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

Seasonal Wardrobe Fatigue

At the beginning of summer, I'm so excited to not have to worry about layers and just be able to throw on a dress and sandals and head out.  By the time it comes to September, I am so utterly sick of every single dress I own and long for more 'interesting' combinations of clothing - that involve separates and layers and scarves.  

Don't get me wrong, summer is my time. Heat and the constant need for sunglasses and sunscreen fill my soul with light and if I could live somewhere where it was constantly warm I would jump at it.  Despite or perhaps because of hailing from the British Isles and all the weather systems that entails, I have no need for rain or cold. At all. (The latter is pretty hilarious given how goddamn cold it gets in this city).

That said, I definitely see the fun and interest in all four seasons, but I'm not someone who wishes them away (well perhaps in April, when it's still below freezing and winter has been going on for a lifetime - but that's my fault for living in NYC.) I do, however, constantly wish for interesting clothing arrangements.  

I made this dress in July and have pretty much worn it non-stop since, and consequently my relationship with it has soured and we're pretty close to breaking up, or at least putting ourselves 'on a break'. (I just watched 'How to be Single' on a plane, and for some reason Rebel Wilson saying 'OK, Season Three Ross' won't leave my brain.)

And now having looked at photos of it, I don't actually really like it that much on me. I clearly need to increase the armhole depth and the length hits me at the worst possible fat-knee place.

But before the relationship reached that stage of disgruntled overfamiliarity, I was utterly in love with everything about this dress. It is very simple, but incredibly flattering (at least so I thought) and in such a fabulous, take you anywhere (as Annie (my mum) would say) fabric, and so easy to throw on, feel pretty and go. Oh and the construction instructions are just brilliant.  Really, really good.

So, she is Ruby by the marvelous Tessuti made in a denim shirting from lovely Caroline of Blackbird Fabrics. I can't tell you how perfectly the fabric met my vision.  

I love a beautifully packaged independent pattern as much as the next sewing nut, but I also love how Tessuti are so honest with their patterns.  They are hand drawn and graded with no frills instructions but brilliantly drafted and the instructions always teach me something.

I've never used stabilising stuff when sewing before, but this pattern has you use it all around the neck and the armholes to ensure nothing stretches.  And it works a treat, there are absolutely no gapes anywhere.  I'll also, usually avoid visible bias binding like the plague, but it just works on this pattern and (shock, horror) I actually enjoyed every moment of putting it together.

I made very minor alterations to the pattern.  I decided to include a centre front seam as the fabric wastage would have been ridiculous if I'd cut both front and back on the fold. (I didn't put the seam down the centre back as I wanted to sew the keyhole and facing as instructed.) The seam is barely noticeable and then when I saw that a CF seam had been used on this awesomeness - after I'd finished the dress - I felt like the coolest kid. (I will be copying that next summer.)

I widened the neckline slightly and I added a load of length and then promptly took it all off again when hemming - this seems to be happening a lot; not sure what is going on with my deluded understanding of how long I am.

I love the cutaway shape of the shoulders - which is so flattering (if it's not all wrinkled due to being too high), and how, even though it trapezes out from under the arms it manages to hang in such a way that it shows some sense of your waist.  Perhaps this is because the side seams are essentially cut on the bias. I'm not sure but it's fab.

And with that I'm done writing about summer wear.  I made a lot more than I managed to blog, but as Morgan so eloquently writes, I don't need to sew all the clothes and I don't need to write about them all either.  

The love affair with this dress was all consuming and intense, but now I'm ready for trousers and shirts and myriad jackets and sumptuous scarves. Until May, by which time, I'll be all over her again like a rash. 

And that, my lovelies, is Seasonal Wardrobe Fatigue.

Much love

See you soon x

ps: it's been a bit sporadic of late, but Noble & Daughter turned 2 this week!