Sunday, 23 June 2013

Length matters.

Here is me wearing a t-shirt from H&M.

I know, right?

It makes me look all blocky, maybe a bit bottom heavy. Perhaps you think this illusion is a result of the horizontal stripes. Well, maybe. But I've been obsessing over stripes, and don't want to let them go.

The big problem here isn't really the stripes. The problem is that this t-shirt is not the right length for me.

Here's the same problem with a non-stripey shirt.

So I'm going to chop a bit off the bottom to make it look better. I like my t-shirts sitting just on the hip.

There we go!
Here's a before and after side by side:

Much better yeah? When the length is in proportion, it does my figure justice. Stripes and all!

Changing a pattern.

If you have a significant height differential, you may need to alter your patterns.

Commercial patterns often have notes on the front - whether something can be modified for tall or petite sizes, and then there are lines marked on the pattern for the purpose of creating those different sizes. Thats all fine and dandy. But if, like me, you fall outside even the petite range, you need to put a lot more thought into how you go about modifying things - or even whether they can be modified.

Multi-sized patterns are drafted in one size, and then graded up or down a few sizes. Theres a limit to how far they can go, because the grading process distorts the design a little, and also because the sizes are not proportionally consistent.

There are some general guidelines that I've found helpful (generally discoveries from the Museum of Sewing Lessons Learned, or occasionally tips from experienced seamstress types when I've exhausted possibilities for myself).

One such rule I have found kind of necessary to be aware of, and then ignore, is the 'don't mess with the armscye' rule.

Allow me to elaborate.

I'm going to make this:

As an aside, I like Burda, but I don't like their pattern covers.

But here's what I'm going to do with this. Because I am short everywhere, I need to take length out everywhere - not just at one end. This shows up a lot in the bodice - necklines are consistently too low on me, not because I am trying to flaunt anything, but because the distance between my bust point and shoulder seam is considerably shorter than for most women. This means that a) I am likely to have a regular neckline look like a scooping neckline, and b) I am likely to find the fullness in the garment which should align with my bust sits below my bust instead. So I need to take something out between the shoulder and the bust. This act as the potential to interfere with the armscye.

The armscye should ideally be left intact. Despite being shorter than most, I still have the same thickness of arms as most (possibly a little more) and I still require the same amount of movement. Petite sizes have slightly smaller armscyes, but not as much smaller as other areas of the garment. If you do alter the armscye, your sleeve will then need to be adapted.

Here's a little visual to explain:
 This is a basic back bodice. I compared it to my fitting blocks and decided that it was about 5.5cm too long for me. That was about 4cm too long in the lower part of the bodice, but also 1.5cm too much in the upper part - where the armscye is.

So because this is a simple pattern piece, I folded out that difference, and glued it down.

 I then re-drew the parts of the line that were fractured by the fold. I am working with the size 12 here.
I also re-drew the dart after I took the photo.
I have then re-drawn the armscye, because I want the sleeve to fit into this shape.
To be perfectly honest, looking at this photo now I'm not entirely sure I'm happy with the new shape.

I think 5.5cm is really more of an alteration than a pattern piece can comfortably take. But because the back was simple, I might be able to make it work.

The front was a different matter.
I've drawn some pencil lines here - to identify where the original pattern would have been cut and split to create the tucks at the bottom.

When I first looked at this piece I wasn't quite sure what to do about it. I couldn't just tuck it like the back because the length needed to be altered at a range of different angles.

I still wanted the width of the piece to be the same, but I needed to reduce the length.

So after some thought and procrastination, I decided to recreate the piece from scratch.

My first step was to take a good look at the way the tucks worked. So I pinned them together on the original pattern.
By pinning the tucks together and extending the lines from the tucks, I was able to identify that the split would come from evenly spaced points along the shoulder, and the darts which resulted (created as tucks instead) would end just below the bust point (which is fairly standard really). This came about by extending the tuck lines to find the dart points, and by extending a line through the point of the dart to the shoulder.

Once I had folded the piece, I traced it onto paper as a basic front shape.

I could then shorten the basic front in the same way as I shortened the back - taking 4cm out below the armscye, and 1.5cm in the armscye.
I redrew the lines of the shortened piece.

