Custom Pattern Drafting and My Version of the Six Napoleon Dress

Mariana of Sew2Pro challenged her fellow bloggers to draft this dress:

mini-six-napoleon-challenge

I learned about this project from Kate of fabrickated.  Several other sewers from all parts of the world are giving it a go. I don’t have a better pic of the dress but check out Marianna’s blog for better views. Some sewers saw asymmetrical lines in the bodice seaming; others didn’t. A few have drafted the skirt and everyone has a slightly different interpretation.

I’m doing just the bodice of the dress as I don’t wear big poufy skirts but Kate suggested in one of her posts that the bodice might do very well as a top. I’ll be showing you how I used my custom drafted sloper/block to arrive at a workable pattern.

Having a custom block saves hours and hours of fitting time and I think makes drafting a custom design so much easier and more accurate. I’m using the method explained by Suzy Furrer in her pattern drafting course available on Craftsy. I have no affiliation with Craftsy but you might want to investigate Suzy’s method as I’ve found it very accurate. It’s not a one day project. It might take several tries to perfect the fit but once you’ve done the work, you be able to use the master pattern for everything. I also used the moulage draft to create a custom dress form and find that invaluable when creating custom styles.

First trace your master block onto pattern paper. Never, ever cut up your master unless you want to duplicate hours and hours of work! This is my master bodice block. It’s drafted after you create the moulage pattern by lowering the neckline, underarm and adding minimum wearing ease. Other drafting systems put all the bust/waist shaping into a single dart but I find many advantages to splitting it into multiple darts. Princess lines are better defined and waist shaping is easier to manipulate.  Mine has been copied onto heavy card stock for durability.

sloper

 

Here is the block traced onto plain pattern paper. I’ve redrawn the armhole 1.5 cm in from the edge and redrawn the armseye. I wanted the princess line to pass the bust point 1 cm towards the side seam; shifted the bust point and waist dart 1 cm. Rather than one dart for the waist shaping I drew two darts, each half the width of the original, and positioned them where I wanted the bodice seaming. Changes are shown in red.

new armhole

The new princess seam line ends in the armhole halfway between the cross front line and the underarm line. Another style line is added close to center front. Split the pattern along the new seam lines and remove the dart bulk in the waistline darts.

seam lines

Close the waist shaping; close the bust darts; smooth the neckline, armholes and bustline. The excess fabric at the bust point, a result of moving the princess line, will be converted to ease. The final lines are shown in green.

adjusted seams

I chose to fit the pattern before deciding on the shaped hem. Muslin fabric cut and seam lines traced. My working patterns are always net, meaning no seam allowances added. I find it easier to visualize the finished shape without seam allowances. I check the fit on my custom dress form and there are usually very few alterations needed because the pattern is drafted to my shape from the start.

front toile
back toilefitting

A couple of small changes were needed at the princess seam and shoulder. I left the toile unsewn in the hip area as I wanted to tweak that area for ease of movement.

bust adjust

shoulder adjust

A small amount of ease was added over the back hip and ease removed from the front.

front adjustback flare

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice I have lapped the seams from the right side rather than placing right sides together and stitching from the wrong side. I find this gives me more control and is easier to perfect the final result. Couture workrooms also construct toiles in the same way. Here is a photo from the latest exhibit at the Metropolitan Art exhibit: Manus x Machina where several working toiles were on display.

bust seamlapped toile seams

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally I used style tape to test possible hemlines. Since no back photo of this design was available, you are on your own to decide what looks best. Several other bloggers have experimented with echoing the asymmetrical point in the back. I also tried this but found no way to obtain a smooth transition from front to back and ultimately opted to omit the point from the back. What looks good from the front and/or back might not work when viewed from the side.

Alexander McQueen said: “I design from the side. That way I get the worst angle of the body. You’ve got all the the lumps and bumps, the S-bend of the back, the bum. That way I get a cut and proportion and silhouette that works all the way round the body.”

So true on this design. Look at the hemline from every angle and get a smooth transition the entire way round the body.

hem view 1hem view 2
Once I’ve decided on a hemline it is marked with a water soluble pen and thread traced for a final try-on. No reason to cut and mess up hours of work before the final decision.

