Saturday, 5 July 2014

Drafting The Bacon Dress and The Yellow Dress

So What's All This About Then?

This loooong post is an overview of a drafting process. I keep saying 'I'll write that' and not finding time. So I'm doing it all in one great big hit.

I began with a simple block or sloper, and created a princess line style dress. This has become a foundation for two different dresses. I created the Bacon dress first, and then the Yellow dress by changing the skirt and adding a pocket. Today I'm going to run you through creating both styles in one hit. Lots of words, also lots of pictures. So grab a cuppa and get comfy.

These two styles share a lot of DNA.

If you're in a sizing world all of your own (like me), getting a block that you can create your own patterns from can ultimately be more effective and efficient than altering every pattern dramatically.

On the other hand, if you're close to a regular size, it's less hassle to use a premade pattern.

So I'm approaching this explanation with drafting details alongside similar pattern recommendations throughout. You could take one pattern and draft it to the next step.

Start Here

I've discussed blocks and slopers briefly here. I haven't written full instructions anywhere yet (I may never get to it!). You could check out the Ikat Bag blog for instructions (off site link.). Or try and get your hands on a pattern drafting book. Good search terms to chuck into google include 'drafting, block, sloper, and 'pattern drafting for dressmaking'.

If you'd like to take a pre-made pattern and adjust it to create your own block, check these out.

McCalls 2718
I have worked with this, and it comes with detailed instructions.

You might also try:
Butterick 5627

Vogue 1004

So from here I will assume we have a basic dress. It will be in two separate parts, which is fab, because I'm going to be working in two separate parts. Starting with the top. In all pictures in this post, centre front is left, and centre back is right.

Let's Talk About Bust Dart Manipulation

Catchy sub-heading there, no? "Bust Dart Manipulation" is another useful term to plug into a search engine. As a very visual thinker, at least when I'm drafting, the more time I spend looking at diagrams the more intuitively I find I understand what I'm doing. 

Bust darts shape the fabric around the bust. The way bust darts work is essentially that the point of the dart is on the 'point' of the bust (also known as the bust 'apex') - right about where you'd put your pasties if you weren't wearing a bodice. However, since we are not Madonna, and we don't want those points super pointy, the dart travels towards the bulls eye, but stops short of making contact. Generally I find 3 centimetres away is enough to avoid looking like its a bit chilly, but that varies according to cup size / shape / type of fabric.

For dart manipulation, you cut through to the target, rotate the paper and re-draw the dart in the new position. Here's some quick examples.

This technique allows you to create a whole bunch of styles. Today, I'm just looking at one.

Creating a Princess Line Bodice

Specifically for these styles, I needed to convert the separate bodice and skirt into princess line dress panels. A Princess line is this:

Anything (shirt, dress, jacket, coat) which has a seam like this has a princess line.
You can have one from the shoulder, or the armhole of the dress, which is what I'm doing here.

Princess lines are super flattering, and particularly good for larger busts. Its no surprise that Pepperberry - a clothing store focused on fitting women with fuller busts, features so many princess line styles.

With a princess seam, you are manipulating your darts to break the front into two separate panels. These will be curved, and go right over the apex of the bust.

In this case I altered the neckline first. I drew in my desired neckline (a sweetheart neckline) on the front, and made corresponding alterations to the back. I don't want darts on the shoulder, so I eliminated them too. You might find you need to tighten the back neckline if you do this, depending on your body shape. I have narrow shoulders, so I've learned to bring the back in a bit. I will leave that out at this stage because we have enough going on!

You will also need to make a facing for the bodice, and it can be done now or at the end.

Making a Facing
Trace the neckline. Trace the armholes, making sure you overlap to the seam allowances.

Make that about 6cm wide. Trim a squiddly little bit off the side for snuggliness. The top line should be the same length, and the bottom edge a fraction tighter (we're talking 3-4mm here).

Back to the princess.
Based on the bust point, I draw in where I would like to place the seam. (I illustrated this idea on my wedding dress design process). I want it to start halfway up the armhole. Chuck in some balance points too (aka notches) it's what all the smart kids are doing. Too small to show up on the photos - but place some marks across the bust point and a couple of other spots along the seam. Turn them into notches, and they will help you line up the pattern pieces at construction.

