Sunday, 30 November 2014

Drafting the Banded Cowl

As promised, here are the drafting instructions for the banded cowl neckline on this dress:

The dress is made from a knit fabric, and as such these instructions are suitable to knit /stretch fabrics (not wovens).

For the sake of explaining the way this cowl works, here are some particularly dorky photos for your amusement:

There was just no way I could even pretend to make that look hot.

But it does illustrate how the cowl works. It is a long tube, with the front longer than the back.
Here it is laid out flat.
Despite the back neckline being higher, the cowl is almost level front and back.
This is with centre front on the left, and centre back on the right.

We can make this neckline to go on a standard t-shirt pattern (see how to copy your favourite shirt here) , or t-shirt dress pattern (exactly as for this tank dress, but with a t-shirt rather than a tank used at the top), which is what I did here. I also included full length sleeves (instructions for creating full length sleeves from short sleeves here). You can use any regular t-shirt or t-shirt dress pattern to do this. Just choose a style with a regular round neckline rather than a boat or v-neckline.

Basic T-shirt dress
Basic standard t-shirt.
To prepare your existing shirt pattern, you need to draw in the neckline. Because the cowl is going to add extra fabric bulk, it will bring the neckline up quite a bit. So you need the neckline on your original shirt to be on the deeper side. I find it helps to use my existing t-shirt to measure how much lower I want that to be, and then transfer that to the pattern. Draw that on your pattern like this.
Old line crossed out, new line drawn in underneath.
Your pattern may or may not have darts for the bust (mine does, but it isn't necessary). Make sure the new line creates a right angle where it meets the midline. I only needed to alter the front of my pattern.

From there, you measure the neckline you have created on the stitching line. That means whatever seam allowance your pattern states, you measure that far in from the edge.  Measure front and back, not including the shoulder seam allowances. We are working on the half pattern, so we only need the half measurements. (Shown in red here)
Add those measurements together, and that's your neckline measurement.

Moving on to creating the actual cowl.
The cowl has 2 lines of symmetry, one of which will be on the fold of the fabric, and the other will be created by working on a folded piece of paper. I am working on brown paper, and I fold a length down like so.

Enter diagrams:
From here, mark in the depth for front and back. I mark the front right on the edge of the paper. My front depth was 25cm, and my back depth was 22cm (Roughly 10" and 8 1/2"). I marked that further out along the paper.
I also made sure I included my seam allowances. I work in metric, and I pretty much always use 1cm. You can use any seam allowance you're comfortable with. So if you use 5/8" most of the time, chuck that on, under the first set of lines.
 The next step is to create the curve, and mark in the length. Place the tape measure along the paper in a curve which joins the front level to the back level like this.
 Mark the length. I worked out this length by the length of the neckline on the shirt pattern (in my case 34.5 cm) minus about 2.5cm (1"). I did that so the neckline would sit firmly around the neck without being too tight. Different fabrics will behave differently. If in doubt, you can baste it together in the construction stage, and if it's too loose take it in at the back.
 Here is a photograph. The diagram is exaggerated compared to the actual curve. I place the tape measure so that it measures the required distance. I need to mark where the tape ends, and then sketch in that curve.
 I also draw in a perpendicular line. That line will be the centre back seam.
 Once I have that, I can cut it out through both layers, and unfold.

 The wide end is the centre front, and it needs to be placed on the fold when cutting out.
  The center back is stitched like this:
 Seam pressed outwards.
 And then fold the seam on the inside, creating a shaped band like this.
The seam is the centre back, and the longest part (on the left in this photo) is the centre front.

From this point, it is inserted into the shirt just like a regular ribbed neckline. I also topstitched over the seam with a zigzag stitch. The rest of the dress or t-shirt is put together like a regular t-shirt. Check out flat method construction.
And there you have it! Go forth and winterise your t-shirt patterns.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Stripy Sweater Dress - Banded Cowl Style.

