Thursday, 6 February 2014

A Rushed Introduction to Blocks and Slopers

I've finally finished thinking about how to explain the drafting, and will now get on with it. 

The drafting menu will consist of:

1) A Rushed Introduction to Blocks and Slopers
2) Drafting the Bodice
3) Bodice Darts
4) Facings
5) Skirts

So lets begin!

1) A Rushed Introduction to Blocks and Slopers

Really, this concept requires a lot more attention than I can give it in one post. 

My patterns were drafted from a basic block, or sloper. I work from a block or sloper because the kind of drafting I do is 'flat pattern drafting'. Rather than hanging off a dressmakers dummy (draping), all of my work happens in flat form. I don't have a dressmakers dummy. 

There's some conflicting information (viewpoints?) about 'blocks' and 'slopers', and where the terms should be used. The more research I do to try and solve this, the less I know. 

Threads describe a sloper as a 'master pattern for a perfect fitting snug fitting basic garment,Used to design garments and fit commercial patterns.' and a block as simply 'a master pattern'. 
Burdastyle offers a definition of a sloper as A custom-fitted basic pattern from which patterns for many different styles can be created, and I wasn't able to find anything on 'blocks' although it seems they are used interchangeably in discussions. 
Fashion-incubator describes a block as including seam allowances, and a sloper as any pattern (not just a basic pattern) not including seam allowances.
Wikipedia defines a block as an industrial tool, and a sloper as a home sewing tool.  

Looking in my bookshelf, Teresa Gilewska's "Pattern Drafting for Fashion" refers to drafting your own block, and "How Patterns Work" from Assembil Books also refers to a 'block'. My wonderful Japanese drafting books neatly sidestep the issue altogether, and refer to 'Your basic pattern."

Truthfully, I don't know where I stand on the nomenclature, although I tend to think of my basic pattern as a 'block'. The upshot is, if you're looking for information, it's helpful use both terms. If you come across a clear definition that will sort this muddle, please let me know!

The concept is that you have one super basic pattern, which fits properly, and from which you can make any number of designs by copying out the pattern and then altering it.

Now that we're all done muddling, this is how I obtained my block, which as I am obsessed with fit, is kind of like my holy grail:

This is a basic fitting pattern. I first heard about this through the Palmer Plestch "Fit For Real People" books. It turns out most pattern companies have a basic block pattern, usually somewhere hidden at the back of the catalogue. When I bought it, the lady in the shop had never heard of one.

It has basic shaped patterns with reference points marked on to them. Crucially, it also comes with different sized fronts depending on cup size. 

Here are some quick snaps of the kind of fitting info that came in the pattern:

Helpful stuff hey?

I made the pattern referring to the instructions, which give clear guidance for all sorts of fitting issues. This information is pretty useful in it's own right.

I have only ever made the bodice. This is because at one point I made a skirt from a commercial pattern, and realised it was pretty much spot on. So I kept that, and Franken-patterned it with this one for pretty good results.  I've learned a whole lot about my body through this process, and which tweaks I will almost always want to include.

It also helps to build an understanding of where to start when adjusting a pattern - for example I find it better to adjust for height first, and then for my bust. I know I'll almost always need to take a smidge off at the shoulders because my shoulders are narrow - things like that.

Fitting yourself is really difficult. It's hard enough to check out your own butt, but even harder to figure out where the fabric is pulling or bunching if you're distorting your body to twist and check out your own butt. I required assistance on this project. I'd make a toile (aka muslin), then I'd rock up at a friends house to get them to draw where the lines *should* be, then make it again. It took a few goes but eventually I created a bodice block that I was happy with. I think I also bonded a little with some of my friends. Once you've handed someone a marker and asked them to draw a line on your shirt straight across your chest from 'point to point', the other stuff gets a little easier. 

So I then had a block.

I made the bodice out of a manilla folder. It has no seam allowance, and I clipped out the darts to make it really quick to trace. The skirt has a side seam only, and is copied on yellow tissue paper. I've meant to copy it onto thin card but I just haven't gotten around to it. It has travelled across the globe with me.

I'm not going to go into much more detail about blocks at this point, and unfortunately don't have a made up one to show, but it is absolutely worth the time spent getting one right. Not only can you use a block to draft your own patterns, they are super-useful for comparing to patterns you are making as a guide to fitting.

At some point, I would like to draft a few different blocks (from scratch) for a few different bodies. I just need to talk a few more people into being my models...

Anyway, next up I'll explain how I adjusted the bodice pattern to make the stripey bodice and the heart bodice.

1 comment:

  1. I always thought that 'sloper' was the US term for block. I call them block and don't put any seam allowance on them.

    I have drafted my own from scratch in the past but I've grown since college. A few years back I bought a nested size range of bodice blocks from Ebay. OK but needed a lot of adjustment and no info about ease. I needed to measure and re-size them myself, so not such a bargain. From that I do now have a bodice and sleeve which is a good fit for me which I use as a starting point for patterns.
    Looking forward to the rest of the series.