Pants/Trousers Wrap – Wrapping

So for those of you who want to have a go at making tight-fitting pants/trousers block via a pants wrap, here are my notes. Keep in mind it’s still all trial & error. But hopefully this, along with notes from Fabrikated’s pants wrap & So-So Sewist’s pants wrap, will help you avoid mistakes & get even further!

Today I’ll cover the wrapping. These are in addition to my previous general tips on cling film tape moulage wrapping, which are still useful. Flattening & tweaking of the pattern will be in the next post. BTW, I’ve formatted my posts to make it easier print out for reference: Only the content & comments will be printed – all the useless on-screen navigation etc are hidden so that less paper are needed.

Guide lines

  • I had MR pre-marked me in khol eye-liner before we wrapped. Made it a lot easier to correct & direct while I was still mobile.
  • Guidelines we marked:
    • Waist, High Hip, Hip, Thighs, Knees, Calves, Ankles
    • Crotch (CF-CB), Side Seams, Inseams, F&B Princess Lines
    • Optional: Belly Button, Hip Bones (at front high hip), Bum Bottom & Front Leg Creases (like leg holes of a full bottom brief).
  • For the side seams & inseams I used lines perpendicular to the floor that pass through the visual centre of my thigh. For the princess lines I used the visual centre of my legs rather than lines perpendicular to the floor.

Avoid cheap flimsy tape

  • Not all clear packing tape are the same. I thought my previous heavy-duty one was from the Post Office. Turned out I was wrong. These were soft as gift-wrapping tapes. Too squashable & stretchable. Made flattening & tracing rather inaccurate. Luckily a lady gifted me her leftover heavy-duty Scotch 3M tapes from Ryman stationery store. So I was able to pester MR to do a 2nd leg wrap with this better tape. We end up with about 1-2 layer of cling film & 2-3 layers of tape. The stiffer tape is definitely easier to work with once the wrap is off – easier to see where slashes are needed to flatten the wrap & less prone to stretch out of shape.
  • I used clear tape to make it easy to trace the pre-marked guide lines. If you want to eyeball your guide lines you can use coloured tape to help you see where you have already taped. Also avoid tape that might stretch out too easily – eg electrical tape. You want your wrap to be dimensionally stable.

Wrapping comfort & order

  • We used full width of the kitchen wrap to quickly cover the legs & move on to taping. We patched the wrap protective layer as needed during taping – eg in the crotch & inner thigh area.
  • I read online that to prevent fainting it’s best not to lock the knees when standing for extended periods of time.
  • We wrapped from waist down to the hip
    > then crotch
    > taped the crotch
    > then wrapped & taped one leg (with weight on that leg & the other leg slightly back to facilitate access to the inseam area)
    > then the other leg (shifting weight to this leg)
    > then taped the hip area & patched any missed bits in the crotch-thigh-bum area.
  • If you’re shy about someone else getting too close to your private bits, you can tape the crotch yourself as long as you can reach your back without twisting your body.
  • Stand on a low table made it easier for the wrapper to do the lower legs. Just make sure it’s stable so you don’t fall down!

Don’t wrap too faithfully

  • I had both legs wrapped in case my bottom half is also asymmetrical. Still not sure if this is a good idea as you then have double the trouble if your two sides turned out quite different once traced. Tiny shift in the angle of a line – eg the inseam – could magnify over the length of the legs! You then have to figure out if you’ve made a mistake flattening & tracing out, or if your two halves are really that asymmetrical! If you only have one chance to get wrapped, then maybe do have both legs wrapped, then start with just one leg when flattening & converting into pattern. That way if the leg you choose – eg the larger side – works well then you finish faster; but if it doesn’t fit your other leg just as well, then you can go back and flatten & convert the other leg. If you decide to only wrap one leg, maybe wrap the larger leg & the whole waist to bum crease for both sides (to stablise the crotch wrap/tape). I ended up using my left side in the end because it seemed to fit both my right & left sides better (I tried on the initial asymmetrical muslin inside out to swap sides).
  • Another area where wrapping too faithfully caused me headache was the crotch. Specifically the bum cleavage & the front crotch area where I have varied landscape thanks to tummy + pubic bone shape + protruding front thighs + slight inward rotation of my knees (from bad posture?). These are details that seem to get glossed over in a typical pair of non-stretch pants. Too much details just made it difficult to turn the wrap tracing into usable pattern, or one that bear any resemblance to a pants patterns.
    • So for my 2nd wrap I told MR to not go into the valley of the bum – above the hip line at least.
    • For the front crotch, after the wrap was taken off I added a 2nd layer with masking tape that smooth over the valley at my leg crease (between the torso & the protruding front thigh). I ended up tracing this 2nd layer for the front crotch instead of the closer fitting base layer.
  • Something I didn’t do but maybe you want to try (if super tight pants isn’t your thing, or just to make converting into pattern easier) is to also wrap your legs less faithfully. So aim to have your wrap + tape fit like skimming slim pants rather than like a second-skin. Ie drape your plastic wrap more loosely, tape more tautly from small peaks to peaks in gentle curved lines, rather than let the tape sink too closely into the valleys in between. Eg, on the back from bum peak to 2-3″ below bum crease to calf peak to loose hem circle at the ankle; on the front from tummy peak to thigh peak to knee to loose hem circle at the ankle. You can also try this for looser pants that hang straight down from hip line, but the steeper valleys may make it more difficult to keep the tape from folding over & sticking to itself.

