Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Quick Post - Follow Up to Mrs. X

I received Mrs. X's actual sloper via snail mail yesterday. Today I will re-visit the McCall's pattern she chose and see how close I came to altering it to fit her.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Projects in Process: April 5 - 11, 2009

I did it! Andrea's dress is finished except for the hand finishing. Talked to her on the phone and it sounds like she's happy - photos on her will be in two weeks when she comes home for Russian Easter on April 19 (one week after regular Easter).

Kulich and Pascha recipes will be here before. I'm a big advocate of ethnic cooking! And my husband the Russian says I cook better ethnic food than his mother, which for this Irish mama is praise indeed.

What I'd like to accomplish this week:

Butterick 5030 for Andrea.I should be able to finish this today - all I need to do is sew the bodice lining and insert it.

BWOF 01-2008-125 for meIt's the blouse pattern I altered for the two posts on using a sloper. It's cut out and fused - I'm hoping to finish it this week.

BWOF 01-2009-110 - one for me and one for Andrea. In matching fabric, too! We're too old to go for the mother/daughter look, but the first one I sewed didn't really fit me right. So she tried it on, and with a little taking in, it'll fit her. The fabric was FREE! from the BABES, and I scored yards and yards of it. It's a mystery poly knit. Hers is done except for taking in the side seam and re-doing the hem; it's mending really, not sewing. Mine needs the sleeves sewn in and the hem.

I'll probably do these after I finish the dress, while the machines are still threaded with black, even though I have less enthusiasm for them.

Actually, looking these over, I realized that ALL the fabric I'm using was free. Am I cheap or what? The poly silky for the dress and the striped cotton for the blouse came from a good friend who is clearing out her house to prep for selling it. Definitely better me than the landfill! And any BABES who see this, there's a ton more that I'm saving for you guys, next time we meet.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fitting Mrs. X

In the last two posts I talked about my sloper and how I use it to address my own particular fitting problems. But after an e-mail conversation, I learned that the PatternReview member who initially contacted me - let's call her Mrs. X - has quite different fitting challenges.

She is trying to alter McCall's 5138, which is an excellent choice for a first pattern to alter to match a sloper. The dart control closely matches that of a sloper: the pattern has both bust and waist darts on the front, and waist darts on the back.

Per her e-mail, Mrs. X faces the following challenges:
  • forward neck and shoulders
  • very narrow shoulders
  • rounded back & shoulders
  • low bust
  • tummy & one hip lower, with a tilted back, due to an injury
The dressmaker who made her sloper told her to start with a 16 at the neck & shoulders, moving out to an 18 at bust level, 20 at waist level, and 22 at hip level.

I don't have a copy of Mrs. X's sloper - I've asked her to send me one via snail mail - as she doesn't have a digital camera or ability to upload pictures. But I'm going to take a stab at the alterations nonetheless. I'll send Mrs. X a link via e-mail so she can take a look and evaluate if these alterations make any sense.

You can click on the pictures to get a bigger version - just use the browser "back" button to return.
Here's the line drawing of view D, which I picked as the clearest to illustrate the basic shape of the blouse on which she's working.
Here's the pattern front.
Here's the pattern back.
There's a mistake in the pattern. The double notches at the side seam do not match. I arrived at this because I always walk the seams of new patterns before I do any alteration work... I want to find the errors in the pattern before I alter it to h*ll and beyond. It's actually amazing how many errors I find in published patterns before even doing anything to them!
Here's a tracing of the front.
  • Pink = 16
  • Purple = 18
  • Blue = 20
  • Green = 22
  • Black = common to all sizes
  • Brown = marked seam allowances

I didn't include the cut on facing only because my tracing paper wasn't wide enough.

Mrs. X had a germane question - do you start with one size and then alter to match your sloper - or do you start by tracing the appropriate size at each level and alter from there?
And the answer is I'm not the person to answer that question. I'm self-taught, so I simply found it less confusing to use one consistent size, and then develop rules that I could use for every pattern. So I start with size 12, and have an algorithm that makes a size 12 match my sloper. At some point I really should compare my altered pattern to the original to see if it would be any easier to trace out different sizes.