 

 

 

 

hem trial

Final draft ready for cutting. Front draft and back draft. This will close with an invisible zip in the center back. The first version will be made in a white cotton pique.

front patternback pattern

It will be interesting to see what my fellow bloggers create. I’m sure there will be many interpretations.

My Donna Karan jacket, described in blog post March 14, 2015, is featured in the current issue of Threads Magazine. Check it out if you want more details about Vogue 1440 and the jacket construction.

Way to go Portugal! Last weekend we spent in Bristol, RI with our Portuguese family. Bristol hosts the oldest July 4 parade and my grandson is a full fledged fan in his soccer shirt. We celebrated with a wonderful family gathering under the grape vine covered pergola at uncle Tony’s.

parade

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Three Gowns; One Pattern

Don’t we all love a pattern that fits perfectly and can be modified in multiple ways. I created this gown for a client last year. The dress worked so well she requested more variations. This one was done with French ribbon lace and a full circle skirt of silk tulle.

Ana

For the second version I fashioned the bodice from an Oscar de la Renta guipure lace and paired it with silk velvet A-line skirt. The black fox collar and cuffs are vintage and were restyled to fit the gown.
complete gown 2complete gown 1

 

 

The bodice lace (from Mood Fabrics) worked better cut crossgrain as the pattern could be cut attractively at the waist seam. I’ve shown it here running lengthwise. By rotating the bodice pattern 90 degrees, I was able to use the leaf pattern as an edging.

Oscar Lace

The lace was backed with black silk organza and black silk crepe de chine formed a built in strapless slip. The lace edge was flipped up out of the way, waistline seam sewn and then the edge tacked down to the velvet skirt.

Lace Overlayfront bodice

The lace was positioned as not to interfere with the side seam. Silk velvet is tricky to sew and will shift all over the place if you don’t baste. I find diagonal basting holds it firm.

invisible zipSide Seam

Vintage fox collar and cuffs were trimmed to size, backed with grosgrain ribbon, and attached with snaps. I found holding the fur out of the way by placing it at the edge of my work surface saved many frustrating thread tangles.

fur snaps

The third version required extending the bodice a few inches below the waist. For this I used a wonderful Armani stretch satin from B&J Fabrics. The lace is from Mood. If you happen to shop for lace in Mood, Carman is wonderful to work with and knows every piece of lace in her department. The skirt is a simple flared shape cut from 4 ply silk crepe.

white bodice layoutthread tracing

The bodice needed some sort of interfacing and I found Pro Tricot from Fashion Sewing Supply a wonderful product. I was skeptical about fusing a stretch fabric but the interfacing stretches and worked beautifully. I’ve thread traced the seam lines with silk thread. The armhole was cut wider at the shoulder as we were considering an extended shoulder line like a small cap sleeve, but would up just trimming the armhole at the natural shoulder line.

The heavy guipure lace had a shiny finish on the right side. I reminded me of patent leather. I planned to cut out motifs and arrange them in mirrored pairs on the bodice. Rather than cut and try to match individual pieces, I arranged the lace right sides together and shifted it around until the pattern on both layers matched. Pin together and then cut out the motifs as matched pairs.

lace pairs

I cut varying size and shaped motifs to form the pattern I had in mind. Now for hours of hand sewing as every motif was stitched in place. I made a wonderful pressing tool which is a bag of heavy muslin filled with sand. Press the appliqued sections wrong side up and the lace will sink into the sand and prevent you from pressing the lace flat and damaging the effect.

b&w gown armholessandbag

The bottom edge of the bodice faced with silk organza. The first fitting on the dress form showed the bodice hem flared out a bit to much; easily corrected at this stage.

b&w gown bodice hemb&w gown 1

An invisible zip closed the back. How to insert a white zip into black fabric? I hand sew the zippers as I have much more control that way. Press the coils of the zipper open and sew with a backstitch just inside the zipper coil. Hand stitching allows you to vary the stitch distance from the zipper coil. If you’ve ever sewn a zipper into a garment where the thickness if one section is substantially different from another, you know that the zipper often refuses to jump over the hump. I’ve stitched just slightly further away from the coil at this point to allow the zipper to close smoothly. Notice also I switch from black to white thread. A tiny bit of zipper tape shows but it’s preferable to the zip not closing or breaking. Some might prefer a lapped zipper application, but I like the clean line of an invisible zipper. A ribbon waist stay is added.

zip black to whiteb&w waist stay

 

 

The white zipper is well concealed. I waited until the zipper was installed before sewing the last bits of lace motifs in place so they would match perfectly at the back.

b&w gown back

b&w gown finished

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Beach Chic Update

I totally agree with those of you who commented that you would like better pics. Unfortunately all of my photos from the evening were underexposed and not worth using. Hubby agreed to do another photo shoot so hopefully these are better. I find the photos the hardest part of doing this blog.

