Archive for the ‘pattern making for clothes’ category

Style elements

January 29, 2017

This is such a visual topic, but yet there are no images in this post as there’s no easy way of summarising 100s of style elements. So here are quick links to my pinterest boards :

Jackets / coats
Cardigans
Tops
Yokes / smocks
Pants / trousers
Skirts / dresses
Jumpsuits

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I have a huge pattern collection – I’m a pattern nerd – and I enjoy them in their own right, as a treasure trove of style ideas, pattern making solutions and sewing instructions, rather than actually using them to make things ! I’m one of those people who reads the instructions and looks at the pattern pieces for fun 😀 (and gets upset with mistakes). I do know this is the opposite of many people.

The starting point I sew from is influenced by several factors.

I have a good collection of body shape features which are not ‘average’, so my personal fitting blocks are nothing like the base blocks used as starting points for commercial patterns. This makes it hard work to adapt commercial patterns to fit.
I find it much easier to start from my own personal blocks, and add style elements to them, often taking information about silhouettes / proportions / details from commercial patterns.

Admittedly it helps with this problem that I’m interested in pattern making, and have a good collection of books and on-line classes on it. As well as patterns to copy the style elements from. People who don’t enjoy pattern making would need to find a different solution for this situation.

So what style elements are there to choose from to make your own design ?
And what did I learn from collecting them together ?

Style elements and proportions

I’ve recently been using pinterest as a way of collecting information about style elements, very easy to do as several sites have done a good job of pulling them together.

I’ve made several pinterest boards of my own.
Of course these images only cover representative versions of each style, there are infinite possibilities for varying proportions and combining details.

Those boards show clearly different styles, such as high or scooped neckline, flat Peter Pan collar or high banded collar, dolman or fitted sleeves. Within these styles, quite small changes in the proportions of silhouette and style elements, and in the fabrics and support structures used, can make a big difference to the look of the final result.
For an example, see my post on my ideal shirt.

Which is why many of us prefer to use other people’s designs rather than make our own. We can see from their illustrations if the proportions they’ve chosen are the ones we’re looking for.
Usually photos give the most reliable information about proportions. Fashion drawings and line illustrations may be good for seeing style elements, but they’re sometimes quite mis-leading about the proportions used in a pattern.

Specific style elements

Jackets and coats

After I’d collected these together I realised several things.

These lists must be compiled by fashionistas, as there’s a distinct lack of basic formal classics like the French/‘Chanel’ jacket, or basic casual classics like the jeans jacket or the waterfall collar. So I added some images of my own.

These lists are about styles for woven fabric, I didn’t find any ready-made lists of casual knit cardigan styles, so I compiled my own. And some hoodies, as they’re also rarely included in the lists.
Another oddity, the only section of BMV that has many patterns for cardigans is McCall’s !

Cardigan styles

Tops, including blouses and shirts. Also knit tees and tops – it’s not so obvious that their features are included, but they are there :

Tops
Use these necklines and sleeves also for the bodice part of dresses and jumpsuits.

Again the fashionistas don’t pay much attention to a personal favourite, which is yokes. So I’ve added a board of patterns which show the variety of options.
Yoke styles

For bottoms I prefer wearing :

Pants / trousers

For completeness I’ve added :

Skirts / dresses
although I rarely wear them myself.

And I haven’t seen guides for fashion students about jumpsuits. So here’s a selection of patterns for them, though only ones with sleeves and waist seams.
Jumpsuits

What I’ve noticed about my own style

Once I had made these pinterest boards, I had several interesting realisations.

There are many styles missing from the stylists’ reference lists. Many of us feel most ourselves when we’re wearing styles which are ignored by the fashionistas and the sites which support fashion design students. It’s not surprising that some people feel un-recognised, even alienated, by ‘fashion’.

