Pants/Trousers Wrap – Flattening & Tweaks

So now that you have your cling film + clear tape pants wrap, let’s talk about flattening the wrap, converting it into pattern, & tweaking the muslin(s). While everyone’s body is slightly different & not all my learnings may apply to you, hopefully my notes will help you figure out how to turn your wrap into usable tight pants pattern.

As mentioned before, if you wrapped both legs, to keep things manageable you may want to start with just one side (left or right) – maybe the bigger side. If this one side works well for both legs in your muslin, then you’ve saved yourself unnecessary extra work. If it doesn’t fit as well on the other side, then convert that side into pattern as well & make up your asymmetrical muslin to see if that fits better. If it does, you will have to decide how much effort you’re willing to put into making your pants and what minor fitting flaws you’re willing to live with: If perfection is non-negotiable, you’ll have to make asymmetrical pants. If minor fitting flaws are acceptable, go with the better side or try an average (line in between the lines of your two sides) to see if that fits even better.

Now the flattening process itself, let’s start with my biggest lesson:

Darts better than Princess Lines for flattening

For normal pants at least. Unless you plan on making all your pants with princess seams, don’t cut your wrap apart on the princess lines like you might with a bodice wrap. Because if you do, when you put the pieces back together to form your front & back pattern pieces you’ll inevitably add ease along the curved princess lines like this…

See the big gap / fisheye dart at the back thigh? If you don’t sew it up, it will cause saggy back thighs. This ease allows the pants leg to hang away from your back thigh, making the length along the back princess line slightly too long. You can see the excess length in my Wrap 1 Pattern 1 Muslin 1 below. When I sew the princess seams up (remove the ease), then the back looked fairly good. But as I don’t always want princess seams in my pants, I tried to pivot some of the ease into a bigger waist dart & remove a bit more from the side seams & crotch/inseams. The result looked and felt awful.

Which is why I had to pester MR to wrap me again. For Pattern 2 I tried a different approach and refined it a bit further in Pattern 3. Both of these were based on Wrap 2.

