Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Copy your Figure: A Dressform Tutorial part 2

Part 2 of this tutorial shows how to remove the wearing ease from your cover and shaping it for an exact duplicate of  your figure.
Here is a listing of all three parts:

Step One: Prepare for the Fitting

1. Plan to do this on a day when you are feeling good and have a good sewing friend handy. This is not a job you can do alone, nor can I over emphasize its importance. Don't ask your husband to fill in when he has no idea or interest in what you are trying to accomplish. Even working quickly with someone who knows what they are doing, expect it to take 2-4 hours from start to finish.

2.Wear a good well-fitting supportive bra. In fact, buy a new bra just for this occasion. Having made custom wedding gowns for many, many years, this is the one thing that 100% of my clients had in common. You want this mannequin to be the most attractive copy of your figure that you can give it. Besides, a droopy bust is really hard to copy.

3. Wear all of the same undergarments that you normally do. If you usually wear a girdle, or other supportive/ medical needs types of undergarments, do your fitting with those on as well. It's okay to wear a full body leotard as my model did- for modesty.

Step Two: Pin it up Tight as a Drum

Pinning the back
1. Put the cover on, with seams outward, pinning closed at the side seams and back at seam lines.
2. Make a determination on how and where to take away the wearing ease to make the cover completely form fitting. If the original pattern was fitted to your figure before attempting this project, the wearing ease for width will be almost evenly distributed throughout. There should be a small amount of ease for height as well. I wish I could say to start with the width and then take out the height, but it's not quite that simple. The main thing to keep in mind is to maintain an even waistline, parallel to the floor, and keep all seams centered and vertical.  

Pinning out the ease at the princess seam
Pinning under the bust for an exact shape

cleavage darts at center front
 3. Pin out the dart space between the breasts, creating a made-for-you cleavage. You may also need to add a dart in the back near the scapula, angling into the arm hole to accommodate the curve of the back.

Pinning the front
4. Continually evaluate. Look for ripples and drag lines that need to be stretched and pinned out.

Pinning the shoulder and marking the armscye

5.. After everything is snug and firm, the last thing to do is mark the armscye and the neckline. I used 1/4" masking tape (available in the quilting section of your fabric store) because I could visually see it better, remove and reposition it if necessary.

6. Mark the back seam line on both sides with a pencil or marker and then remove the cover.

Step Three: Mark the Seam Lines
 All those pin lines now need to be marked and transferred to the pattern. Transferring the new markings to your cover pattern are optional, but what if you needed to make a new cover for your mannequin? What are the options?
- Go through this fitting process and re-pad your mannequin again. 
- Remove the cover and cut a new one from the original. 
- Use the old one no matter the condition.
I recommend it, but if you'd rather do it the quick and dirty way, go ahead and sew up the cover using the pins as your seam line guides and call it done.If you want to transfer your new seam lines to your pattern, and perfect your cover to make sure that both sides will be the same, then read on:

1. With a pencil, mark the pin lines on the cover just as you made them. Don't worry that they might be crooked or angled. I did mine like a dash, marking exactly over the pin.

Mark the corrected seam line with a colored pencil
2. To copy the new seam lines to the pattern, take the cover apart by removing the stitches. Now you have two sides, both marked, and neither are exactly the same. You'll have to evaluate both and decide which will be more accurate, or if you need to use a combination of both. Granted, this is not an easy task, nor is one right and the other wrong, but each will have its own consequences. Any education and experience you have will help you, but all the same, this is a decision that you must make.

3. Having the new markings visible, pin the pattern and cover back together. Use a tracing wheel to trace along the new seam lines, perforating the paper below.

3. Remove the cover from the pattern and remark the pattern seam lines following the perforation. I also reduced my seam allowance to 3/8" along many, but not all seam lines.

Mark the new seam lines and reduce the cut line

If you like, this is the time to mathematically check the dimensions. My darts, which were originally straight, are now changed to a curve to match the body's shape.

Straight darts are now curved

4. Press out the original cover fabric, putting like pattern parts together, and re-pin the newly adjusted pattern to it, cutting to the new adjusted size. Sew it together once again, leaving the center back open.

  Step Four: Time for a Second Fitting

1. I decided it was best to do a second fitting just to be sure that everything was perfect. This fitting went much quicker. Wear the same under clothing as last time.

There were only a few adjustments needed. 

My model didn't leave her bra on, so I ignored the bust area and made no changes there.

Again, make these changes to your pattern and cover. 
It may help you to take photos of yourself pinned into your cover, both front, back and also a side view. This could help to make a duplicate of yourself in Part 3 of this tutorial: Padding out the mannequin.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Copy your Figure: A Dressform Tutorial part 1

This post is a follow up to my January post about various commercial dress forms and DIY methods sewists use to try to get a decent dress form. Though it's been a while, I didn't forget my promise to write a tutorial to make THE BEST mannequin that really does duplicate your figure. In my defense, I just finished mine in September, (though I admit I've been using it anyway, pins and all) so thank you for your patience. To keep this tutorial from growing into an unmanageable mess, I'm going to break it down into smaller parts.

