October 31, 2011

On slopers

This afternoon, I planned on taking a picture of myself wearing my usual sloper and, if possible, a version of the JJ sloper. However, last weekend was the end of daylight saving and with the clock back to winter time, there wasn't enough daylight left when I got home. I'll try again tomorrow but I may not succeed until Thursday...

Well, at least we can discuss slopers, don't you think?
As you will probably know already, a sloper is a basic pattern which (in our use. we're not talking about the garment industry blocks here, which are just slopers for RTW clothes) is fitted to the individual and used to make actual garment patterns. Your typical sloper is either very close fitting or has a 'small' to 'moderate' amount of ease and is shaped with darts. Some people prefer a 'no ease' sloper in order to have everything under control but in fact, almost every garment you'll ever make (in experience with the sole exception of a corset-style strapless top) will need ease, so a bit of ease in a sloper is not necessarily a bad thing.
If you are drafting your sloper from a set of instructions, those will often have you include some ease straight away, usually by adding to certain measurements. If you are using a ready-made sloper pattern (like the JJ sloper, which you can find here), you will have to fit it to you like any other pattern.

According to JJ's notes, her sloper includes wearing ease suitable for a fitted shirt, top or dress, so that should be perfect for drafting your dress. It is graded to Burda's bust and waist sizes, with instructions for a small bust alteration included on the pattern pieces. All sizes are, and this is important, drafted with one back length, 41 cm.
Why am I repeating JJ's excellent notes? Well, I want to make sure everyone reads and understands them. Because all of this does not mean you can just make it up in whatever size you usually make Burda patterns in and expect it to be perfect. The Burda empire uses it's own blocks as a base for all its patterns. Blocks intended for wearers with the sizes mentioned in their sizing table.
JJ took those sizes from the sizing table and drafted a set of slopers based on them. Because the sizing table only includes bust, waist and hip measurements, she must have had to guestimate certain other important bits of sizing information.
So, to get the best result from her sloper, you have to take your measurements, check them against Burda's sizing table and pick your size. If you know you have either a small or a large bust your could make a small or large bust alteration straight away, again based on the measurements. The same goes for back length. Personally, I know my back length (the measurement from the base of the neck to the waist, measured at center back) is 39,5 cm, so I would start by shortening this sloper by 1,5 cm.
Be prepared for more alterations though, no sizing table or pattern making method can reliably predict individual differences in things like bust height or shoulder shape and width.
I will post both my usual sloper and my progress on the JJ one here and in the Flickr group no later than this Thursday.
If you have a sloper completed, feel free to post it in the Flickr group as well. Just to show it off, or if you want help with your analysis of it.

Apology and explanation

You know what happens when one is actually kind of busy but resolved to do something extra none the less, don't you? Especially when one starts feeling obliged to do well at the extra something because of the interest shown for it by quite a selection of rather cool people?
Well, then you will understand what happened to me over the past week and a half. Total loss of blogging mojo, and, which is worse, of much of my sewing mojo. Which combined, made me even more ashamed about my performance in this draft-along I planned.
This past week, I have done some other simple projects to claw back my sewing spirit and I'm glad and relieved to report that it worked. Now, let's get back to the draft-along!
Right now, when I'm typing this, it's 7 A.M. and I will have to leave for work in an hour or so. When I return home, around 6 P.M. I will finally write that post about slopers.
I have also decided to stick with the rather simple shirt dress design which I posted in the Flickr group. Two weeks ago, I had ambitious plans about posting several designs and discussing the merits of the different looks. However, while that is all very nice and is, in fact, sort of the way you would learn to design stuff if you actually went to school for that sort of thing, it is not how I usually work. I'm not great at sketching, so I usually do a lot of my considerations in my head, only committing at least half-baked plans to paper. And making an even slightly scanner-ready sketch takes more time than making one for 'at home design' use. Oh, and shirt dresses are fun and versitile, they can be made to flatter many different body types and are easy to fit into a 'normal' wardrobe. All in all, in my humble opinion, not at all a bad choice for anyone's first self-drafted dress.
(Oh, and this is not something I've said before: choosing a 'not a bad choice and not that difficult' design is good. I know it's tempting to try and make the ultimate dress straight away. However, I recommend you consider your first self-drafted dress as the one to gain experience on and only try to aim for the ultimate design later on. Really, trust me on this one.)