  1. Preserve the princess line lengths by slashing a whole bunch of darts along the side seams & inseams/crotch instead.
  2. To flatten the wrap, let these darts spread or overlap as needed.
    • Pattern 2: I initially tried to keep the marked princess line on the straight grain. This resulted in different spreads/overlaps on the side seam vs the inseam. It might have skewed the angle of the legs, which may in turn be partly responsible for extra wrinkles on the back thigh that I just couldn’t get rid of. So not recommended.
    • Pattern 3: This time I kept the spreads/overlaps the same on both side seam & inseam -ie balancing on the mid-point between the two seam lines which may be slightly off to one side of the marked princess line. This approach seemed to work out better with less back thigh wrinkles.
  3. Next tally up the spreads & overlaps along the side seam & inseam to see if they have become too long (excess) or too short (shortfall).
  4. Correct the excess/shortfall to restore the original side seam & inseam lengths while making sure no extra length is added to the princess lines – especially on the back:
    • Overlap excess/spread shortfall as necessary. This can be above, below, and/or at the leg-bum crease depending on if the excess/shortfall is in the torso or leg portion or both.
    • Above the legs, excess/shortfall can also be pivoted to/from the waist dart.
      Remove excess length by pivoting the side seam/crotch dart into the closest waist dart. This removes the dart in the side seam/crotch & make the waist dart wider.
      Add shortfall length by pivoting the closest waist dart into the side seam/crotch overlap. This removes the overlap in the side seam/crotch & make the waist dart narrower or close it completely.
    • If necessary to preserve the back princess length, you can overlap back inseam up to an extra 1/2″.  A slightly shorter back inseam is one method some tailors used to improve the fit of closing fitting trousers (see Cutter & Tailor’s thread on German slim cut trousers ironwork , another debating where ease & shaping should be, & Canadian tailor Jeffery Diduch’s explanation for why he does these ironwork shaping.)
    • In my Pattern 3 front, I only needed to pivot a crotch overlap into a waist dart. The leg portion had no excess or shortfall. The back was more guess-work: The leg was 3/8″ too long & the torso side seam & crotch also have small darts at the hip level which I didn’t want to pivot into even wider & deeper waist darts. I experimented a bit to see what would preserve my back princess length the best. The result was overlapping at the thigh line the leg excess (3/8″) + extra 1/2″ on the inseam. This leave a 1/2″ fisheye gap at the bum crease which is compensated by a 5/8″ fisheye overlap when I close the hip line darts. So princess line 1/8″ shorter. I can live with that. Interestingly even with the extra 1/2″ overlap on the inseam, my back inseam ended up only 1/4″ shorter than the front.
  5. If the crotch sticks out too much over the leg inseam, slash the lower crotch curve from the bum crease end, leave hinges on the crotch line, & spread/reshape the crotch curve so that the end point of the crotch curve doesn’t stick out too much & you’re able to smooth the inseam line without adding too much ease to the thigh.
    • I didn’t have to do this on the front thanks to the less faithful 2nd layer of wrap I did for the front crotch. But my back had this problem, and I ended up with a weird back crotch curve & shaved 1/4″ off the back crotch length at the thigh. I tried to make sure this new back crotch curve is close to but doesn’t dip below the back thigh/bum crease line. For such tight trousers I didn’t want there to be too much nor too little fabric in that back crotch area.
  6. Add ease below the calf so that the hem is wide enough for your feet to pass through (measure the circumference around your heel to front of ankle then back to heel).
    • Mine was only added to the back to de-emphasize my big calves.
  7. Establish the grain line: I’m not entirely sure the correct method that will work for everyone. Standard advice for slim pants is to fold the pattern pieces in half lengthwise from knee to ankle. The straight line that continues up from this foldline is the straight grain line. But one source I found claims that this may not work if you have knock-knees or bow legs.
    • Note that your hip line for this tight-fitting pants will probably not be on the cross grain, especially in the back. It will slant up on the crotch end, & more so in the back than the front. Front may be close to or even on the cross grain. I’m guessing this prevents the front & back legs from being on drastically different grain which may cause twisting in the leg due to the different behaviour of the fabric at different grain?
    • Pattern 2: This was before I researched the “correct method” – me bad. I used the thigh line as my cross grain & a line perpendicular to this cross grain that run through the centre of the knee as my straight grain. It was at a slightly different angle to my marked princess line as well as to the mid-line between the side & inseam. Maybe this incorrect grain is partly responsible for the back thigh wrinkles that I couldn’t get rid of?
    • Pattern 3: I tried the “correct method” and it worked out better for my legs, which are relatively straight though my knees do rotate slightly inward.
  8. Establish match point notches: If your back inseam is shorter, the stretching should be in the thigh length & not from the hem up. This help the tight pants mimic the actual shape of the legs along the princess lines – back thigh generally shorter than front thigh, whereas below the knee the back is actually longer than the front because of the calves. In fact, this is true of the side seam as well. And the tailoring references mentioned above do stretch & shrink both the side seam & the inseam in different places. Mr Diduch even says that in their factory “to control the amount of stretching and shrinking, we shift the knee notch up by 1/4 to 3/8 inches on the back panel- this has the effect of introducing fullness into the calf area and shortness in the back of the thigh. When we press the seams open and crease the trouser we then stretch the back thigh and front calf, eliminating any ripples of fullness in the seam and doing the same shaping.” So establish your match points for the legs:
    • Top: thigh/bum crease line at the side seam, crotch line at the inseam.
    • Bottom: hem line for both seams.
    • Middle: either use the front knee line making sure both seams below this line is the same length on front & back (ie shorter back inseam is only above the knee), or move the back knee match points 1/4-3/8″ up on both seams as Mr Diduch suggests.
    • Pattern 3: This was before I found the tailoring references. I moved my back knee match points up 1/2″ on both seams. I saw that my back knee guide lines was actually 1″ higher than the front & was worried without some manipulation there would be too much lengths in the back thigh causing fabric pooling there, while there won’t be enough length for the back calf causing dragline there & raised back hem. So the 1/2″ was a compromise because I wasn’t sure I could stretch the relatively straight grain of the side seam & inseam too much. Also, I moved the knee match points to below the knee rather than kept them at mid-knee, again trying to cox the fabric to mimic my curves.

So here are my muslins for Pattern 2 & 3 before the fitting tweaks, plus Pattern 1 muslin for comparison.

While not perfect, I think both are better than Pattern 1 muslin without the princess seam sewn up. So I think the darts flattening approach definitely worked better for me than the princess seam flattening approach.

