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. 

May 31, 2020

Wearing the new dress

This is what the wax print shirt dress looks like when I wear it! I have to repeat, I'm really out of the habit of posing for pictures and I don't have a lot of patience for it anymore. As a result, there are just two pictures and they are not the best. On the other hand, they give a better idea of the real fit than those on the dummy.
Oh, and they show how well these faded bright colours work on me.

The back is important because I made a pattern choice there which worked out really well. I've been training for rock climbing for the past years and, as a result, the muscles in my shoulders, back and upper arms are now bigger than they ever were before. In fact, I am more muscular all round and obviously that has an impact on how my clothes fit. I am thinking about re-doing my slopers but I don't think now, when a lot of normal day-to-day rhythm isn't there, is the time. 
For this dress, I used my existing sloper but chose a back design to maximize room for arm movement: It has a back yoke which is placed higher on the back than the bottom points of the shoulder darts and all the remaining width from the darts at the back (bottom part of the shoulder dart and waist darts) has been converted to deep pleats under that yoke. The pleats fall more or less on the shoulder blades. Combined with the sleeve, which is a sort of half shirt sleeve, wider and with a shallower sleeve head than the tailored sleeve you draft with a bodice sloper, this gives great ease of movement without really compromising on look and shape. I think I will use this quite a lot...

Oh, if you are interested in doing this as an alteration but you can't make out how to based on my description, let me know in the comments (or email if Blogger won't let you comment). I could do a tutorial but it is a bit of work so I would like to know it would be of use to somebody.  

May 27, 2020

DIY t-shirt print

After reading the comments on my dress, I thought the next post should be one in which I wear that dress. And, even though I don't have a lot of patience for posing for pictures anymore, I planned to take pictures of a jumpsuit I made two weeks ago as well. But it rained for just about all of the long weekend (here in the Netherlands, we had last Thursday and Friday off). Maybe next weekend will be better.

For now, I though I would show you something else I made recently: a t-shirt with a print. Long-time readers may remember that I have made such things before (like this one, all the way back in 2010) and if you do, you will also have read my favorite trick for such things. 

The trick is very simple: Find an image you want on your t-shirt (online is easy, because you will have to print it out). It doesn't matter if you just want part of the image or if you want to combine things. If possible with the software you have, isolate and/or add together the bits you want on the computer. Mirror the image and print it out.
Now, trace all the elements you want with tailor's chalk and rub the chalked side on to a blank t-shirt. You should now have the fuzzy image on there in chalk which you can then copy in fabric marker.
When I made my earlier t-shirts, I could only buy coloured fabric markers for light fabric and I used a small jar of fabric paint in white for the prints on black-shirts. Now, I found a white fabric marker for light and dark fabrics at the hobby store (the brand is "panduro"), which made copying the print a lot easier.

The print itself is a line drawing of mountains based on one I found on the internet, with my new favorite German word in one of the more unusual fonts found in Illustrator. If you are reading this as a native German speaker, can you tell me if you know the word "Fernesweh"? E's German colleague didn't. 
I didn't make it up though, I heard it in the Rammstein-song "Radio" and it seemed like one of those cases in which the German language has a word for something which is described in several words in most other languages. "Fernesweh" is the longing/aching for far-away places, the direct opposite of "Heimweh" (= homesickness. In Dutch we call this "heimwee" which is clearly just borrowing the German word rather than making our own, especially if you consider that "Heim" is German for "home" while the Dutch word is "thuis"...). "Radio" was one of the songs I listened to a lot when making face masks last months and that word got stuck in my head. After all, with Corona crisis stopping all of us from traveling, longing for the far-away is just one of those minor issues of everyday life now. 
And in my case, that means longing for the mountains. I love mountains and I'm rock climber, living in one of the flattest countries on earth which has no rock at all. The Netherlands are a very small country so, under normal circumstances, it is easy to travel to Belgium, France or Germany or even a bit further to Austria, Switzerland or Italy to get one's mountain-fix. But not now. 
Last year, I spent the first week of May climbing in the Frankenjura, in southern Germany and that is the region I most often think about when dreaming about what I would like to do in these long, sunny weekends. So, this print seemed appropriate. 

May 19, 2020

New dress!

As you might expect, I didn't spend all my sewing time on substraction cutting these past weeks. Of course I also made some things I can really wear! Oh, and I made another shirt for E as well. Short-sleeved men's shirts are so much quicker to make than long-sleeved ones...

I thought this would be the most interesting item to show to you. 
Unfortunately, it doesn't fit the dummy anywhere near as well as it fits me. This dummy was given to me by a friend a few years ago. It's basically a display dummy for a shop. I was happy to have it because unlike my second-hand adjustable dummy, this one has a body I can stick pins in. Maybe it is lucky that I didn't get around to using it much for draping because its shape is at least as far off as the other one's. 
And I didn't have an opportunity to take pictures until late in the afternoon and the light isn't great...

Anyway. I do actually really like this dress. 
I bought the fabric as African wax print at the market but it really is a rather cheap copy of the real thing (which I realized before I bought it but it was quite cheap so I decided to take the risk). It's not even cotton but a bit of a mystery blend. When I bought it, the fabric was stiff like thick paper and the print was very bright. I washed it with fabric softener and this is how it came out. It has a rather nice drape but the colours ran like crazy. That was last summer. I was a bit put off by how much the fabric had faded and left it in the stash for months. This spring, when the weather was getting warmer, I had another look at it and decided those faded colours would probably work quite well on me. 