Well, I'm going to leave you for now with this picture. Although this is not sewing-related, I thought it would be fun to show you the result of two things I haven't made time for in, maybe, years. Getting a different hair-cut and having someone else take my picture (it took a lot of pictures for just one decent headshot, let me tell you).
More this afternoon. Have a good day!

October 18, 2011

Draft-along update

Last weekend was extremely busy, I've had no time to even get near the computer, let alone post anything here. And I had planned to get started on the slopers...

Well, time for a quick update I guess. I've adressed a couple of the design issues and there are a couple of sketches in the Flickr pool now. I have to say I feel a bit humbled by the sketching skills of both ladies. Other than that, it's great to see how other people think about designing their dresses. I'd love to see more there and I will be adding more of my own. I would also like to emphasize that you can use the Flickr group as a testing ground for your designs. Please don't feel like you have to come up with a perfectly executed sketch of your final design. It's great if you do, but, especially if it's your first time doing this, it may work better to do some rough sketches of different styles, post all those you kind of like and use the comments you get to make your final decision.

Of course, designs should be considered in relation to body shape, as I've pointed out before. Overflowingstash had a great suggestion about that: she wrote that you could trace a picture of yourself, to make a custom croqui, thus both showing your shape and preserving your modesty. In the Flickr group, there's a great example of just that by Barbarain. If you don't have the drawing skills of either of these ladies, you could just settle for tracing the contours of your body in the picture, creating a silhouette.

Obviously, we will still be talking about designing our dress this week but it's also time to start being practical about it. Step 1: making and fitting a sloper.
Several of you have your own slopers already. Of course you can use those, especially if you know it's quirks.
For those of you who don't, this is the link to the JJ sloper on Burdastyle.
(thanks to Claire(aka Seemane) for discovering it despite the fact that it was re-named when Burdastyle changed the site to its present look)
I will be making and fitting this one myself (unless I get the impression no-one will be using it, that is) and show the process.
You can also try this one, found by Sewing Princess. In her comment, she described it as a drafting instruction, but the link she included leads me to a downloadable, and editable sloper in size 10. I'm not familiar with it myself but it looks like any standard sloper.
Overflowingstash also commented with this link and this one which are for making plastic wrap and duct tape dummies respectively. The plastic wrap method will allow you to create a zero-ease sloper. Again, I have no personal experience with this method and, taking her word for it, I'd advice caution.
All comments with these links can be found here.

October 13, 2011

Just a raincoat

I hereby interupt the scheduled draft-along posting to show you something else I've made. My raincoat is finally finished. I finished it on the day the rain (relentless this week) stopped.

I announced my intention to make this coat weeks ago, and I haven't really strayed from my original design. A wide raglan-sleeved coat with wide sleeves, a back pleat and a hood. It is fully lined and has a zipper closure. My own pattern, of course.
I feel like it took me ages to make though.
In the muslin stage, there was a lot of sewing machine related anxiety. It just kept skipping stitches which did some serious harm to my sewing mojo. After cleaning and changing needles, it slowly recovered when I ditched the crinkled linen I used for the muslin.
After that, it was just the material which kept progress slow. Plastic coated fabric means no ironing, no re-doing anything and not a chance at easing anything in.

I'm not entirely pleased with the end-result. I topstitched all the seams to keep them in the right place but I miss the clean look of a well-pressed garment. I'm also not entirely sold on the shape of the hood and although, from a construction point of view, I'm glad I left out the pockets, I sort of miss them in wearing the coat. Oh, and then there's the drape, or rather the lack of it...

October 12, 2011

Body analysis for dress design

On monday, I suggested considering your proportions as one of the starting points for designing your dress. Today, I've decided to try and show what I meant by that.

