I’m so glad that so many of you are excited to see my progress on designing my own sewing patterns! Yay! First of all, I think its important to establish how sewing patterns are made. Commercial sewing patterns start life as a basic sewing pattern and are either drafted on paper from body measurements or they are draped onto a dressform. The basic patterns that are created from this process are called slopers or blocks. There can be many types of blocks – bodice, sleeve, skirt, jacket/coat bodices and sleeves, pants, blocks especially for knits, etc. Also keep in mind that even within block/sloper types there can be different versions depending on the amount of wearing ease the end version of a pattern is going to have. From here, these basic patterns are manipulated and turned into many of the groovier patterns that you see today. This is actually the fun part! Turning a basic style into something more….exciting.
Personally, I feel there is a difference between drafting and designing sewing patterns. When you draft a pattern, you are drafting a basic pattern from measurements or draping a pattern onto a dressform or another person’s body. Design is what you do with the pattern after you’ve got the basic pattern.
● In my book, there are several ways to go about getting the basic patterns. You can learn how to draft sewing patterns yourself, from your measurements. This can be an intimidating process to tackle without a teacher – ask me how I know. I’ve drafted several patterns before (still do), from my own measurements, and I have nothing against pattern drafting, but it can end up taking the same amount of time to fit a flat drafted pattern as it does a commercial pattern.
● You could also learn how to drape a basic sewing pattern onto a dressform – but wait. I don’t know about you, but my dress form is not a perfectly padded out version of my body. Sad, but true. So in essence my draped sewing pattern would fit my dressform, but I would have to refit it to fit me. Ha ha ha! Dressforms that are made to your measurements can cost a lot of money and though I’ve seen several people pad out their dressforms themselves, its not easy and it really does take two people to get it right. You need a draping buddy, friends.
● Additionally, you could pay someone to create a few basic patterns for you by either drafting from your measurements or draping them on your body. This is a great idea, if you have access to someone who knows how to draft sewing patterns and would be willing to work with you.
● You could also rub-off a favorite basic garment that you already have in your closet. Say you had a perfect t-shirt. Create a paper pattern from it and use it as a basis for manipulation.
● Or you can pick and choose some basic patterns from the pattern book or an independent pattern company, get the fit down and get started on your own pattern manipulation. This is the road that I’ve decided to take for this series because I feel its the most accessible.
So what’s all this basic pattern business? What defines a basic pattern? These are usually the types of patterns that are drafted and then turned into something else. The Fitting Shells put out by Vogue (dress and pants), McCall’s (btw, this one has cup sizes) and Butterick (misses and womens’) are great examples. But we must think broader too. A fitting shell will give you a basic bodice, sleeve and skirt, but what about pants, knits, jackets, coats and all of the other types of clothing out there? I think its a good idea to think about several options and take stock of the type of clothing that you wear the most.
Consider the Renfrew for t-shirts – this a great basic pattern that could easily turn into a tank top for summer, a cardigan, a hoodie, a dress, etc. What about the Clover from Colette Patterns? These little pants would be a great block for some skinny jeans. The Laurel that just came out – a great basic style semi fitted dress that could translate well into a simple button up shirt or even jacket. Yup, that’s right, I just said jacket from a dress! What you’re looking for in a basic pattern is simplicity in style and something that could be easily modified for different looks. There’s not a lot of gathering or pleating or design lines going on in the pattern but yet, you can envision some. That’s the idea! Usually basic patterns – with the exclusion of knits – have dart control meaning they have darts. Darts are what help create shape and so when you’re looking for some basic patterns, be aware that its normal to have darts. Look at the fitting shell (links above) – the bodice is darted, so is the skirt and in vintage patterns there are darts at the elbow on a sleeve. This is good because darts will give us the foundation to be able to manipulate the pattern, so look for that.
In my next post, I’ll be going over my own personal arsenal of great basic patterns and from there giving you more options for basic patterns from several different companies. In fact, you’ve probably got a lot of the same basic sewing patterns that I do. Pretty spiffy, right?
What are some great basic sewing patterns that you’ve found? What are the kinds/types of clothes that you wear the most?
