Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Drafting Skirt #1 - The Vera Skirt

Today's post is on drafting the Vera Skirt - inspiration skirt shown on the left, and my (scale) version on the right.
Here is the pattern from which it is made.
To create this pattern, I started with a standard skirt block. In my case I have adapted the skirt block which I bought with the mannequin, for a slightly better fit and because I like the centre front on the left. There are no seam allowances on this block.
 If you are drafting this for yourself, before you begin ensure you have sufficient wearing ease, and if you wish to lower the waistline slightly, do that before the following instructions. This skirt fits the mannequin very closely, and has the waistband on the true waist. Of course its up to you how you like your skirt to fit, but make sure it's your preferred fit before you start. It also needs to be the desired length of the finished skirt. Mine is comparatively short! 

The front and back are split into a yoke, and three panels each like so:

 As a step by step process, the yoke is split from the rest of the block first, by measuring down the desired length (mine is an equivalent to 8cm - approx 3 1/4"-  on a UK size 10 model) and cutting that line.
 The pieces formed from the dart are brought together to form the yoke.
 Smoothed out:
 After that, the remaining part of the block needs to be split into panels. So each part is divided into thirds.
 The darts are realigned by creating the dart either side of the vertical cutting lines.
 And then those pieces can be cut with a slight taper.
 The gore is a sector from a circle. So the circle would have a radius the length you want the gore to be. To identify this, I measured the equivalent of 10cm (4") down from the top of the panel, and the remaining length of the panel was the desired measurement. This piece is cut at a 35 degree angle.
 All of the required pieces. The yoke can be cut twice to form a facing. 
And then a seam allowance is added. Here I have not added a seam allowance to the centre front of the yoke, as it will be cut on the fold, but have added it to the centre back as I intend for the zipper to go down the centre back. It could just as easily go down the side instead, in which case I would leave the seam allowance of the back yoke too.
 I haven't included a pattern piece for the waistband. This piece is the length of the waist + seam allowances, and it would be 6cm or roughly 2.5" wide.

To cut the pieces, I had to figure out the angle I wanted. The chevrons are not at a 45 degree angle, they are a bit wider. I marked my pattern pieces and cut them at just over 30 degrees, taking care to align the chevrons (see my post on chevrons here). In the picture on the fabric, every second piece is upside down to maximise fabric, and there is another layer underneath to create the mirrored pair for each piece.

I cut the stripes on the godets at 65 degrees, 6 one way and 6 the other, with the white part of the stripe at the top each time. Here they are laid out between the panels. I clipped the top first but really should have only clipped after I joined them.

I laid out all of my pieces in order, numbering them as I went. 

 Here is my layout before I start. I did accidentally put the centre front panels back to front, and only figured it out after I started sewing! When the skirt is put together, keep in mind the zipper placement. It may need to be connected to a gore, so check zipper length first.

 As per the original instructions, I connected the godets first.

 And then worked my way around. I created a facing by cutting the yoke in a plain fabric, and the waistband was sewn between the facing and yoke.

Once hemmed. the skirt is complete.

The original skirt had a petticoat layer in blue, just peeking out. It also had what appeared to be an overlocked hem. In any case, I'm pleased with my scale reproduction for now.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Skirt #1 - The Vera Skirt.

I've decided to call this the Vera Skirt. I've figured I'll do a series of skirts and give them people names instead of dodgy description/names like I usually do for my other makes. Vera is a 12 paneled skirt with godets. It is made from a standard straight block pattern.

This is of course a half scale version. When working with half scale models it means the fabric appears a little stiffer than it would on a full scale garment, and obviously the scale of the print is full size.

I have modeled this on this skirt.
Side by side:

Mine should be quite a bit longer to be a more accurate match. I've made my skirt the scaled equivalent of 47cm long, about 18.5", and I've since found a note about this skirt to say it should be about 64cm long, or 25", which looks like it would be about right to me - that as it coming down almost to the bottom of the picture frame above.

I didn't do this drafting entirely of my own accord. I've amassed quite an extensive library of diagrams for such things, and this skirt came to my attention through a sewing / pattern drafting facebook group. It came with the following images:

So in order to appropriately reference my images, I went searching for it (How good is google image search?) and I keep finding the picture and the drafting instructions - that exact same set.

I believe they originally came from this blog (it's quite difficult to tell as it isn't in English)

I can't find the original source for the skirt image.

Here's the thing though - These drafting instructions are incorrect. Not just the marking of horizontal stripes, but the number of panels and gores doesn't work to recreate the inspiration picture.

It's hardly surprising that stuff on the internet isn't always accurate. The skirt in the picture has 12 gores, not 8. It looks like 8, because two at the front are hard to see on the 3 dimensional form.

To illustrate, this is my skirt on the form.

And this is the skirt off the form.

While it's on the form, you can see 4 panels clearly (making 8 all around), but once off the form, it's 6 (12 around). Which is not to say a skirt couldn't be made with the 8 panels, but it wouldn't resemble the original skirt. There's a bit of visual distortion to take into account, because the human form is 3 dimensional.

I will have drafting instructions up soon, I've even made the diagrams ready to go - but I don't want to make this post too long! So check back later in the week or follow or subscribe by email for updates. I am now on instagram ( @shapelyseams ) too!

Half size mannequin is from 
Fabric is an inexpensive polycotton, purchased on ebay around 2 years ago.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

My Half Size Mannequin

I'm quite excited to show you my new toy!