Marking guide lines & Cutting out

  • We found that Sharpie markers – especially the ones made for CD/DVD labelling – works well on the extra strong clear packing tape. It’s hard to mark them with normal pens & markers. We simply trace the pre-marked guide lines so I could get out of the wrap ASAP.
  • For cutting out, again, I recommend using a bandage scissor for safety. We cut on the two side seams this time.
  • Before you cut, maybe mark a series of short cross-lines down the cutting lines. This makes it easier to match the two sides of cut line in case you made a cutting mistake & need to tape the cut back together to try again. This applies to all the cuts when flattening out in the next step.

Next time, flattening the wrap, converting into pattern, & muslin tweaking.

Related Post

File under:

Link

20% off – UK source for 98/2 stretch denim

For my UK readers…

Sherwood Fabrics is currently offering 20% off everything in store until midnight Sat 31 Dec (end of year) with discount code FESTIVE20.

And they seem to offer a fairly wide range of 2% lycra/spandex/elastine denim fabrics. You know, the percentage recommended by Closet Case Files for Ginger/Morgan Jeans & Baste And Gather for Birkin Jeans. (Yes, I will be jumping on the bandwagon in the new year – part of the reason I tried out the pants wrap. My RTW jeans are tatty & I hate not being able to buy the one RTW jeans that fitted me fairly well again. Hate fashion! Sort of.)

Do keep in mind that:

  • Many of their stretch denim are more lightweight than recommended for Ginger/Morgan/Birkin – lots of 8oz ones if you like the jegging fit.
  • Not all denim weights are described in oz/yd, and if they specify “light-“, “mid-“, and “heavy-weight” they’re using generic dress fabric weight scale, not denim weight scale. Eg “mid-weight” would be 8-11oz as used to describe dress fabrics in general, rather than 12-16 oz as used specifically to describe denim.
  • Colours in the photos are lighter than the actual fabric, possibly due to the lighting they use. They do offer samples (not free), but that means you’ll miss the 20% off promotion. But they seem to post offers on their Facebook page from time to time.

BTW, have anyone in the UK bought denims from Threadbare Fabrics in the US? Did you get hit with high shipping & import charges? I’m wondering if it’s worthy shopping with them for the high quality US-made  Cone Mills denims (though maybe not with the fallen £ thanks to looming Brexit!).

Speaking of Cone Mills denims, I found on Fashion Incubator’s site a PDF produced by Cone Mills about how to prevent leg twist problem that results from standard denim’s natural tendencies. This is if you can’t find the “broken twill weave” that Heather mentioned in her post on Sourcing Denim for Ginger Jeans.

(I’m not being paid in any way for this post. Just wanted to share a resource I found while sourcing fabrics for upcoming jean-making projects.)

Pants/Trousers Wrap – Worth it?

Happy Holidays everyone who celebrates! Hope you’re finding time to enjoy sewing amongst the festivities.

Sorry for the radio silence. What a crazy year it has been for us American-Brits! Double whammy controversies. If only sewing can ferry me away somewhere peaceful. Sadly sewing has been a battle ground too.