I cut it, going through the bust point smoothly and through a vertical dart to the waistline.

I then close the gap the pieces of the new side panel. I will need to add seam allowances to this line, but will add the skirt panels first.

If you have to tweak the fit (and you will probably have to tweak the fit), make adjustments on the side panel and try and keep the front panel lines fairly straight from the bust point down.

If I curve the side panel under the bust, I will need increase the length of the front panel. I've spent a bit of time tweaking this in the last few makes.

I repeat this process on the back, although the curve will be less exaggerated.

Skirt Panels

Once the bodice is sorted, I need to make panels in the skirt which will align with the bodice. I measure and move the dart so that the waistlines will match. If working with a skirt with 2 darts, you may need to eliminate one.

I can do that by taking half of the dart value off the side, and making the single dart a bit wider.
I'd lengthen it slightly to smooth it out.

I fill the previous dart and split these into panels.

Once I have panels for the skirt and bodice, I can connect them at the waist. Keep in mind that if you have a seam allowance included on your original dress, you will need to match for the stitching line rather than the cutting line.

I also need to add a seam allowance down the panels where I cut them.

I included a vent in the back, which looks like this:
Mine is 5cm wide, and for length I looked at an existing skirt.
I pegged in the skirt 3cm on each side, although I did that at the construction stage rather than the drafting stage.

This, and the facing pieces from earlier,  brings you up to a complete pattern for the first design.

Ain't Nobody Got Time For That

If you'd like a similar  ready made pattern, you could try the following: 

 Simplicity 1586
The Amazing Fit series come with different cup sizes. Win.

Butterick 5554

MacCalls 6887 
Has a waistline seam but is otherwise similar.

Going Yellow

There are two changes made, the skirt shape and the pocket.

To alter the skirt, I added 4 cm flair to each seam. I brought it out from the curve in the hip and extended it to the bottom. I re-drew the whole line across the bottom with a curve. You want to bring it up about 5mm at each side, drop a few mm below the middle of the pattern piece, but curve it all the way. Here is the front. You will notice I haven't added to the front edge as it will be placed on the fold.
 The curved bottom edge:

I'm not sure I'm willing to take all that on..

Wimp. Ok, Ready made option:
New Look 6567
Probably the most similar option I've found.  These don't have the pocket, but you could always add that on yourself. Really, you could. We're about to see it's not rocket science!

Pockets Are Cute

To create the pocket, which is positioned in the seams, I drew the position of the pocket top and the depth I wanted on the side panel.

From here I made an upper side piece, which extended all the way to the bottom of the depth line + seam allowance, a lower side piece which came from the top pocket line + seam allowance, and a pocket lining piece which was top pocket line + seam allowance > depth line + seam allowance.

I marked the top pocket line with notches on the upper piece, and the depth line on the lower piece for reference in construction.

I used a 3cm wide strip iron on interfacing across the top of the pockets.
 I connected the bag to the lower side piece first.

I pressed and top stitched that for a neat finish. (I keep switching the side I photographed, but its cool, I made two.)

I then attached the bottom of the pocket bag piece to the upper side piece.

Pressed and laid flat, I then stitched the sides within the seam allowance, so that I could construct the remaining portion of the dress as usual.

The print is quite busy, and I think it would be nice to make this with a plain colour and a trim on the pocket to display the line. I'll just add that to the list of stuff I want to make!

Congratulations! You made it to the end!

So there you go. One mammoth post, two dress designs.

I haven't added any construction notes in here. I've been reading about neuropsychology and I've already exceeded modern attention spans (including mine). Let me know in the comments if you need further info.


  1. WOW that's a huge amount of work you have here and all excellent love the colour block dart manipulations. About to down load the velvet mag to check your article out. Almost got all those old sewng paster things sorted for you too.

  2. It was a lot of work! Those diagrams took ages.

  3. Great post! Love the diagrams. I love all the possibilities of bust dart manipulation (does that sound sad!)
    I'm meant to be drafting a post about the pattern for the last dress I made but finding other things to do rather than think about the diagrams....

    1. Well it doesn't sound sad to me at all, although I'm not sure I'm the right person to offer perspective. :)
      It's taken me ages to do this because I too have so many things on the go at once. But I wanted to share! I have to view writing this up as a whole separate creative project...