Learning to draft

Over the past 18 months I've been taking patternmaking courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan.

(BTW what is up with that name? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.)

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Other than wanting to learn more about drafting and how I can make exactly what I want from scratch, the reasons for doing this have been a little hazy. However, as the possibility of my Green Card arriving, and the associated ability to work gets more real, and as my little one starts Kindergarten in the fall, my desire to have gainful occupation outside of the home (and MONEY!) for the first time in five years is emerging rapidly from its slumber.

I have no intention of returning to my previous career in marketing. Just the thought of it gives me hives. And actually, after a hiatus of 5 years, I don't think the hives are just from my pure hatred of my previous profession. There is a hefty lack of self-confidence and major self-doubt wound up in there as well. Increasingly I find myself coming back to doing something that involves sewing and / or manipulating large sheets of tissue paper.

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I don't know, we'll see, but the by-product of this is that I am now able to design and draft patterns for myself for clothes I especially want but for which I can't find a pattern. My skills are still immature but the more I practice, the better I get and the more things click into place.

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I'm often in awe of people who don't need a pattern, who just use measurements and scissors and create incredible items of clothing, like Julia and Cotton and Curls and a friend on my pattern cutting course. I'm not that person; I need rules and a process. I need to refer to notes and be methodical, taking whatever process I am doing, one step at a time. I'm that person who likes filling out forms and follows instructions booklets to the letter.  

It's hard sometimes to marry that side of my brain with what is supposed to be a creative pursuit. But actually patternmaking manages to satisfy both of those Charlies. I am translating a vision and a creative design into a reality by using straight lines and (a little bit of) math(s) and width of a pencil line accuracy. I LOVE it. 

This dress is one of the results of that process.

I had seen a dress similar to this somewhere and could not get it out of my head. Knowing that I wanted to make it, I used the flexibility within the brief of my final project last semester to recreate it. I think the original was created in a viscose or something similar but this is made in a rich burgundy mid-weight cotton twill from Mood.

It's a pretty simple design really, the skirt is a mid calf length A-Line with side scoop pockets, a centre back invisible zip and side slits. For the top I traced my bodice block and drew a square neckline and inch wide straps that cut away to join the skirt waistband at the side seam.

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Similarly, I used the back bodice sloper to draw the shape of the back pieces. Knowing I wanted them to meet at centre back, be wider at the waist and to have a triangular but slightly curved shape to them. This I played around with for a while and when it came to making a muslin, I took out quite a lot of length on the inside seamline, so that straps stayed put, didn't bag out and created a subtle curve. This means that the seamline is kind of on the bias, so I was extra careful to reinforce it with staystitching. and in future I think even interfacing tape, so that it wouldn't stretch out. Having learnt a hard lesson on that from this dress.

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The bodice is fully lined and I used the hide-it-all-inside-the-straps-and-hope-to-hell-it-doesn't-get-stuck-in-there burrito method to give a completely clean finish.

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Overall I'm really pleased with how it turned out. The bodice darts need a little adjustment as there is extra fabric in there and they have a tendency to get pointy. I think if I was doing this again, I would take some volume out of the skirt, or alter the length, as the whole look tends a little towards "trainee nun's apron". But as I mentioned in an Instagram post the other day, if this is of the radical nun persuasion as Sasha sometimes refers to her incredible, chic style, then I'd be OK with that!

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So, if nothing else, FIT has given me the ability to make my wardrobe even more one of a kind and the chance to waste endless hours drawing shapes and cutting them out, which is unbelievably therapeutic.

Where do you find your therapy?

See you soon xx

Copycat: Dressing for ice cream. But not maths.

So, I think approximately 15 years ago, I wrote this post about my next planned copycat, which I duly made and loved and haven't worn or photographed or written about.   Finally, I've got my behind in gear and here she is, in all her chintzy, florally, acid green glory.