First was my failed attempt at an open back Choli Blouse Block with sleeves one can dance in. Parked, now that the frost has set in. Still simmering is another attempt at Pants/Trousers Block. This time, inspired by other ambitious cling-film wrappers like Kate of Fabrikated & the ladies of the London Dressmakers Meetup Group, I also attempted to make my Block from leg wraps rather than drafting from measurements or fiddling with countless muslins of commercial patterns.

Well, 2 wraps, 3 attempts at converting to patterns, 5 muslins, & countless tweaks later, this is the best I could manage…

A walk in the park it sure ain’t. So before I go into the details about the process in a separate post, let’s just chat about whether it’s worth the effort or not. It’s definitely less satisfying than making bodice + skirt block with the same method.

Lack of references & guidance

I haven’t found any online evidence of this technique perfected for making Pants/Trousers Block. Apart from Fabrikated’s attempt, the only other mention I can find is this old So-So Sewist blog post. Sadly it only showed her process & not the result, so I don’t know how successful her attempt was. Other people have mentioned the idea in passing, but none that I can find have actually documented their experiments & confirmed that this is a method that works well.

Pants pattern conventions

  • Most pants are NOT skin tight. So trying to convert a skin-tight wrap into a looser fitting pants is difficult. You wrap in more surface areas (lengths & widths) than your pants needs – eg the length of the back princess line would be longer if you follow your bum & leg curve than if you drop straight down from the hip line.

    If you don’t account for this difference & figure out a way to make your pants hug your curves (eg by making it skin-tight), then you’ll end up with pools of fabrics like I did with my wrap 1 muslin 1.

    So unless you’re aiming for a skin-tight pants (eg for stretch woven or tight jeans), then this method might not give you the result you want. It may be possible to convert the skin-tight block into looser fitting blocks, but I have yet to figure out how to do that. If you don’t think you’ll ever want a skin-tight pants, then this technique may not be the most efficient way to achieve your goal. As for knit pants like legging, I think patterns for those are a different kettle of fish. Those unstable knits are meant to stretch to fit, so the patterns won’t have all the complicated curves that your wrap has. The wrap will give you more details than you’ll know what to do with! Again, it’s probably possible, but again, it seems like a lot more work than it’s worth.
  • Less seam & dart fitting options. Unlike the bodice (& even skirts), conventionally there’s a lot less seams, darts, & stylelines that can be used to give you a smoother fit over complicated curves. Eg, most pants don’t have princess seams. But look what a difference back princess seams make to the same warp 1 muslin 1 that you see above with pools of fabrics at the back thigh:

    There were a lot more places where non-conventional seaming & darting might have given me a second skin look! Just look at how weird my wrap 1 is when flattened:

    But I wasn’t brave enough to do down that route! :@) Without these options, I just had to accept wrinkles here & there, as you can see in my final best-I-can-manage muslin above.

Lack of references & guidance 2

This one is related to the fact that the wrap is firstly/mainly good for skin-tight pants. And the fact that…

It’s easy to make mistakes that magnifies. Tiny shift in the angle of a line – eg the inseam – could magnify over the length of the legs, making your pants legs too far off to the sides or centres at the ankles & causing wrinkles at the crotch as well as along the legs. I’ll show you my trials & errors in the next post, but even learning from my experience, this sort of mistakes may be unavoidable. Which leads us to…

Lack of fitting alteration guidance for skin-tight pants! None of my fitting books helped because they’re all aiming for looser fitting pants, and usually ones that hide your curves – even your booty. It’s a different ideal of pants fit. If I tried those same techniques on my skin-tight pants, they would cause other fitting problems – like that dreaded pool of fabric on the back thigh, because the alterations would make the legs looser & therefore the back too long.

The Holy Grail of the ‘Correct Crotch Curve’

You’d think that the wrap would at least help you find the correct crotch curve for your body right? Nope. My skin-tight muslin’s crotch curve ended up looking nothing like the crotch curve I got using a curvy ruler.

I’m beginning to think that pants fit is not just about the right crotch curve; that other things like the angle of your legs & prominence of thighs, or even how you stand also affect the fit including the fit of the crotch area. I’m also speculating that the bendy ruler crotch curve trick as explained in Fitting & Pattern Alterations book is really meant for looser fitting pants that hang fairly straight from your hip line down, and not ones that follow your booty & other curves. Maybe when I turn my skin-tight pants block into looser fitting pants block then this trick will come in handy. But I’m not holding my breath! Especially as there’s no before & after photos showing that this trick really works on real bodies.

