July 23, 2020

my subtraction pattern and some answers

In the previous post, I promised to show you what the "pattern" for my dress looks like. And here it is (as usual, the drawing is not to scale):

As you can see, the pattern is perfectly symmetrical. 
I started with two pieces of fabric which were 140 cm wide and 3 meters long.
I used my favorite shirtwaist bodice in which all the dart width at the back has been converted into those pleats under the back yoke. On the front bodice, I combined the waist and bust darts into a single French dart. The front bodice piece is drafted to extend 2 cm beyond center front, to create an overlap for the button closure. In the subtraction pattern, left and right front bodice are placed edge tot edge (with added seam allowance, of course) and then cut. 
To make that work, I added extra width to the circle just below the waistline (not in the picture). 6 cm to be precise, the 2 cm for the overlap and 1 cm seam allowance, both times 2. 

I managed to cut out the facing pieces from the cut-out fabric around the bodice  but used an extra bit of fabric (in fact, the 40 cm bit I cut off at the bottom) for the collar and sleeves.

As you can see, I cut out the bodice pieces with sharp angles to the "side seam". In the small scale dresses, I preferred the look of that. Waist definition. 
It did mean I had to treat those points with care. I fused small circles of lightweight fusible interfacing to them, then sewed the seams and cut to the seamline. At least, that is what I did on the right side. On the left, I put in an invisible zipper. 

When I first tried the dress on, I was disappointed to find the bottom loop around my shins. I considered partially sewing it to the waistline but I didn't do that in the end. Instead, when I put the dress on, I make sure my body passes through that loop first and then through the "top" one. The top loop can't sag down because it is connected to the front waistline. So, it keeps up the other one between waist and hip. This adds to the skirt volume at the sides, which I really like.

To me, this dress is much more wearable than my first attempt (the brown-and-stripes one in this post), which was more of a "normal" subtraction cut dress. In fact, this one goes a bit against the spirit of the subtraction cutting technique. I used small scale experiments to take out the risk of experimentation and I made the bodice using normal pattern making techniques. I is what works for me though.

I think I will enjoy wearing this dress although the amount for fabric means it is not really an every day kind of thing. I would also like to continue experimenting with this technique and I think I will go on to do so in my way, with scale experiments and added normal pattern making. 

July 8, 2020

The subtraction cut dress!

A bit of a disclaimer: these pictures aren't great, to say the least. 
It turned out I didn't have time to have E take pictures of me wearing the subtraction cut dress last weekend, so I did it myself with the camera on self-timer yesterday. I used to do that a lot but I'm out of practice and out of patience with the process and it shows. 

However, I didn't want to keep you waiting for a dress I've been talking about for a while. I may try and get some better pictures next weekend and will certainly post more about the pattern and construction of the dress later this week.

The fabrics I use were chambray with a flower silhouette print and linen. Fairly stiff fabrics, which give volume where they are gathered up. 
Combined with my pattern choices, that gave the dress a silhouette which reminds me slightly of Rococo dresses worn over panniers: with volume jutting out sharply at the side waistline. 
The back is a bit plain but I don't really mind.
I'm really glad I decided to cut off those 40 cm at the bottom. the fact that legs and feet are visible at the front and side gives the dress a sense of lightness and fun that just wasn't there when it was floor-length. 
And obviously, I used a bodice shape I know and love.

July 3, 2020


To be honest, I finished my subtraction cut dress a couple of days after the previous post. And I'm happy with it. I also realized I would have to pose for pictures to really show you what it's like.
But then there were some distractions: It was announced that sports facilities in the Netherlands would re-open on 1 July (not for contact sports of course). This was great news but it also meant more work. My local climbing gym had used the past months to clean its walls so it needed a lot of new routes. And I'm a route setter there.

The person in this picture isn't me. In fact, I'm sure she's grateful to me because I set the route she is using to get up the wall. Route setting on toprope is a lot less tiring when there's an easy route nearby which you can use...

Then, we had a little heat wave.

And then, last weekend, I went climbing in Belgium with a small group of people for the first time since the lockdown started.
It was great to be out on the rock again and the weather was nice too. 

So, I think I will be able to get some pictures of the new dress on Sunday...

June 15, 2020

Subtraction cutting again!

After my very simple dress, I decided to change gears and make something more complicated. I didn't make all those tiny dresses for nothing after all...

The design I used as a starting point is the second one from this post. In many ways, it is the simplest one I tried and probably the least typical for the technique. But that also makes it the most likely one with which to get a wearable result for what is really still just me trying it out. 

Most of the subtraction cut dresses you will find online have very simple, loose fitting sleeveless tops. I didn't really want that and I have cut the same bodice as the one I used for my recent dress. It will have buttons from the waist up and a side zipper.
Because I got the scale of the bodice wrong on the tiny dress, I didn't have quite as much length to cut holes for the skirt as it seemed in small scale. When I was marking the circles out for cutting, I realized that the bottom set on the front of the dress would end up too close to the hemline. So, I didn't cut those holes. (I'll make a proper pattern lay-out drawing when I post about the finished dress)

If you read about subtraction cutting, some people who tried it are very enthusiastic about how quick this technique is. If you read that, have a good look at the pictures. Many of those quick dresses are no more than muslins with raw edges at the armholes and neckline and over-long, unhemmed skirts spread on the floor. In my book, those are not finished dresses. 
Making it a nicely finished dress doesn't require any special skills but it does mean constantly dealing with quite a lot of fabric around the sewing machine. 