I then needed to put those tucks back in.
So I measured and spilt the pattern to follow the same shape as the original.
 First, I drew in the lines for the split.
I then spread the strips the same amount as the original pattern. I don't want to loose any fullness, despite being a shortened pattern.
I bisected the space between the spread lines, and drew in new darts to approximately the same position on the body as the original pattern. I then needed to tuck the tucks to straighten off the new edge.
 I pinned this in place to check that they were all aligned properly.
 And then trimmed off the excess in line with the bottom edge.
 A quick run over with the iron....

And we can see how my pattern stacks up next to the original.
I did then remeber to fix the armscye.

So then I went ahead and made up the pattern. Here is the result:

The tank top.

A good tank is a useful wardrobe staple, isn't it?

After some thought, and examination of garments in my wardrobe, I have decided I would like to put a bust dart into my tank top.

So I have been thinking about darts.

I think about darts and stuff like that a lot. While other people are fantasizing about meeting movie stars or something, I am lying awake thinking about darts. Sometimes, I even sit at the table after dinner playing with little scraps of paper trying to figure out how to modify patterns, or create them.

Friday night is party night at my place.

So this weekend, I had a did a bit of a 'study' on this bust dart. And I came up with a technique which worked for me.

I started with my basic flat front. This is the basic t-shirt front. To make it a tank top you will want to bring the shoulder line in, and the neckline out for a more 'tank' style, but I'm going to explain that later on.

I marked the position of the bust line, bust point and underbust on the pattern piece.  Too often a full bust modification means the fabric is added but for the full length, creating a matronly bag-style. I didn't want to ignore the need for the fabric to come back in again!

I cut through these lines, and I also split above the bust line, from the bust point to the mid point on the shoulder. I included all seam lines.

For convenience I will refer to pieces as A,B,C and D.

I began by gluing piece A onto a piece of paper with a clear straight edge. This piece became a reference point. I wanted to increase the room for the bust by 1.5 cm, so I put a dot on the horizontal cutting line 1.5cm from the edge. I then glued piece C, ensuring that one corner touched the point, and the other corner touched the straight edge.

This angle created an opening to form my dart.

I glued piece D underneath C, in such a way that the end seam line of piece C, touched the cutting line of piece D. This will need to be smoothed out, but should mean the fabric comes back in underneath the bust rather than just hanging.

I glued piece B such that the top corner touched the corner of A, but swung out the same 1.5cm away from A at the bottom corner. This piece forms the bottom of the dart at the outer edge.

 To mark the dart, the dart shouldn't  extend to the middle or to the bust point, and the angle needs to be drawn in so that it will peak a reasonable space away from the bust point. I bisected the angle from where I believe the new bust point would be, and put a mark where I would like the new dart to end.
I then drew in the dart.

This method worked immediately for Maria's tank. When I made mine I found a slight gap at the armhole. And I can be a perfectionist, so that wouldn't do. To eliminate the gape, I slashed the piece from the armhole to just below the neckline, and I closed the gap there - sliding the pattern piece to align with the centre line so that the neckline is unchanged. I then corrected the centre line.

 To make the t-shirt style into a tank style, I lowered the neckline and brought the shoulder line in 1.5cm (on front and back pieces). This is because since the straps on a tank are narrower than the shoulder of a t-shirt. My shoulders are quite narrow and I like a thick strap to cover my bra straps. You could easily bring the side of the shoulder in about 3cm (1 1/4") and the neckline out about the same.

And this is my finished tank. The version on the left is made with no dart, and the version on the right has the new bust darts. The second version, on the right, fits more comfortably, and is more flattering.

Edges with stripes.

I've just finished off my first tank top - the one I made without darts as a reference for the dart position.
It is essentially the original t-shirt without sleeves.

I made it in plain black, and checked the fit and left it unfinished.

But then I had a bit of this left over.
I've been obsessing about stripes lately, thinking of different ways to use them. And I thought - I could make a really cute edge with that.

I cut strips of the leftover piece parallel to the stripes. A bit of playing about and I decided I wanted the strips about 3cm wide. This allows a 1cm seam allowance, and an exposed strip of 5mm. I chose 5mm because of the size of the stripes - if the stripes were wider, I would have made a wider strip. I was aiming for the effect of little squares - a broken dashed line around the edge, since the black lines should blend with the black fabric.

