Sunday, July 27, 2008

A new way of grading for me

We saw The Dark Knight today. It was quite good although I don't think I'd see it twice in the theater (as I've heard some people are doing). Heath Ledger does a fine, crazy Joker and the movie itself is compelling. I'd recommend that you see it if you haven't yet.

I have pretty well finished grading and altering this pattern and I'm going to be making it next. I have some bias-printed pink/red gingham and we found some red for the collar today. I think it's going to be awesome when it's done - at least, I hope so :)

When I finish this one, I have another pattern that I want to prepare because I've already decided which fabrics to use. The pattern is similar to the other one (which is fine, because I think that the silhouette is fairly flattering on me): it's a sheath dress with princess lines and flap pockets at the hips with a large collar. I'm going to use some black on cream alphabet fabric for the body and black for the collar, flaps, and on the princess seams. It'll also be awesome, I think.

I'm still learning how vintage patterns fit me and how to change them so each project is a bit of an experiment. I was just grading the patterns up but that doesn't really work. Even if the pattern is exactly my size - and some are - my proportions are quite different than bodies used to be. Yes, I'm short, but people were shorter back then. Also, ease amounts were quite different than they are today and I like a little bit less ease, except at the waist, where I like a bit more. So what ends up happening is that I can't just increase the pattern by x amount everywhere; another way of putting it is I can't just grade the pattern. Instead, I have a slightly different approach to making the pattern fit.

First, I have to measure the pattern bust, waist, and hips to see how much to add to each to get the measurements + ease that I want. The amount to add is usually different for each of these primary points. So I do that, and then I have to make the neck to the high bust area (or, the neck to the top of the shoulder blades in the back) narrower. I almost always re-position and shorten the bust darts a bit - I don't have the cone-shaped breasts that they had then, and their bust darts are almost always too far apart for my taste. That usually takes care of the circumference measurements, although if the pattern is very fitted through the waist and hip I'll make sure that I've increased the high hip area a bit.

With the circumference measurements done, I check the vertical measurements. First I measure the pattern bodice front and back and compare that to my measurements. I decrease the entire front bodice by the difference in measurements, if there is any - sometimes there isn't. Sometimes I even have to increase the measurements, if the original pattern is very different from my size. If the change is small, I make it between the underarm and waist, and if it's large I do 1/3 of it above the underarm and 2/3 below it. I remove about 1/2" at the center back bodice waist for my swayback and take the rest of the vertical difference out as for the front bodice.

After that I just have to change the skirt length. I've been shortening the patterns from their original mid-calf length (a singularly unflattering skirt length for almost everyone) to around the knee, so I've got to take out that as well as the usual amount to shorten for my height. To make these changes, I do a combination of just chopping off some of the length at the bottom and folding out the difference. Because I'm short, it's better if I chop at least part of a full skirt at the bottom so that the bottom skirt circumference isn't too big. If the bottom skirt circumference is anything over about 80" or so and I'm using cotton, the skirt will be too big. With straight skirts it doesn't matter where the length comes off, but I have to make sure that walking vents/pleats are long enough when I'm done.

By this time I'm usually tired of making pattern changes, but I'm not done yet: I actually pin-fit the pattern. Yes, I tape the darts shut (and clip them if I have to) and pin the seams together on the seam allowance. Then I tape the waist center front and back to my center front and back and try to tape the front and back neck to the appropriate places. This is by no means perfect but it shows when I've got WAY too much ease somewhere. It also shows if I've retained the original pattern proportions after all of my changes.

Then I get to sew!

BTW, I have done one version of the walk-away dress and I'm mostly happy with it but I didn't take enough out of the center front and back so I'm going to play with the pattern a bit. Also, I want to re-shape some curves. I have some great fabric and binding for this next attempt, too :)

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