Category Archives: Self-drafted

Self-draft triangley denim dress

Denim dress

Here’s another little self-draft experiment that didn’t quite work out 100% perfect but I thought it’d be good to share anyway. I’ve been pinning approximations of my dream denim dress for quite a while now and decided to use it as another chance to try out designing with my blocks.

denimdress

I was especially drawn to the Marimekko dress at top left here, and started mulling over how the pockets under that triangle-shaped empire waistline might work. (I’m loving the top-middle frock too, that’s next on the list…)

The changes I made to my block to draft this dress were as follows:

denimdressmake

· Front bodice: rotated the shoulder dart to a French dart; left waist dart open to add more swing/ease
· Back bodice: left waist dart open to add more swing/ease, cut a v-neckline
· Skirt: Rotated waist dart out to create fullness. Used the same piece for front and back.
· Taped the skirt and bodice together and cut the new diagonal/triangular ‘waistline’, parallel to the French dart
· Drafted a pocket piece to sit inside the sloping edges of the bodice and skirt.
· Cut a short set-in sleeve

Denim dress

I’m beginning to find that drafting the pattern is one half of the self-design challenge, and the other equally significant half is actually sewing up your creation in a sensible order with no instructions to fall back on! I struggled a bit trying to figure out the best way to attach the pockets and to get a nice point on the triangular panel’s top corner.

Denim dress

The neckline is also not as planned. I bound it with a bias strip first off, but didn’t like it and cut it off, and instead turned and hemmed it with a twin needle. Unfortunately cutting off the original neckline made it all far too wide – it barely stays on my shoulders now.

Denim dress

This is especially apparent from the back, where I had this idea to make the a deep V to mirror the seamline. I interfaced the diagonal edges with strips before hemming but it still wasn’t enough to keep it in place. Next time I’ll tighten it all up and consider another finishing technique.

Denim dress

The fabric is an extremely soft and supple denim which I bought from our jolly up to Minerva Craftshere it is on the website. This stuff would be great when you want a denim-y look but with added softness and comfort – and unlike most chambrays it has a superb drape and doesn’t stick to tights. Actually for this dress a slightly stiffer fabric would probably have been more suitable and easier to work with given all the funny angles and clipping required. But it’s a dream so wear – sooo comfortable.

So all in all, I’m calling this a semi-success. The idea and drafting were solid , and with a few tweaks to the construction I reckon I can get something cute out of this. I’m thinking an autumnal plaid wool with leggings and boots…

I’m really enjoying my forays into self-drafting. It’s a ton more work, but I like that it’s forcing me to slow down and really consider what I want from a garment. I don’t actually need that many clothes at the moment, so am happy to spend longer on each garment, building its design from the ground up rather than dive into speedy sewing. Plus since it’s from your blocks at least your garment will always fit! It’s not for everyone, but I hope you find my adventures in self-drafting interesting to read about.

Sewing the cake: Liberty self-drafted dress

Liberty knit dress

This dress is such a cake make. Me to a tee and seamlessly fitting into my everyday wardrobe. And it’s (half) drafted from my block too so the design is unique. Yay to that!

Liberty knit dress

I wanted to see if a) my block would work with a knit; b) if I could hack some basic design details into it. I figured the fit would work in a knit as is because there’s minimal ease in the block – too little for a comfy woven dress but fine for a stretch.

Liberty knit dress

In fact I think I need to size down my block for knit makes in the future as it turned out a wee bit too big all over. But it basically worked well and I had a lot of fun drafting it. Here’s an overview of the changes I made to my block to get here.

darted bodice to princess seams

Converting the double-darted bodice into princess seams was an easy as rotating the top dart to mid-armsyce, slicing into two pieces through the bust apex and smoothing off the curve. I’m so pleased princess seams are this easy to create as they are my favourite bodice shaping – no blasted dart marking, quick to sew, and easy to fine-tune fit on my frame.

slash and spread ruching

Then I added a ruched detail by slashing horizontally into the side pieces and fanning them out downwards. This wee detail was inspired by vintage Butterick 2315, another ‘cake’ dress that I wear all the time. I added some clear elastic to the gathering to encourage it to keep its shape. The print kind of buries the detail unfortunately – need to try it on a solid sometime.