In conclusion…

I think leg wrap as a way to create your personalized pants block is only worthwhile if you’re aiming for an initially skin-tight fit & none of the other methods (eg altering commercial patterns or drafting from measurements) worked for you. Patience will be mandatory. Definitely not a walk in the park!

Next time, learnings from my leg wrap Pants/Trousers Block experiments.

Related Post

File under:

More Indian fabrics

Oops, I’ve done it again. I was doing so well resisting mindless feeding of the Stash. But since discovering pretty & partly sewn Indian outfits during my wedding dress research, I’ve succumbed to their siren calls.

This time I tried the Salwar Kameez suits. These came as partly stitched tunic + fabric for trousers + RTW shawl. I’m still a bit confused about the names for the different types of suits, so pardon me if I called them by the wrong names. I think the ones I bought are called Anarkali Suits which have tunics that are fitted in the bodice & sleeves, & flared in the skirt. The trousers to go with these tunics seem to be the slimmer type called Churidar. I bought 3 brand name suits from Haya Creations in India. It’s the same place where I bought the two back-up lehenga choli outfits for my wedding which are still waiting to be sewn. Mea culpa.

One thing I noticed is that the part-stitched tunics for all three are HUGE. Like the lehenga choli outfits, you’re suppose to have your tailor alter the part-stitched item to fit & make up the unstitched item for you. Some shops offer this tailoring service. Haya Creations doesn’t. That suits me fine as I want to do the sewing. But it is a bit of a pain though to have to unpick stitching in the part-stitched items to alter them.

Nakkashi Euphoria 11042
fabric for Churidar trousers +
part-stitched Anarkali tunic + RTW Dupatta shawl

available at Haya Creations

Unlike other tunics I’ve seen, this one is all sewn up except the sleeve seams. It’s obviously too big on me. Thankfully the bodice of the tunic is panelled. So I think all I have to do is to remove one panel per quadrant at the side seams. The sleeves are kimono shaped – ie no sleeve cap, so can be easily shortened at the armscyes. The bodice length is more troublesome. As the neckline is embellished & all finished, I guess I’ll have to do it at the hem. That means removing the borders, shortening the bodice, then reattaching the borders. While the fit at the moment is no where like on the model, I do kind of like the loose robe-like silhouette. I might keep that instead of making it more fitted like on the model.

The dupatta shawl is lovely, but the embellishment is a bit scratchy. So I might have to find a matching chiffon to line it.

The Jacquard trousers fabric is a bit stiff & would probably look best in a more fitted styles. But to be honest, I’m not sure if I will obey the original design & make this into a trousers. There’s 2-2/3 yds of the 45″ wide fabric, certainly enough for a dress or even a jacket. We shall see. I rather like the golden wrong side of the fabric. But unfortunately the floating threads would snag too easily. So the black right side it is then. Even then I might have to line this to prevent snagging.

Jinaam Floral Tulip 7365
fabric for Churidar trousers +
part-stitched Anarkali tunic + RTW Dupatta shawl

available at Haya Creations

The tunic for this is less constructed than what I’ve seen in the shops. Originally I thought only the side & sleeve seams are left unstitched. But actually the bodice is just rectangular pieces of fabric, with button loops basted to the front & loose buttons in a plastic bag. No neckline, no bodice shaping, etc. The skirt panels are sewn except for the side seams. I will have to dissect these into component parts & make up the bodice & sleeves with my Blocks. The skirt I guess I’ll have to shorten from the waist. Haven’t decided yet whether to keep this as a dress or to make this into separates. What would you do?

 

Jinaam Floral Tulip 7363
fabric for Churidar trousers +
part-stitched Anarkali tunic + RTW Dupatta shawl

available at Haya Creations

This one is slightly more made up than the Jinaam one above, only because the front bodice embellishment requires bust shaping to be pre-determined. Otherwise it’s like the other Jinaam suit – pieces of fabric with no back shaping, no neckline cut out, side & sleeve seams unstitched. Shame I didn’t notice in the photo that the back is less embellished than the front. This looks a bit weird in real life, thought the modelled photos looked OK. Again I’m tempted to separate this into a top + skirt to keep it more wearable.

The dupatta shawls for both Jinaam suits are quite similar & plain, with mostly a border to bling it up. I’m tempted to turn one into a kaftan. I mean, how many shawls would I actually wear?