This is a warm sweater dress I made for a Christmas party.  I've had this fabric in my stash for ages as I umm-ed and err-ed over what to do with it. It's a lovely warm fabric! I feel like I can wear this an look nice, but feel like I'm wearing comfy pyjamas. Yay! I wish good stuff like this was easier to come by.

The neckline is a cowl - basically a long, loose turtle neck. I'm struggling to find the right words to differentiate between cowls. They can be so varied! Unlike my earlier simple cowl styles, which were an extension of the front piece, this one is sewn on separately. Here's a close up:


I'll write up the instructions for drafting this style of cowl tomorrow, and you can bung it on an existing t-shirt pattern. But for now, it's the party season, and I have places to go in my new dress.

UPDATE: Drafting instructions can be found here.

Monday, 24 November 2014

A Quick Modification - Owl just fix it.

It probably goes without saying, but I have a lot of dresses in my wardrobe.

Including this one. Technically a tunic. It was purchased for winter, and I love the warm cuddly feel of the fabric. And the weird little cartoony owls. But I don't love the length.

Too long for a tunic, too short for a dress. It does baffle me a bit, how someone as little as me (4'10 and a half if that) ever finds off the rack dresses too short. But I do. Frequently.

Actually, a lot of that has to do with the shape of my legs. They are the kind of legs which don't look great with a horizontal line across the thigh. Knee length is good. Mini skirts are a bit of an atrocity. This is at odds with current fads, where everything seems to stop mid thigh. Lucky for me, I can make stuff. So current fads can go sulk in the corner for all I care.

In order to work around this problem, I often wear my too short dresses over a basic skirt with a more flattering length. So it looks like the dress is a bit longer. On this occasion though, it occurs to me that I would get a lot more wear out of this if I reworked it as a shirt.

So that's what I did!

I cut 15cm off the bottom, and re-hemmed it. Did you know you can use a catch-stitch on stretch fabric? You can. It stretches really well.

It's worth looking at things in a different way. It helps to think of things not just in terms of what they are, but what they could be. A small tweak can make a big difference to something. I expect I will get a lot more wear out of this now.

Side by side:

This last photo is for my lovely friend Sarah. Because the photos are my least favourite part of the blogging process. And then on the weekend Sarah said 'I love the photos on your blog.'
'Aww thanks' I said, slightly reassured.

But then she followed up with '....because you always look so awkward.'

Yeah I am just not a model.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Knock Off Tutorial Part 3 - Construction

Continuing from Part 1 and Part 2 of this tutorial. This is the final part!

With the front and the knotted layer ready, the next step is to baste them together.

Align the knot with the strip of gathering.
Smooth it out to the edges. The narrowest part of the knot layer will not align with the waistline of the original shirt. Keep the narrowest part in line with the gathering, and move the edges so that they fit.
The top corner will overlap the armhole, as we haven't shaped them yet. They should overlap by 5cm (as per the original measurement). Ignore this for now, and pin and baste the two layers together down the sides only.

Along the orange lines. The knot layer will overhang but should still be straightened up (don't mind the bit slipping on the left side in this photo. Should be like the right.)

Once you've done that, you will baste the arm hole as well. This is what it looks like from the back.

 I stitch around that edge.

 And trim the excess off.

At this point, we are ready to join the front and back. The shoulder and neckband are one piece.
Pin the shoulders, and clip into the corner on the front piece (to the point marked with a green dot on cutting out). Then align the band with the strip. Sew around neck and shoulders. I have some notes on stabilising shoulder seams here.

Back view:

 From the front with point clipped
 Front view with collar flipped forwards.
From this point, the shirt is constructed as per a regular t-shirt, treating the two layers on the front as one. See my flat construction or set in sleeve guides.

I basted the side seams for fit first, and tweaked the fit slightly to bring the waist in snugly.

Hem sleeve edges and bottom edge.
And you're done!

Did you have a go?

If you had any questions around the instructions here, please leave a comment below and I'll be sure to address it.

If you do make your own version, I would LOVE to hear about it.