Liberty knit dress

I added the set-in sleeves from my block which fit perfectly in a stretch – I need a bit more wiggle-space to use them with a woven. I haven’t sewn a set-in sleeve in forever, ha, so did it the lazy way: set in flat, with the cuff and side seam sewn in one.

Liberty knit dress

The skirt admittedly is not from my block at all – it’s that old TNT Simplicity 1610 again, gathered at the centre front and back to fit the bodice. Why use any other skirt to be honest – it’s versatile (you could pleat or gather it onto nearly any bodice), I find it very flattering, and the deep scoop-y pockets are perfect for my phone or fidgety paws.

Liberty knit dress

This fabric is Liberty ‘Achilles’ cotton jersey bought on my trip to Shaukat back in May. Obviously I’m obsessed with the sludgy goldy-browny colour, and the print is like a mini African wax design. I do find that Liberty jersey likes to curl a bit as you work with it and I don’t think the stretch recovery is all that great, but it does feel lovely to wear and it’s heavy enough to give a nice swishy drape.

Liberty knit dress

My friend said of a photo of this dress on the hanger ‘This looks like you – even though you’re not wearing it’, which I think sums up the best kind of cake sewing for me. Speaking to other sewists, I know how difficult it can be to make things that truly work for you, rather than being distracted by the endless parade of new patterns and fabrics out there. But for me it’s really important to aim for that, and I think designing from my dress block will make it all the easier.

Pattern Cutting Summer School at Ray Stitch

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In a delightful case of right place right time (and a great case of karma from a returned favour), last week Rachel from Ray Stitch invited me to a last-minute place on their Pattern Cutting Summer School course. Three days of learning how to build a bodice, skirt and trouser block exactly to my size, and learn how to adapt it to make any pattern I could dream of? SIGN ME UP! I quickly shuffled some work around and found myself at Ray Stitch bright and early last Monday morning with three more students and our fabulous teacher, Alice Prier.

sewclass1

I’ll give a brief overview of what we covered, but there were so many other hints and tips Alice spoke about that you’d really want to take a class yourself to pick everything up. Day one started with an introduction from Alice to her work and techniques. She’s a self-taught lifelong seamstress who now runs a made to measure business, Alice & Co. She also has a fashion travel blog and is soon to launch some beautiful printed patterns which I got a sneak peek of. From the beginning I was rapt by her vast knowledge, soaking it all in sponge-like and scribbling page after page in my notebook. Each day we tackled a different block, with the morning spent drafting and fitting and the afternoon learning about ways to adapt and add design. We used three different methods: plotting measurements onto a ‘grid’, adapting a standard size block, and fitting a calico toile on the body.

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We did the skirt on day one, probably the most straightforward. After pairing up to take hip and waist measurements, we drew the rough sizing onto a folded piece of calico, with the fold forming the centre front of the skirt and then the back next to it. (Alice explained it’s good to draft like this so you can check the side seams are nicely lined up.) Shaping from waist to hip is made via darts and shaping in the top of the side seam. Edges are smoothed off with a French curve then the calico is sewn up for a first fitting. All of our tweaks were pretty minor: lengthening and adding to the darts generally to create a sleek, well-fitting shape. The calico is then cut out flat along the adjusted lines and traced onto dot-and-cross paper. Ta-da, one basic skirt block from which a million variations can spring.

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In the afternoon, we played around with half-size paper blocks to learn how to manipulate the darts and add in other design elements like pleats, yokes, godets, and flare. This part was so fun – not just because it included scissors, sticky tape and cake making it feel like preschool – because you could really start to visualise how these basic blocks can be transformed in any kind of design you like, while being sure it will always fit perfectly.