I cut the neckline strip about 5/6 of the length of the neckline - perhaps a little larger since there isn't as much stretch in the fabric in this direction. I cut the sleeve strips almost exactly the same length as the edge, since I don't want it to pull in snugly around the arm. I sewed them on, clipped the curves and then top stitched. When I got to the arm I had a brain wave, and just clipped the two in between layers so that the top edge would stretch over and make a prettier finish on the inside. I don't know how well it would work on the neck edge as it has to curve much more dramatically, but I'll try it next time.

This is the resulting edge.

 Kinda sweet, I think.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The weather has been rubbish.

I have been meaning to put up some posts for some time now - but I haven't. Because I was very ill just recently, and the weather has been hot but dreary, and it just hasn't been going well.
But stay tuned - I have heaps of things to tackle, including:

*A destructive method t-shirt copy.
 *A revision of fit for the first t-shirt copy. Done!
* A second dress variation (with stripes!)
* Altering the fit of a commercial dress pattern.  Update - It's there now.

I'm not saying I've finished making these things - I have cut out pieces everywhere!

Catch you soon.


Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Tank dress variation - Stripes and Gathers.

So I had this fabric with thin stripes. Initially I had intended to make a cardi from it, but I changed my mind. I considered making another tank dress, but then I opted to try something new.

I decided to make a dress with a gathered side. The fabric stretched 4 ways, and I wanted to play with the stripes.

So to begin with, I copied a double sided version of the front piece of the tank dress. I made this version with a lower neckline, determined by trying on the original tank dress and putting a pin where I wanted the new neckline to sit. I redrew the line on the new pattern as I cut it out. I cut out another half front with the new neckline which formed the bottom layer - which is the same as the standard tank dress.

 I wanted the dress to scoop to the right. So I drew in some scooping lines. I measured and made a note of the length I would need to gather the piece back to on the right hand side.

I then cut off the top right strap, and the new hemline. It is going to be laid over a full length front.
With the new neckline, I tucked in 3cm of length, to tighten it so it would sit firmly.
 I then sliced through the curves I had drawn, in order to expand it. I stopped the cut 1cm from the left hand edge, which is the seam line, so that the seam line on the new piece would be the same length as the original. I also folded the bust dart out, so that it wouldn't be included on the top piece.

You can see here how folding the dart out of the bust opened the bust and eliminated the dart.
I then expanded the right side, pushing the pieces apart.
I have done this before, but I didn't push them apart far enough. So this time, I thought I would see how far I could take it. In part, I wanted to see how the stripes would look.
It reminded me of a nautilus shell.
I then needed to glue this onto a new piece to make my pattern piece. But I had run out of my usual brown paper, so I ended up using leftover gift wrapping paper. On the back it is covered with Christmas penguins.
 I drew in the cutting line. There was a bit of guess work going on with this.
 I cut out the shape, and then cut it out of fabric.
 I cut one new front, one standard tank front, and one tank back.

I made the dress up by hemming the top layer (upper and lower edge) gathering the side, completing the darts on the standard front and back and then putting all the layers together to construct as per the tank dress.

I did have a little bit of a glitch.

In my enthusiasm, I forgot that you can't gather fabric to an infinitely small space. So the length of the side I had intended to gather, exceeded the amount of fabric that was physically possible to gather into a 22cm length - which was what I had intended. The gathered strip ended up much longer.

So I dealt with that by gathering as much as I could, and then releasing the bottom part of the skirt. I tried it on, and pinned a point where I thought it would be flattering to stop the gathering (I didn't want a caterpillar effect running right the way up my hip). I then unpicked that part. (Would have been much easier if I had basted it and then tried it on!) I also unpicked the other side because it needed to be re-aligned if it wasn't being pulled up as far. Here is a chalk line of my new hemline.

 I trimmed the extra bit off.

Re-hemmed and re-joined the seams. I hemmed the dress.

Because I didn't get the original fullness into the gather, the gather doesn't pull in quite the way I intended at the bottom of the skirt. I also decided to put some elastic down the seam with the gathering because the weight of it caused the side seam to distort.

I promise I will put a better photo in soon. But I'm keen to share, because I think this is cool. It's a bit hard to see here - but I love the way the stripes change direction. The vertical stripe over the bust and the diagonal skirt seem to create an optical illusion of length, which I am ok with.

For a long time I've been saying I have good sewing skills and no design flair. This dress makes me think maybe I'm better at design than I thought.