And I have realised there are very few of these silhouettes and proportions or details which I want to wear myself.
I wouldn’t say that I’m a classic dresser or a conservative dresser, as those words imply a particular type of style elements, which I don’t wear.
But I am a very ‘unvaried’ dresser, repeating the same proportions, silhouettes and details rather than exploring all the possibilities.
I’m the same about accessories, nearly always wearing the same shoe style, bag shape, necklace length. I get uncomfortable with too big a change. Though I do admit to a variety of scarves and brooches/pins !

Well, I could wear most of the yokes and many of the cardigan styles – some of the styles the fashionistas ignore. . . So perhaps I do like variety, it’s just within a smaller range than the fashionistas consider, and styles they don’t think of !
Have you got your own ‘signature’ style element ?
Have you made a pinterest board to celebrate it 😀

So there aren’t so many variations that I want to make. That’s another reason why it’s easier for me to start from my own blocks, rather than needing ever more patterns.
I’m a quiet person, and I like subtle variety. I get my interest from small changes in proportions, and subtle changes in fabric colour and texture.

Again I know that many people are the opposite of this – and want to explore all the possibilities and wear / make something different every time.

Where do you come on this ?
Do you find looking at these images and picking out the ones you like and enjoy wearing is a good guide to your personal style ?
Or is what you like to wear missing altogether from these images ?
Or is your style eclectic, and you like all of them 😀

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Links available January 2017

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Make everything from one pattern ?

November 12, 2016

Interested in the challenge of making everything from one pattern ? And I don’t mean a wardrobe pattern !

The Pattern Review One Pattern Many Looks contest for 2016 is currently running.
For this contest, you have to choose one view of a pattern. They only allow you to make changes in fabrics and trims.
They specifically exclude doing any pattern work, apart from fitting.

Personally I find it more fun to do some simple pattern work. I know many people don’t want to change patterns, but the alterations suggested in this post are simple.

And an advantage of a DIY version of this pattern altering process is that you don’t have those lengthy legalistic discussions about what meets the rules and what doesn’t, which take up most of the contest discussion 😀

A starter pattern

Several years ago I wrote a post on using one pattern for a dress, top, jacket, vest, coat.
The pattern I used is now out of print.

This time I’m starting from Simplicity 8060, a Mimi G jumpsuit pattern.
There’s a link to a sewing video on that page.

”s8060”

If a shirt isn’t your style, you could do these simple pattern alterations starting from many other jumpsuit patterns with sleeves and waist seam.
I’ve collected some of the current ones on this pinterest board.

Or of course you could instead work the other way round, and use your favourite top and pants patterns to make a jumpsuit. Make the length of the top pattern at your personal bodice length (nape of neck to waist) plus 1-2” / 3-5cm, to allow for movement. If you’d like a tutorial, here’s a video from Wonder How To.

Most of these pattern altering ideas don’t just apply to one pattern. They’re general pattern altering skills which can be applied to many other patterns as well. I’ve begun a pinterest board of some patterns that are easy to change.

Some simple ideas for what you can make from a jumpsuit pattern

(Apart from a jumpsuit !)

Use top and bottom patterns separately.

Use a larger size of the top for a bomber / blouson jacket.
Use the casing and drawstring for the waist.

Make a dress with a waist seam, by adding a gathered rectangle of fabric below the waist instead of the pants. Any length from mini to maxi. How about using some special occasion fabric ?
Several examples of commercial patterns which do that on this pinterest board.

Use the pants pattern pieces to make gathered waist pants.
Use the casing and drawstring for the waist.

For simple re-styling :
– move / omit / change shape of patch and slant pockets,
– change the shape of the collar : round the corners, or use only the band.

With very little pattern work

These changes can be made direct with the pattern tissue if you want to.
Or for more speed there are even easier methods.

Change hem and sleeve lengths – see instructions for lengthening and shortening the pattern tissue, given on most pattern sheets including this one.
If you’d like more detailed advice, there are detailed examples of lengthening and shortening in this post from Tilly and the Buttons.

Lengthen the top to make :
shirt / tunic / shift shirt dress without waist seam.
Use a size larger for a shirt-jacket, longer for a duster.