In general, seamstresses have a better idea about the shape and size of their own bodies than other people. After all, a lot of sewing time goes into fitting and altering-to-fit. As a pattern maker, you will need to hone that awareness even more.
And after all, we've all been there, made something because it looked so good in the pattern magazine or on the envelope, spent many hours making and fitting it only to end up with a garment which doesn't actually suit our body and our style. Pattern making (especially for a beginner) takes even more of your time and you won't want all that effort to be wasted.

So: how to look at, and analyse your body shape. Please allow me to introduce my example: Lauriana (I'm standing a bit funny in the front view. My shoulders are not that uneven)
From the front we see a long neck, angular shoulders, a fairly featureless upper torso and a significant difference between waist and hip, with the widest point fairly far down, at the top of the thigh. The legs are shapely. All in all, the body is a bit bottom-heavy.
From the side, the most striking thing is its flat-ness. Breasts hardly stick out, the stomach is flat and buttocks are there but make a fairly small curve.

These are the observations. Having made these, consider what to emphasize with clothes.
Forget the beauty/fashion magazine tricks for dividing women into apples and pears, rulers and inverted triangles. Although their tips can be useful, each woman's body is different and not every woman may want to work towards the same 'ideal'. Just to give and example, I filled out one of those body-type questionaires once and it said I was a ruler. When I look at my front view though, I'd say I'm a pear. Granted, a rather small pear, but still.

Personally, I like my waist-to-hip ratio and I like that wider hip in general. I feel it's what gives me a feminine figure, despite being skinny. It is also very appropriate for a vintage-inspired dress. Because of it, I think I can pick any of the skirt shapes I mentioned before (pencil-skirt, A-line, circle skirt, gathered skirt). I think for length, depending on the style of the skirt I can do lengths between 15 cm above and 10 cm below the knee (the latter only for very full skirts). And ankle to flour length of course, but that's not really what I'm going for now.
The upper torso is a bit more difficult. With the width of the rib cage and small breasts, it can easily end up looking like a rectangle. It's a fine body shape for normal clothes (probably easier than those hips) but not grea
t for vintage styles which are all about ladylike curves.
Of course, there are tricks. For a 50's-style dress, I usually keep a bit more ease at chest that at the waist and I don't go for any of those (very period accurate) smooth bodices with high necklines. Mine is an upper body flattered by the roomy drape of a cowl neck or by big collars which grow from V shaped necklines (a 'bare' V-neck is out of the question, of course. Now that is a style for the bigger busted ladies among us). All those design elements add width and fullness at the bust. To show off the small waist, I like to wear my vintage style dresses with a (usually dark coloured or black) belt.
(Oh, and of course I know I could wear a push-up bra but I don't like those and I actually don't consider small breasts to be a problem)

Oh, and have you ever wondered about the difference which is made to your shape and posture by wearing heels? Here's an example of that:

Obviously, I don't expect anyone to show off herself in this way here on the internet, just for the draft-along. However, I do think it's a great idea to have a look at yourself this way. In my job, I meet women every week who didn't know they were hiding a waist under shapeless tops and above low-rise trousers. Don't be that woman, study what you've got so you can figure out how to show it to its advantage. If you want to share pictures for advice, the Flickr-group photostream is for members only, so there is some privicy there (please tag such pictures as 'body-shape')

The following people left comments about wanting to join the draft-along but have no email adresses on their profiles:
abaffledcat, Jacqueline deRuyter, Barbara, tantmonokrom, Ewa, Amy (I did read your comment about not having time now, but you may want to be signed up anyway so you can follow along later), ginevra/occasional glimpses, Anna Keaton and overflowingstash.
Please get in touch with me through aicha_hockx AT hotmail DOT com to get your invitation to the Flickr group.
Of course you can also email me at that adress with questions or if you've only just decided to participate in the draft-along.

October 10, 2011

Designing your draft-along dress

If you think sewing presents you with a lot of options to choose from and decisions to make, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by the the very idea of pattern making. It's only natural ;)
After all, if you are making the pattern, the only limits are your imagination and your technical ability (both in sewing and in understanding and therefore drafting patterns). But, maybe it is fortunate that there are some limitations to designing a dress for the draft-along.

