Category Archives: Drafting Patterns

Drafting Circular Flounces

My style tends towards sleek, tailored clothing but this blouse with its many circular flounces was one I had to try.  The inspiration is from Alexander McQueen’s RTW line and retailed for over $1000.  Wonderful look for summer that I could definitely do for less.

McQueen White Ruffled Top 1 McQueen White Ruffled Top 2

I draped a slim fitting princess line top using my body double dress form. It extends to the high hip line here so I can play with the placement of the hem flounce.

Blouse Drape

An interesting technical point is that these are known as flounces, not circular ruffles. In the garment industry, a ruffle by definition has the excess fullness gathered into a seam while the fullness of a flounce comes from the curved flare of the fabric.

The flounce pattern is created by drawing concentric circles. The inner circle is attached to the garment.
circles

Drafting the flounce does require some basic math and decisions about how full you want the flounce. The left diagram shows a flounce with an inner circle of 1 inch diameter and one inch wide flounce. The circumference of the inner circle is 3.14 inches which will be the length of the seam joining to the garment. The outer edge of the flounce will be 9.42 inches. Fullness is calculated as 9.42 divided by 3.14 equals 3 or 3:1 ratio.  However, imagine that you need a 6 inch long flounce. Drawing a 2 inch diameter circle surrounded by a 4 inch diameter circle creates a flounce 6.28 inches long with an outer edge 12.56 inches long. Note that the fullness has changed from 3:1 to 2:1 (12.56 divided by 6.28).  If the desired fullness is 3:1, then the flounce will need to be cut using two of the smaller circles and seaming them together.

lower flounce

I’ve drafted a 3 inch deep flounce for the lower edge of the blouse, cut a test from muslin and attached to the toile.  To achieve 3:1 fullness, I’ll use four sections (two back and two front).

Drafting the flounces for the neckline and center front required more complicated methods.  Flounces behave differently depending upon the seam they are attached to.  Vertical hanging flounces cascade down in folds.  The fullness of a flounce is increased when attached to a inside curve and decreased when attached to an outside curve.  The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff is a wonderful resource which more fully explains these concepts.

The neckline is an outside curve. Therefore to maintain the same appearance of fullness, the flounce at the neck was drafted with 4:1 inner to outer ratio.  The math can get complicated, especially when you need to consider the length of flounce needed, width AND fullness ratio desired plus adding seam allowances.  Then compound all this with varying width flounces for the center front and armholes.  I’ve devised a relatively simple way to draft all this.

Either buy a tablet of graph paper or print some out. There are free internet sources for printing all sizes of graph paper. I like Math-Drills.com .  Search for graph paper and print out a few sheets of 1/4 inch size. Metric users try 0.5 cm; I found the 1 cm. size just a bit too large to produce smooth curves using my method.

math drillsBack neck pattern

Measure the length of the seam the flounce will be attached to. Measure the SEAM LINE, not the cut edge. All drafting is done referencing the seam line; seam allowances are added afterwards. I’ll show the back neck: seam line from CB to shoulder seam is 3.5 inches. 4:1 fullness is desired and 1.75 wide flounce so I’ll cut and tape together a strip of graph paper 1.75 inches  by 14 inches (3.5 times 4).

Cut along every fourth line leaving a tiny bit attached at one long edge. If you cut through, it’s no problem to just tape it together. Overlap the sections so there are four blocks at one edge and one block at the other edge.

Cut graph paperline up overlaps

The inside edge won’t line up perfectly but I just eyeball it. You can also draw in a line to help. Tape the sections in place as you go. This is what the pattern will look like. It’s very clear that there is a 4:1 ratio of inner to outer length. Also it isn’t a complete circle which is good as there is space to add seam allowances.

completed overlap

The pattern can be cleaned up by using it as a gauge to draw circles with a compass. Use the end points on the outer circle and connect to the center for symmetrical seam lines. I find this much, much easier than trying to mathematically calculate the dimensions of the inner circle, outer circle, width of flounce, maintain fullness ratio. With all these variables, I wound up with a partial circle and calculating the percentage needed of such circles produces some dizzying math.

cleaned up draft

The graph paper method greatly simplifies creating the long cascading flounce along the center front.  If you draft a flounce and trim off the outer edge to create a flounce narrower at one end, the proportion of fullness changes.

spiral draft

Here is a flounce which gets narrower at one end.  I trimmed off the outer edge of a 3:1 circle. If you count the squares, it goes from a 3:1 fullness to a 2:1 fullness. This may be what you want, but what if you want to maintain the same fullness the entire length?

