Drafting a pattern

I used to do a lot of pattern cutting in my youth. 

I’m talking 30+ years ago here, so remembering what to do means trying to retrieve the information from deep storage in my already fairly wonky memory. Accordingly, I’m starting with a quick and easy job: drafting off an existing garment. Depending on the success of this mission, I may have to dust off my old skills.

Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 6.06.50 PMHere’s the dress I’m copying. The armholes are generous, the neckline is good on me. The dress itself is very comfortable, since it scarcely touches me when it’s on. There’s nothing remotely tricky about it, except the binding around the neckline and neck opening/button loop, and since the neckhole is large enough to get my head through without the opening and button, I’m going to ignore them.

Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 6.07.45 PMI’m taking the pattern off this by folding the dress in half down the centre, and drawing around the outline on a large piece of butcher’s paper, also folded in half. That way, you only have to draw half the lines before you cut it out, still folded, to get the whole thing. This is helpful if you want to do something fancy and asymmetrical later on. If you’re confident you won’t, you could get away with cutting just half the block. You then repeat with the back.

Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 6.08.07 PM Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 6.08.42 PMThere’s obviously a difference between the armhole and neckline shapes on front and back, and if you can’t get the fabric out of the way to get a true outline, you prick out the line through the layers using a pin and then follow the line of holes with your pencil. This task is easier if you do it with a blanket or some batting under the pattern paper – but just for this part of the job. With this style of dress, you may also find that the front is longer than the back when you lay it flat, which is to accommodate one’s personal endowments, such as they are…

Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 6.09.04 PMI mark on this outline notches for matching shoulder and side seams. At this point, the pattern is a block, or template, and I don’t add seam allowances, since I’d have to take them off or work round them if I want to manipulate the pattern later. It’s easy enough to remember to add 10mm (3/8″) all round when you cut out. I also mark on the block where I will want side seam pockets to go, and I make a pattern for these pockets too. I mark the centre back and centre front of each piece, where the natural waist and bust point fall, and the direction of the straight grain of the material from which it will be cut.

Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 6.09.27 PM

Butcher’s paper, sticky tape, sharp pencil and eraser, paper scissors, a tape measure, a long ruler and some batting. All you need….

Once I have this pattern sorted out, I can play with it. I can make the skirt longer, I can shorten it and turn it into a flared tunic or make it asymmetrical. I can slash through from hem to neckline, and open it out to add extra fullness in the skirt. I can use those slashes as seams and cut each panel on the straight grain or on the bias, which will give the garment a different hang. I can shape the bodice a little by putting in bust darts, either from the side seam or set into one of the slashes. I can add sleeves, or change the back fastening to a zipper. I can stitch wide elastic in at waist level, and create a waist for the dress, with a gently bloused top above and a full skirt below. I can create a neck and armhole facing instead of bias binding, add a collar, change the shape of the neckline or cut the dress in two parts and two colours to give a completely different look. Hmm. It’s all coming back to me…

Somewhere still packed away in one of many, many boxes waiting for bookshelves is my pair of pattern cutting textbooks. I think I’d better go and dig them out….

… I’m hijacking this post… Happy Birthday Wife of Chiconia…XXXX… with Love HoC…