So much had happened since my last post; all of it good. My son and daughter-in-law welcomed baby Milena. Her arrival coincided with my construction and installation of draperies in their new home. Needless to say, it was a very, very busy time.
After helping the new family get settled, it was time to head home and prepare for my dear sister-in law’s wedding, held in our backyard. When you’re the resident family dressmaker, weddings mean loads of sewing; all of it fun and leading up to a happy celebration.
The rehearsal dinner was an informal gathering and I chose to replicate a designer skirt I had seen. This Oscar de la Renta skirt, from his “paint splatter” collection was white denim with applied sequins and priced at a mere $1900.
I had a length of white denim with a bit of lycra in the stash. The skirt front was drafted by using a jeans pattern, lapping the right over left front, and tapering to a mid-calf length straight skirt. The back was slightly more complicated. My jeans pattern back wouldn’t cooperate and produce a well fitting rear. Draping on my custom dress form solved the problem.
I placed style lines for the back yoke, waistband and side seam. The waistband is slightly lowered at center front. I used flat felled seams and the only problem was my machine didn’t like the bulk of multiple fabric layers and the thicker thread I was using for topstitching. I found that hammering (use a clean regular carpenters hammer) the seams, especially at points where seams intersected, made a huge difference. Hammering the fabric prior to sewing seems to soften and compress the fibers. A heavy duty jeans needle also helped. The long, sharp point pierced the denim much easier preventing skipped stitches and thread nests.
Now for the fun part. I gathered sequins, beads and started drawing. An air erasable marker lets you preview the placement and size of the “paint blobs.”
The large yellow sequins had holes in the center but I decided they would be better if the holes were closer to one edge. Joanns Fabric carries this punch in the leatherworking department. It’s pricey at about $40 (great time to use the discount coupon), but makes the tiniest holes and was perfect for the task.
Completed and on to the more wedding sewing.
Next post (and I promise it will be soon) will detail the design and construction of the bride’s dress, little girls’ dresses, mother-in-law’s dress and (as if I didn’t have enough going on) a Chanel style tunic constructed from a wonderful fabric from Mendel Goldberg. Here’s a few preview shots:
I also want to mention that my friend, Kate Davies, has published a book, Making Life More Beautiful, about sewing, crafting, knitting and life. I met Kate while on a trip to London and immensely enjoyed the time with her. She is doing a sew-along emulating the style of Frida Kahlo, so hop over to her site and check it out.
Also, I’ve written another article for Threads Magazine detailing the draft and construction of a designer skirt. The skirt was based an Yves St. Laurent style straight skirt and I’ve explained many of the details that take an ordinary style into the designer realm. There is also a web extra explaining a few adaptations which are helpful when using a heavier fabric, such as a designer boucle.
This is an experiment in the art of trompe l’oeil as the French call it, or to deceive the eye. I’ll explore how to alter the grain of fabric to create the illusion of a less bumpy and curvy shape. I’ll also use my custom shoulder pads as explained in my last post and in my article for Threads Magazine to transform asymmetrical shoulders into an evenly shaped figure.
I’ve chosen a loosely woven patterned fabric and will create a Chanel style jacket for this figure. The dress form has been marked with the standard balance lines. Notice the back view which clearly shows the right shoulder much more sloped than the left. A note to those readers who have seen my posts about various types of dress forms. This is an adjustable foam style with dials. Not my favorite but after padding to match the figure it works fine. A professional model is nice but you can make anything work!
The style lines are added in purple tape. I’ve chosen to bring the princess line closer to the neck edge which creates a more vertical line makes it easier to shape the fabric in the next step.
In order to even out the shoulders I constructed shoulder pads using my pattern from the Threads Magazine article. I added additional layers to the right shoulder pad to make the shoulder height the same on both sides. Rather than try and alter a pattern, it was easier to drape the jacket directly on the form. Note that I carefully marked right and left sides. Although the garment sections look symmetrical on the form they are vastly different when laid flat.
The red stitches show final alterations to the shoulders. Height is added to accommodate the shoulder pads and I widened the shoulder line to balance the torso for a more flattering shape.
Rather than cut the side front and side back garment garment sections according to the pattern, I wanted to shape the fabric to follow the seam lines and minimize an off-grain cut at the shoulder line. For the side front I started with a rectangle of fabric. I pinned the toile to the fabric and rotated the fabric so that the straight grain lined up with the princess seam. As you can see, this caused excess fabric to bunch up along the front armhole.
Working slowly with a steam iron, start easing the fabric towards the armhole. The fibers will compress and you will be able to ease out much of the excess fabric.
Work carefully as you don’t want to press permanent creases into the fabric. Depending on how pliable your fabric is, you may be able to ease all of the extra out. If not just readjust the seam line to be slightly off grain but you should be able to work the seamline almost on the straight grain. Fabric choice is crucial here. Most loosly woven boucles will ease nicely. My fabric was a little tighter weave than most wool boucles and I was able to ease almost all of the excess fabric out. Trim the excess fabric at the armhole.