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On day two we drafted the bodice by starting with Alice’s standard size blocks. On Alice’s recommendation (after so many years she can read a body size extremely well) I cut a size ten with an FBA – I’ve never done an FBA on a pattern before but apparently I needed one as it solved the issue I always have with bagginess in the upper chest. I had to make a fair few other adjustments, as I knew I’d always needed after making the same adjustments over and over to commercial patterns. As well as the FBA we moved the shoulder forward, took a back neck dart (which got rotated into the waist dart), did a large swayback adjustment and added more ease into the sleeve head.

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Again, we spent the afternoon leaning about how to adapt that bodice and turn our block into princess seams, swingy shapes, blouses, jackets and so on. We also compared the bodice to our skirt from yesterday to see how they could be combined to make dresses. The biggest WOW moment for me is that just because the darts aren’t sewn it doesn’t mean they aren’t there, because just like the skirt they can be pivoted downwards and left open to create fullness while still leaving shaping intact. That explains why tops like the Grainline Scout work so well with no visible darts – they are there, just not sewn up!

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Day three we tackled trousers. I’ve sewn several pairs of pants now that fit pretty well, but actually starting from scratch and learning the theory behind the fitting means the block should be even better. We drafted these using the classic from-scratch technique, inputting our measurements onto a grid of dot and cross paper. Those are then calico’ed, fitted on the body, and the adjustments transferred back to the paper. I eliminated the front darts, lowered the waist (more at the front than back), slimmed the legs and sucked out some excess under the bum. Afterwards we chatted about converting the back darts to a yoke, pockets, waistbands, pleats, adding and removing ease, and so on. I can’t wait to give these a go in real fabric and see how they compare.

toile

After I got home I did a bit more fine-tuning, and tried attaching the skirt, bodice and sleeve to see how they all worked together. Hopefully you can tell even from the crappy fabric and exposed seams that the fit is pretty great: none of the usual sway-back pooling, gaping shoulders, hip tightness etc, and nice straight perpendicular waist and side seams. The block provides a basic ‘shell’ of your body with minimal ease, so when you alter the block you can calculate how much ease to add (or remove) from this baseline. You do need to alter the bodice pattern a bit depending on if your garment will be sleeved or sleeveless so I think I’ll do another block for when I decide to use sleeves (you can see a bit of pulling around the armsyce so more ease is needed). You can also easily adjust the blocks to use with knit fabrics – one simple tip is to use the back bodice as the front too, with adjustments to the neckline and armsyce. I’m really keen to make my knit blocks as well.

Aside from my blocks, I’ve also been left with a head full of ideas and new techniques to improve my general sewing. I really can’t wait to start using the blocks and Alice’s tips to start designing my own garments. I’ve already started doodling some ideas in Illustrator of some interesting silhouettes to try…

dresses

I can’t recommend Alice’s pattern cutting class highly enough. She was a fantastic teacher, so inspiring and encouraging and happy to share her years of knowledge. Check out upcoming dates here – she also teaches ‘Recreate a favourite garment’ which I’d love to do as well.

If you’ve been thinking of making your own blocks, either in a class or using a tutorial at home, I’d say definitely take the time and DO IT! It will completely change your sewing because you’ll learn even more about your body and how patterns are constructed to turn the 2d fabric into a 3d curve-fitting shape. Even if you’re not interested in designing your own patterns, you can compare the block to commercial patterns to check/adjust the fit before getting started (we covered this in the class as well). So have I sold you?! I’m off to make one more toile of my blocks to check they’re 100% correct, then expect some self-drafts popping up here in the near future.

Ray Stitch offered me a discounted last-minute place on the class; views my own.

