Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Week 3: Understanding Fit from the Waist Down

This week I'm going to try to shed some light on how to fit the bottom half of our dress, and that does include the bottom.

EXPLANATION: Our Fantasia skirt pattern shown. On the right is the center front, on the left is the center back. The seam allowances have been folded back to reveal the pattern shaping, which are essentially darts. The back skirt is a princess seam, which makes shaping to fit the backside a breeze. The front is a single dart. Any place you have darts and seam, these are opportunities to add or subtract fabric as needed and remove, add, or change dart space to create personal shaping. Let me reference another post I did on darts that may or may not help explain further:
BODY TYPES: This illustration attempts to point out a few different figure types and how the dart shaping and seam location might be affected. On the left is a "standard" slim figure with no tummy or derriere, which needs only enough darting to shape to the waist. The side seam is also down the center of the leg and the front and back are split equally. This is how your pattern generally comes. The vertical plumb line for skirts is the center front, center back, and the side seam which stays centered on the leg. The horizontal plumb line is the hip. This should always be parallel to the floor. Why? Because it marks the cross grain and we want that level for the skirt to hang properly.

As the body shape changes, so does the type and amount of dart space, and even the front to back skirt ratio can change in order to keep the side seam running down the side of the leg and the hip running parallel. Those are the things we will be looking for as I do my tissue fit for my skirt.

Previous to now, I've already performed all the necessary steps (size transitions, etc) to get a great initial fit from the directions I gave on week 2:
So now I'm at the tissue fitting stage and I'm looking to see how this pattern fits my dress form and if there are any last minute changes I need to do before cutting from my final fabric. This step takes the place of time consuming muslin mock ups.
EVALUATION: The first thing I notice is that the hip line is not parallel.  It rises in the back. The second thing I notice is that my front dart is too long. My dressform has a high tummy on her, and my dart should not extend beyond that fullness of my figure.

You'll notice that my marked hip line doesn't match up with the true figure hip and that's okay this time for me, but you should mark your true hip. It will be too difficult to eyeball while wearing if its not on the hip, but it reality, it's the grain that we care about, and second to that is the shaping of the pattern. This red line is for your clarity and the green tape is the actual hip line of my dress form.

MAKE FIT CHANGES: I'm going to shorten that dart to only reach to the fullest part of my tummy. Center that new end point and mark new dart legs.
Next I'm going to lower that waistline on the dress form until the hip line is parallel and then mark the distance to the waist on my pattern. I also notice that as I lower that hip, the shaping of the pattern seems to fit the figure better as well. It's another sign that this is the correct alteration to make. Now I will take the pattern off and make the change.
I've marked the center back piece with a cut line to spread, and the side back will be marked at an angle to the corner so I can pivot and spread the side back seam without adding to the side seam as well. Add paper, measuring and taping just like you would if you were lengthening a pattern.
This is what my side back looks like once I've cut it. See the clip to the corner leaving a hinge of paper there?

 Add paper, measure and tape it down. True. This pivot method can be used at side seams as well. It's a better way to add width that trying to draw free hand.
Trim away the extra paper, fold seam allowances and pin your pattern back together for a second tissue fit. This is what that extra adding paper looks like. Final photos below.
Looks much better all the way around! Don't you think?

Your tissue fit is going to look much different from mine. If you've chosen the right size to begin with, the only thing left to do is to refine the fit. Here is what you are looking for:
1. Make sure your front and back are true north and south on your figure.
2 Check that your darts are the right length, width, and shape for your figure.
3. Keep your cross grain level at the hip
4. Center your side seam on the leg.

Ready? Set? Sew! How is your pattern fit coming along?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WEEK 3: Alternative Method to Move Darts or Shorten Bodice

For this sew along, I am working with a small group of folks on a special group page I've set up for this purpose. Each are at a different level of skill, but each have committed to doing the assigned homework for the maximum educational experience. It's easy to sit back and let me do all the work, so I'm grateful to have such a committed group!

While I work with them on their individual projects in the group to get them caught up, I thought I would share with you my fit experience as I worked through the 10 steps from the last post.

There are TWO main things that will ensure an easy start on the road to fit:
  • Choose the right size for each area of your body. 
  • Sew an accurate seam allowance. Do a test with your sewing machine guide and then measure.   
I asked my larger sewing group what size I should make for my padded out dress form. The answers I got surprised me. What size do you say?  (see my size chart here)

I need to do a post on this subject, but that will have to wait until another day...