The fabric is now nicely shaped but very unstable and will want to return to its original shape. I cut a stay from lightweight cotton and basted it to the fabric. I’ve added two rows of machine stay stitching and eased the armhole to correspond to the toile. Stay tape keeps the shoulder seam from stretching out of shape. This fabric wanted to ravel badly. Although many couture sources frown on using a serger I use it to overlock the seams and prevent fraying. I use a very lightweight Guttermann thread (not regular sewing thread) so as not to add bulk to the seam. The lining is cut according to the pattern (not shaped as the boucle), basted and quilted as usual following the weave of the fabric. Your quilting lines will curve and a walking foot as well as diagonal basting will keep everything lined up without puckering.
This clearly shows the distorted weave but it will be hidden under the arm and the jacket front will show a flattering vertically placed weave. The side back is handled the same way. It will be easier to shape as you won’t be dealing with the bust. It does nicely conceal rounded shoulders and back.
I used purchased navy fringe and sewed a narrow white cord in the middle. Two pockets looked better than four as I wanted to minimize the bust. The princess seams are barely visible and the jacket gives a taller and slimmer appearance.
I’m working on more custom trim and have a beautiful piece of Linton tweed for the next venture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. TheArt 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Trim off the paper above the sloped line. Cut along every third square and overlap to create a curved pattern.
The pattern will spiral over itself. Keep going and let it overlap. It will be divided into sections later.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Front and back views; no selfies!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Form the first pleat. Second and third pleats are formed.
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
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.
Now I cut the waistline seam leaving a 1 inch seam allowance.
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.
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.
Why not turn this into a design detail? Construct it like a narrow welt pocket.
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.
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.
One of my blogging buddies, Kate at Fabrickated, has been exploring the world of garment draping. She has several recent posts documenting her experiences and produced some lovely draped skirts. Head over to her site for some inspiration. Her latest post deals with an asymmetric pleated skirt drape, not the easiest thing to tackle. I’ve done this a few times and offered to post a pictorial of the steps I take when doing this type of garment.
Judging from the directions Kate was given, I suspect her instructor is referencing a text “Draping: Art and Craftsmanship in Fashion Design” by Annette Duburg. It is sold on Amazon for an exorbitant price and was (as I understand) out of print for awhile. Fortunately it is now available at the Center For Pattern Design in St. Helena, CA. Latest price when I checked was $60. It’s not a beginner book but will push those with some experience to a new level.
This is a detailed post with many photos but I wanted to err on the side of too much information rather than too little. Draping is more technical than just wrapping the muslin around a dress form and this might shed some light for those of you who want to give it a go.
You will need a dress form. The closer your form is to your (or person you are doing this for) size, the less fiddling you will need to do with the finished pattern. A professional form is ideal. If yours is the adjustable kind it will have gaps and knobs, so cover it with a tight tee (or two) so you have a somewhat solid surface to pin into. I’m working on a professional form which I have padded to my exact size and covered it with a tight linen cover that mimics my shape. Permanent lines mark center front, back, bust and hip. These serve as points of reference during the draping process.
Choose a fabric which has similar weight and drape to your finished garment. You don’t want to drape in heavy canvas or a slinky sheer. A solid light color is best as a print will be distracting and prevent you from seeing the style lines clearly.
TEAR, don’t cut, a length of muslin the guesstimated skirt length plus 60 cm (about 23 inches). This is overly generous but what Kate was given in her directions, so I won’t confuse the issue. I used 150 cm (60 inch) wide muslin, which is what is called for in Duburg’s book. The book has five photos of the process and assumes you are quite experienced so this will be a much more detailed explanation.
Lay your muslin out flat and mark a line 50 cm (20 inches) in from the left side along the lengthwise grain. I like to do this in a dotted red line to distinguish the fabric grain from subsequent markings. The light colored muslin allows me to see the dress form lines through the fabric. Leave about 15 cm above the waist and pin the muslin to the center front at the waist and bottom of form. Keep the grain line straight.
Closeup of my grain line marking:
Starting at the center front hip line, gently smooth the fabric along the hip line towards the right side seam.
Smooth the fabric around and pin at the waist on the right side.
You will have fullness at the waist. This would be converted into a waist dart on a straight skirt but I don’t want a dart on this draped panel, so we’re going to transfer this excess fabric to another location. If you’ve ever studied dart manipulation, you know that fitting darts can’t be taken out but they can be moved.
Working diagonally from the center front hip towards the waist side seam, smooth the fabric. You will be able to remove some, but not all of the excess fullness. Don’t pull or stretch the fabric, just gently smooth it with your hand. Re pin the side seam.
