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?

One Million Muslins (aka The Great Coat Conundrum of 2015)

Hello again!

I have already failed at updating weekly while I’m taking my workshop–oops! But it’s because I’ve been beyond busy and am struggling to keep up: I still work 2 nights a week plus weekends at the shop, the workshop takes one other night each week, and we’ve had some house-related emergencies in the last week that required dedicated attention and time off of work (sump pump drain line frozen + lots of snow + thaw = Mads stays up ALL NIGHT and ALL DAY bailing water out of the sump pit BY HAND until a janky-ass workaround can be set up), so unfortunately my blog has been neglected. Hell, I’m lucky I found time to do my homework for tonight’s class!! Hopefully things will settle down soon and I can feel less rushed.

The title of this post is in reference to my homework for class each week; I feel like all I do anymore is make muslins/toiles of this coat and that it’s all I’m ever going to be allowed to sew forever. But my coat has enough fit issues (gee, maybe that’s because it’s for a 12 year old and my body is decidedly NOT that of a preteen…) that I have to keep making a fresh version each week so we can see if we’re getting close, so it is what it is. I think we’re pretty much there now, though, after my last practice version–it’s looking awesome and like a grownup coat for grownups! 😀 (Disclaimer: please ignore the cardboard box pile! Tom got lots of stuff for his studio and I am going to use the cardboard for pattern supports once I have a free evening to cut them all up.)

According to Tom, it looks like "a dirty lab coat." So helpful.

According to Tom, it looks like “a dirty lab coat.” So helpful.

Look at that straight side seam action!

Look at that straight side seam action!

My big girl shoulders are now accommodated by the coat

My big girl shoulders are now accommodated by the coat

Wingspan!!

Wingspan!!

So much better, isn’t it?? I’m very excited about how it’s coming together. The side seam issue (they were tipping toward the back the last time I showed this to you) was resolved by taking a slice of bulk from the front pieces and transferring it to the back piece at each side seam. Now they’re falling straight down as they should! We’ve done so many revisions on the shoulders of this coat, but I think we’re finally there (or close). I needed about an inch at each shoulder vs. the original width, which we added last week and which can be seen in action above. (Interestingly, I assumed my shoulders were likely wider than the average, but learned last week that they are EXACTLY average at 5″ each–I was very surprised!) Nina raised the neckline all the way around, but not by too much. She also added height to the sleeve cap, because we NEEDED it. When making my muslin for last week’s class, I noticed that I had a larger armscye than sleeve, which is not okay! Making this week’s muslin, they were pretty much the same size (which makes sense for the era of the pattern, since they weren’t into gathered or puffed sleeves/shoulders), with just the tiniest bit more ease in the sleeve itself, as it should be. I took it upon myself to lengthen the sleeve this week, since I know I’ll need it. There is a cuff and a cuff facing to consider, but I’d rather have too much length (and have to shorten) than to make my coat and end up with a 12-year-old’s sleeves on a 29-year-old’s coat, if you follow me. We scooped out the armhole some more as well, just for ease of movement and what have you. What do you guys think: does it look pretty good?? I am wondering if my upper back will require any extra work; I know I am broader at the upper back than at the upper front, but I’m not sure that I need any extra wiggle room back there.

Here are some photos of my previous muslin after last week’s class, and my adjusted flat pattern before I used it to sew up what you see above:

Nina split the sleeve open to show how much height we needed; the marker is to show me where a raglan would go if I wanted one.

Nina split the sleeve open to show how much height we needed; the marker is to show me where a raglan would go if I wanted one.

Previous muslin

Previous muslin from the front

Flat pattern with changes made at last week's class--doesn't that armhole look nice?!?

Flat pattern with changes made at last week’s class–doesn’t that armhole look nice?!?

Shoulder soulmates

Shoulder soulmates

Original sleeve tracing on the left, present sleeve iteration on the right

Original sleeve tracing on the left, present sleeve iteration on the right

Tycho demanded that I stop working and feed him immediately.

Tycho demanded that I stop working and feed him immediately.

I apologize for the lack of photos of the muslin prior to this one; ultimately, this current iteration is a big improvement! We meet for the last time tonight ( 😦 😦 😦 ) so we’ll see what Nina thinks! I haven’t done anything with my facings, collars, cuffs, or cape yet, but having the main body pieces to work from will help me figure out what to do with the rest.