If the top pattern is the same width all the way down from underarm to hem, you can just mark the added length onto the fabric when cutting, with no need to change the tissue. (Well, I need to check that’s big enough for my hips !)

Lengthen or shorten the sleeves.

Omit collar / cuffs / sleeves.
Make sleeveless tops, vests and sleeveless coats.
Add a bias binding or bias facing to the remaining edge.
Or make a facing pattern, see about 3/4 of the way down this post.

Shorten the length of the jumpsuit pants to make a romper.
Shorten the pants used without the top, to cropped, capris, bermudas, shorts.

For speed shortening, just fold back the unwanted part of the tissue when cutting. Though remember to allow for the ‘turn of the cloth’ at the hem (see angle at hem of pants pattern below for an example).

With a little more pattern work

For these changes, it’s best to trace the pattern and work with the tracing.

Change neckline.
Here’s a post on changing necklines.

Close front of top to make a pullover top, perhaps with a variety of half plackets (henley, polo, zip).
Extend that to a shift dress.
Here’s a post on closing the front of a pattern.

To make a skirt from the pants pattern – lengthen downwards from the vertical part of the crotch seam.
Use the casing and drawstring for the waist.
I’ve extended the stitching lines in this diagram, as I tend to make my own patterns without seam allowances. You can of course extend the cutting lines.
Remember to add hem allowance.
On this image I took it easy and used straight lines. But hem and side seam need to meet at a right angle. So if your pattern piece has sloping sides, you need to curve the hem shape.
(Going from pants to skirt is much easier than the other way round.)

”skirt

Hmm – what about a coat ? Use 2 sizes larger of a lengthened top pattern, and add a lining 😀
See this Threads magazine download book on drafting and sewing your own lining patterns.

A few years ago I wrote a post on some patterns which show a range of other options for simple pattern and style altering. And it’s partner post on more casual styles.
Those posts are not solely about pattern changes, but there are several good examples of small changes which can make a big difference.

If you want to try some pattern re-styling, there’s no need to be daunted by one of the huge pattern making college texts. There are many simple introductions, such as :
Many ideas for what to do with a basic shirt, pants and a-line skirt in Wendy Mullin’s pattern book, Sew U.
The styling booklets and leaflets from Sure Fit Designs have clear instructions for many options, and can be used with most basic pattern blocks, not just hers.

Combine your simple pattern changes with good sewing instruction ?
The oop book Easy Sewing the Kwik Sew Way has many easy variants from tee and shirt patterns.
Alison Smith’s book Dressmaking step by step (12 patterns, 19 variations) is a selection from her big Dressmaking book (the same 12 patterns, 31 variations) (pdfs showing patterns included : US letter, A4).

If you prefer video, there are several Craftsy classes on varying design details.
Many of Peggy Sager’s webcasts are about simple but effective pattern variations. She talks about Silhouette patterns, but most of the ideas apply to many similar patterns.

Of course many people don’t want to make all these little decisions, or to make sure all the pattern pieces work together after making changes. Would much rather just find a pattern they like where someone else has done all that. We all have different skills we enjoy using when we’re making clothes.

Fit For Art patterns provide a half-way house. There are basic patterns for knit top, pants, and jacket. Then many further patterns with the pattern pieces for other styles.

Can you see why commercial companies of cheaper clothes make one basic block, and then make many small changes to give different looks ?
It’s developing the basic block which needs the main work. Then the potential for tweaking it to make different styles is almost endless.

For us home sewers, get this one pattern to fit, and that’s most of our fitting challenges sorted.

Then, if that’s what we enjoy, we can have fun with playing the changes 😀

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Pattern and links available November 2016

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Changing a pattern neckline

October 22, 2016

You like a pattern except for the neckline ? or you want to try a different shape ?
Changing a neckline is quite easy pattern work.

First draw in the stitching lines on the existing pattern. It’s easy to do this with a transparent French Curve with 5/8 inch marked round the curved edge. These stitching lines show the position of the shoulder seam and the finished neckline edge.