Here’s how I created the center front flounce. Measure from center front to the desired length.  After some experimentation, I decided 3:1 was a good fullness. Create a strip of graph paper 3 times the finished length by the wider width. Draw a sloping line from wide point to narrow point.

sloped graph paper

Trim off the paper above the sloped line. Cut along every third square and overlap to create a curved pattern.

overlaped spiral

The pattern will spiral over itself.  Keep going and let it overlap. It will be divided into sections later.

completed flounce

My front flounce needed to be divided into two sections to avoid the pieces overlapping.  Deciding where to place the cuts is a trial and error process. You want a few seams as possible and the seams need to be placed where they are inconspicuous.

It may take several muslin trials to get seams where you want them.  Trace off your master pattern so it is intact in case your first seams aren’t where you want them. Since the diameter of the circle is constantly changing along the length of the flounce the circles will turn into ellipses.  Here is the lower section of my front flounce. I’ve left room for tiny seam allowances to join to the upper flounce section.

maintain ratio

My pattern traced off to pattern paper.  Label everything as the pieces will get VERY confusing. I also keep my graph paper models intact just in case I need them.

Pattern

The armseye flounce is drafted in the same way. I did experiment with a 5:1 fullness but felt it too much and ultimately went back to the 3:1 proportion. Some experimentation is necessary as every flounce will behave differently depending on its width and placement.  The fullness is removed under the arm at the side seam.

5 to one draft underarm

completed toile

Since this design is symmetrical, the toile is only of the right side. I’ve also hemmed the center front flounce as the drape of flounces does change with the edge finish used. Drape flounces in a fabric similar to the fashion fabric as a silk chiffon will behave much differently than a crisp cotton. I will use a woven textured white cotton that looks almost the same on both sides as the wrong side of the fabric will show on this. Blouse is in production for the next post.

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Filed under circular ruffles, Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, Drafting Patterns, Draping

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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Back in My Sewing Room

Hard to believe that it’s been two months since my last post. November and December were packed with travel, holidays and family. After four solid weeks of house guests and entertaining, hubby and I escaped to the west coast for a golfing holiday. Palm Springs was the starting point as we worked our way north along the Pacific coast highway.
highway

Pebble Beach was spectacular but neither of our golf games warrant the fees there so we satisfied ourselves with pics from the 18th green.

Pebble Beach
We did play several spectacular courses along the way, including two which had hosted PGA tournaments. Sand everywhere!
golf course
Last year I joined Goodbye Valentino’s Ready-to-Wear Fast and did so again for this year so that meant no buying clothes for the trip. I needed warm, lightweight and breathable golf tops. I had a stash of merino wool knit fabrics; perfect and had the added bonus of being washable.

The pattern is my knit top block from Suzy Furrer’s Craftsy course.

top body block&amp

My obsession with sleeve fitting resulted in this draft, taken mostly from European Cut by Elizabeth Allemong.

sleeve block
Notice the shape of the sleeve cap and the position of the shoulder.
How to add couture touches to a simple zip top: match stripes at the side and armseye seams.
add a zipper guard which covers the zipper teeth at the neck
add a mock turtleneck
striped top
Serged seams were too bulky and anti-couture. I did serge the cut edges with Gutermann Skala 360, a super super fine thread which adds no bulk. My serger was set for a narrow three thread stitch. Seams were sewn ina regular sewing machine using a zig-zag stitch about 0.3 mm wide and 2.3 mm long. This very slight zig-zag adds stretchability to the seam. Press open. The sleeve and bottom hems were serged along the cut edges and hand hemmed.
striped top seams
For chilly California evenings, I was intrigued by the wrap designed by Julie of Jet Set Sewing. Look for the December 29 post. I had some off white sheer wool knit and made two versions of her design.

One short one:

short shrug

And a longer version with an asymmetrical hem. The hem idea came from one of the sweaters Julie photographed in a Paris window.
Front view
Side view:
Side view
Very simple pattern. I made mine 16 inches wide at the neck and 25 inches wide at the bottom. Cut two layers, one front and one back.  The short version is 19 inches long, the long version 29 inches before hem shaping.
Pattern
Sew the side seams using a narrow zig-zag stitch. I used 5/8 inch seams, pressed open, turned under edges and slipstitched for a totally finished seam on the wrong side.
Seams
The knit rolled naturally to the right side along the top and bottom edges. Stretch the knit gently and it will roll. I tacked in place lightly.
Shaping the hem for the longer version. Fold in half with the side seams together. The center front and back will be at the fold lines. I pinned a length of narrow elastic as a guide before cutting. Be sure to flatten out the curve at the center front and back unless you want points.
Hem line
Enjoy. I’m happy to be back.