I also left out a few details in the previous post. I had originally intended to use Vogue 1460 as the bodice. I liked the drapey cowl neck and slight blousing at the waist.

Vogue 1460 1460 Flat

I had planned to cut the sleeves off but the muslin toile just didn’t work. The neckline just didn’t work and I could never get the sleeve/armhole to work. I will give it another try but decided to go another direction for this dress. I had already cut the bodice pieces from silk and hadn’t enough fabric to ditch them. Time for a different style; a simple sleeveless with lowered neckline would work. The back was cut on the straight grain but the front was bias. That worked fine until I got to the bust darts. If you’ve ever tried to sew darts on bias, especially on silk, they are a nightmare. The solution was to sew them by hand with a tiny running stitch and ease the fabric until it was flat.

Bust Dart

The tiny piping stabilized neck and armholes and will prevent them from stretching out of shape. It also adds a nice custom finish to the edges. The lining was understitched by hand to keep it from peeking out.

Piping w understitching

Front and back views; no selfies!

Front View

Back View

The back drapes softly and is left open. Self stick bra cups work great or you could close up the back seam to hide a bra. Please excuse all the wrinkles; I didn’t iron before the reshoot.

 

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What to Wear to a Beach Chic Wedding

What is your interpretation of “beach chic” attire? This was for a very casual beach front wedding. If you google the term “beach chic” the attire most often suggested for women is a long sundress.

I had fabric purchased at Mood last summer in the stash. It was a silk crepe de chine panel print. Very interesting but would definitely require some creative cutting to make the most of the design. I had two panels and planned to use one for a long wrap skirt and the second for the bodice and trim.

Silk Panel

Skirt draping started first. I have a professional style dress form which has been padded to my size. I find the effort spent constructing this saves so much time that I can’t imagine working without it now. The process I used is detailed in my post on April 25, 2014. How time consuming to drape and fit a design only to need to make alterations because the dress form is shaped differently than your body.

I basted a lightweight silk/cotton batiste to the silk and thread traced a reference line for the hip. Start at the left side which will be the skirt underlap and work around to the right side seam. At this point, just get the hip aligned; don’t worry about the waist shaping.

Begin DrapingContinue Draping

When you reach the right side seam, smooth the fabric downwards from the waist, which will drop the reference line. My post on November 3, 2015 also gives an explanation of how to drape this style of pleated skirt.

Right Front Drape

Form the first pleat. Second and third pleats are formed.

First PleatSecond PleatThird Pleat

Shape the back darts, pin in place and thread trace. Thread trace the waistline. I’ve also placed a thread mark at the center back line

Back Darts PinnedThread Trace Waist 2

 

Next you want to accurately mark the front waist and the pleat shaping. I pin a narrow ribbon around the waistline. Remove the skirt from the form, being careful to keep everything pinned in place.

Front WaistRemove Front Waist

Now I cut the waistline seam leaving a 1 inch seam allowance.

Trim Front Waist

I wanted the front overlap to gently curve from the hem to waist. An easy way to experiment with possible shapes is to use a length of leaded drapery weight. It is easily shaped yet is heavy enough to stay in place while you cut.

Drapery Weight

Front Curve

I had considered a lapped closure but as the bodice and skirt were attached the easiest solution was to insert a zip at the center back. How to do this with no back seam? I found inspiration from Valentino. Here is a center back invisible zip with a contrast satin welt.

Valentino

Why not turn this into a design detail? Construct it like a narrow welt pocket.

Zip 2Zip 1
The bodice was a simple scoop neck with tiny piping at the neck and armholes. It was cut on the bias so the design is shifted 45 degrees from the skirt.  I left the center back seam open to the waist so ties at the back neck were in order. I used thin drapery pull cord; measured the amount needed for the neck edge and added about 15 inches to each end for the ties. The ends were done first, cording removed from inside and then a bias strip covered the center portion. The bodice was lined to the edge with the same lightweight silk/cotton and fell stitched to the piping seam line.