The trousers fabrics for both suits are drapy rayon the weight of lining. This might be my chance to experiment with baggier trousers. Maybe not MC Hammer baggy. Maybe at most this baggy…

 

Hopefully these type of trousers won’t require accurate pattern-making, because Trousers Blocks are sorely missing from my collection. I may just have to rope MR into wrapping me some legs soon!

Related Post

File under:

Using a Cling Film (& Tape!) Moulage

So now that you have your 0-ease Moulage Block, let’s talk about what you can use it for.

Usage Overview

  1. Designing your own patterns: You will still need Flat Pattern Design books for instruction on how to turn your 2D body map into different styles of Blocks (TNT/tried & trued master patterns/templates) & individual derivative designs. If you’re not very ambitious, you might be able to get away with just basic pattern-making knowledge like pivoting darts & making sure your seam lines matches.
  2. Checking the fit of commercial patterns: You may still need some pattern-making knowledge to know how to compare your Blocks to the patterns.
  3. Help making a custom dress form: Unlike Duct-Tape or Paper-Tape Doubles, your cling film + clear tape wrap will not produce a warp that’s stable enough to use as a dress form. But you may be able to make a custom dress form with the help of your Moulage Blocks.

For 1 & 2, depending on the fabric you’re going to use or the type of garment you’re making, you may have to create derivative Blocks first before you can create your own designs or check the fit of commercial patterns:

  • For most garments in non-stretch woven fabrics, you will have to add at least some wearing ease to create your Basic Blocks, then design or check the fit using your Basic Blocks.
  • For corsets, or garments in stretch woven or stretch knits, you may be able to use the skin-tight 0-ease Moulage Blocks directly.
  • Note that your Moulage Block probably cannot be used to derive well-fitting Dartless Stretch Fabric Blocks. This is because the wrap flattening process adds darts. If you’re not perfectionist about fit (or you’re quite flat all over!), you can try taping the darts/seams close, squash the bumps like breasts, shoulder blades, hips, tummies, then trace the outlines. But because stretch fabrics have limits to their stretch & physics also dictates how they’ll naturally stretch, you may still get wrinkles & draglines. So proceed at your own risk!

Deriving a Basic Block

You will need to add breathing & wearing ease to get your standard Basic Block / Sloper for woven fabrics. There are different ways to add ease.

8_block_fitted-wrap

I used the method taught by  Simmin Sethna and her disciples Kenneth King (“Moulage” CD book – what I used) & Suzy Furrer (“Patternmaking Basics: The Bodice Sloper” Craftsy Class) … because that’s how I made my current Moulage Block. It’s a more involved method with different amounts added at strategic places, so may not be suitable for those looking for a quick/easy solution. If you’re interested, you can read about…

A different & simpler approach is to grade up one size as suggested by Kathleen of Fashion Incubator.

For those of you who’ve been “grading” commercial patterns by transitioning from one size to another – eg size 10 top to size 12 bottom, this obviously won’t work as you don’t have pre-printed sizes to work from. (I’m not even sure this is a correct usage of the word “grading” as all the professional books seem to refer grading as deriving new/different sizes from a base size – exact what we need to do here.)

I haven’t bothered to learn grading as I have no ambition of designing patterns for sale. But there seems to be one easy method that’s used in the home sewing industry: the Cut & Spread Method. If you have Fit for Real People (fitting book), Palmer & Alto explained it in Chapter 5, p28. If you don’t have that book, try this “Quick Reference for Cut-and-Spread Pattern Grading” article in Threads magazine.

I have not tested this method, so don’t know how well the result will work & whether there are any pitfalls. But another advantage I can see, apart from this being easier to understand, is that once you learn this slash & spread grading method, you can try it on commercial patterns as well, as suggested by Palmer & Alto. So you’ll have a solution to patterns that isn’t available in your size!

But for best fit, obviously you start with your new Moulage Block & grade up one size. Don’t forget to test your Basic Block to see if the ease you added is enough for you to breathe, move, & feel comfortable in. (You can use the same instruction as for testing the Mouage Block.)