 Here is my dress form from the side (left). My pattern FBA adjustments have been completed, and I wanted to show you the pattern pieces and how they mimic the shape of the dress form. If the figure had more below the bust tummy fat, I could straighten that princess line (as represented by the pink line).

What I discovered from the tissue fit step (step 10 on last weeks post)
  is that my dress form has a very high bust and I need to shorten my bodice above the bust. This is a VERY unusual adjustment and can cause some trouble for the princess seam. To avoid more pattern troubles, I'm going to use  this  alternative sliding method to shorten my bodice without causing more trouble with the princess line. It comes in handy to accurately move or shift darts and design details that are in cumbersome areas.
1. Square off the armhole area, marking below and again amount to shorten below the armscye. Mine will be shortened 1". Line should be parallel to the grain. 
2. Cut into pattern and fold, matching previously marked lines. Secure with tape or pins as desired.

Your pattern should look like the photo above once taped.
  2. True seam and cut lines. I'm going to take out some of that under bust curve to keep the bodice from becoming to busty.
  3. Walk seam lines to find a similar shorten location on Bodice Front. Mark.
Ready to fold and match lines
4. Match lines and secure with tape. True the seam and cut lines.
5. Re-test your pattern work by pinning bodice to do a second tissue fit.
Looks much better now!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

WEEK 2: Getting the Right Start with Fitting Garments

When it comes to fit, I take a simplified practical approach that will get me results fast. I don't do muslins for a professionally produced pattern because this is a consuming and expensive practice. If your pattern is NOT professionally drafted, or if you have doubts that the makers quality is questionable, I recommend that you measure your pattern before you ever start this process. Write the measurement results on your pattern in the measured location for easy reference. Assuming your pattern is well drafted, to get good results every time it helps to get off to a good start with these 10 steps:

1. Before you start, understand  and properly match the relationship between pattern, fabric and your body.
  • The grain and stretch of fabric- or lack of it- as it relates to your pattern. Don't discount the fabric suggestions on your pattern envelope.
  • How much ease does the pattern provide? How is the pattern meant to fit the body? Where are the fitting elements and how can they be used to improve fit?
  •  What kind of fit do you like? Do you understand how your figure differs from the standard?
2. Know your Measurements
  • With a well drafted pattern, you really should be able to get a reasonably good fit with these: 
    • HIGH BUST (I call it the CHEST. This measurement helps gauge/ fit shoulder width)
    • FULL BUST 
Do some math: Full Bust minus High Bust (CHEST) =_____________________inches
This number tells us what cup size you are and how much to add or subtract at the bust point.
If the difference is:
1"= A cup
2"= B cup
3"= C cup
4"= D cup
5''= E cup (also called a DD)
6"= F cup (also called a DDD)
7"= G cup (also called a DDDD)
    • WAIST
    • HIP
This SAL for Simplicity 1061 shows you how to take measurements.

3. Compare your measurements to the Size Chart on your pattern envelope.
  • Most of us are not just one size.  To get a fit that will have the best fit with the least amount of effort, choose the size that will fit each area of your figure.
 4. Choose a size and circle it!
  • The bust is the most troublesome area of the figure because most patterns are made to fit a "B" cup, but this does not always match every woman's figure. What size to choose for the shoulders and bust?  If your full bust NOT 2" more than your CHEST, use the Chest measurement for the size to cut. 
  • If your pattern does not give a chest measurement on the chart, and you know that your pattern is sized for a B cup, subtract 2" from the BUST measurement to find the CHEST measurement for each size offered on your pattern.
5. Vertical changes come first:
  • No "lengthen or shorten here" line? Make your own. I don't have a post to refer you for lengthening, but this one on shortening should help: How to Shorten blog post

6. Horizontal changes come next: Transition between sizes
7. Ready, Set, Trace
  • Trace off your pattern, marks, and labeling in preparation for doing a full bust adjustment. If you do not need to do a full bust adjustment then skip this section.
8. Make Interior Changes last:
 9. Make it True and Walk.
  • Truing is the blending of uneven curves and straightening of lines by blended or equalizing the differences. The adjusted seamlines are blended smoothly between the original cut and seam lines. 
  •  Walking is the process of matching a seamline to the adjoining seam line. Walking a pattern is necessary only for changed seams. It ensures alteration accuracy. Any pattern piece that doesn't walk needs to be investigated for the cause. 
10. Tissue Fit your Pattern to check the accuracy of your pattern fit for your figure: 
  • Patti Palmer did not invent this method, but has perfected and written about it for years.  Though I tissue fit at the end of my alterations, I highly recommend it as a substitute for sewing a muslin. Watch these videos through Fabric Mart that show you how to do it: http://www.fabricmartfabrics.com/Fit-Along.html  
Whether bodice or skirt, the process is the same. Once you have checked your fit via tissue fitting, your alterations have been assured, it's time to cut your fabric and sew the shell. The fit is checked again in your fabric.