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Dress Forms Continued

After my last post I acquired a couple more dress forms and decided to do two things. First was to use Suzy Furrer’s method of drafting a moulage for different shapes.  Second was to try using those moulages on non-professional forms and post a review. Although a professional form is a very nice addition to your sewing tools, it can be pricey and you may have an older form and not have the space or funds for another.

The good thing is that this is a one-time purchase. You need to select a dress form based on your bone structure, NOT  your bust measurement.  I have found the most accurate way to do this is to compare your cross-front  width to the form. PGM publishes this on their website: pgmdressform.com.  If buying a form from  EBay or Craig’s list, ask the seller to give you this dimension. Also check the shoulder length and cross back width. Your form should fit you at the shoulders and neck. Anything else can be padded. If you start with form that’s too big in the shoulders, you’ll never be able to get an accurate  fit. Compare your shoulder, cross front and cross back measurements with any form you are considering.  Get as close as you can with these three dimensions and fix the rest with padding. The padding can always be redone if you lose or gain significant amounts of weight, but your bone structure won’t change. The most common mistake seems to be getting too large a form.

There are many companies who make professional dress forms and I’ll list some of them here.

Wolf has always been the gold standard of dress forms. They are made by hand and last more than a lifetime.  They are also the most expensive.  Pricing depends on the options you select and Wolf forms can be over $1000.  Occasionally one shows up on EBay or Craig’s list  but they usually aren’t any bargain.

PGM sells online at pgmdressform.com. They offer three options: collapsible shoulder and shaped hip for $399,  collapsible shoulder with flat hip for $299,  non-collapsible shoulder and flat hip for $199.  You can always create your own hip shaping with pads but the shaping is nice to have a place to start.  Collapsible shoulders make it easier to get garments on and off the form. The main drawback I found is that the wire cage at the bottom isn’t as nicely finished as the Wolf form,  and can snag delicate fabrics. You can cover the cage with muslin if this is a problem.

Roxy also sells online at roxydisplay.com. I have no experience with this company. One review I read rates them below PGM but better than the adjustable with dials. Foxy has forms with collapsible shoulders for $249.

Fabulous fit sells a molded foam version for $387 and a professional  model which looks like the ones at PGM and Roxy. The professional model sells for $887.  They also offer a kit of fitting pads for the bust, shoulders, hips, thigh, etc. You can purchase this separately. I found  the molded foam version at a garage sale for $25. I wouldn’t suggest these. There are better forms for less money.

Least desirable in my opinion are the forms which feature dials that allow you to adjust the bust, waist and hip. The base is lightweight and they tip easily; very frustrating when you are trying to pin or adjust a garment. The dials leave spaces which can be annoying to work around. I did cover one just to try and make it somewhat usable.

Now for the moulage review. I made three moulages for totally different figures and each one fit almost perfectly on the first try.  I found learning to take accurate body measurements the hardest part. My three drafts looked entirely different but each fit amazingly well.

Once you have your chosen form, draft and sew the moulage. I left the center front seam open when fitting myself and the center back open for fitting others. When you are happy with the fit, sew a final version in whatever fabric you choose for the cover.  I would advise a medium weight cotton or linen.  A natural fiber fabric will mold to the form easier than a synthetic. You want to be able to pull the cover tightly over the form so a knit is not suitable.

Here is my Fabulous Fit form ready to begin.

Fabulous Fit Form

Lower edge extended

I used cardboard to add 5 inches to the length.  She also needed minor surgery at the back armhole and a slight breast reduction. This was accomplished with a kitchen bread knife. Bra cups were stuffed and positioned on the form with pins. Since the neck was rough I draped a pattern to cover the neck and sewed it to the moulage before starting to pad.
Neck cover

Notice the side seams are 3/4 inch wide and have been stay stitched. This makes it easier to turn and sew the sides evenly. The moulage is sewn together at the shoulders and armhole facings attached to neatly finish the armseyes. The side seams are left open. Also note the position of the armhole on the form and on the moulage. The form positions the arm angled backwards. The moulage reflects a more normal arm position.

Finished Moulage before padding

Start fitting the cover and padding at the top. Notice how the shoulders fit well but padding is needed to fill out the remainder of the cover. After the shoulders are fitted, position and pad the bust. You can use bra cups or a bra that fits well and you are willing to sacrifice it. Fabulous Fit also offers a kit of fitting pads but I did just as well using bra cups and shoulder pads.