”nkptcircle”

The crucial point to identify is where the neck edge meets the shoulder seam, sometimes called the neck point.

So long as you draw your new front stitching line-finished neckline through this point, you won’t have to alter the back neckline (or vice versa).

”v-neck”

If you want a wider or narrower neckline, draw in the new finished neckline position. Then measure how far the new neckline is from the old neck point, along the shoulder seam. Use this measure to find where to start the new back neckline.

”lowneckarrow”

To add the new cutting line :
– make some marks 5/8 inch from the stitching line.
The ends of both a tape measure and a seam gauge are 5/8 inch.

”cutlinemark”

– Then join the marks into a smooth curve – easy to do with a French Curve.

”cutline2”

Changing the neckline of a wrap top/ dress is a bit more complex. Here’s a tutorial.

Neckline finish

You could simply finish the new neckline with a bias binding or a bias facing.

If you want the added structure of a proper facing, that involves a bit of easy pattern making.

See instructions for making a facing pattern about 3/4 of the way through this post.

Here’s a video from Louise Cutting on how to add a back neck facing to a pattern that hasn’t got one (facings do make collars very easy to sew on).

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There’s a Craftsy class from Suzy Furrer on drafting necklines.

Again, many possibilities to think about and try out. But once you’ve decided what to do, the pattern work needed can be very simple.

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Links available October 2016

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To get to main blog, click on red header.

Choosing necklines

October 22, 2016

Do you know what is the best neckline for you ? There’s much to consider. There’s the shape of neckline that enhances your upper body. There’s the shape of neckline that flatters your face. And the widths and depths of neckline that go best with your proportions. All that before you even think about pattern making techniques for changing a neckline.

My old post on choosing and changing necklines is much visited but now rather out of date. So I’ve updated it in 2 sections.
1. choosing necklines.
2. changing a pattern neckline.

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The neckline shape that flatters your body

If you search ‘choose neckline’ you’ll find a lot of guidance, especially about the best necklines for your body shape, your combination of neck, shoulders and bust.

Amy Herzog has good advice about necklines. She gives much detail about hand knitting, but the general ideas apply to all garments. She used to have on-line tutorials, now it’s in a book, Knit to Flatter, and a Craftsy class, also Knit to Flatter.

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What about flattering your face

To think about this, you need to be aware of the shape of your facial features – your jaw, lips, nose, eyes, eyebrows – are the edge lines straight or curved ?

The Triumph of Individual Style is a beautiful and interesting book with many reproduction art works of women. The aim is to show that, whatever your shape, someone has found it worth celebrating. There’s an interesting section on facial features, pp. 16 – 21. (The proportions of the clothes in this book are very outdated, so just look at the general principles for a wealth of helpful ideas.)

Once you’ve decided whether your features are mainly straight or curved, there’s conflicting advice about what to do with this information. Some people say the best neckline echoes the shape of your features. Others say the best neckline counteracts your features, so use curved shapes if you have an angular face, angular ones if you’re curved. Perhaps the choice between these attitudes depends on personal style, rather than there being one answer which is right for everybody.

The shapes of your face might influence for example whether you look better in a V-neckline with straight edges or with a slightly curved shape.

So do some experimenting. Cut neckline shapes from kitchen towel and try them out.

Imogen Lamport (Inside-Out Style blog) says the best neckline shape is related to your jaw shape. Your jaw shape is likely to be related to your body type (curvy or angular) but is nearer your face.

‘The Triumph of Individual Style’ says you can wear any shape of neckline, so long as it balances your face with your body. Though they recommend echoing your jawline.

Personally I agree with going for shapes that echo the curves of my features. Necklines with sharp angles seem out-of-kilter with my face. But then I prefer softer curved looks anyway. And also, I’m old enough to have ‘jowls’. I find my best neckline is the shape that echoes what my jawline shape used to be 😀 I have to be careful with a draped neckline. They look good in a fabric with enough body to fall in a curve. But if the fabric is so soft that the bottom of the drape falls into a sharper V, that isn’t good on me at all.

