3 April 2012

Drafting my first pattern

Ok so this pattern is not the very first thing I've drafted but it involves working with a sloper and a pencil skirt and combining the two to make a sleeveless fitted dress. The reason I decided to draft my own pattern is my frustration with those of the big four pattern companies. I also thought this shape wouldn't be too hard to draft. And luckily, it wasn't!

Here it is--

The whole inspiration to this dress was the desire to draft a perfectly fitting princess seam, which I had been reminded about by LiEr's tutorial/ sales pitch for princess seams. The only tricky part was drafting the princess seam correctly. I didn't know exactly where it should fall on the armhole so I did it by eye, referring to some coats in my wardrobe as a guide. On my sloper the armhole was slightly gapey; I thought it may have been because it wasn't staystitched but now I know it wasn't because of this. The excess made a natural fold pretty near the crook of my arm so I just took out about an extra 1cm from the rotated dart.

Overall I'm very pleased. The hours spent fitting a toile of another pattern were cut out because I started from a well fitted sloper. I had started out trying to adapt New Look 6049, which I blogged about a while ago, but the fit was off. So instead I used the sloper I had made last summer using gedwoods tutorial, the pencil skirt from Mademoiselle Chaos's tutorial and New Look 6049 to guide the shape of the neckline and the width of the shoulders.

I changed the positions of the waist darts on the front of my bodice to match them with the dart placement on the skirt to create a continuous line. I did the reverse on the back, changing the darts placement of the skirt to match the dart placement on the bodice.

I also experimented with a strip of interfacing in the waistline (about 2" wide) and the slit of the skirt. In the photos you can see how flat and crisp the waist of the skirt looks.

The dress is half lined, i.e. only the bodice, to reduce bulk and keep the dress slim. The lining is a quilting cotton from my stash and the whole dress was made with only 1m of fabric!

There is a final little secret to this dress. I am going to make a detachable peplum. Peplums, being all the rage, will look tired and outmoded by next year. I thought why ruin a great dress by sewing the peplum in and then never wearing it in two year's time?! By making it detachable the dress can be transformed from work to play, or serious to fun, with an easy addition. 

I haven't absolutely decided how I will  fasten the peplum. I think I'll use hooks and eyes on the waistband and maybe poppers on the peplum itself.

Lesson learnt: the time spent making a sloper will save hours of time later! Secondly, don't let pattern drafting intimidate you. Choose simple and classic shapes to start and gain confidence with these. I think next I should draft that item of clothing that scares even the most confident sewers: trousers.

Alix xxx 


  1. Alix, this is gorgeous, and you look fabulous! I also love your very round hair bun - eee! It's so neat! But back to the point. Thank you for the link, and for leaving a comment on my post. I pinned your link to the Burdastyle drafting tutorial so I can read it someday. So thank YOU for that reference! One thing that came to mind as I read your post - the bit about changing the dart placement on the bodice to match those on the skirt? When I was learning to draft, we always began with a skirt block (easiest and fastest) and the waist darts were typically the same distance apart as the bust apex-to-apex points. I always thought it was one of those annoying rules-of-thumb that all old tailors knew and never explained. Grr. Later on, when I drafted full-body blocks (i.e. for dresses), it became clear - because the underbust dart was plotted as a single, long vertical dart from the bust apex down to the abdomen, through the hip. So if you were to, say, cut this body block off at the waist and use only the bottom half for a skirt, the dart separation would still match the bust separation. I don't know how many folks do this with their skirt drafts, since a person wouldn't know to think of the relationship unless they had first drafted entire body blocks (and who does that before skirt blocks?) Thought it might be interesting to share. I never mentioned this in my drafting series (or did I? Can't remember) for the child's sloper, because children don't have bust darts. The same rule applies for the back of the dress, where the sticky-out shoulder-blades are like the bust points.

    And your last para reminds me: I need to draft a trouser block, too. I did it for the first time for my eldest (6, at the time, so not a lot of curves to speak of) and I use it all the time. It's inspired me to want to make one for myself. Hopefully sooner, rather than later. It's not difficult, and in fact there are fewer steps than the upper body block. So yay for you! You can do it!

    1. First of all, thanks for your really helpful insights - I am always very pleased with learning rules of thumb! I'm a cheapskate and don't want to buy drafting books but I think maybe I should to avoid the large amount of guessing I do. I think maybe I ought to draft a dress block too seeing as it's often what I end up making. Letting the bust apexes dictate the position of the skirt waist darts makes sense. In fact I don't know why I didn't think about it seeing as I had started trying to adapt a dress pattern initially! When I made up a toile of my sloper I thought the darts seemed to veer towards the centre so I figured moving them further apart at the waist (not bust) wouldn't hurt. Now I'm wondering why the bodice darts tapered so far in from the bust apex. Perhaps, in fact very likely, I got distracted whilst drafting that bit of my sloper!

      Please do draft a trouser block: I will be the first to follow you into the jungle!

      Finally, the very round bun is a fake, like the ones for kids gymnastics and ballet classes but for more hair!