Bust pinned in place
Continue to work your way down the form. I used a combination of shoulder pads, fusible fleece, heavy felt; just about anything you have on hand will work. Do frequent checks to be sure you are getting the desired shape. Pin in place and remove the pins as you add subsequent layers. I also used a steam iron to compress the padding as I worked.
Bumm shaping
I used two large shoulder pads to establish the bumm shape and refined it with upholstery batting. I also added a layer of upholstery batting as the final layer. Upholstery batting feathers easily and covers the irregularities. Take your time. It can take a few redos to get the shaping right but you will do this once and have your double for years.

Once she is stuffed pin the sides together and do a final check that you are happy with the fit. Leave one side pinned while you sew the other side seam; otherwise the cover will shift. Fold the side seam allowances in and mark every inch to help keep the front and back aligned as you hand sew. I started at the waist seam and marked up and down from there. If you don’t put these guide points in and just start sewing you will wind up way off when you reach the end of the seam. Guess how I found that out?
sewing side seams
I find it easiest to start at the bottom and sew up. Use a 36 to 40 inch length of upholstery thread. You want enough to finish the seam but not so much the thread knots and is too long to work with. Why not just use a center back seam? First I found the padding shifted around too much when I tried to get a back seamed cover on and off. Also you need the side seams raised so they can be felt when you use this form for fitting and draping. Look at the professional forms. They are all finished like this.
Insert the needle about 1/8 inch from the folded edges keeping the needle parallel to the floor. Pull the thread tight (you want this seam raised) and place the next stitch about 3/8 inch away. I sew with my right hand and hold the thread taut with my left. You may need a clip or two at the waistline.

Finished! All she needs now is a heavy steaming to shrink the cover slightly.
finished

This custom cover was done on an adjustable form with dials. The figure was petite with a small bust. The moulage draft fit on the first try with one minor adjustment to shorten the front waist.
image

Another draft for a fuller figure with large bust and abdomen. Once again the moulage instructions produced a perfectly fitting mold.
image

If you want to make fitting much easier, invest some time to create your own double. I’ve done a few now and it still takes time but what a difference when I’m fitting garments!

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Fitting for Couture

How do you fit yourself? Fitting another person is hard enough but doing it on yourself while looking in the mirror and getting stabbed by pins is impossible. One of the hallmarks of couture level sewing is perfect fit, so what to do? I decided to take a lesson from the couture houses and pad a dress form to duplicate my exact shape.
There are countless sites about making duct tape copies of yourself but most finished results I saw were not what I had in mind. A professional dress form is HEAVY and stable. I had messed around some years ago with the adjustable ones with dials, but they too are lightweight and tip over easily.  A custom made form is VERY expensive and not what I had in mind either. I was lucky enough to find a bridal shop closing its doors and bought a couple of their forms. If you decide to give this a try, get a size that fits your shoulders and body ABOVE the bust. I found that if the form is the correct size at the full bust it is usually much too large through the neck and shoulders. You can pad the form but you can’t cut it down. I usually sew a size 8 and found the size 2 form fit me at the upper body best. My back waist length is 2 inches longer, waist and hips larger but those changes are easy to do with padding.
Now I needed a guide as to where and how much to pad. I signed up for the Craftsy class, Patternmaking Basics: The Bodice Sloper with Suzy Furrer. This is definitely not a beginner class and does take a fair amount of time to work through, but her instructions of drafting a moulage were easy to follow and produced amazing results. Here is my completed draft. The toughest part of this was measuring the body correctly.
pattern
Next Suzy walks you through cutting out this draft into a skin tight moulage. Since I was fitting myself, I left the opening down the center front rather than the back. I can barely breathe and it looks a little wrinkled because I’m holding the camera but it does fit like a glove when I’m standing still.
Me in the moulage
I tried the moulage on my dress form and noted where and about how much to pad. I used non-bonded upholstery padding which tears very easily and allows you to feather out the edges. I also found it helpful to cut the cups out of an old bra and pin them in place to help shape the bust. Here is my girl with bra cups in place and partially padded.
bra cups
More padding until the moulage is filled out. This will take several tries but just keep shaping until the moulage is filled but not bursting. For my form cover I made another moulage from linen and added neck and armhole facings.
batting
I left the side seams of the linen cover open. The upholstery batting sticks to itself and the cover so it’s impossible to get it on smoothly if you leave just the back or front open. It also sews together better at the side seams. Pin both side seams closed before starting to hand sew the side seams. I marked the seams every inch and used these marks to help keep the cover aligned while whipstitching closed.
sewing closed
My completed clone. I added tape to the center front, back, waist, hip and bust lines.
completed me
Notice the different armhole angle on me versus the form. No wonder things didn’t fit.
armhole angle
Constructing this required several sessions of work but I’m very happy with the results. Imagine having a clone of yourself that stands still for hours of fitting and doesn’t mind pins. Please comment if you have questions or need sources.

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