Cording 1Cording 2Cording 3Piping

Finished!

Finished 1Finished 2

I must also mention that in addition to his medical practice, my husband decided to become a licensed U.S. Coast Guard captain,  which gives him the authority to officiate at weddings. We are close friends with the bride and groom and they were thrilled to have him conduct the ceremony.

Officient

 

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Scottish Tartans

What do you do after visiting Linton Mills? Head north into Scotland in search of authentic Scottish tartans. Our destination was Lochcarron in Selkirk, Scotland. After a detour to the Barbour outlet in South Shields, we (actually hubby) drove for hours through the Scottish countryside. These places aren’t exactly located in the most metropolitan areas.

Lochcarron weaves their tartans at their own mill and stocks hundreds of tartan patterns in all weights. It is one of the few remaining mills to keep production local rather than outsourcing. The factory shop isn’t the easiest to locate, even with GPS help, so we were thrilled to finally see the Lochcarron shop. A near disaster ensued! I had emailed the shop prior to our trip but somehow the “closing for inventory” day was missed.

My husband is not one to be put off by a “CLOSED” sign, pleaded our case of flying all the way from the US, driving for hours and persuaded the staff to open the doors. What a wonderful experience! Jill and her staff couldn’t have been more accommodating. I was shown book after book of samples. The various weights of tartans explained and we browsed through a wonderful selection of goods. I finally selected three pieces of Reiver (the lightweight):

Locharren Tartans

The top fabric is a black tartan. The weave is formed by alternating stain with plain stitches and then the piece is dyed black. It results in a subtle plaid. I have seen it referred to as Dark Island; Lochcarron calls it Dark Douglas. The middle piece I haven’t yet decided what to do with. The bottom tartan will be made in some variation of an Alexander McQueen design from his Widows of Culloden Collection.


I’ve done variations of other McQueen designs. Some need to be modified to be wearable.

 

 

Some combination of the plaid cut bias with black lace.

Tartan Drape
Vintage looms are still in use.

After a very long day of driving, shopping and more driving we finally arrived at the West Plein House, a delightful B&B just outside Stirling. Our hosts, Moira and Tony, greeted us with tea and a comfortable room. Next morning, haggis was served at breakfast. If you want the recipe, I’ve included a link. Haggis is best eaten after you’ve consumed sufficient whiskey! I tasted a bit but preferred Moira’s eggs and oatmeal.

The remainder of our trip was filled with the sights of Stirling (Stirling Castle, Bannockburn) and Edinburgh complete with watching a rugby match in the pub.

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Visiting Linton Mills and Meeting Kate from Fabrickated

I’m sure many sewers have heard of Linton Direct, the fabric mill in Carlisle, England, where many Chanel fabrics are woven. It is one of the few remaining sources of artisan quality fabric. Many fabric mills have relocated to Asia and this was a rare opportunity to see where the fabric is actually made.

My husband knows very well my passion for sewing and Chanel (I’ve dragged him to Chanel in Paris a few times) so when I mentioned Carlisle was ONLY a 4 hour train ride from London, he replied with “Why don’t we go!” How many men would allow themselves to be dragged across the pond, catch the morning flight to Edinburgh, rent a car and drive (on the wrong side of the road) 2 and 1/2 hours to Carlisle?

I had emailed Jenny at Linton and was dismayed to learn that the town had been horribly flooded in December. Cumbria in the English Lake District, had torrential rains and the River Eden had overflowed. Many shops were damaged, including the Linton retail shop. The actual fabric mill had been spared. Jenny and her staff had set up a temporary facility across the street and I was welcome to visit. They are presently repairing the damage and hope to have the retail and coffee shop open in early March.

Shop manager Jenny Bell and Tracey were amazing. Even though they were working under less than ideal conditions, the all fabrics were displayed and they helped me select several fabulous pieces. (I’m a little ragged after 24 hours of travel). Tracey left, me center, Jenny right.

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My acquisitions. We all know about the ever growing fabric stash! Hubby was very happy they were being shipped home and not taking space in the luggage

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Inspecting yardage on the light table. Every inch of fabric is examined for flaws and any found are corrected. Notice the heater and down vest. They certainly pushed on through not optimal circumstances.