I decided to use the entire piece of fabric (African wax print, and its imitations, is usually sold in cut lengths of 6 yards. The fabric width is about 1 to 1.10 meter) for one garment. So, of course, that would be a dress. I have made lots of 1950's style dresses in the past, width past-the-knee skirts but somehow, I thought this dress would look better with a long skirt. 
So, it became a shirtwaist with a full length, half-circle skirt. It has short sleeves and a convertible collar. At the back, all the width from the darts was shifted into those deep pleats under the yoke. That allows for some glorious room for movement without compromising on shape. 
The overall effect feels a bit 1970's but that's fine with me. 

Oh, by the way, I used my favorite kind of hem for a short shirt sleeve. It's an easy trick with a mirrored hem which gives a turn-up-like look. If it is not obvious to you how to do this and you would like to know, say so in the comments and I'll make a tutorial next time I use it (which should be fairly soon, with a lot of short-sleeve-weather yet to come). 

May 14, 2020

Little experiments 2

And here are the other little dresses!

For the third one, I used the simple bodice placement again but this time there is much more distance between the holes which are sewn together. And those holes are spaced diagonally.

Result: not so great. These connected holes take in so much fabric that it is hard to even get into the dress. And once again, the result is quite freaky.

Dress number four. Less fabric, just "2 meters" but again, I cut the bodice pieces too small. Back bodice in the usual position, front bodice at a 45 degree angle. Only one set of holes but again far apart.

Very different front view. I kind of like having both fabrics on display there. On the other hand, the bodice really pulls to the side and once again, the amount of fabric caught in the connection of the holes doesn't leave enough room for movement.

Dress five, angled bodices again but much simpler hole placement. I started out with one set of holes but when I had sewn that, the light-coloured part of the skirt was still way too long so I added an extra set in that. I just don't remember exactly at what angle.

The result is not bad. The bodice has the same pulling issues as number four and it is, again, easy to see why. If you lay these dresses flat on the table, the skirts basically goes sideways. I wonder how they would be behave in real life. 

As I told you in the previous post, I messed up the scale of the bodice pieces in all but the first tiny dresses. That means I can't really draw conclusions about the amount of fabric I will need based on these. On the other hand, I still learned some valuable lessons. My first full scale attempt at substraction cutting taught me not to make very long connecting side seams and not to place holes close to the hemline. My small scale experiments warned against catching large amounts of fabric in those holes. 
Of course, the dress shapes all look a bit more extreme on this scale. The fabric I used was linen and although the pale stuff is quite soft, the purple has a bit of body. To get this super-sculptural effect on full scale, you would have to use something like denim. A softer fabric should give a more subtle effect.

I'm not sure where to go from here yet. I might make that quarter scale bodice after all and try again with that or I may try and make a full size dress using the set-up of the second dress. I think number five also has potential but I'm not so sure about the way to bodice pulls to the side. 
If I make a full-size dress, I won't use the same basic top shape again. I think I will make something which will look more like my usual dress bodices. After all, there is no reason why you can't use darts, sleeves or a back yoke in combination with substraction cutting... 

May 13, 2020

Little experiments in subtraction cutting 1

Didn't I promise you tiny dresses? Quarter scale dresses I made to try out subtraction cutting? Here they are!

I have to start with one big disclaimer: The proportions on most of them are off, sometimes way off because I was lazy and didn't make quarter size bodice pieces. I just sort of free-handed the shapes which got smaller with each tiny dress. So most of my tiny dresses don't actually allow me to calculate how much fabric I would need for a wearable version. However, they still taught me a lot about what does and does not work with this technique.

If you have read anything about subtraction cutting, you will know that you mark your bodice pieces somewhere in the middle of the fabric, you connect them and cut out the negative space surrounding them. And then you also cut pairs of holes large enough for your hips to pass through. Those will be sewn together later, creating twists. I photographed all my fabric/pattern lay-outs as well as the tiny dresses with the hope of learning what does what.
I will include red lines on the lay-out pictures to show you what goes where and show you front, back and side(s) of the dresses.

First dress: Bodice in the simplest set-up with the back towards the horizontal seam and the front facing it. Try-out of different ways of shaping the side seam (angle or curve at the bottom of the bodice). Two sideways displacements and one simple one, high up on the back piece.
Lesson: Don't do that. It doesn't work. You get a crazily bundled up knot of fabric which would be both uncomfortable and unflattering to wear.

Second dress: Back to basics. Bodice pieces in the same place but this time I decided on the sharp angle between the bodice and the connecting side seam. Holes which will be sewn together close to each other. 

Result: That's more like it! It's like a modern bustled ball gown. I'll just have to figure out what to do with that very uneven hemline (I don't mind hi-low but this is just crazy). Oh, and I caught myself trying to shift the bottom of the skirt the whole time so I'd better line up those two sets of holes. 

One thing you can see in both dresses is the difference made by the side seam treatment: the angled seam created a more defined waistline. Of course, because you simply can't find quarter weight fabric, the result is a bit exaggerated in scale model dresses like these.
I more tiny dresses to show you, but too many pictures would make this post too long and it's getting late. I'll be back with more tomorrow!