The key to success is in the accurate making and fitting of a french lining or Moulage, which is a sloper, master pattern, or fitting shell  that has all of the wearing ease removed. Because this lining will become the cover of your mannequin, from here on out, I'm going to just call it a cover. 

Supplies you will need:

~ A fitting shell pattern of your choice
~ Quality 100% cotton muslin yardage- the best you can afford. DO NOT PRESHRINK! 2 yards will be plenty.
~ A sturdy mannequin- smaller than your own figure measurements
~ measuring tape
~ clean spray bottle
~ 100% cotton batting
~ various rulers both curved and grid- C-thru
~ soutache braid
~ thread
~ pencil
~ scissors
~ disappearing fabric marker
~ dressmakers carbon- I prefer the waxed type
~ tracing wheel
~ dressmakers pins
~ hand sewing needles
~ sewing machine
~ Paper for copying your pattern- Use tracing paper on a roll, usually 12-24" wide found in the art section of your craft store(If you need wider paper, tape two sections together with transparent tape). While you could skip over the copying of your pattern, remember that a final pattern of your cover will come in handy if you ever need to make a new cover for your mannequin without going through the fitting process again.

Step One: Prepare the Pattern

1. Start with a Master Pattern that you like
The only pattern pieces you will be needing are the bodice and the skirt, both front and back. Be aware that I am not endorsing ANY of these patterns. I list them only as possible sources.
Comercial Pattern Sources:
Butterick 6092
Vogue 1004
Specialty Sources:  

From BurdaStyle:
Free Download:
OR http://www.burdastyle.com/patterns/basic-one-piece-dress-sloper (It can be both an advantage and disadvantage to be without the waist seam- I prefer to have a waist seam to fit to).
Draft Your Own:

2. From Bodice with darts to Bodice with princess seams: FRONT.
If you are using a princess seam pattern then skip this section on dart mannipulation. It's also important to mention that you should ALWAYS use a ruler to trace. If you do this freehand, your work will not be so accurate.

If your pattern does not have a seam line marked, use a ruler to mark this line on your pattern. Carefully trace off your pattern pieces, tracing only along the seam line.  This is the important line to know, and at this point, we don't care where the cut line is. If your bodice has two darts, manipulate the side dart to the shoulder to make it a princess seam.

Here is a good video on You Tube that shows how to do that:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwTv7bBN7XE .

Use a ruler to connect the two darts from the shoulder to the waist. My pattern has only one dart at the waist, so I used a curved ruler to mark an attractive princess line to the shoulder.

Now we need to actually divide the bodice into two pieces by tracing off the two sides:  Start at the neckline, down the center front, squaring off at the waist, up the inside leg of the waist dart to the shoulder, across the shoulder and neck to the center front.  Add a grain line parallel to center front, label your pattern and add a notch or two if you desire. Do the same to the side front, carefully tracing around the outside leg (farthest from center front) of the darts, shoulder, waist and side seam. Add notches (if any) in identical locations to match up with front pattern, grain line parallel to center front and label. Now add a 1" seam allowance around both pattern pieces, transferring the notches to the cut line.

3. From Bodice with darts to Bodice with princess seams: BACK
On the back bodice, draw a slightly curved line from the shoulder dart to the waist dart. This line will be come your princess seam line. Copy off the Center Back and Side Back pattern pieces the same as the front, adding a grain line parallel to the center back, labeling, notches if desired, and 1" seam allowances.

4. Give your skirt pattern princess seams too!
Measuring from the waistline down center front and back, perpendicular to the grain line, shorten the skirt pieces to about 16-17". Be sure to "walk" the pattern side seams to make sure the front and back are shortened the same amount.

Draw a line from the inside dart tip to the hem. Make this line perpendicular to the center front and back. This is your princess seam sewing line. If your pattern has a second dart, you can leave it as is, allowing one more fitting element, or combine it by transfering that dart space to the dart closest to the center front. Trace off your skirt pattern pieces as before, adding  a 1" seam allowance and  labeling them skirt front, skirt side front, skirt back, and skirt side back.

Step Two: Layout , Cut, and Sew

1. Layout
Lay out your pattern as you normally would with the pattern grain line parallel to the selvage. Cut 2 of each pattern piece.  I pin on the inside of my seam line rather than on the edges, and because I want my seams to be ultra-accurate, I use dressmakers carbon and a tracing wheel to mark the seam line.

2. Pin along seam lines. Sew it up with a basting stitch. Press lightly or not at all. 
Carefully match the seam lines using a pin in the mark on both front and back to hold the seam together. 

The sewing order:

First, sew the bodice and skirt together matching bodice front to skirt front, bodice side front to skirt side front and so forth, sewing at the waistline.

Second, sew the princess seams, matching fronts to side fronts and backs to side backs, matching any notches and waist seams.

Third, sew shoulders and center front. I left my side seams open because that is where the much of the fitting adjustments will be needed, and the back so that the model can get it on.

Here is my pre-padding mannequin wearing the cover I just made with the side seams pinned together. The cover still has the wearing ease, but you can see that the mannequin is smaller, especially in the hip area. The princess lines are also in the right location, centering over the shoulder and bust points.