Monday, May 6, 2013

To thine own self be true

You know, for a while there I tried to hide my infatuation for Japanese cottons.  I thought to myself, who else is so obsessed with the textiles of one geographic region? And grown ups sew with proper fabrics like jersey and silk and wool and linen. Not flowery cottons.

But as Polonius said, to thine own self be true, and although he was a bit of a dill it's good advice. I am a true girly girl. So I came to my senses and just made more flowery dresses.

This one is New Look 6824, which is one of those 'choose your own adventure' patterns that allow you to mix and match the bodice, skirt, sleeve and collar styles to suit whatever takes your fancy.

This dress is a combination of B (sleeveless bodice), C (boat neck collar) and H (full pleated skirt). The waist tie is one I had lying around - I did not make the waist bow from the pattern - that would have been too much frou frou.

I had a lot of trouble with the fit for this one, and at the time didn't really have the skills or knowledge to figure out how to fix it. As you can see the bodice is far too big across the shoulders and bust and ... well everywhere really. It was also swimming around the side seams but I took those in.  

From this pattern in particular I learnt that the ease that is included in most commercial patterns does not suit my style, so more often than not I have to increase side seams or darts in order to make the bodice more fitted. Otherwise everything looks muumuu-esque. 
Let's go on a slight diversion here - this is the book from which I was (subsequently) taught how to measure, fit and draft pattern blocks:

I recommend this book  - Winifred Aldrich's metric pattern cutting for women's wear - to everyone who is interested in understanding how patterns are created and how to amend them to suit the wearer.  It is the book that that my design teacher uses. There is a lot of maths and rulers involved but once you've drafted your own blocks this will save you lots of time and heartache in the future!

So you can see what I mean about the sizing of commercial patterns, here are my measurements plotted over the sizing table in the book. From this we can see that compared to the hypothetical 'normal' lady I have herculean broad shoulders, a short hobbit waist and arms, and a waist to knee measurement that is so far off the chart that I should be a giraffe.

Therefore any attempt make a commercial pattern using a size 10 or 12 without alteration will just result in a tantrum, followed by unpicking, a bottle of wine or two and large slabs of regret the following day (for wasting good fabric and good wine).

Here are my bodice and skirt blocks that I use to create patterns from scratch, or to compare with commercial patterns:

My usual approach to pattern management is to pick the bodice size on the bust measurement, add on a bit to the shoulders if necessary, take in the side seams, shorten the bodice (most patterns have a 'shorten or lengthen here' mark) and hem skirts aggressively!

Another measurement to keep in mind is the "Finished Garment Measurements" that are often listed on the back of the pattern. For this New Look pattern, the bust measurement for a size 10 finished bodice is 35.5 inches - that's three inches of ease which is far beyond my tolerance.

This method of measurement has been taught for decades. Have a look at this book - it was used by my aunt and my mum at school in the 1950s!

Here you can see their notes and measurements on drafting the bodice block:

Pretty cool hey! Anyway back to our regularly scheduled program.  The fabric I used is a Japanese cotton from Tessutis. The weave is quite large, nearly in linen territory.  It is partly dyed and partly printed navy, cream and white with little red accents. Isn't it lovely?

The lady at Tessutis helped me choose the white for the collar. Her advice was that white would pick up the white printed flowers and make them stand out, rather than using a cream and blending in and being all same-y.

Japanese cherry blossoms. My favourite! The pleats on the skirt also give it heaps of movement.

I was going to include another Japanese cotton dress I've made in this post but took up so much time waffling about measurements that I've run out of room. Next time!


  1. I'm envious of your fitting blocks! Maybe I'd be more open to muslins if I knew what to do with them once I make them! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the cotton you chose for this dress.

  2. Thanks Kim :) maybe I should do a post on drafting blocks? Hmmm...

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