Again, at this point, don’t start making design changes like lowering the neckline or moving the darts. Your Basic Block is another fundamental building block & not a final garment design. Once you have your TNT Basic Block, you can start deriving other styles of Block/TNT Patterns by introducing design elements – eg moving the darts, converting into different types of princess seam, grading up again for a Jacket Block & a Coat Block, adding extra ease for a loose-fitting garment like a tunic.

Designing Your Own Patterns

Let’s start with those of you too impatient to put in the effort to learn properly, shall we? 😉

If you’re not willing to put much effort in…

But you are willing to limit your design ambition & not be too fussy about a perfect fit, you can probably get away with just the basic pattern-making knowledge that you find free online. You may have to stick to a fitted bodice with simple variations in skirt silhouette – which still gives you a lot a of variations. Some examples of principles you need to learn:

Moldes e Dicas ModaAnd for the really fearless novice, Moldes e Dicas Moda, a website in Portuguese, has lots of inspiration & instruction for using Basic Blocks to create fashionable garment patterns. I have not tried any myself, so can’t say whether the instructions & results are any good. They get pinned a lot on Pinterest, great for browsing through designs that they provide instructions for. Use Chrome to view their site so the pages will automatically be translated by Google Translate.

Now those of you wanting to do it properly…

I do recommend getting at least one Flat Pattern-making/design book to help you learn the basic principles & increase your creative freedom.Which you choose will depend on how you learn & what you hope to achieve. Different books have different teaching styles (eg principles explained vs step-by-step instructions) & varies in the number of design details they cover.

So it’s best to flip through a few & see which speaks to you – especially as these specialised books are not cheap. This is of course easier when you live close to a big fashion capital like New York, Los Angeles, London, etc. where there are specialised bookshops and/or big bookshops with fashion design section. Unfortunately Amazon doesn’t offer the “Look Inside” feature for most of the flat pattern design books they carry. If you’re lucky your local library may also have one or two.

FYI, these are the books I currently have that cover designs for non-stretch woven fabrics. They were chosen to cover a range of approaches. So they are not necessarily the best books. And no, I still haven’t patiently studied them close enough. Shame on me.

  • Pattern Cutting (by Lo): This covers principles & is by far the most fashion forward of the bunch, with illustrations that aren’t dated yet & explanations shedding light on why a designer garment might fit differently than a similar high street garment. While it does cover some design details, it’s not comprehensive since Lo is trying to teach you principles & expects you to be able to figure out other variations yourself. The book does also cover drafting slopers from scratch, but of course these won’t be as personalised as your spanking new Moulage & Basic Blocks!
  • Fundamentals of Garment Design (by Bunka Fashion College): This is part of a series of textbooks for the leading Japanese fashion college. I only got this first one which covers basic principles. The rest of the series cover specific types of garments like skirts & pants, blouses & dresses, jackets & vests, coats & capes. I didn’t get the rest because (a) I’ve moved on from the looser fitting Japanese styles, (b) they may cover duplicate info, & (c) they are expensive! This one I got only because it covers info not available elsewhere, like how anatomy affects fit, how us East Asian bodies differ from the Western garment design standards. I got mine at Kinokuniya, a chain of Japanese bookstores that have branches outside Japan.
  • How Patterns Work (by Assembil Books): This also covers principles, but the style is very abstract – eg “increase volume around a point”, “Volume increase with darts”, frequently illustrated with close up drawings of a detail rather than a whole pattern piece, so can be hard to understand. While it probably pays to study closely, it’s a bit too much mental effort for me.
  • Pattermaking Made Easy (by Crawford): I got this based on Fashion Incubator’s review. This covers both principles & step-by-step instructions. It takes the industry approach of creating blocks for different silhouettes, then deriving variations from these blocks with design details. The styles it cover aren’t comprehensive, but enough to get you started & hopefully confident enough to experiment on your own.
  • Designing Apparel Through The Flat Pattern (by Kopp/Rolfo/Zelin/Gross): This is like a big recipe book. While there are a few pages covering basic principles, they’re not in-depth. But there are like gazillion step-by-step design detail instructions, all derived from Basic Blocks. Granted a lot of the styles & illustrations seem a bit dated, but this may be perfect for vintage fashion lovers.
  • Kenneth King CD books (MoulageNecklines & Draping, Basic Sleeve, Trouser Draft, Skirts, there are others that I didn’t get): I have these because it’s how I created my current Moulage & Basic Blocks. So the instructions work with the Blocks I have. It’s mostly step-by-step with some principles explained along the way.
  • Waisted Efforts (by Dolye): This specialise in historical corset patterns. It’s written for theatrical costume designers & uses the Moulage (“French Block”) as the starting point.

