforcements, respectively.
- The process of which I sketchily documented on the blog in the form of several very long and technical posts designed (albeit not intentionally) to bore most people to death.
- After which I felt maniacally motivated to make myself a collection of workable blocks for a full arsenal of garment-making templates.
- Which I then felt compelled to exemplify and illustrate as finished garments.
- The insanity of which I justified by telling myself that it was all for the sake of sewing a dress for the wedding.
Instead, quite after the fact, here's a sort of lackluster by-the-by to let you know that, apparently and unwittingly, I've written a drafting miniseries for women. And here's also a sort of button, as compensation for the aforementioned lack of Grand Announcement Rabid Hysteria:
In keeping with tradition, this post will be the epilogue of the series, containing all the links to the earlier chapters.
- The French Dart Sloper (Version 2.0)
- Transferring to Paper
- The Princess Seam Sloper (Version 2.1)
- Princess Seams and Dartlessness (supplementary material from the archives)
- The Dartless Sloper (Version 2.2): The Blue Knit Top
- Draping With the French Dart and Dartless Slopers - The Knit Dress
- The French Dart Sloper (and curved darts) in Action - The Qipao Top
- The Princess Seam Sloper in Action: Fleur and The Abandoned Dress
- Extracting A Skirt Block And Shaping With Seams
- The Raglan Sleeve Sloper and muslins from the archives
- Subtleties in Drafting: Sleeves (and armholes)
- Subtleties in Drafting: Darts Part I - The Foundation
- Subtleties in Drafting: Darts Part II - Draping Darts
- Subtleties in Drafting: Darts Part III- Drafting Darts
- Subtleties in Drafting: Darts Part IV - Effects & Disguises
And here are a couple of posts in which I reviewed very fundamental drafting books that I've found useful. They are mostly out of print (sorry) but I like them because they focus on drafting slopers and basic blocks step-by-step from body measurements, which in the more modern, more comprehensive drafting books, is glossed over in favor of just adapting those slopers and blocks for dress patterns. Click on the book images to go to the individual posts.
Note that while this was a series on women's slopers (aka foundation blocks), it does not contain a drafting-from-measurements component because I didn't have anyone to measure me accurately enough to draft any of my slopers from my vital stats. Fear not - you can read supplementary drafting-from-measurements material I wrote in my earlier drafting series here. While it was for children, the process and sequence are exactly the same for women, except that there are darts in the front and back bodices in women's blocks.
Hopefully, the bit of dart manipulation - creating, shifting, pivoting, closing, merging, enlarging, decreasing etc - in this series will fill some of the gaps in the children's drafting material to help you make the jump to women's blocks.
Another reason for actually coming right out and calling this an intentionally educational (rather than random soapboxing) series of posts is the odd treatment of material itself. I have seen numerous posts on the internet that cover drafting a darted sloper from measurements as well as those that show how to adapt such a sloper to various sewing patterns with fancy features.
However, I haven't seen many (if at all) that show the transformation of one kind of block to another kind of block from those same measurements, to build a collection of different foundational slopers from which to make an entire wardrobe of garments that utilize the unique qualities of different fabrics (e.g. stretch, bias-layout, woven, etc). Whew - long sentence there. Most people I know would not sew this way, with the exception of the people in my family and - I'm extrapolating -culture. If, however, you do, you might realize that the different blocks are specialized enough that, unless you want to draft a brand new block ( first, and then the actual sewing pattern later from that) for each garment you make, you might save time by having these four basic blocks on hand.
To illustrate, here is what I would use my four foundation blocks to make:
French dart block: most basic blouses, button-down shirts, qipao tops, saree tops, tunics, shift dresses, all skirts.
Princess seam block: fitted-bodice dresses, swimwear, wetsuits, dancewear, tank sheath dresses, evening gowns, mannequin, athletic wear, paneled skirts, coats and jackets
Dartless block: bias-cut tops and dresses, lingerie, negligee, Tshirts, athletic wear, swimwear, dancewear, knitwear, draped-bodice dresses and tops, knit skirts.
Raglan sleeve block: raglan-cut garments e.g. athletic wear, dancewear, swimwear, wetsuits, coats, sweaters and other knitwear.
I realize that this is probably more technical than most home seamstresses would need, particularly if you are used to only sewing with commercial patterns. For that reason (and also it was too much work to cover the rest), I chose to spend a bit more time on the more familiar parts of the fitting process - the bust and back darts and the sleeve caps. From what I've heard through the grapevine, these are the areas with which people commonly have trouble when they adjust their commercial patterns to fit.
That said, I want to make it clear that I don't think commercial patterns are bad - but you must remember that they are drafted for industry-standard dimensions (i.e. arbitrary) and you can be 100% sure they will need some adjustment to fit you because your body is real. I also believe that anyone who uses commercial patterns needs to learn how to fit them properly and to visualize how those fit-changes will look like on paper, and vice versa. That visualizing is the only way for you to precisely adjust your paper patterns to accurately reflect those changes. Otherwise, all you're doing is blindly following a method, like a recipe you've never actually tasted but hope works because someone else's tastebuds raved about it.
One of the unwelcome side-effects of becoming increasingly familiar with visualizing fit issues is the unwanted awareness of both good and bad fit in garments on strangers. It can feel a bit like a curse! There have been times when I am, say, sitting on the train, all placid and at peace with the world, when I suddenly notice that the lady in front of me has an unfortunate armhole. Instinctively, I avert my eyes because I immediately sense her discomfort at how much it must be pulling at her armpit, poor soul, or how self-conscious she must feel each time she has to tug her garment down because the sleeve cap has peaked again. I want to go up to her and pinch a half-inch dart at her shoulder and see her smile in relief, as if I'd just administered the clothing equivalent of Tylenol. But it's none of my business, of course. And I'd probably get clobbered by her rather large handbag (gussetted, partially-reversible, four purse feet, with buckled open-ended straps and one external patch pocket with lapped zipper*) which I'd completely deserve. So I just sympathize and say nothing.
So be warned, friends: draft and fit enough garments and you might develop this uncomfortable Sensitivity to Strangers' Unfitting Clothes. The good news is that you can learn to live with it. Sometimes you even get good enough at living with it that your own standards drop below rock-bottom. Remember this shirt? And just the other day, I stood in the fitting room in Target and tried to convince myself that a dressing gown with a gaping neckline and shoulders squarer than a robot's was "okay because it's only $22 and made of T-shirt fabric so it can probably stretch to cover whatever it needs to if I breathe in continuously and hold it real tight around my body with both hands."
Slap self (again).
Long ago when I wrote this post and asked for suggestions on what kind of curricula you guys wanted me to write here, some of you asked for drafting posts for women. I'd always thought it would be awesome to do that but there is so much information, much of which would be far too technical for folks already sold on the commercial pattern way of sewing. So I didn't address it until I felt I could share information more immediately practical to any seamstress who'd ever made a garment (and not only the hard-core drafters). Hopefully this series has helped do that. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
* My other curse is Seeing Bags With X-Ray Vision.