Muslin Tweaks

Both patterns based on Wrap 2 had similar problems in the crotch area. I managed to fix the crotch area with Pattern 2 tweaks, but it resulted in slightly different left & right – a pain for further pattern designs. Pattern 2 muslin also had a bit more problem in the legs which I just couldn’t get rid of. I made 3 muslins in total for Patter 2 & each had mini tweak experiments – 10 photographed tweaks in total, some of which made no difference & were ditched. Here’s the last of the Pattern 2 muslins:

Pattern 3 was started after I gave up on Pattern 2 muslin tweaks. Thankfully there was less problem in the legs. So I focused on the problem in the crotch area that appeared in both patterns, copying & comparing Pattern 3 to my fixes to Pattern 2 as shortcuts, but tried to avoid asymmetrical left & right. Please note that although I’m summarizing the tweaks by symptoms, the fixes were in done different order & some may have only worked in conjunction with other tweaks (see photo sequence below the tweaks summary). In other words, it’s not a straightforward process. So have patience when you tweak your own muslin!

  • Front crotch wrinkles & pool of fabric (camel toe?):
    • I did try Fashion Incubator’s fix for camel toe by scooping out the front crotch – ie moving some width from CF to the side seam. But it didn’t fix my problem (sorry didn’t take photos).
    • From Pattern 2 muslin, I knew that taking a horizontal wedge out at front hip level tapering to nothing at side seam did the trick for me, so that’s what I did again. Perhaps my wrap had wrapped in a pre-Xmas feast – my front hip line was slanted up at the CF in the trace. Or maybe it’s just that the undulating landscape in my front leg crease created more surface area in the wrap than the fabric can handle. Anyway, the wedge removed basically brought the hip line down so that it’s on the cross grain.
    • Also comparing to Pattern 2, Pattern 3’s front dart was not as deep, hip width a smidge too narrow, & inseam a smidge too long. So a smidge width was added to CF (which now falls right in between my Pattern 2 left & right CF crotch lines), the dart deepened, & crotch point lowered a smidge to match Pattern 2.
    • The resulting fix looks a bit like the opposite of Fashion Incubator’s fix for camel toe. So maybe my unsightly front crotch problem wasn’t a real camel toe even though it looked like one.
  • Minor excess fabric in back crotch area:
    • From Pattern 2 muslin, again it seems like for the best tight-pants fit my hip level should angle up about 1″ at CB crotch. Pattern 2 muslin had a bit more excess fabric below the bum, which is why I tried taking a wedge out (like with the front) & discovered this fix. But note that the fix didn’t properly worked until the front wedge was also removed.
    • Also pinched out CB a bit which resulted in a deeper scoop at back crotch. This lifted my aging droopy bum a bit, minimizing that coach-potato-bum-spread look, & seemed to improve that pooling of fabric under the bum a tinsy bit as well.
  • Legs too short:
    • Maybe the wrap was a bit short to begin with as it’s difficult to cover the ankle bone which goes below where the feet jut out of the legs. The tight fit + knees bent as you walk + my big calves also probably push up the hems a bit (& deposit the extra wrinkles at the knees). The legs were lengthened by 2″. Not sure the extra length will be needed if the legs were widened.

And the actual order I did these tweaks, or at least the ones I remembered to take photos…

Where next

Maybe a wearable muslin in heavier fabric? My muslins so far were made from old sheets, so have no stretch & are perhaps a bit too light-weight for tight pants. This could have caused some of the wrinkles you can still see at the front crotch, under the bum, and around the knee areas in both front & back. Then again maybe my lower body is just impossible to fit perfectly in non-stretch fabric. Or I’m just no good (yet) at pants fitting! Anyway, I’m calling this GOOD ENOUGH & hoping it’ll look better in heavier fabric.

Hopefully this 0-ease Pants/Trousers Block will work for jeans in 100% cotton denim or other mid- to heavy-weight stretch woven. But it probably won’t work so well for stretch denim with 2% or more of elastine – especially not the light-weight (<10oz) jegging variety: Most of the jeans patterns for stretch denim seems to have at least 1″ of negative ease.

BTW why do denim stretch out over time? A “denim expert” from Baldwin Denim said in an GQ article that “dry, 100% cotton denim expands anywhere between 1 to 1.5 inches over a 3 month period of daily wear.” Closet Case Files’ post on sourcing denim says that’s because the twill weave relaxes over time. Do other twill weave fabrics “relax” & stretch out as well? And if I plan on washing the jeans in luke warm water & hang dry, do I still need to pre-wash & dry the denim 3+ times? (Trying to do my bit for the environment!)