To counteract the very beige nature of this post, here are some photos of some new vintage pretties that I got myself recently:

1930's jacket and skirt!!

1930’s jacket and skirt!!

1920's blouse--this will be fun!!

1920’s blouse–this will be fun!!

BUTTONS!!!!!!!!!!!

BUTTONS!!!!!!!!!!!

These look like fingerwaved hair and are thus some of my favorites.

These look like fingerwaved hair and are thus some of my favorites.

MOAR BUTTONS!!!!!!

MOAR BUTTONS!!!!!!

Gorgeous patterns, including 2 with coats/jackets and one 1939 wrap dress!

Gorgeous patterns, including 2 with coats/jackets and one 1939 wrap dress!

Close-up of THAT JACKET THO.

Close-up of THAT JACKET THO.

I got very generous Etsy gift cards for xmas from Tom and my older sister, so I put them to good use at last! And there may or may not be more buttons on their way… 😀

I haven’t made much progress on my pants–tracing the pattern isn’t even done!–and I have been trying to help a friend make a shirt for his 1-year-old nephew, which is coming along nicely. Kids stuff is so mind-meltingly tiny, though! O_o My sewing mojo (“sewjo”) has been kind of missing lately, so hopefully I can find something to make that doesn’t require much effort and that results in something wearable and awesome. I am so tired of muslin!

Hawthorn Sew-Along – Muslin Complete!

Hello again! It’s nice and dreary here in Ohio–perfect sewing weather, right?!

I cranked out two muslins for the top portion of my Colette Hawthorn over the weekend, and I’m very happy with the fit of the 2nd. (PS: I’ve never actually made a muslin before, but my favorite part was absolutely leaving the plum-colored thread from my last project in the machine and not having to give one single fuck about matching the color. Speaking as a person with lots of OCD issues, that was a big deal!) Below are two photos of the second iteration.

Front view

Front view

Side view

Side view

The first attempt exposed three primary issues: the darts were too long (hitting me right in the, er, “apex”), the waist hit about 1″ above my actual waist, and the armholes were all pinch-y and cramping my pits like no other. The first two problems were fixed by adding 1″ to the length of the bodice; I opted to keep the darts in their original position and not lengthen them (a PITA, since I had to slash and extend the pattern piece and do math to make sure the new dart was the same length as the old one), so now the point hits where it should and the waist hits at my waist. The arms are another story entirely: on the second attempt, I cut the arm opening  marked for the largest size and did not see much of a benefit. (I cut a straight size 0 due to my actual measurements and the finished measurements on the envelope.) I’ve made some marks on the muslin that I will transfer to my traced pattern piece before cutting into my fashion fabric, and that should open them up to a more comfortable configuration. Gonzo re-drafting FTW! My armpits are looking forward to not being invaded by swaths of fabric in the future.

Irritatingly, my additional yardage will not arrive until Thursday this week, so that’s the earliest I can start on the bodice steps. To save myself some grief, I’ve already treated my fusible interfacing so that shrinkage isn’t an issue when I apply it later. Using that stuff is another first for me, and I’m pretty nervous about it. O_o I’ll also be cutting my skirt pieces ASAP so that I’m ready to jump right into those steps. Buttons are still TBD, but I think I will go for the ones below, from fabric.com:

I’d thought about a contrasting color (the same buttons come in orange, and orange is kind of my jam right now) but was afraid of it looking too juvenile. These add just a bit of whimsy while still coordinating with the fabric I picked. Thoughts?

While practicing with these muslins, I took the opportunity to test out French seams. My fabric is very light and presses well and would be a great candidate for that kind of seam. I had no trouble with this new-fangled finish method (luckily). Megan Nielsen’s tutorial was very helpful and easy to follow, and I’m glad I happened upon it over the weekend!

Even though the weather is perfect for staying inside and sewing, we have so much going on that I probably won’t be doing any sewing or prepping until at least Wednesday. And OMG I just remembered that I haven’t even pressed my fabric yet, and that I’ll have to wash and press the stuff coming on Thursday, too. FFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

(I think my internal mantra for this project needs to be, “This isn’t homework–it’s supposed to be fun. Chill the fuck out.”)