Since I started teaching sewing classes last year, I’ve noticed a trend from many students who have taken classes from me. We’ll discuss fit and how it can be quite an ordeal to get a sewing pattern to fit you the way you want it to and inevitably it always moves onto, “I want to know how to make my own sewing patterns, how to create my own designs because what I see in the pattern books these days, is not what I want to make.” Admittedly, I know there are some tragic sewing patterns out there and with other sewing patterns it can be hard to see past the envelope cover – a topic for another day.
Though I would love to talk more in depth about fit, I feel that this can be a fairly personal issue and it can change quite a bit from person to person. I say, get yourself a good fitting book, like this one, and start learning how to go about fitting your handmade garments better, especially basic patterns (more on this to come). As for what’s about to come up here, I think the realm of design seems to many, nothing less than mysterious. From the standpoint of a sewing enthusiast – someone who has never gone to fashion design school but is a mega geek about sewing (that’s me!) – I think it can be a tricky road to finding out just how one goes about trying to knock off looks and styles that inspire (and work) and even come up with a unique design all their own. So I’ve decided to start a new series here.
Pattern Play. I’m going to show you my progress as I start to create my own sewing patterns. Now wait a minute – Hold the phone!!!! Does this mean that I’m starting up my own pattern company? NO! I’m just going to show you my progress as I tackle designing my own sewing patterns for personal use. Additionally, I’ve decided to do this from the vantage of the home sewer because quite frankly, that’s what I am and I’m proud of it.
I think the idea of playing designer appeals to so many of us that sew our own clothes because its one more outlet in the creative process of sewing. Not only that, but playing around with sewing patterns is really really fun. This series is all about exploration into new and exciting territory and about making it personal. Its also going to be about liberating oneself from the confines of the offerings in the pattern book and using your own imagination to come up with a design all your own.
I do hope that you are as excited as I am about this venture. Do you ever long to create some of your own designs or even recreate some of the designs from the pattern book with a pattern that already fits you? I have loads more to show and discuss with you so stay tuned for more excitement and fun!
Click on the image for a great discussion on tailoring for women!
Y’all seemed pretty keen on the idea of watching the progress of two tailored jackets – one traditionally hand tailored and the other fusibly tailored. I thought I would start this series with my thoughts on tailoring. Tailoring is a very ambiguous term these days and it seems to refer to a lot more than the art of making jackets. So let’s take down a few definitions shall we?
From the Wikipedia we get this:
“A tailor is a person who makes, repairs, or alters clothing professionally, especially suits and men’s clothing. Although the term dates to the thirteenth century, tailor took on its modern sense in the late eighteenth century, and now refers to makers of men’s and women’s suits, coats, trousers, and similar garments, usually of wool, linen, or silk. The term refers to a set of specific hand and machine sewing and pressing techniques that are unique to the construction of traditional jackets. Retailers of tailored suits often take their services internationally, traveling to various cities, allowing the client to be measured locally. Traditional tailoring is called bespoke tailoring in the United Kingdom, where the heart of the trade is London’s Savile Row tailoring, and custom tailoring in the United States and Hong Kong. This is unlike made to measure which uses pre-existing patterns. A bespoke garment or suit is completely original and unique to each customer.”
This is very much in line with how I view tailoring. Especially the part about “a set of specific hand and machine sewing and pressing techniques that are unique to the construction of traditional jackets.” I think its important to set this distinction as I see the term tailoring thrown around a lot with regards to fit. Now this may be true of some garments – garments that are tailored to your lifestyle or tailored to your specific figure, but I’m referring to the construction techniques of a jacket. More importantly, I’m referring to the specific techniques used to shape certain areas of a jacket like the lapel, collar, shoulder, hem, sleeve cap, etc.
From what I know about tailoring, there are 3 methods: hand, machine and fusible. Many times, I intermix all three methods into one jacket. There are certain things that I just really love about hand tailoring, but other things I don’t. There are great advantages to machine and fusible tailoring too and like hand tailoring there are some things that I don’t think work as well as others but these are personal preferences and I believe will vary with your experience. Also, I truly believe that the fabric that is picked for a jacket project, will give you more direction on what tailoring method you use. For example, pad stitching on my Obsession Jacket – a cotton sateen – would have been disastrous! I am not an expert tailor and perfecting pad stitching on a smooth faced fabric is not high on my to master list. So going with a fusible method made a lot more sense to me.