So far, I have put the bodice together but it still needs sleeves and a collar. I have also sewn up those holes.
The skirt doesn't have anywhere near the volume of that in the tiny dress (but a bit more than it seems on the dummy).

The strange thing I noticed when I tried it on was this:

The hole from the back is all the way down at my ankles. Deeply unpractical and it doesn't really do anything for the shape of the skirt. I tried connecting it to the top one at center front and that seems to work well. It creates that bustle-effect at the back which attracted me in the tiny dress (you can kind of see it in the side views but not really well enough. The lighting doesn't help. I'm sorry about that but I didn't have much time to take pictures)
The skirt is also too long. On the dummy, it almost looks like I could make that second set of holes after all but when I wore the dress, I really didn't think so. What I think I'll do is simply cut off about 40 cm at the bottom and then hem it. Unlike on the first dress I tried, the bottom edge of this one doesn't cross extra seams. That should mean I end up with a hi-low effect because the bustle hangs down to about the ankles. And the cut-off length will give me the extra fabric I need for the sleeves. 

I'll keep you posted on the progress!

June 11, 2020

Super-simple dress

Here's another one I made a couple of weeks ago. A very simple t-shirt-dress in a nice cotton jersey. 

I used the same old trick again to jazz it up a bit: I used a picture of a small bird in flight traced the lines to make a print on the dress. 
Very easy to make but I'm sure I will wear it a lot.

June 3, 2020

The action back

Fitted bodices can really limit your range of movement. Of course, that can be down to a fitting issue but not necessarily. Some styles are just inherently restrictive (just ask anyone in a tailored jacket to hold out his/her arms out to the side at a right angle to the body). Perfect, individualized fitting can make the most of any style but that is a difficult job (one I should try and tackle once I'm fairly certain my shoulders will stay the same shape for a while).
Styles which allow for a great range of movement are traditionally wider and more casual in look. I say traditionally because a lot of that job is done nowadays by elastane. 

The pattern adjustment I used for my dress and jumpsuit is intended for fabrics without stretch. In fact, it is kind of like the "action back" on some casual jackets (for men as well as for women) from the 1940's. The adjustment adds room for movement but confines it in the general, fitted shape of the design.
It is easy to make using a sloper or a tried-and-tested pattern for a fitted bodice with sleeves (as ever, my drawings are not to scale) 

Your pattern will need a waist seam to make this adjustment possible. If your sloper doesn't have a waist seam, just cut it at the waistline.

Draw a line for the back yoke. My sloper has fairly long shoulder darts so my line crosses the shoulder dart. The line should be between a third and half the height of the arm scye when measured from the top.

Trace the yoke pieces fit them together. Here you can see that my drawing isn't very good. There shouldn't be a big dent in the shoulder line (there will probably be a small one. If there is, just keep it).

Clean up the shape of the yoke. It will end up with a slightly curved bottom edge. 

Draw lines from the tops of the waist darts (or dart, if the pattern you are using has only one) to the bottom of the shoulder dart. If you had a shorter shoulder dart, draw the lines to the point on the yoke line under were it ends.

Cut the lines and close the darts. This will transfer all the width from the darts to that one point on the yoke.

Mark the edges of the pleat.

Add seam allowance to the pattern pieces if you like. Both pieces should be cut with center back on the fold. 
Fold the pleats closed before sewing the lower bodice to the yoke.
I usually cut the yoke piece twice. I use one as a lining and sew the yoke seam and shoulder seams so that all seam allowances will be encased between outside and lining. 

June 1, 2020

Jumpsuit time!

Here is a new item of clothing I couldn't even try and photograph on the dummy: I have made another jumpsuit!

This is another thing which will be familiar to you if you have been reading my blog before. I like jumpsuits and I have made lots of them, in various styles (there are even some which never made it to the blog. When the weather cools down a bit, I will take pictures of my favorite jumpsuit from the great blogging hiatus). All the jumpsuits I have made, have been my own designs and my own patterns. I think that really contributes to why I like them. After all, few garments are harder to fit... Body length issues can be terrible with jumpsuits (just try out some RTW ones). If you would like to draft your own, I made a tutorial for it years ago. You can find it here. For the tutorial, you will need your own bodice and trouser slopers (or tried-and-tested patterns) but I explained how to connect those together. Oh, and I don't think I included this at the time but the straight grain should always run along the center of the trouser legs (so keeping the original grain line on the trousers)

This particular jumpsuit was made in the dark blue cotton/linen blend I have used before. It's a nice, comfortable and hard-wearing fabric and years ago, I bought the rest of the bolt which was still about 30 meters. I'm still happy to have lots of it. I have used it for jumpsuits, jackets and trousers for myself and a jacket and trousers for E. It's just a nice go-to material for spring and summer.

It has the same sleeves and back as my dress (and I finished it before I promised to show you how to make those) and even the same collar but it has a wrap front. Obviously, the wrap-over bit extends below the waist seam, in the wide legged trousers. I made one mistake though: I made the hole to pull the tie through in the left side seam which means the wrap is tied at the right hip and closes left over right... Which is actually the wrong way round. It doesn't bother me though, so I won't change it.