I keep talking about getting a well fitting starter block, then using it as the basis for patterns. But what I find myself doing in real life is start from a basic commercial pattern, and alter that to fit and flatter. Then using that as the starting point for other versions.
I’ve found I have to do most of the fitting work anyway even if I use personalised drafting methods or fitting aids, which assume a more average body than mine (see my post on fitting aids). So I might as well work by getting the fit of a commercial pattern right, rather than drafting or using a fitting aid and then still having to make all the fitting changes.
So I wondered how much I should acknowledge the original commercial pattern. How many changes can I make before it no longer counts as the same pattern. Would the original designer be aggrieved if I didn’t mention her, or insulted if I did
Asked a question about this at Stitchers’ Guild, and got some interesting and wise replies.
I think there are two different goals of changing a pattern:
- deliberately use a pattern as the starting point for making a different design,
- alter a pattern to fit and flatter, and find you’ve made so many changes the result could count as a different style. But getting a different style was an incidental output of the process, not the intended outcome.
It’s this second process I’m commenting on here.
I have two clear examples, which I’ve come to different conclusions about. I wanted a version that fits well and looks good, and assumed I would make minor changes. But the original patterns I chose obviously aren’t good starting points for me, as nearly every proportion and curve of my version is different from the original. So it could count as a different pattern. This post on a loose pullover drop-shoulder dartless top. Second post will be on a raglan top.
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A casual pullover top
Last year I did a lot of work on fit and flatter of a casual pullover top. The most basic dartless top pattern has front and back armholes the same, which doesn’t give anywhere near a good result on my high round back and sloping shoulders. I added shoulder darts, changed shoulder slope, changed body and sleeve length and width (front and back not the same), changed shape of armhole and sleeve cap so they fit well, changed to a more flattering neckline for me. The only thing unchanged was the parallel sides of the body !
My starting point was Taylor Made Designs Sew-Easy Shirt by Cindy Taylor Oates.
I think I could have started from several other commercial patterns (or drafted my own from the instructions at Burda Style) and had to make similar alterations.
Perhaps Cutting Line Designs Two x Four.
or The Sewing Workshop Hudson top.
Here’s the front of my version (white) compared with Cutting Line 2×4.
Look at the middle line of the commercial pattern. Well, mine is the same width at bust level !
Many people love this Cutting Line pattern and find it fits ‘out of the envelope’. But obviously my comfortable and well fitted armhole and neckline are different. (Yes, my version is drop shouldered on me )
There are many similar casual top styles. (For general comments on this type of casual ‘dartless’ block, see my post on them.) I decided my version is one of the large family of slightly drop-shoulder loose fitting top patterns, and I needn’t mention the original designer. Many people would acknowledge the starting point even for such a generic design. I would mention Cindy Taylor Oates if I used her piecing inspiration.
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A far from tidy muslin – new armhole and sleeve cap
Perhaps some of you are like me, and daunted and amazed by the pristine muslins people show in their blogs. So here is part of the armhole development for my personal sloppy top pattern.
Made using swedish tracing paper, which I love – trace the pattern and mark out a sewable trial garment in one step ! A little stiff and no ‘give’, so not for testing draped or bias designs. Many people prefer to use fabric, but my first trial of a pattern is usually far from a good fit, and this is excellent for showing all the sags and strains.
Here’s a comparison of sleeve caps, my muslin and the original. My version is the final one of several as I looked for a way to match sleeve cap to new armhole. Compare with the middle original line.
(I didn’t discover a magic method for developing a sleeve cap – involved a lot of reading, guesswork, and trying things out.)
Obviously big changes to armhole and sleeve needed to get a good look on me.
Two main changes :
- a higher more fitted and scooped out armhole, which usually needs a taller sleeve cap,
- front and back armholes and sleeve cap different. The usual casual drop-shoulder pattern, with front and back armholes and sleeve cap the same, doesn’t fit well on my rounded shoulders.
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A few general thoughts on muslin making
I consider the ‘muslin’ is a working tool, and I like seeing evidence of the alteration steps I’ve gone through. Other people greatly prefer tidiness. Some people make a new muslin each time they change the fitting pattern. That approach I confess would drive me wild with boredom.
An interesting process, especially now I’ve done enough pattern work to be happy with slashing and spreading and generally altering. In the confident expectation it is possible to get there in the end !
Not a feeling I got from working with ‘easy fit’ tools of any type. I definitely didn’t enjoy my initial stages of learning to fit, as ‘easy’ fitting aids didn’t work for me, and much-recommended fitting texts didn’t include the guidance I needed. I had the same lack of success with pattern making software, and with the personal slopers produced from drafting instructions in pattern making books. I felt lost and confused. All these people telling me their method produced marvellous results – and on me it looked terrible. . . Now I have Liechty & Co’s Fitting and Pattern Alteration book. I know more about what I’m doing, and expect to experiment rather than get it right first time.
It’s certainly very rewarding when things transform from lumpy mess to sleek and flattering I still remember my delighted amazement when for the first time the CF lines on two sides of a pattern fell neatly together all the way down without any pulling and tugging on my part ! Or the first time I made a high round back adjustment, and the back fell down smoothly from the shoulders. . . We sewers do have simple joys
It was also exciting to find this sort of boxy top doesn’t have to look bad on me – I’m so used to that from RTW I thought it was part of the style !
Well this has turned out to be more about muslins than attributing the origin of the design. . .
Good Luck to all who need to make so many changes to a pattern just to get it to look good
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Patterns and links available November 2012
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