I will also need to modify this block to make looser Pants Blocks like…

  • Slim Pants Block that doesn’t hug the bottoms so tightly
  • Loose Pants Block that hang straight down from the hip at the back

For these I’m sort of applying the theory outlined in Catfork’s Work-In-Progress PDFs on “Drafting a slim-pant block (basic pattern) from a skirt block”.

So the self-flagellation quest for the perfect pants/trousers patterns marches on! 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Making a Cling Film (& Tape!) Moulage

I first read about the cling film method of creating Fitting Shell Blocks/Slopers on Fashion Incubator’s website.

By that point I had already made my latest Blocks the long-winded way with lots of measurements, drafting, & a few rounds of fitting muslins/toiles. I used the ‘French Moulage’ method taught by Simmin Sethna and her students Kenneth King (“Moulage” CD book – what I used) & Suzy Furrer (“Patternmaking Basics: The Bodice Sloper” Craftsy Class – I haven’t tried, but assume it’s the same method.) So I haven’t been cling-film wrapped yet. But I thought that it would be useful when my body morph again with age & my existing Blocks no longer fit well.

Then recently I was invited to two wrapping parties where I got to practice wrapping and/or marking on 9 ladies. It’s all a bit of a haze as I worked frantically to avoid ladies fainting in their non-breathable sausage casings! But I want to jut down a few observations, learnings, & ideas for next time.

The Wrapping Parties

Photo from fabrickated.com

Photo from fabrickated.com

The first was hosted by Kate of Fabrickated & was my first bodice wrapping experience. I had been wrapped by Hubby for Duct-Tape & Paper-Tape Dress Forms, but I haven’t actually wrapped anyone myself. OK, I did cling-film wrap my Duct-Tape Arm Form, but that’s not quite the same as wrapping a live person. I fully wrapped & marked Kate’s bodice & helped out with the other two wrappings & markings (Elizabeth of Fab Dr. E’s Fab Blog & Megan of Pigeon Wishes). Kate has wrote a post about the wrapping experience & how her test muslin/toile of this 0-ease wrap came out. Marijana of Sew2Pro also didn’t get wrapped, but had tried this method with her Hubby wrapping her & wrote a post about her wrappee experience.

The second wrapping party was organised by Barbara of The London Dressmakers Club Meetup group. There were 10 guinea pigs, including one who wanted a pants/leg wrap. I think Barbara & I were the only ones who didn’t get wrapped, though again Barbara got her Other Half to wrap her at home. I wasn’t brave enough to do the leg wrap, so Barbara took up the challenge. But as the most experienced wrapper there (just!) I was in demand for the bodice wraps.

Learnings & Ideas

First my thoughts & suggestions for wrapping, then turning your wrap into a Moulage Block. I’ll share my thoughts & suggestions for using your Moulage Block in another post soon.

Goal

The wrap is meant to be a means to create a 2D map of your body, which you can then derive garment patterns from. If you’ve taken pattern-making classes you know that this is not meant to be your garment patterns, which can have all sorts of design details – like lowered neck, bust shaping with armhole princess seam or just darts, etc.

So the 2D map needs to capture some basic info about your body. Like where the base of your neck is, even if you don’t think you’ll ever wear a neckline that high. Then again you might decide to make a turtle neck or halter neck where this info comes in handy in preventing fitting issues or unintended “design features”! 😉

I like to capture as much info as possible because it’s easier to ignore unnecessary info for a particular design than to guess missing info or having to resort to generic recommended amounts. But if you’re scared of pattern-making, you can certainly get away with only those that you’d find in a basic fitting shell pattern & even ignore the cleavage when wrapping.

BTW, even if you don’t intend to design your own patterns & only to use this to check the fit of commercial patterns, the same guidelines will help you evaluate what’s going on with the commercial pattern – eg is that neckline going to be too low!

What should wrapee wear

Wear your normal underwear & supportive bra. Don’t wear old unsupportive or compression ones if that’s not what you normally wear. Otherwise the result might not accurately reflect your body & create fitting problems when you try to design or alter other patterns with your moulage. With care by the wrapper – eg no marking on your nice bra, use bandage scissor for cutting out s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y – your underwear won’t be destroyed!