Are you excited to get started?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

WEEK 1: One Pattern, Many Looks

newspaper clipping attached to pattern is a reminder
My title for this post was also the title I gave to the very first class I taught for the American Sewing Guild many years ago. I had 45 minutes to show students how one pattern can become so much more than what you see on the envelope. I know there are many more instructors greater than I that have taken on the same challenge too. So where does a new idea come from? Can creativity really be taught, or are we all really just following the examples of others?

How often have your projects started with an idea from something you've seen in the store or a magazine or on a blog and then you look for a pattern to match that idea? This is only one example of following.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that tradition, but it does have limitations, especially if you are living within the confines of current trend which may or may not be on your side in terms of taste or body type. 

Where real creativity begins is when you start with what feels like a limited scope (one pattern/one view) and then must reach outside of that perimeter to turn it into something different than it was before. This type of creativity does take practice. Research for ideas, and then pick ONE theme. Think of ways to develop your idea from there. 
How to Do it:
 For this sewalong, we are going to use the Sew Chic LN9005, Fantasia dress as our base to build from. The cover suggests this dress style belongs only as a formal.

But take a good look at the line drawing on the back of the cover. Consider the silhouette and the style lines. In what ways can we invent something new from this style?
OPTION 1: Do nothing. The easiest thing to do is nothing. We can create a whole new illusion, feeling, or purpose with patterns and colors using fabric. Have you twice made a garment with completely different fabrics and no one knew they were the same style? What about color blocking? This doesn't look too bad.... it's easy stuff.
OPTION 2: Interior Changes. Things like lengthen and shorten, you do all the time for fit. Why not for style? With this pattern, it can totally give you a whole different silhouette. The rule for this alteration is anywhere below the hip, or at the hem. Be sure to choose a location that will not interfere with  any design details. In the back, we have a "V" seam detail that we want to keep, so lets avoid that and place our "lengthen or shorten here" lines above or below that location. But what if you didn't want to keep that "V"? Then cut your skirt off above that detail and lengthen as needed by adding to the now cut off hem. Now you'd have a straight skirt with no high/low hem. Of course you must measure your pattern to be sure that you will alter in the same location both front and back. The easiest way is to walk your pattern at the side seam and use a lined mat and grid ruler to keep it perpendicular to the grain.  For this example, I'm going to shorten in two locations, both above and below. Let's see what shortening in two places is going to look like:
Let's assume that if you know how to lengthen or shorten, you also know how to true your work to correct that jog. How you true is another opportunity to change the silhouette of your style. If I true up to the hip, the style becomes an A-line rather than a tulip, trumpet, or fit and flare skirt.
Before we go on though, I first have one more interior alteration to make:
Because I'm going to stay with my color blocking idea, I want to add an interior seam. This seam is going to cut across my bodice side front at the same location that my cross over seam hits so that my color can extend to the sides as well. Simply walk your pattern to the bodice front along the seam line you've drawn in, and make a mark where that seam will cross. Draw a cut line across your side front pattern, and then a GRAIN line that extends to match the original. Cut apart and add seam allowances to both pieces and label. Now let's see what that will look like:
OPTION 3: Exterior Changes. Those are alterations to the edges of your pattern. Lengthening or shortening at the hem is one of those choices. In my case, I've added length to the sleeve to make it 3/4 length. It's a easy change to make that doesn't require to much effort. Lowering or changing the neckline would be another one of these changes. What do you think so far? Is it heading in the right direction?
OPTION 4: Last but not least is adding on details or creating external pattern pieces that match to the edge, such as collars, cuffs, ruffles, etc. I've added a button theme to my color blocking. These buttons don't have be functional, and neither do your external details, they can be just decorative. Hand stitch anything to your dress, it could be tubing, or flowers, or beading, or embroidery, rick-rack, etc. Experiment!

Make this dress I've just designed for you in a soft crepe for a 1940's vibe. Wear with your victory rolls, and black side set hat with seamed stockings and pretty black pumps and you are set! Are you headed for a hoedown instead? Imagine this dress in denim with flat felled seams, patch pockets and lots of buttonhole thread top stitching. Match that up with cowboy boots and you can take this dress to the rodeo! Inspiration can come from everywhere, so look for themes that appeal to you and then use these steps to come up with ideas that work with your theme.