Sunday, June 18, 2017

How I Make Patterns

figure 1: draft design in Garment Designer
When I woke up today I knew that I was going to spend this Sunday making a pattern for a new project. I've recently had some questions about my pattern-making technique, so I decided to document my work today and share what I've learned.

When I first started sewing in 2008, I bought commercial patterns and just tried to follow the instructions, not knowing that you have to know how to sew to follow them. When I read a word I didn't know, like "baste" or "edge stitch" or "ease" I would just use Google and YouTube and muddle my way along. It worked pretty well for me!

After many seasons of watching Project Runway, though, commercial patterns started to feel like cheating. Why couldn't I just make my own designs? Luckily, I didn't know that you can go to school for four years and earn a damn college degree in pattern making otherwise I never would have tried.

figure 2: sliding glass door light table
Cochenille Design Studio makes a Mac / Windows software product called Garment Designer, which is deceptively easy to get started with, but actually requires you to understand quite a bit about garment construction and pattern drafting. Garment construction I had down, but the geometry of pattern drafting was a money pit of trial and error. Luckily, the company also offers online training. Several webinars later, I have a much better handle on all kinds of topics like sleeve fitting, crotch geometry, and a host of other things.

So, you can see in figure 1 that I have my first draft ready of a flared jacket which I'm making for the conductor of the Gaelic choir I sing in as we are taking a trip to Scotland in October to compete in the Royal National Mòd. I will execute the final garment in her family's tartan, but this time it will be cheap polyester suiting!

figure 3: lining up registration marks
Once I was happy with the basics, I printed out 58 pages and started taping them together. I like to use my sliding glass door because the light coming through allows me to line up the registration marks more easily. In the Winter, I usually use a glass-top table and a strategically placed light bulb. For long pieces like this jacket, though, it's better to use the glass door.

figure 4: paper tiling is done
Once all the paper pieces are assembled, I use the brilliant idea given to me by my sewing Mentrix, Paula Lalish. I lay transparent plastic sheeting over the paper pattern pieces and trace them with a Sharpie. That gives me durable plastic pattern pieces that are easy to store and re-use. Most importantly, though, I can see the fabric through the pattern piece while cutting.

figure 5: The most important sewing
supply you can find at the hardware store
When matching patterns for a patch pocket on printed fabric, or just getting the grain line right on jeans, this is like having a damn super power!

figure 6: Trace with Sharpie
Once you have your plastic pattern pieces done, you can start cutting. The first time I use a pattern, I cut through both the pattern and the fabric, but I haven't noticed and significant decrease in the lifespan of my rotary cutter blades, so maybe it's not like cutting paper with fabric scissors.

Another great benefit of the registration marks on the tiled paper pieces is that you can use them to make horizontal and vertical grain lines on your plastic pattern pieces. Very helpful when working in tartan, let me tell you!

figure 7: Ready to start cutting
No matter what fabric you are working with, the ability to see it through your pattern pieces is transformative in terms of your relationship to the cutting process. We all hate cutting, but with the right techniques, it can be much less of a pain.

figure 8: Visibility matters
And there are my grain line marks giving me total confidence that when the final garment is done that all the vertical lines will remain vertical and all the horizontal ones horizontal.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Project 55: Hunks of Twilight Aloha Shirt

Part sewing project and part social experiment, this aloha shirt is the first one that I developed the pattern for myself. After taking Sharon Lazear's webinar on the first twenty things you learn about pattern making, I felt a lot more confident using Garment Designer.

Now, a little about the fabric: I found this delightful print when I was shopping for sassy pocket material for my black velvet jacket and fell in love with the cheesy / sexy goodness and knew that it was going to have to get a star turn of its own. I also really like the colours. The designer, Alexander Henry, has quite a few naughty prints in case you ever need one.

It's not actually a licensed Twilight franchise product, so I wonder how Alexander Henry is getting away with it, but I'm glad he is. I honestly wasn't expecting to find anything when I did a Google search for "hunky shirtless men print fabric" but voila!

I'm waiting for reactions to start coming in. I've seen plenty of aloha and other mens' shirts with pinup girls on them, so turnabout really should be fair play, but you know how boys can be!

There are a couple minor issues with the pattern that I will adjust before doing a production run of four or five of them. The collar band needs to narrow as it approaches center front and there is a little too much easing to do at the sleeve caps. Also, the sleeve length was an experiment that doesn't please me too well. Looks a little too much like a smock.

Pattern matching for the pockets and center front meant that I consumed a vast amount of fabric for just one shirt, but my oh my those boys look good.

I call him Mr. Pocket
P.S. I've never seen any Twilight movies or read any books. I just picked the fabric for the hot guys, bats, wolves, and the Moon.