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Width of neckline

Gale Grigg Hazen has an ingenious suggestion about measuring necklines, in her book Fantastic Fit for Every Body. Use a transparent (quilters) ruler to measure how wide your neck is, and how far your straps are from your centre line.

”gghneck” (Grigg Hazen p.170)

Compare these measures with the pattern : is the pattern neckline wide enough for your neck ? too wide to cover your straps ?

‘The Triumph of Individual Style’ says your neckline or collar opening should be wider than the widest part of your face. For most of us that means we aren’t at our best in a jewel neckline which is close fitting round the neck.

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Depth and balance

‘The Triumph of Individual Style’ has some fascinating suggestions about flattering neckline depths, pp. 49 – 55. They suggest two ‘balance points’, for high necklines and low.

All their measurements need to be made vertical and straight, with a ruler. Not over the bumps, as you would using a tape measure.

High balance point

Measure vertically from the widest part of your face to the tip of your chin. Your widest point could be at your forehead, your check bones, or somewhere on your jaw.

I’m 3-1/2 inches vertical from cheek bone to tip of chin.

”upperpt”

Measure that distance down from the neck end of your shoulder.

Across from there is the most flattering level for your upper neckline.
On me this comes at the level of my collar bones. I’ve long known that a neckline closely fitting my neck doesn’t look good on me.
This point can also be a good place for collar emphasis, such as the notch of a notch collar.

Low balance point

Measure vertically from your hairline to the tip of your chin.
Or, if you always wear a hair style that substantially covers your forehead, measure down from your hair.

I have a long face, and on me this is 8 inches.

”lowerpt”

Wear something that you don’t mind sticking a pin into or marking.

Measure the length of your face down from the tip of your chin, On me that comes near my bust point.
Mark that level, which is said to be the most flattering level for lower necklines.

You need to convert this to a measure that can be compared with a pattern. So measure from the neck end of your shoulder down to the pin or marker, this time using a tape measure on your body. Because of collar bones and bust, that is likely to be longer than the vertical measure down from your chin.

I’ve got prominent collar bones, and on me this measurement is 11 inches.

If this point comes low on you, you need to think what this means for you personally. With my long head, the low neckline point comes so low it would need a lot of double sided tape to be at all decent, and would be much more revealing than suits my style. But that doesn’t mean I can’t emphasise necklines to this level. It explains why I like wearing long necklaces, and deep V necks on layering tops and jackets, which are all coming down to that level.

So if you need modesty you could have a more obvious neckline going down to this point, filled to a higher level by something less obvious. And I’m trying out emphasising this level using embellishment, a corsage, or a necklace pendant.

Now I know about these balance points, I keep spotting celebrity examples. Wear your neckline below the low balance point if you want all the attention to be on your cleavage !
I think the necklines of most patterns are developed on models with long necks.

Cut test necklines from kitchen towel, or drape scarves, and see what you think. Image consultant suppliers sell sets of basic neckline shapes made from calico. You can try a much wider variety if you make your own !

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Collars

Of course, getting the best neckline shape is essential, but only the first step. Then there are collars, bias drapes, bows, ruffles, whatever. But presumably these additions follow the same principle – that they are best when they coordinate with the lines, shapes, and proportions of our bodies.

For example, big collars need to be in proportion to our overall build. (I’ve just been attracted by a large collar jacket pattern, but fortunately thought of checking my personal croquis. A deep collar wider than my shoulders, on a short jacket, would make me look like a heffalump. . .)

‘The Triumph of Individual Style’ has illustrations showing how to adapt classic collar shapes to high and low neckline balance points.
And Darlene Miller’s book ‘Your shape, your clothes and you’, has illustrations suggesting curved collars go with curved bodies and straight with straight.

There’s a class on drafting simple collars at eSewingWorkshop.

And a Craftsy class by Suzy Furrer on drafting collars, which covers many more collar types.

Lots of possibilities to think about and try.

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Links available October 2016

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To get to main blog, click on red header.