Depending on the kind of sloper you are using, you may have noticed already why a dress with a waist seam is 'easier' technically: many drafting methods use a waist length bodice as their basic shape (I think this can be inconvenient with a lot of contemporary clothes and I prefer methods which also pay attention to a hip length bodice but it's absolutely fine for a vintage-style dress) and having a waist seam allows you to use the full spectrum of dart rotation options. And you can basically define drafting a dress pattern as: drafting a bodice and picking your prefered skirt style.

Those are the technical considerations. The style ones are a little trickier.

The words 'vintage style dress' mean different things to different people. Everyone has her prefered fashion eras. Some of you may want a period accurate creation while others really need their dress to work in an everyday environment (maybe even to be worn among people with little tolerance for alternative looks). And, also quite important, we all have different body shapes.

As far as fashion eras go, the technical limitation of the waist seam sort of limits us to late 1940's to early 1960's styles. This is an era which lot of people in the sewing blogosphere love, so I don't expect any problems there. Of course, you can take inspiration for details in your design from any era you like.

How 'costum-y' or 'normal' the overall look will be depends not just on your design but almost as much on the choice of fabric and on how it's worn. Any bigger skirted dress can look very 50's with a fluffy petticoat...
In my opinion, the look you want to achieve should always be considered in relation to my third point: body shape.

The fashionable body shape of the 1950's was, quite obviously, the hourglass. Today, it's mostly the ruler. Back then, there was foundation wear on offer to give yourself a fashionable silhouette (think waist cinchers, girdles, cone bras). Nowadays, we diet and/or exercise (of course I know it's not that black-and-white, but I'm just trying to make a bit of a point).
Most of us today would not want to wear those restricting foundations all day and, in general, people are a bit bigger that they used to be 60 years ago. On the other hand, take a look at old family pictures and find out that girls in the 50's had about the same chance of looking like a fashion model as you or me today...
My point being: a 1950's style dress won't instantly make you look like Dovima (Dior's favorite model).

So, take a good look at your own body. We're absolutely not talking size here. We're talking about shape and proportion (today's truly hourglass shaped girls tend to have a lot of trouble shopping for clothes and may well think themselves bigger than they really are).
The hourglass may be the 50's ideal, but don't worry, there are plenty of ways to trick the eye. I think I will explain my tried and tested tricks, as well as some common-sense solutions for other body types, when we discuss drafting options.

By the way, the picture I put with this post is the silhouette of what may just be the most recognisable vintage fashion look: Dior's "bar" suit, modeled by Dovima. I was looking for one of those 'shapes of fashion' line-ups in Google images, when I found a treasure trove of line drawings of 1900-1950 clothes on here, which is only a small section of this website. Despite the fact that its focus is a bit early for draft-along purposes, it's a great place to explore of dress inspiration (and keep in mind that 'don't likes' can be as important as 'likes' when it comes to design choices).

October 7, 2011

Draft-along: practical information

It's great to see so even more people interested in a draft-along! I'm sorry it's taking me so long to set this thing up properly, but I seem to be hitting some computer-litteracy roadblocks ;) It's nothing I can't overcome, but it all takes time...

So, to start out, I will try to answer some questions which arose in the comments (I will try to answer each one personally, but I think more people may wonder about this):

The point of this draft-along is, as I explained in this post, to draft a retro-style dress, using Burdastyle's JJ sloper, or any other bodice sloper you may have as a starting point. I chose to start with ready-made slopers and to include only simple design details in order to make this a fun way to start and experiment with making patterns. The malfunctioning poll was intended to tell me which style would be the most popular, so I could work on that, making only minor detours to explain simple other options. As it is now, I will explain all three skirt options, some sleeve options and any not-too-difficult bodice/neckline issues which proove to be popular in your designs.
I hope this answers some questions.

