In Which The Blockhead Makes A Block (aka Pattern Learnings for Smart-Making)

I’m baaaaaaack! I still haven’t taken my super scuba outfit on a test drive, but I plan to very soon. (It’s been “lapping flames of Hellfire” hot here lately, and if there’s one thing your intrepid blogger hates more than being cold, it’s being hot; bonus hate-points are awarded for being hot in head-to-toe polyester.) Thanks to everyone who left encouraging comments (aka told me I did NOT look like a total trollop in the skirt): your kind words have emboldened me to eventually leave the house looking super scuba fabulous! And now for something completely different…

I alluded to this briefly a couple of times, but I enrolled myself in another patternmaking class with Nina! Our last class was this week, and I’m excited to have a skirt and a bodice block to work from going forward. We started with the bodice in the first session, and oooooh boy…I STRUGGLED that first class.

Problem 1: It was excessively hot in the building. Having been told to wear something tight to class to ensure accurate measurements, I was clad in the eye-wateringly tight skirt of doom (yeah, that’s right: I actually wore that out of the house; to be fair to me, it was for science!!), a spaghetti strap tank top, a pair of tights, and a light sweater. This was too much body-con polyester and too many layers for the temperature of the building, and I removed the sweater–my one removable layer–immediately. As a result, I spent the rest of the evening feeling pretty self-conscious about how little I was wearing, and how tight ALL OF IT was. Problem 2: I did not have a partner for class. A couple of my fellow students signed up for class in conjunction with a sibling (awwww!) in order to be able to sew for that sibling and get a good fit. There ought to have been an odd number of us, and I was supposed to be paired up with someone who ended up not showing up. Nina had paired herself up with the other un-paired student prior to it becoming clear that the mystery student was not coming, which meant I spent a lot of time awkwardly waiting for her to come around to help me while simultaneously double-checking everyone else’s measurements. Problem 3: I am still a n00b at pattern drafting. The basic concepts took some time to sink in, and since drawing them out on the paper is a total DIY job and I’ve never done it before, I struggled and felt very UNconfident about what I was doing.

By the time we finished with the front bodice piece, the heat and math and drawing and confusion had gotten the better of all of us, and the back was a massive struggle. Due to the combination of Problems 1-3, mine was half-assed like you wouldn’t believe (well, if you’ve read here for a while, you might very well believe it!) and I didn’t feel great about how the muslin of it would sew up. The measurements seemed garbled and I had no idea how close it would be to my actual body. I knew the armhole would be FUBAR, as did Nina, but we were all totally over it by the time 9:30 came around so I just took home the pieces I had and went with it. Some crazy how, I have ended up with an excellent-fitting bodice! Some crazier how, the first iteration actually wasn’t very far off; most subsequent passes at the bodice have been little tweaks here and there as opposed to major overhauls.

Bodice block, version 1.0

Bodice block, version 1.0

Bodice block, final

Bodice block, final; note the decreased size of the front waist dart and the better armhole

I did learn something funny/sad about my bust at class: my bust apex is actually closer to my waist than to my shoulders. 😦 I have no tits!!!! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE??!?!?!?* Grr. (*For the record, I know it’s totally possible to have a low bust point and be small-chested. I’m just bitter!) Fortunately, the skirt was so much easier than the bodice when it came to from-scratch drafting! And, you know, no morale-crushing surprises were revealed re: my proportions in that area, so you know, maybe that colored my opinion…

First attempt at the skirt block (aka a rectangle)

First attempt at the skirt block (aka a rectangle)

Final skirt pattern--much better!

Final skirt pattern–much better!

Despite the relative ease vs the bodice draft, the skirt waist was way off when I sewed up my first muslin. The biggest issue was that the center darts on the skirt weren’t lining up with the waist darts on the bodice piece. After tweaking the dart positions, I made a second version; that would have been great, except that I forgot to think about the waist measurement issue beforehand. I decided to see how close the two pieces were to fitting together and realized there was NO WAY they’d fit. To get the bodice and skirt sewn together, I just took in the needed extra width at the skirt side seams and marked up the muslin so I would know what to adjust on the flat. Here is the whole shebang together:

Fitting shell front view

Fitting shell front view

And from the side

And from the side

And the back

And the back, complete with sloppy-ass zipper insertion

The shell has seam allowance on each armhole, but not at the neck or hem. I need to take a wedge out of the CF neck and adjust the position of the side seams between my bust and hip (and transfer these adjustments to my flat pattern pieces), but apart from that it’s basically done! My zipper insertion is pretty grotesque–I just really wanted to see how everything fit–and is causing some of those ripples at the back. I used a 22″ invisible zipper ca. 1971 because it was the closest thing I had to being long enough. With respect to the fit, I wanted as little ease in the bodice as I could get away with–I wanted that part to reflect my actual body, in part so that I could use stretch knits or wovens without having to worry about excess ease or bagginess. I’d rather add ease than subtract it, basically. 🙂 And to be frank, my figure is pretty uneventful in terms of curves–my waist is really the only thing I’ve got going for me there, so if I make something fitted, I want to make sure it gets showcased to maximum effect. Although Tom did capture a really hilarious and awesome photo of me on our way out to take these photos, and it sure provides a nice optical illusion:

This is a lie. A nice, curvy lie....

This is a lie. A nice, curvy lie….

(Seriously, isn’t that amazing and disturbing?? I promise my ass is not nearly that impressive in real life, and I have no idea how Tom managed to capture that illusion on camera…)

I really want the core concepts of block drafting to sink in, because it will help me sew better not just for myself, but for anyone else I choose to sew for in the future. I kept the worksheets in case I ever need to draw stuff out again, but hopefully I can work from my block for any womenswear tasks. Nina gave all of us sheets of oaktag so that we can transfer our patterns, and once I make the adjustments needed to my flat paper pieces, that is what I will do.

Do any of you have blocks that you rely on for fitting or designing? Have you ever self-drafted?