Self-drafted swimsuit

Self-drafted swimsuit

This is how I feel having made a swimsuit – a self-drafted one that I am this happy to be photographed in, no less. However, I do seem to have lost all of the process photos I took while drafting and making it, so that will have to wait for another time. Sorry!

Self-drafted swimsuit

Having reviewed the swimwear pattern options out there and not feeling any of them, I decided to go the self-drafted route. This honestly isn’t as scary or reckless as it sounds; in fact I think it makes perfect sense for swimwear as you can feel more free to tailor it exactly to your specs.

Self-drafted swimsuit

I designed this costume to suit my body type, ie to draw attention upwards with the strap detailing and minimise the lower half by keeping it less fussy and higher coverage. It’s honestly the most flattering and comfortable suit I’ve ever owned. I based it off an old Topshop suit that I took apart to use as a basic block, but made tons of amends and four toiles to get to this point.

Self-drafted swimsuit

I will share more about the construction in the future, but basically it’s four pieces – front, back and separate cups. It’s fully lined and all the raw edges are encased in fold-over elastic which also forms the straps. The bust cups have deep open-legged darts to create shape, and the elastic does a nice job of keeping everything firmly in place. I know bust support is an issue for lots of sewists planning swimwear – my bust is kind of average sized but I think this style of darted cup works great for it, giving good shape and support without the need for foam cups or underwires.

Self-drafted swimsuit
Self-drafted swimsuit

The FOE strapping crosses over in the back and joins the underbust line in a continuous loop. I’m really glad this came together exactly as it did in my head and feels very supportive without cutting into the shoulders.

Self-drafted swimsuit

I cut the bottoms quite low with plenty of seat coverage. Again the FOE keeps everything snug and I’m sure it’ll stand up to serious swimming just fine. I know there are concerns about FOE degrading in chlorine and salt water over time so I’m interested to see how it fares. Unfortunately there are no beach trips on my horizon for a few months yet so the acid use test will have to wait a bit.

Self-drafted swimsuit

In terms of supplies: the main fabric is from Funki Fabrics, who kindly sent me the fabric for free to try. I’m really pleased with it – it was very easy to work with, the print is sharp and vibrant, and though I haven’t used it in water yet I hope it holds up well. They have a million choices of prints and plain swim lycras so it’s a great choice for UK sewists looking to get into swimwear. The lining is from Fabricland (eye-searing website trigger alert – find it in the Swim/Dance section, it’s called ‘Lining Skin Thin Jersey’) and FOE from Plush Addict.

I’m so happy with how this suit came out that I’m thinking of digitising the pattern and instructions, would anyone be interested? Either way, when I make the next one I’ll at least be sure to take some photos and share some of things I learned along the way.

Favourite dress copycat

Smock dress

This, pals, is my RTW favourite dress – from ASOS many moons ago. It was cheap and is quite poorly made (look at that atrocious unevenness across the waistline!), but I seem to yank it out of the wardrobe for any occasion – work, drinks, holidays, summer days bare-legged and winter days with tights – and it suits them all just great. I love the colours and the print, and the loose smocky shape is so comfortable yet a bit more formal than a knit dress. I’ve been meaning to make a rub-off of it for a while, and finally got round to it just before MMM.

Smock dress

I used quite a similar technique to that outlined here to trace off the dress’s pieces: bodice, sleeve, skirt. In fact I just placed the dress over a roll of Ikea drawing paper and pin-pricked through both layers along all the edges and seamlines, which gave me my cutting lines. It was a very easy task as there are no fastenings, darts or other shaping; the only thing I couldn’t do was figure out the width of the skirt top because it’s in gathers, so I made a guess that it tapers in a little from the hem width.

I made the task even easier by assuming that the sleeves were symmetrical and that the front and back bodice are the same pattern piece (just with a scoopier neck on the front). With a loose shape I think you can get away with a little corner-cutting. Then it’s just a case of ‘truing up’ to make sure the edges that join up are the same length, then adding seam/hem allowance (in my case I only added 5mm because I overlocked for speed).