Keep in mind a lot of these books work with industry standard body shapes. So sometimes it will be hard to follow the instruction if your body shape differs from this standard. I don’t have a neat answer for how to deal with that. There’s just a lot of experimentation. Sometimes fit alteration books can be helpful.

One thing for sure, it’s not easy creating good quality patterns, especially when you start getting creative with the designs. There’s a lot of add-ons you have to think about, eg:

  • facing, interfacing & lining patterns that you may need, how they differ from the main patterns, how they affect the amount of ease you may need – I always forget this bit & end up with garments that are slightly tighter than expected
  • seam & hem options & how that affect seam/hem allowance & construction order
  • how to construct the garment!

Trying to create my own patterns has certainly made me more appreciative of professional pattern-makers, & a bit more understanding when mistakes happen in commercial patterns. Very few people are perfect. As consumers of cheap fashion – even when you’re making the “cheap fashion” –  we take a lot for granted.

Examples of patterns derived from my Blocks:

(Sorry, the older makes don’t have diagrams comparing the patterns to the Blocks.)

Checking the Fit of Commercial Patterns

I’ll ‘fess up that I haven’t cracked this nut yet. The dilemma when you have personal Blocks is do you:

  1. Alter commercial patterns to match your personal Blocks OR
  2. Start with your own Blocks & copy their design lines, using their pattern sheets & instructions as a guide to what pieces you’d need to create with your personal Blocks & how to construct the garment.

So far I’ve done mostly B…if there is a simple enough design I want to sew. I’ve done A occasionally, but there’s a lot of guesswork. And as mentioned before, you will need to understand some basics of pattern-making to be able to do either, because the pattern’s design may have darts, shaping seams, pleats/gatherings, & design seams in places different from your Moulage & Basic Block. So you may need to pivot your Moulage/Basic Block darts into the same locations to be able to compare.

As we’re all in the same boats, here are some references I’ve found so far:

  1. The Merits of a Basic Fitting Pattern (by Howland): an article on Threads Magazine website that covers the basic of moving darts, then comparing your Blocks to the commercial pattern.
  2. De-mystifying Fit (by Maynard): a CD book on using the Moulage/Basic/Jacket Blocks (created using Kenneth King’s method) to adjust commercial patterns. There’s a chapter on the process & principles, then 9 case studies showing step-by-step examples of adjustments to specific patterns on ladies of various sizes & shapes.
  3. Fit for Real People (by Palmer & Alto) + Pattern Company Fitting Shells: Although this is a fitting book, Chapter 9 “Making A Body Map” (p74-88) suggests adjusting pattern companies’ fitting shell patterns to find out how your body differs from the standard & what adjustments you may need to consider when working with patterns from those same companies. So in our case, we’d buy one of these fitting shells, working off copies we’d adjust the fitting shell using standard alteration techniques to make the fitting shells look like our Basic Block. The steps we took to achieve this would be our list of potential adjustments we need to make to fashion patterns – eg full-bust adjustment, sloping shoulder, etc.
    Unfortunately not all pattern companies offer fitting shell pattern any more (eg Simplicity, Burda, New Look). And even when they do, it’s not entirely clear if they actually use their fitting shells as their design Blocks. But the book mentions that the big pattern companies (Vogue, McCall, Butterick, Simplicity, Burda) all use fairly standarised sizing. So once you figure out how you differ from one company’s fitting shell pattern, the same changes will probably apply when using the other companies’ patterns. If you use independent pattern companies’ patterns, then good luck! Maybe see if they offer a very basic dress design that’s similar to the Basic Block & use that as the fitting shell pattern.
    I have the Vogue Fitting Shell & McCall Fitting Shell. Vogue’s instruction include some basics on adjusting fashion patterns with simple design features. McCall’s is meant to work the FFRP way, so no specific instruction on adjusting fashion patterns. Butterick offers separate fitting shells for Misses sizing & Women sizing (larger, more fully-fashioned mature adult female figure), but I’d go with the sizing that your fashion patterns come in. Otherwise you may figure out how to alter a Women’s size 16W, but not know how to alter a pattern that doesn’t come in 16W. Someone mentioned on Pattern Review that Butterick one includes a semi-fitted shell as well, so you can compare the fitted shell (Basic Block) with the semi-fitted one to understand how Butterick add design ease for semi-fitted styles.
    Please note these fitting shell pattern comes in one size per envelope. So it can be tricky figuring out which size to buy, especially if you’re not a B-cup. FFRP advise using the high-bust/chest measurement as if it were your full bust measurement when selecting a size, and if you’re between sizes, to go with the smaller size (unless the pattern is a “close-fitting” design).  Base on these two advice I would be a size 8 for these “fitted” fitting shells (high-bust 32″ used as bust measurement is between size 8 bust of 31.5″ & size 10 bust of 32.5″). And indeed size 8 D-cup came closest to my Basic Block’s bust dart shaping. These fitting shell do come with different cup sizing, but you need to keep in mind that fashion patterns will generally be designed with B-cup. So when you alter fashion patterns you may need to do Full/Small Bust Adjustments if your Basic Block is closer to the other cup sizes in this fitting shell.

