Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January Dress - Pattern Fixin' part 1

I have got to stop making promises on this blog that I can't keep. I'll tell you something is always coming up around here. Monday's post was delayed until today (late Tuesday) mostly because of issues ordering our new refrigerator. Our house was struck by lightning a little while back and it fried most of our appliances. We've been using the wine fridge to keep our food since then. We finally placed an order for a new fridge Sunday afternoon, but there was an issue with the ordering system and we ended up spending most of the day trying to get our purchase refunded. I am happy to say, however, that we got everything worked out an our new fridge will be here on Thursday!

The other reason the post was delayed was because we're getting ready to paint my sewing room/office.

So this is my current sewing space while we paint my office. It's a collapsible table in my dining room. The sewing machine is currently residing in the kitchen and the ironing board has set up shop in the upstairs hallway. Actually it's probably safe to say that my stuff has exploded all over the house. Oh well, I have more elbow room in the dining room.

But, you'll be pleased to know that I actually have sewing to post today! Hurray! My wrist injury has really been holding up the production line, but I've been taking my supplements and working the tendons during yoga. I'm still having a little trouble with certain things like opening jars, inking drawings, and certain yoga poses. Still not ready to do some of the Ashtanga inversions, but I've almost got my adho mukha svanasana back which is awesome.

I know I've written before about how terrible a draftswoman I am. I'm not lying. I'm terrible at it. Something about creating a pattern from thin air just doesn't mesh with my brain. I guess I'm just not wired for that stuff. Still, give me a pattern and I'll modify the heck out of it. I actually take great pleasure in transforming one pattern into something completely different. It's a fun challenge for me.

So today I'll be sharing part one of the process of turning this pattern:

Into something similar to this dress with my own twist, of course.

So the first thing I did was look into what pieces I would need. I decided to use a standard circle skirt pattern for the bottom. I opted out of the pajama pants on the suggestion of a few friends. So that left me with the bodice pieces only.

The first thing I like to do is write down what pieces I need somewhere. Post-its are my paper of choice. I'll normally stick them to the wall, the sewing machine, or my shirt to remind me of what I'm doing. I tend to get forgetful when I get really focused on a task. This dress required relatively simple alterations, but making notes is a good habit to get into so that when you do have to deal with altering 6 or 7 pieces you'll know which ones you need to worry about.

Next step is to trace your pattern pieces onto paper. I traced the bodice piece (A) first as it was going to require the most altering. You'll note my clear ruler above. If you don't have one of these you really need to get one. I picked mine up for less than five dollars at a Micheals and I use it every single time I sew. It makes altering patterns a breeze.

The first thing that I needed to do was decide where I wanted my seam to go. This is more of an art form for me. I'm self taught so I'm sure this isn't the right way to do it, but it's the way I like to do it. I wanted the band to be about 5 inches wide and to lay completely across my bust. Looking at the pattern the top of the yolk reaches just below the bust so I marked five inches from the bottom curve of the bodice. From there I just played with the seam until I got it where I like it.

The seam obviously had a few incarnations here. The biggest reworking was due to the fact that I forgot to adjust the neck line before I drew the seam. Whoops. I ended up reducing the darker bust portion down to about 4 inches across with an additional 1/2 seam allowance below the adjusted neck line. I freehanded the curve. 

Basically my method works as such; I draw my seam, pin the pattern piece to my shirt and then see if I like how it looks. If I don't get what I want I'll go back and rework the seam again. This time it only took me two tries to get it the way that I wanted, but I confess reworking a line 5 or 6 times on other garments.

Next I separated the pieces. When I have more than one cutting line on the piece I'll normally mark my actual cut line with a marker. I wasn't totally sure where my markers were today though so I used a blue pen instead. It works just as well.

I like to write myself a lot of notes while working. It's not uncommon for me to forget what lines are seam allowances, which are tucks or darts, etc. So if you ever borrow a pattern from me expect there to be lots of scribbles along with it.

I then traced the pattern piece again and added a seam allowance along the bottom edge where it would connect with the dark strip of fabric across the bust.

By the way, cans make the best pattern weights. You've probably noticed them in previous posts, but they're cheap, heavy and work fantastically. Who needs fancy pattern weights when you have canned pumpkin?

I added in the rest of my seam allowances and my notches and was quite satisfied.

It's a good idea when you transfer a pattern piece more than once to check it against the original. You can see here that my notch had migrated and needed to be put back in place.

All that was left was to cut out the pattern piece.

Rinse, repeat on darker bust strip, and end up with your two new pattern pieces. I've named them A1 and A2, but I normally just number them.

Up next: The Bodice Muslin

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