Smock dress
Smock dress

I knocked together this test version from some batik lightweight cotton that I bought as a large remnant from Minerva. Amazingly it basically worked great first try, feeling very similar fit-wise to my old dress. I actually really love this fabric: it’s super soft and even looks OK a bit rumpled so I don’t need to iron it every time. Happily I have quite a bit left over for another project.

Smock dress

In fact, this has shot up the charts to being one of my most-worn dresses. I wore it twice during MMM and just like my RTW inspiration it’s become a pull-on dress for any occasion, from house-slobbing to casual dinner out.

Smock dress

I just need to do a bit of fit finessing – looser sleeves, higher back neck, longer hem – and I’ve got a simple self-drafted pattern that I know I’ll make and wear over and over.

Operation stashbust part 2

I’m still going with my stashbusting mission: here are a few other recent makes using leftovers and stashed fabrics.

Sewing
Sewing

A raglan tee using up the final tiny piece of jersey left from my feather tunic. I wanted to use every last scrap of this fabric as it’s sooo delicious. The print runs the opposite way to my dress, which I think is actually the correct way as the knit ridges run vertically this way. I didn’t have enough left for the whole top so made up the back with part of a dipped-hem knit skirt that I didn’t like any more (I could even re-use the hem, score), so it was a very thrifty project.

Sewing
Sewing

A super basic ballet dress. I started this ages ago and was dithering on finishing it because I thought it would be a pain to hem. In the end it was fine and I’m glad to have it done. The fabric is a semi-sheer crepe knit from myfabrics which I underlined with white jersey so it’s nice and snuggly. In retrospect I think it would have made a nicer top, but it’s still a cute dress.

Sewing
Sewing

Another crossover-front Scout like my silk one (still probably my most worn make) made in a gauzy voile type woven from Goldhawk Road.

Sewing

A Deer & Doe Plantain tee using some stripy jersey from Goldhawk Road. I can see why this free pattern has been such a hit: it’s so quick to put together and the fit is super great. Plus I fitted this 3/4 sleeve version onto just 1m of fabric. (Have you seen the finalists in the Deer & Doe Plantain contest by the way? So much amazing.)

Sewing

I lacked any contrasting fabric so did the elbow patches on the stripes’ cross-grain, sewn on with a zigzag stitch and walking foot after sticking in place with a glue pen.

Sewing

I tried a new technique for finishing the cuffs and bottom hem: a flatlock seam done completely on the overlocker. Props to Meg for the idea to try this, and this video for a walkthrough of the general technique. Basically you reduce the top needle tension to zero and increase both lower loopers to 8, then sew as you would a blind hem – pressed up once then folded back on itself. Then when you gently tug the seam it falls flat and open with the wide, loose stitch visible from the outside and neat overlocking on the inside. My first attempt is a bit wobbly: in retrospect it would have been much easier to do the hems in the flat before seaming and it was tricky to do the slightly curved hem of the Plantain. But it feels like a really hardwearing and fully stretch-proof hemming method so I’ll definitely give it another go sometime. Anything to avoid the hassle of changing machines all the time tbh.

Sewing

Finally, I had enough jersey scraps left to make matching undies! The perfect scrap-busting project since such a tiny amount of fabric is needed. I used Indigo Orchid’s brilliant free pattern/tutorial and some stretch lace trim bought on eBay. The trim is too wide and these actually turned out too small for me, but they were fun to make so I’ll definitely try again. I just need to take another tip from Meg and make some bras and I might have a truly 100% me-made outfit, eh?

I joke, but the brilliant upshot of all these rather boring stashbust/wardrobe-filler projects is it’s a pretty rare day now that I don’t wear something handmade, which is a great feeling. I am craving some meatier projects next, though: I’ve just had a fresh delivery of delicious new fabrics as a reward for my stashbusting efforts, and I think February will be all about jeans and trousers.