In this series, I’ll be showing two of the three methods, hand and fusible. You can definitely mix and match elements from each jacket to use in one jacket of your own, but I’ll try to stick to the ideas for each with each separate jacket.
All that said, what is it specifically that scares you about tailoring a jacket? If you’ve never tried one, what is the most intimidating part about making a jacket? Any tips or tricks from you more experienced sewers?
You are most welcome to disagree, agree or other, but please keep your comments respectful of myself and others. Comments will be deleted that contain hostile or rude innuendo.
image source – note that the image says just right, not perfect
I was teaching a class on fit just last night and I had an awesome bunch of ladies who were just great. We had a lot of fun. There was a moment in the class when I made the claim that there is no such thing as perfect fit. One of the ladies in the class disagreed with me stating that, “there is such a thing as perfect fit, but for many of us it is unattainable.” Now, I don’t mean to put anyone up on the chopping block and I certainly think that everyone has a right to their own view, but as someone who has fit and overfit myself many times and has fit many others of various body shapes and sizes, I absolutely can not agree. I do not believe in perfect fit – even if it did exist, at what cost does it come?
This is not to say that there is no such thing as bad fit – there is. Especially when it comes at the cost of our comfort, which I believe should be the first call to order. If something is not comfortable, in the way that it should be comfortable (note: strapless gowns will never feel like pajamas so let’s not go there) then something needs to be done to the fit to make it feel better. For myself this includes a broad upper back adjustment so that I can put my arms in front of me without pain in the sleeve. Does that make sense?
This is also not to say that there isn’t such a thing as good or great fit – there is and its worth your time to get a book or two on how to fit your body. I’ve seen plenty of garments that have absolutely wonderful fit and I don’t usually notice flaws in the fit unless I’m looking for them. And even then, usually if there is a flaw in the fit I only notice because someone points it out ie: the person who stitched it. After looking at yourself in the mirror a bazillion times and trying on the garment at several stages and all that jazz who wouldn’t notice every single wrinkle and fitting imperfection?
Aspiring to perfect fit is absolutely crazy – and it will make you crazy too. Ask me how I know – seriously because I could give you volumes as to why this is soooooo maddening! Aspire to fit your garments well, not perfectly. Let things slide that really don’t add to the overall fitting quality of the garment or especially if its not that big of a deal and you can’t for the life of you figure out how to fix it. Here’s a quote from one of my favorite authors that really puts the cap on perfectionism, in any form, for me:
“Once a close friend gave me a priceless gift. She convinced me that my sanity is much more important than the subtle nuances that I adore. The subtle nuances are the essence of perfection. The subtle nuances trigger the “Ah” response. But a life spent seeking the subtle nuances leaves little time to enjoy the big picture.”
—Sarah Ban Breathnach
Instead of seeking the subtle nuance of perfect fit, just make yourself some great clothes and stop haggling with your sanity over
the price of tea in China, I mean a wrinkle here or there.
What do you think? Is perfect fit attainable? Do you drive yourself bonkers with trying to achieve perfect fit? Jump in – this conversation is all about your opinion! Maybe you don’t agree with me – you have the right! I want to hear why.
That’s Public Service Announcement, in case you didn’t know. I usually don’t know what those types of things mean. Like LOL – for the longest time I thought it was the sound you make when you laugh and that’s why people put it in text messages. Also BFF – for the life of me, I could not figure out why anyone would want to be a Big Fat Friend, but then I found out it really stood for Best Friends Forever. Who knew?
Anyway, I’m here to just fill you in on a little something. There’s going to be a birthday sale over at the shop. Want in on the sale – sign up for the newsletter. Just in case you were worried about the newsletter thing, don’t be. I don’t send out that many newsletters and when I do, I just try to fill y’all in on stuff in the shop. Like this sale, because A Fashionable Stitch officially turns 2 tomorrow! Just sayin, don’t miss out if you don’t want to! Yay!