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When my fabrics arrived home Jenny had included a massive stack of swatches for future purchases.
Swatches

The next day we headed north on a long, circuitous route to Selkirk and Stirling, Scotland where I had more trips to fabric mills and tartan shopping planned. More on that journey in the next post.

Our trip ended in London where I met Kate of Fabrickated. We had arranged to meet Kate and her husband Nick at the British Museum. Have you ever dragged your husband to meet another sewing blogger and her husband? Kate and Nick were fabulous. After tea in the members lounge we toured the exhibits. The men were so engrossed in conversation we almost lost them several times in the museum. We were invited back to their flat for some wine where I saw first hand Kate’s sewing space (it was much neater than mine!) and then treated to dinner at a neighborhood restaurant. I certainly hope we can meet again. Kate, please feel free to share the photo of us at the Rosetta Stone.

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The Chanel Shoulder

One of my latest projects has been to reshape the shoulder line on two Chanel jackets for a client. These are not couture but from the Chanel RTW line. Chanel does produce some of the very best RTW clothing and many of the techniques can be incorporated in home sewing. The first jacket was long, almost a coat. I’m not sure who they intended this coat to fit, but the sleeves were inordinately long. There is a white cotton cuff, attached by tiny buttons, which gives the illusion of a tailored shirt underneath. I’m fairly tall with longish arms so imagine how this looks on a petite figure! Also notice how the plaid matching is slightly off from sleeve to jacket body.

The sleeves needed to be shortened by a whopping 5.5 inches. In addition the shoulder was too wide and needed 3/4 of an inch removed and 5 inches of width removed from the body.

coat3
The width alterations needed to be done at the side back seam as that was the only seam without pockets or vent. Chanel leaves wonderfully wide seams in both the outer garment and lining. 3/4 inch or 2 cm. seems to be standard. Notice the hand sewn hem. Chanel also finishes each garment piece by individually overlocking so that taking in or letting out seams is a dream.


The sleeves needed to be shortened from the top down, leaving the working sleeve vent intact. My method is to remove the sleeves and open all seams except in the area of the sleeve vent. I certainly didn’t want to redo that detail! Trace off the sleeve patterns without seam allowances.


The completed sleeve pattern needed to be narrowed by 2 inches at the bicep, tapering to 1/2 inch at the hem. I slit the pattern and removed the excess width.


Place the altered pattern down the required length to be removed and recut the sleeve. I thread traced the new seam lines.


Notice that Chanel presses the center 3 inches (1 and 1/2 inches each side of center) open. The remainder of the seam is pressed towards the sleeve. The blue thread is my mark for the amount to narrow the shoulder when the sleeve is reinserted. I use Japanese basting cotton as it has some texture and tends not to pull out during construction.

sleeve8
Here is a second jacket getting similar treatment of narrowing the shoulders.


Notice the little shoulder pad with built in shape for the sleeve head. Here is my pattern for making these. I make my own shoulder pads and find them far superior to purchased ones, not to mention being almost free.
I posted two variations of shoulder pads Chanel uses in RTW on November 18, 2014. One of my readers, olden bears, kindly sent me pdf files for these and I’m inserting the link in case you want those patterns.

shoulderpads1shoulderpads2
I’ve scanned the new pattern but don’t have software to convert to pdf. I think if you open the picture and print, scaling to 8.5 x 11 paper it should be close to size. The size isn’t too critical and you can add or subtract according to your shoulder length.

Here is the pattern for another shoulder pad with a built-in sleeve head.

Shoulder Pad Pattern
For each shoulder pad you will need to cut pieces 1 and 2 twice, piece 3 once and 4 once. Piece 4 is optional. Use it if you want an additional layer for more lift in the pad. Butt the edges together and sew. I use a three step zig-zag stitch.

stitch5


You will have two (or three) dish shaped pieces. If using piece 4, place inside the sewn outer layer sections; Place piece 3 on top and pin the layers together.


Baste through all layers. I just discovered the basting stitch on my Bernina. Maybe I should read the manual. Your machine may have a similar stitch. Loosen the tension so you don’t wind up with a puckered mess like this.


Fit the pad over a tailors ham and steam heavily to set the shape. Let the shoulder pad dry before removing from the ham.


Completed jacket with a beautifully shaped and supported sleeve cap. I was also able to get a better pattern match between jacket body and sleeve.

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