Here's how I would alter for Mrs. X's forward neck & shoulder. For this alteration I'm following the advice in Fitting & Pattern Alteration: A Multi-Method Approach by Liechty, Pottberg & Rasband. It's described as variation #37 on pages 216-217 in my copy.
A forward neck requires lowering the front neckline to give room. I've marked - in orange - where I will slash the pattern.
Here I've overlapped 1/2 inch, lowering the neckline.
Actually, this style might not have needed this adjustment, as the blouse is worn open at the neck.
Forward neck also requires additional length at the back of the neck. Here I've marked a slash line on the back.
Here I've spread the back neck. Note I left a hinge where the shoulder meets the top of the armhole. I slashed to but NOT THROUGH the seam. The seam allowance at the corner where you see the pencil overlaps.
Note that this alteration will also require altering the collar pieces. Remember to alter any connecting pattern pieces if necessary!

Next up: narrow shoulders. I found the alteration in Liechty confusing, so instead I'll do what I always do, which mostly does not affect the shape of the armhole.
Marking a box around the front armhole to slash.
Overlapping to narrow the shoulder. I always end up with a smidgeon of extra length right below the armhole, and I have to extend the bottom of the armhole to meet the side seam. So there's probably a better way to do this! If I can wrap my head around the Liechty method I could possibly do better, but I haven't been able to figure it out.
It's the same process to narrow the shoulder on the back. Here's the marked slash lines.
And here's the overlap to narrow the shoulders. The back has the same issues as the front, i.e. a bit of extra length and extended armholes at the bottom.
Next, let's take a look at the rounded back issue. I was able to follow the method in Liechty, but it is definitely a bit more complicated than the others so far.

Here's the marked slash lines.

One line runs perpendicular to the grain from the center back to where the shoulder meets the top of the armhole. In the seam allowance, slash to but not through where the shoulder meets the top of the armhole, creating a hinge.
Another line, at about midpoint of the shoulder, runs through the seam allowance to meet the first line. If the pattern had a back shoulder dart, it would run through the center of the dart.
And the third line is placed parallel to the grain from the point where the neck meets the shoulder to the first line. Again, slash to, but not through the seam allowance to create a hinge where the neck meets the shoulder.

Here I've spread to gain extra length in the center back and along the back of the shoulder, which should cover the rounded upper back and shoulder.
Things to note:
  • I've keep the center back parallel to the grain, so the pattern should still be able to be cut on a fold.
  • The hinge at the point where the shoulder meets the top of the armhole overlaps.
  • The line at shoulder midpoint, the one that would be through the dart, opens up.
  • And the line from the neck point overlaps, while its corresponding hinge overlaps.
  • The shoulder is still a straight line and does not need to be trued.
Finally, let's take a look at lowering the bust. For this alteration, I'm following the method found in The Singer Sewing Reference Library: The Perfect Fit. It has the benefit that you don't need to redraw any darts, which the Liechty method requires.
Here's the marked slash lines making a box around the side dart and including the pattern's marked bust point.
And here the whole shebang is moved down. Very quick and easy.
Now, the issue I haven't addressed is the asymmetry between the left & right sides at hip level - because I really do need the actual sloper to evaluate how best to address this. I know it entails separate pattern pieces for the two sides, both front and back, and a single fabric layer to lay out the pattern pieces for cutting.

I hope Mrs. X finds this post useful. I actually really enjoyed working through this exercise - I LOVE pattern puzzles!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How I Use My Sloper to Alter Patterns - 2 Back

Most experts on pattern alteration recommend altering the back first, but I always alter the front first. Why? Because it's harder for me. I find altering the back way easier, so I save it for my reward after finishing the front.
As with the front, start by analyzing the dart control. In this case, it's much simpler than the front: a single waist dart and it looks like the shoulder dart is rotated out in the yoke.
OK, here I compare the back yoke piece, already altered (see part 1) with a 3/4 inch narrow shoulder adjustment. I realize I need to make a narrow back adjustment. Look at the bottom of the photo: pattern in blue, sloper in red.
You can see the 1/2 inch I've removed from the center back.
Realizing I have not rotated out the back shoulder dart, I mark a line to separate out the back yoke.
Back yoke of sloper detached. Slash line to rotate out the dart marked in green.
I've rotated out the shoulder dart and trued the shoulder seam on the sloper.
Comparing the altered back yoke pattern (in blue) to the sloper yoke (in red), things are looking pretty good. The pattern is a little wider, but I've had my suspicions about my sloper, thinking it needs to be a tad wider at the back armhole. It's the rounded shoulder thing from doing too much work at the computer.
Comparing the altered back yoke to the main back pattern piece, I realize the same thing as I realized in the front - I need to carry the narrow shoulder adjustment down into the main back piece. Assessing how low the pattern armhole looks, I think I'll need to a petite armhole adjustment on the back too.
Just like in the front, I draw a box around the armhole with lines parallel and perpendicular to the grain.
3/4 inch narrow shoulder adjustment on the main back piece.
Marking the slash line for the petite armhole adjustment.
Petite armhole adjustment completed. It's smaller on the back than the front, about 1/4 inch. I'm getting concerned that the pattern armhole is still quite a bit lower than the sloper. Could it be that BWOF used a block with the shoulder dart rotated to the armhole and left unsewn? That is quite common, and I quite frankly hate it. You end up with all this slop in the back armhole. I'm sorry, but to me it's messy.
Had a thought. I made a larger petite armhole adjustment in the front than the back. Maybe it's time to walk the side seams and compare the length of the front to the back. They should match with this style. They don't.
After walking the seams from the waist up, I've marked a spot where the bottom of the front armhole should meet the bottom of the back armhole.
Using my curved dressmaker's ruler, I match the original curve of the back armhole.
Holding the curve at the top, I rotate it out to meet the mark where the front piece should match the back.
Armhole redrawn.
The big picture - comparing the pattern (in blue) to the sloper (in red). Observations: the waist dart is smaller, it will take up less fabric, but generally follows the lines of the sloper. Conclusion: leave it alone. Add a bit of width at the side seam for a bit more ease. Still worried about how much lower than the sloper the armhole is - leave it for the muslin - big question mark here.
Related damage - the collar pieces. I took 1/2 inch out of the center back, which affects the collar pieces.
A good lesson to take is to remember that changes to one piece often affect one or more other pieces.

Thursday, in part 3, I'll discuss some more general issues involved in comparing slopers to patterns. Why not tomorrow, my loyal readers cry? Because tomorrow I'm going to the Moraga Library with my mother in law to hear a lecture on Faberge, Tiffany and Lalique, related to the new exhibit at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. I've married into a good Russian family, and talks on Faberge are not to be ignored.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How I Use My Sloper to Alter Patterns - 1 Front

A member of PatternReview asked me to explain how I use my sloper to alter patterns. I can't 100% vouch for my method, as I'm totally self taught and not an accredited expert, but it certainly works for me.

I'll start by explaining some terminology. Many sewists have drafted a moulage, which is a very basic top with side and waist darts that has absolutely no wearing ease at all. It fits like a second skin, and in fact is what I used to cover my adjusted dress form. A sloper is also a very basic top, but it has minimal wearing ease added. If you sewed it in real fabric, it would be wearable, though pretty boring. It has no style details. Some people also refer to a sloper as a block, but to my mind that is incorrect. To me, a block is a basic pattern that has some style details. For example, I drafted an armhole princess seam top, a shoulder princess seam top, and a basic shirt with collar, using my sloper as a starting point - these are my blocks. If I'm altering a shoulder princess pattern, I'll compare it to my shoulder princess block.

To begin the process of comparing a commercially published pattern to a sloper, here's what you need to have on hand:
  • a clean traced copy of your sloper, front and back
  • a copy of the pattern, with the stitching lines marked. Most patterns do not show the stitching line, only the cutting line, so you need to refer to the instructions to determine the seam allowances and then draw them in
  • extra tissue or tracing paper
  • a ruler. I prefer to use a 24" clear quilter's ruler.
  • a curved dressmaker's ruler
  • pencils or pens. I usually use a .5 mm drafting pencil, but for the examples below I used colored Sharpies. I prefer the drafting pencil since I can erase and it also doesn't smear, but the colors definitely show up better in the photos.
  • Either removable tape or pins. My cutting mat is hard, so I use the tape, but if you have a cardboard mat, pins work better.
I selected Burda World of Fashion 1/2008 style # 125 because a/ BWOF patterns do not include seam allowances, so I could simply trace it, alter it and add seam allowances when ready to cut; and b/ the dart control is so obviously different from a sloper.
Start by analyzing the pattern's style. Try to determine where the dart control is located. In this case, it looks like the side dart is rotated into pleats that meet the yoke, while the waist dart is divided into two parallel tucks.
Here's the sloper with the yoke marked in blue. Cut the yoke away from the sloper, to compare with the pattern's yoke piece. I always start at the neck/shoulders and work my way down.
Here you see the pattern in blue compared to the sloper in red. Obviously, I need to make a narrow shoulder alteration.
The ruler tells me it's a 3/4 inch narrow shoulder adjustment.
I mark where I will slash the pattern (in green). Slashing is almost always either parallel or perpendicular to the grain, to preserve both style and grain lines.
Overlapping the pieces by 3/4 inch.
Because I made a narrow shoulder adjustment in the yoke, I need to carry it down into the front. Here I've marked (in red) a box around the armhole - one side parallel to the grain, and the other perpendicular. Apologies for the inconsistency of color - I worked on this over a few days as my neck issues permitted.
Using the ruler to overlap 3/4 inch.

Note for the next few pictures I have matched up the center front and waist of the pattern to the sloper. Remember, the center front of this pattern is NOT on piece 1, it is actually on the button placket. Something to keep in mind when altering - determine where the actual center front is located.
Assessing where the top of the pattern sits vis a vis the sloper, and also where the armhole is located (unfortunately not shown), I decide I need a petite armhole adjustment.
Drawing a line (in red) perpendicular to the grain where I will slash and overlap for the petite armhole adjustment.
Marking the sloper in preparation to rotate the side dart to the top pleats. I picked two spots each about a third in. I also marked points 1" above and 1" to each side of the bust apex. Finally, I drew a line from the top to each marked point and then angled in to the bust point.
I cut along the lines I just drew to, but not through the bust point. Tip: Reinforce the bust point with tape. I also cut through the midpoint of the side dart to, but not through, the bust point. Overlapping the black dart legs, which go all the way to the bust point, forces the top parallel darts to open.
Comparing the sloper (in red) to the pattern (in blue) at this point in the process and it's looking pretty good. I'm not sure about the top pleats - it looks like the pattern will take up less fabric than my sloper changes will indicate - but until I've gone through the whole process I'm unwilling to commit to any changes. It might be that the changes further down will change this dynamic, so I'll let them go for now. Judgment call - they do occur.
Now I'm going to tackle the parallel waist darts. On the sloper, I've slashed up to, but not through, the bust point at the waist dart. And then I overlapped the black dart legs, the ones that go all the way to the bust point but which would never be sewn that way. That forces the parallel pleats at the top to open wider.
After closing the waist dart, I drew in the parallel darts. Again, I picked two points on the waistline that seemed to approximate where the darts fall on the pattern. Then I picked out points that were 1" below and 1" to each side of the bust apex. Then I connected the dots from waist to points to bust apex.
I've slashed and spread the waistline parallel darts. Here you see the adjusted sloper over the pattern. I'm not sure what to think at this point. The pattern looks good compared to the sloper except for the top pleats/darts. I think I need to leave this issue for a muslin.
Here's the completed front piece altered. In a nutshell, I did a 3/4 inch narrow shoulder adjustment, a 3/4 inch petite armhole adjustment, and added about 1/4 inch at the sides. I'm leaving any other adjustments to a muslin.

I'm about halfway through my process - although I have to tell you, I rarely go to this level of detail any more. Once I figured out my "usual" alterations, which took about five tops going through this process, I didn't need to go to this level of detail anymore. I pretty much just do my standard alterations - narrow shoulder, petite armhole, add a bit to the side seams - and if it's a really different pattern in terms of dart control I'll sew a quick & dirty muslin.

Part 2, the Back, will be tomorrow.