Now work from the right hip diagonally up towards the center front smoothing out the remaining fullness. Remove the pin at the center front waist and allow the center grain line to move to the left. Don’t get right and left confused here. When I refer to right or left, I’m talking about the FORM’S right or left side. Pin along the waist from center front to right side seam.
You will now see some fullness along the left waist. We are going to incorporate this into soft pleating.
The fabric is tight above the waist and I like to clip it, relieving the tension. Be careful not to clip into the seam. I fold the fabric towards me along the seam line, insert sharp scissors not quite to the fold and clip. No risk of clipping too far that way.
Form the first pleat: Decide where you would like the uppermost pleat to lie. I wanted it to run diagonally across the abdomen from the left side to just above the hip on the right side. I find it easiest to visualize it as a big dart. Place your left hand at the dart point and hold the bulk of fabric on the form’s left side in your right hand. Lift the fabric and allow a soft pleat to form.
Adjust the depth of the fold. I have about 2.5-3.0 cm takeup. The depth of the fold is your choice but this seems like a good amount, not too shallow so it looks unintentional and not so deep you are dealing with unwanted volume. Pin through all layers at the waist seam. Repeat the process for the next pleat. I offset the pleats from each other at the waist so they don’t stack up one on top of another. You may need to play with holding the fabric away from the form and letting it fall into a soft fold a few times before getting a pleasing look. Don’t rush. Get each one right before going on. It is much harder to come back and adjust after you have pleats on top of more pleats. Let the fabric fall as it wants. An important part of successful draping is to let the fabric tell you what it wants to do. Don’t force it.
Repeat for a third pleat.
Notice how the red grain line is drifting all over the place. This is supposed to happen. Having it marked in red and being able to see the black CF line on the form is helpful so you understand exactly how this grain line is shifting.
I think three pleats here are enough and now I’ll shift the pleat direction and allow them to fall more along the side seam.
These pleats are formed exactly the same way. Decide where you want the pleat to fall, how full it should be, hold the fabric up with your right hand and let it fall into a soft pleat. Pin at the waist and repeat two more times.
Happy with the look. If not, unpin back as far as needed and try again. Nothing has been yet cut so you are free to do this until you are satisfied. Be aware of how much fabric overlap you are creating. This pleating resulted in 13 layers of fabric so be sure the fabric you are planning to use is thin enough so multiple layers won’t be a problem. I would use a fairly lightweight fabric for this design and even so, it’s going to need some serious pressing to get a smooth waistline seam.
Now you need to mark all the design and seam lines so this design can be laid flat, cut and put back together. A professional form will have slightly raised side seams so you can feel them through the fabric. Mark along the right side seam line.
Also mark the hipline and new center front. I mark seam lines in black and balance lines (that’s the hip and CF) in blue. Tie a length of elastic around the waist and carefully draw the waist seam.
Trim the excess fabric. I leave a 2 cm seam. Make sure all your pleats are laying nice and flat; mark and cut the seam carefully. You’ll need the resulting odd shaped edge to re-position your pleats. I have also placed a little mark about where I want the curved edge of the skirt to end.The reason for marking this will become clear when we remove the fabric from the form. Mark the hem. Also I placed pins in the approximate place where I want to trim the left side.
Mark each pleat carefully. I have marked all the pleat fold lines in green and drawn arrows to indicate what folds where.
Starting with the last pleat you formed, work backwards marking each pleat and removing pins as you go. I like to mark almost the entire length of the folds; it makes it easier for me to see exactly where I want each pleat placed when I return this to the dress form.
Remove the fabric from the form and re-pin all the pleats. Lay it flat on your work table and mark the new center front line. Also drop the right side seam to the hem, tapering slightly if desired.
Remove all the pins from the pleats and lay the fabric flat. I now want to cut a smooth curve along the left edge. Using a drafting curve create a smooth curve from the hem up to the mark I previously placed at the left side seam. The mark was to ensure that the pleat underlay was covered by the last fold.
Finished drape. The irregular edge is your guide to reforming the pleats so be sure to cut it accurately when you cut your fashion fabric.
Return the section to the dress form and pin in place. Check that everything lines up and you are happy with the final look.
I decided to create a steeper curve along the left edge.
The remainder of the skirt is draped as a simple straight or pencil skirt starting at the right side seam, around the back, past the left side seam to the center front. Don’t forget that this still needs to be sewn up and fitted on the wearer’s body. The closer the form is to the body shape, the less altering will be required. If you decide to do much draping, then a form which mimics your body will save hours of work.
I hope this has made the draping process clearer. There are many ways to approach draping but the more you do it the faster and more adept you will become. It will also give you a clearer understanding of with fabric will and won’t do and you will be better able to judge if a particular fabric will work in the design you have chosen. Have fun!