September 17, 2012

the Rub-Off

In last week's post, I talked about how I did a rub-off for the above cardigan and I definitely wanted to let everyone in on my secrets for how to do this yourself. Ok, ok, its not really a secret, but still there are many who don't even know what a rub-off is. I didn't until a few years ago either, but basically its taking an existing garment and creating a paper pattern from it. There are several methods that you could use - some may damage the pre-existing garment and there are those that won't. I used one type of method for my couch - where I utilized muslin and draped it over the existing couch in pieces to create a pattern. I was sooooooo thrilled with how everything turned out with my couch, that I simply had to give it a shot with an actual piece of clothing. I used a different method to achieve the rub off in the case of my cardigan. In that particular method, I put pattern paper underneath the existing garment and put both of those layers on top of an old flannel board I found at my local thrift  - you can totally use anything that a pin can poke through - and stuck pins into the garment seamlines and edges. From there I took out the pins and connected the pin dots with a pencil and added seam allowances and any details - like pleating or gathering or design lines - which were in the original cardigan. It might sound intense but, really its not and in both cases - muslin draping and pin dotting through to paper - the original garment is not harmed and can still be worn. This is extremely beneficial for garments that you want to copy that are vintage.

So you might be asking where in the world I learned about these methods and how to do this. I would love to tell you that I came up with all of this on my own, but no, I didn't. Instead, if you are interested in doing this yourself, you absolutely need to get a copy of this rather amazing (and extremely affordable) book. Patternmaking for a perfect fit by Steffani Lincecum. I think this book is full of informational gems and really for what it contains, I'm actually really really surprised that more hasn't been said about it by the sewing community. I actually bought the book thinking it was something completely different than it was - I feel the name of the book is a bit misleading - and when it arrived was even more happy that I had purchased it as I was pleasantly surprised by the content. Not only does it guide you through the two methods I mentioned above about how to do a rub-off, but it is chucked full of information on how to add in elements from the garment you're rubbing off and how to draft and alter the pattern to create several different looks.

I think the really great part about this whole thing is that, for the most part, when you become confident in your rub-off skills, you'll find that you can forget doing a muslin - the muslin in this case would be the original garment - granted that you love the way your original garment fits. Also, if you love the shape of the original garment, but it hasn't ever fit quite right, you can rub-off a pattern and fix the fit and make up the garment in something even better than the original and voila - a perfectly fitting garment that you already know that you'll look good in and love. I just did this with my mom's old boyfriend jacket. I love that jacket, but its much too tight across the upper back and guess what? That's something I know how to fix and so I rubbed it off, altered the pattern and am now just about to cut it out in a fabulous ponte knit - something I'm terribly terribly excited about!

Now, this is something that I would definitely rate as intermediate. The book can guide you through how to make a rub-off but you have to know how to construct the garment without instructions after its been rubbed off. Steffani's book guides you through doing a few different types of construction techniques for a few basic garments, but I feel that this is best learned by actually sewing up like garments through the process of constructing sewing patterns. For example, the cardigan that I rubbed off had a raglan sleeve. Not only would I have been befuddled when it came to rubbing it off had I not already seen a raglan sleeve pattern piece before, but I would have been even a bit more bewildered as to how to construct it too. You also need to be able to dissect a piece a clothing, meaning that you need to have a general idea of how it was patterned - princess seams, darts, gathers, sleeve type, etc. This also comes with experience and time.

I have several garments in my closet that are RTW and that I'm excited to rub-off. What about you? Is this a technique that you would utilize? I highly recommend Ms. Lincecum's book - it's excellent! Also, this opens up a whole new world of items you can add to your wardrobe without having to necessarily test drive a sewing pattern. Try it - it's totally addicting!
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