In my previous post, I suggested everyone tries to make a design for herself. I'm not doing this because I too lazy, too busy or not sufficiently creative to come up with a good idea myself. No, I did that because, to me, that is the great advantage of making your own patterns: you are not bound to anyone else's design, you can make what you like and what works for your body. I will discuss design options and designing for specific body shapes this weekend.
I have also set up a Flickr group for the draft-along. I thought it would be wise to make it 'by invitation only', just to keep out random weirdos but that means I have to invite each of you by email or Flickr-account name (you can also be invited to the group, and participate in it, if you don't have a Flickr account, so don't worry about that). If you already signed up for the draft-along (and have an email-adress in you blogger profile or mentioned it in the comment) I will email you about this. If you haven't yet and want to be part of it, you can email me at aicha_hockx AT hotmail DOT com.

And finally, someone commented about not being able to find the JJ sloper. This surprised me, but guess what: it's gone. The Burdastyle member who created it isn't listed anymore, so I guess she went and took her creation with her. Burdastyle does offer this sloper dress pattern, but it's only in size 38 and of course, the JJ sloper lives on in Elainemay's Coffee Date dress, which was based on it. Although I think the Coffee Date dress is lovely, I would not recommend using it as a sloper because of the scooped neckline and narrow shoulder (although it could be used for something like a sleeveless cowl neck bodice).
I noticed that many of you have your own slopers, so this may not be so much of an issue. Again, I will email those of you who signed up already, but if you don't receive a messege from me, or if you're only signing up now, please tell me if the missing sloper is a problem for you. We'll find a solution.
Also, if you happen to know a good bodice sloper (pattern or tutorial) which is available online and for free, please, please put it in the comments. (and why am I not telling you how to make a sloper like mine? Well, it's a method from a book and I don't want to violate their copyright and it's in Dutch and hard to translate)

Please read the comments to this post to find out how to download the JJ sloper. Claire found out more about it: it got mysteriously re-named when they changed the website. Just follow Claire's excellent explanation to download the sloper. And to answer Nancy's question: I will either show you how to draft a sleeve or draft a multi-size sleeve to fit the JJ sloper and unload that to Burdastyle.

October 4, 2011

Draft-along plans

Hi everyone! I'm sorry I didn't get the poll-thing to work properly but I don't think it was too much of an issue. After all, most of you mentioned your prefered design details in the comments and it won't be a problem to discuss more than one of the options for most parts of the dress.

I think it's good to draw up a bit of a time schedule for the draft-along (although it's still flexible). Some of you mentioned being busy until mid-October and after that, the Holiday season will creep up quickly. From my point of view, it would work well to think about design during this week, fit slopers (for those who need to do that, with the help of the experienced pattern makers among us) next week and start with the actual drafting in the second half of the month. This should allow us to have finished dresses in the first weeks of November.
If that's all right for most of you, I'll try and make it into a proper schedule.
(I may just have a problem myself though: my sewing machine keeps skipping stitches. Although it does all right on a piece of scrap fabric, it's terrible in the crinkly linen I've been using for my most recent muslins. It might that it's the fabric for hell for my poor lovely sewing machine, but if it isn't... Well, I may just have to take the machine away for maintenance. Although I could take that as an opportunity to use my grandmother's hand-crank machine for this project)

I'm going to make a Flickr-pool for the draft-along (which I've never done before) and I will email everyone who signed up with the information about that.

For now, I'd like to suggest that you try and sketch up a design. Don't worry about not being good at sketching. I'm not that good myself but it can still be helpful in developing one's ideas for a garment and/or a pattern.
For quite some time, I traced shapes to make my sketches work. Fashion drawing instruction pictures for the little ladies with my previous post, but usually the picture you see here, Burdastyle's wire croqui. By now, I'm sufficiently used to the croqui's proportions that I don't really need it anymore. You can just print the croqui and put it under the sheet of paper you are drawing on or you can import it into Illustrator (or any other kind of drawing software, I guess) and put it in a layer under the one in which you are making the actual drawing.

Of course, you can still sign up for the draft-along, if you haven't yet...