I hate admitting this as I like to think I'm smart and can do anything, but I am singularly rubbish with numbers.  I struggle with times tables and it takes me a phenomenally long time to work out any mathematical conundrum. I vividly remember the ridiculous length of time it took me to master simultaneous equations at school and how immensely frustrating I found the whole thing (I did however get 98% for something or other related to my maths GCSE which just goes to show what being a hard-working geek can get you). 

The point of me telling you this is that I had to use my incredibly non-math(s) oriented brain to work out the pleating on my skirt.  It took me longer to do that than it did to make the skirt. And the sweater. Combined.

My fabric was 45 inches wide and I only had about two yards of it.  I intended to use the entire length of the fabric so the skirt would be mid-calf - which seems to be a theme round here at the moment - and a width each for the front and the back.  This totally dictated the size and number of pleats (rather than the other way around). 

As you can see from the above photo, my workings - even with guidance from how to do this on various websites - went on and on and on.  I had to play around with the width of the pleat - I originally wanted 2 inch pleats - and the number so that I could get a skirt that fitted around my waist.  The maths went on. 

And on. 

And on. 

And then I got fed up with myself and left it alone for a few days.  And then I had to start all over again as I couldn't remember where I'd got to.  Finally, I found my formula (shown in the celebratory box at the bottom of the page).

I could only fit seven one and a half inch pleats in each width of fabric and this left quite a bit of non-pleated fabric on each width.  Fortunately, this actually worked to my advantage as I used the non-pleated bits either side of the side seams.  This creates less bulk on my hips, which as a pear-shaped lady, is always a winner.  I also stitched down the first inch and a half of the pleats, again to create a smoother top of the skirt and reduce bulk.

After the fifteen maths years, the skirt was so quick to put together.  I finished the seams with my serger, didn't bother to line as the fabric (from The Fabric Store in LA) is lovely and soft and very opaque and pretty heavy.  The waistband is a simply inch and a half rectangle, which I interfaced and then stabilised with some petersham ribbon as a waist stay that I left peaking out from beneath the waistband as it's so pretty.  I usually finish waistbands by slipstitching the facing closed, but I thought some wonky topstitching would finish the band nicely so I used that method instead. 

An invisible zipper on the side and a sweet domed clear plastic button - one of the many I have bought in the search for the perfect buttons for this dress - which I still haven't found incidentally - created the fastening.  Given the fabric is so thick, I decided to hem with tape.  I've never hemmed like this before so I went to town with a fancy scalloped machine stitch to attach the tape to the raw edge and then an invisible catch stitch.

And there she is the inspriation and my replica.  Pleated, chintzy, floral joy, just waiting for a green sweater, ridiculous necklace and an ice cream.

Except I was too lazy/ overdressed to walk the half block to the ice cream place to get a proper ice cream so hideous popsicle from the freezer will do instead.  And I'd taken my sweater off for this photo, but you get the idea ....

I mentioned when planning that just at the time I was thinking how I could recreate this vision of loveliness the April issue of Seamwork came out and my wishes were answered in the form of Astoria. Then whilst in Mood I found this bright bright bright textured green ponte, which I'm still not sure about. But I've found the top works OK with this skirt but actually looks great with a lovely pair of wide legged ankle swingers I own.  

And if I don't look down too much my eyes don't hurt, so that helps. 

I like this pattern and it was super fast to make. I'll probably make it again in a more wearable colour, but again I had ease issues as it would look much better if I went down a size or even two.

Incidentally, my green silk eucalpyt goes perfectly with this skirt.  Who would have thought I'd make two items of clothing that actually go with each other!

I love love love this skirt, but I think I might have mentioned before that my life doesn't really warrant an army of fancy pleated skirts and aside from that it's been 30 degrees and 80+% humidity recently which equates to far too warm to wear such deliciousness, even if accompanied by ice cream.  I'm holding out for September when I get back from my travels and booking in lots of grown up evenings out so I can wear the heck out of it.

See you soon x