This is a half size mannequin. I remember when I was little, perhaps 7 or 8, seeing a half sized (or half scale) mannequin in a fabric store and thinking it was pretty nifty. It's funny how these odd little memories stick. :) 

Recently I have been wanting one even more - so that I could experiment with drafting and play with styles that don't suit my figure. Particularly as it makes such experimentation more cost effective.

So when I saw one on The Great British Sewing Bee, I finally cracked. Why should the sewing bee contestants get to play with a cool little mannequin and not me? I talked to Jon about it, and he totally enabled my decision (because he has golf clubs in the garage which he has never used for as long as I've known him, so he's obviously going to be with me on this). I realise this looks like the adult version of seeing another kid with an ice cream and then crying because I don't have an ice cream too, but whatever people. This thing is an investment.

According to the manufacturers, she is half scale to a UK standard size 10. Although her waist and hips are about 5mm larger than the measurements state, so clearly she has been eating a little too much ice cream too.

I had a go at making the standard blocks up. 

Snug fit!

Previously, I made some half size skirts as models for explaining drafting techniques. These aren't quite the right size, but I tried them on anyway. Check it - 

So although right now my play time is dependent on when the little one naps, there's a lot of fun to be had here!

Update: I omitted this information before. The mannequin is from

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Make This Look #6 - Claudie Pierlot Robyne Dress

This Make This Look is a bit different, as I've sourced the pattern from a book, rather than a printed pattern.

I haven't yet made anything from this book, and therefore can't comment on the patterns (not that they would fit me straight out of the packet) but I quite like it - a simplified drafting book where you mix and match and modify pre-drafted parts. Quite good explanations too. Generally I find project based books a bit limiting - you might end up with a whole book of patterns where there might only be two you want to make, but because of the open ended nature of the projects in this book there are a lot more options. I also think it would be a good launchpad for taking the designs further after making a couple.

Claudie Pierlot Robyne dress from
Fabric from
Tanya Wheldon's book is available at or

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Drafting The Basic Pattern for the 4 Piece Maternity Wardrobe.

I have finally had the chance to sit down and write up the drafting instructions for the 4 piece maternity wardrobe!

The pattern is really essentially a really simple change to a basic knit dress. I used my existing basic pattern (block), although you could change pretty much any simple knit dress pattern (or t-shirt) in the same way. I made mine by tracing existing clothing (details/tutorials here) and have tweaked it over the past few years for a good fit. Burda style has a knit sloper which would work well for this.

I have used my pre-pregnancy size to start with. I added extra along the side seams as I go, for 2 reasons. Firstly, I gained weight that wasn't all baby, and secondly little extra along the seams will allow me to re-cut and convert things to non-maternity at a later point. I've kept the shoulders the same because my shoulders haven't gotten any wider. 

The fabrics I've chosen are quite stretchy, mostly viscose jersey. This is clearly important because these garment needs to have a bit of give! I swear I felt bigger each morning when I got up.

So I'm starting with this.  Front on the left, back on the right throughout.

Mine has a dart at the bust, although it would work well with or without.

I have three horizontal lines across this pattern - one on the bustline, one to mark the underbust line and a waistline. You can get away with just a waistline.

The block also has sleeves (long and short shown here). I haven't included them as they remain unchanged throughout.
 To begin with, I drew in the hip line (based on where the pattern is at it's widest) and marked some notches. The notches are placed 2.5cm (1 inch) above the hip line, and 2.5cm (1 inch) above the waistline. These will be a reference point for the gathers.

I measured the distance between the hip and waist.
I used this measurement as a guide for how much to add. I doubled mine, but with hindsight, I decided that an increase of 75% would be sufficient. So I am going to add 75% of that measurement to the length. I've drawn it just under the waistline to the side here. My measurement was 16cm (6 1/4"), so I would use 12cm (roughly 4 3/4") on the side. 
 I split the pattern at the waistline, and spread it apart that 75% measurement.
I connected from below the bust dart (I would work from approximately where the bust would be if there were no dart) creating a bit more space rather than coming into the waist. I also added 1cm (3/8") all the way down the side on both front and back.
 I eliminated the vertical darts in the front to make space for the bump.
 Which when filled in, looks pretty much like this.
This pattern is the complete basic dress pattern just as is. I can switch up the necklines / sleeves as I would for any basic dress.

To create the t-shirt I crop the pattern by the same amount front and back. So here, with a t-shirt pattern laid over the back, I establish how far below the notch the t-shirt should finish.

 And I mark the hemline on the front for the same space below the notch.

 Which when cut down looks like this. In the case of the t-shirt, I ignored the back dart on construction.
 To make a tank top or tank dress, I cut the neckline a bit lower, and the shoulder in a bit to make a narrower strap. Obviously I cut to t-shirt length for a tank top.
To create an above the bump skirt, I use the underbust line, or a line 2.5cm (1") above the top notch... 

 And then an additional line 2.5cm (1") above that for an elastic casing. This is based on using a 2.5cm elastic, which is zigzaged to the edge, folded and zigzaged again. If you wanted to create a casing, it would need to be deeper than the elastic to have an edge to fold over and stitch down. 
Which when cut out looks like this. I ignore the back darts on the skirt as well.

 So that left me with a basic pattern, from which I could trace the different variations.
 Construction for all garments starts with gathering the front between the notches to match the back between notches. For the dress or tank dress, also sew the back darts.

Then construct as you normally would for a t-shirt, or skirt with elastic waist. I started by making the dress, and basting the sides together in case I wanted to move the gathers up or down slightly. Once I was happy with it, I made the other variations.

All up, fairly quick to make, but it covered most of my requirements.

For more maternity and bump friendly stuff, have a look here.