Now, when it comes to origami designs like those OOP Donna Karan Vogue Patterns, well, good luck! I don’t think our Blocks will be of much help, unless you can at least figure out where the bust, waist, & hip lines are on the fashion pattern!

Examples of Blocks used to adjust Commercial Patterns:

Making a Custom Dress Form

Although your cling film + clear tape wrap won’t be sturdy enough to use as a dress form, you can use your Moulage to make a  cover you put over a smaller dress form & pad out to duplicate your shape. Supposedly this is how the haute couture houses create custom dress forms for their regular clients. Suzanne Stern, who worked in the Parisian haute couture houses, demonstrated the process in “Padding a Dress Form” in Threads magazine (subscription needed to read the article; it’s also on Threads Archive DVD, issues 44, 45, 48). I used my Kenneth King Moulage this way to create a cover for my padded & pinnable paper-tape dress form.

The main differences between this method & what you might normally do are:

  • Sturdy non-stretch fabric used for the cover. You don’t want the padding/stuffing to stretch your cover out of shape. That would defeat the purpose.
  • Smoother, tearable batting (eg upholstery padding) + fusible interfacing are used instead of just cushion/toy stuffing to pad the form. This avoid lumpiness that again distort your cover’s shape.
  • Padding is not done haphazardly after you put the cover on. Instead you’d visually approximate the shape of your body with the padding, check key measurements as you go along, use the fusible interfacing to keep padding in place, and only use the cover to squash the thing into precisely the shape you are.

It’s more work, but might be less likely to distort your cover’s shape. If you’ve stuffed a Duct-Tape Double before you’d know that even with such a precise wrap, it’s possible to distort the shape during stuffing, eg by turning an oval circumference into a circlar one. The fabric cover simply won’t stop you doing this sort of distortion. While you’ll still get a better fitting form than uncustomised dress forms, it may cause some fitting problems & unintended “design features” later on!

However you do it – haphazardly or precisely – keep in mind that:

  • The base dress form needs to be smaller than all of your widths & circumferences: eg neck, shoulders, high-bust, bust, under-bust, waist, high hip, hip, under bum.
  • If your proportion lengthwise is significantly different from the dress form: You need to check the circumferences at the right height. Eg if your waist is lower than the dress form’s, you need to check the dress form at where your waist would be, not the dress form’s own waist.
  • If you decide not to use a ready-made dress form as the base: Make sure you choose a stand that can support the weight of your stuffed form. My first stuffed Duct-Tape Double broke its leg because it was too heavy for its leg! You can try lightening the load by using hollow boxes – eg shoe boxes – around the stand & pad around these boxes. You’ll have less to pad & the resulting form would weigh less. This is what I sort of did with my current Paper-Tape Dress Form.
  • 11_form-checkCheck the widths & depths at key circumferences if you can: This is to make sure you haven’t turned your ovals into circles! Do this visually at least – eg does the bust line look too deep front-to-back & too narrow side-to-side. Or if you want to be more precise you can try using a couple of L-shaped rulers to box you in at these key circumferences & find the depths & widths. Do the same with the you padded form & make sure the depths & widths match.

And that’s all folks! Hope this is helpful. Again, keep in mind I’m no expert & these are just my own observations & hypothesis.

Have fun using your Moulage & Basic Blocks, whatever you end up using them for!

Related Post

File under: