Over the past week, I’ve been diving head first into the glorious and puzzling world of pattern drafting. YOU GUYS. This is seriously the most fascinating, most fun, and most confusing sewing I’ve ever done. I LOVE IT. Sorry for the caps, but come on people! This is really exciting stuff. : ) There is a ton to say about this type of work, but I’ll try to keep this post as brief as possible. Let’s dive in!
The book pictured above is my Christmas present from John (which I totally asked for): Professional Patternmaking for Designers of Women’s Wear by Jack Handford, published in 1974. I had checked it out of the library earlier in December and decided that I needed a copy of my very own – it was that awesome. The book walks you thorough drafting slopers (also knowns as blocks, fitting shells, etc.) and how to then alter them to make any garment your little mind can conceive. Let’s just say my mind was blown. The possibilities are endless.
What I really liked about this book was that it’s very different from modern sewing books in a way that works really well for me personally. The book is all black and white with no photos, only illustrations. It’s very technical and gets right to the point, no fluff. While many modern sewing books are beautifully photographed and styled, I often feel like I’d rather have more detailed technical info than all the pretty pictures. This book is all about the technical details. As an engineer, I love it.
I decided to start with a bodice sloper. The book walks you through taking all your measurements, and it includes helpful hints like keeping your arm slightly bent or locating specific “hollows” or bones on your body as landmarks. I took out a ballpoint pen and marked my waist, shoulder points, neck points, etc. right on my body. It was quite a sight!
The next step was to plug all your measurements into this numbered chart, for reference in drawing the sloper pattern pieces later. You can see I wrote in my measurements in pencil, just in case I need to re-do everything later… or, you know, if my shape changes over time (ahem). : )
Then you use the measurements chart to draw this funky-looking shape: the front and back pattern pieces of the bodice sloper. This is where my mind was truly blown. How awesome is it to draft a custom bodice, made specifically to your exact measurements? If you’re like me and have a body shape that differs significantly from the standard cut, this is pretty much a dream come true.
Fair warning: this involved a fair bit of math. It’s all simple calculations and is fairly straightforward, but just be prepared. Again, as an engineer, I was in heaven here. : )
And voila, I did it! This was by far the most fun sewing-related work I’ve ever done. I was so excited!! The only major issue I ran into when drafting the pattern was that I essentially needed the opposite of a shoulder dart on the back bodice piece, due to my broad upper back. Instead of making a dart as per the instructions, I extended the shoulder line to match my shoulder measurement. I think this caused some fitting issues later, but I think I fixed them, mostly.
After 3 muslins and several rounds of alterations, here are my nearly finished pattern pieces. Holy crap this was so much work! I keep telling myself to be methodical about it and soldier on, hoping that by going slowly and being careful I’ll send up with a sloper than I can rely on for endless self-drafted, self-designed garments. (What a dream to aspire to!)
I won’t go into all the alterations I made because that would take forever, but I did learn a particularly useful technique in the process. I had a lot of gaping at the front neckline on my first muslin, and some at the back as well. Apparently I have a “hollow chest” and a round upper back, meaning that more of my high bust measurement is coming from my back than my front. I used this tutorial to eliminate the gaping, and it worked like a charm. I also learned a lot about how darts work and how to manipulate patterns in the process.
Ok, onto the nearly finished sloper! In the interest of science, these are raw, pretty unglamorous shots of me. Please be kind. : )
I’ve included 2 side views below: the first in my natural standing posture, and the second with my arm up so you can see the side seam.
Wowza, look at my stomach in these low-hanging cargo pants! Told ya these images are pretty raw. : )
I have my opinions on the current state of the sloper, but I’m not going to share them with you because I don’t want to bias you! So, what do YOU think? The worlds of pattern drafting and fitting a sloper are all very new to me, so I’d welcome any and all comments you have about where and how to improve the fit. Is there anything glaring that you notice immediately?
As I mentioned above, my ultimate goal is to use the sloper to draft my own garments, and the book is pretty thorough about showing you exactly how to create various silhouettes, design features, etc. For example, check out this crop top! How cool is it that you can get this sexy top from a frumpy-looking sloper? I’m amazed. Amazed, I tell you.
Anyway, please weigh in with any comments on the fit of my sloper! Have you ever drafted your own sloper? If so, do you have any lessons learned to share? Did you create any finished garments from the sloper? Did you have as much fun with it as I’m having?? : )