If you really must wear a t-shirt & legging – or leotard – make sure they’re thin enough not to add bulk, nor so tight & restrictive that they compress your body into a different shape than your everyday shape!

Avoid black as it can be hard to see & trace black guideline markings against black underwear & bra.

Wrappee comfort

It gets really hot & restrictive in the wrap. Every single wrappees was sweating profusely, even with the less ambitious wrap (bodice to waist only). So to prevent fainting…

  • Do it in a cool & ventilated room.
  • Don’t be too ambitious on your first go. Try wrapping bodice (up to waist), bottom (waist down), sleeves (from armscye) separately. Just make sure you mark the boundaries (waistline, armscyes) clearly so you know where to pick up where you left off.
  • Guidelines: If you are unfamiliar with pattern-making and/or cannot easily eye-ball where guidelines should be, try marking the guidelines on the body first before you start wrapping. As long as you don’t wrap too many layers you should still be able to see the guidelines through the wrap & quickly trace them onto the wrap with a marker. This allows you to take your time to get the guidelines right without wrappee discomfort. It also really helps with knowing how far up/out to wrap the neck & shoulder. For these pre-wrap guidelines you can try marking them with:
    • Marker lines on masking tape. We tried this at Party 2. Unfortunately the tape didn’t stick well, so got moved in places during the wrap as the wrappee moves. So for the last few wraps I only taped the neckline & armscye, then eye-balled everything else.
    • Eyeliner drawn straight on the skin. An idea I haven’t tried yet. On the plus side it shouldn’t move or restrict breathing. On the down side, you’d want to avoid marking any nice bra the wrappee is wearing. Maybe liquid liner would be less smudgy.
    • Any very narrow tape that you can find – ideally no more than 1/8″ (3mm) wide.  You can use draping tapes like the 3mm B&W fashion tape Marijana brought to Party 1. Old school graphic designers also use narrow tapes, so you might be able to find some in well-stocked art stores.
  • A layer of strong clear packing tape is better than many layers of cling film. I’m not convinced that cling film by itself is stable enough to prevent us less experienced wrappers/wrappees from squashing & distorting the wrap once it’s off the body. So I treat the cling film like a less bulky version of the trash bag you’d wear for a Duct-Tape or Paper-Tape Double – ie protect your skin from the clear packing tape & enable you to get the wrap off. By wrapping only enough cling film to cover the body – 1-2 layers rather than many many layers – you can quickly move on to the stabilising with clear packing tape, marking the guidelines, & cutting out.

Supplies

The essential ones are:

  • cling film: Kitchen cling films are ok, though not as stable & nor stick as well as industrial cling films. You may need to cut narrow strips to be able to mould to smaller prominent bumps (like breasts) more easily. Industrial cling films come in both narrow & wide widths if you’re feeling lazy! But it can be hard to pull off strips of the wide industrial cling films while avoid it clinging to itself before you’re ready. It can also be harder to cut out of as it clings more strongly to the Wrappee skin. Film dispenser will be quite handy!
  • heavy-duty clear packing/parcel tape: Not the soft sellotape used for gift-wrapping, but the one you’d get from good stationery stores for closing parcels & moving boxes (at least 1.6 mils/41 microns, preferably 3 mils/76 microns). Make sure it’s not too thin & flimsy. It may be useful to have two sizes – wide ones for smoother areas of the body (so you can cover more area quickly) & narrower ones for the bumps and any narrow valleys like the cleavage (so you don’t have to trim or cut slashes to make the tape conform to your bumps). Tape dispenser will be quite handy.
  • permanent marker: The one I use is staedtler lumocolor permanent marker. Other permanent markers may also work. Just test them on the clear packing tape first to make sure once dried they don’t fade or rub off.
  • bandage scissor: Has smooth rounded tips that won’t stab your wrappee.
  • tracing supplies:
    • scissor to cut the seams & darts/slashes – can be the same bandage scissor if you’re cheap like me!
    • large pieces of paper to trace onto – this will become your master moulage, so use some decent paper!
    • pencil, & eraser if you must!

Other useful supplies, which were mentioned in above sections:

  • pre-wrap guideline markers: masking tape OR eye liner OR very narrow tape
  • guideline rulers: narrow 1/4″ elastic for the circumferences, plumb line / retractable tape measure for the verticals

Marking Guidelines

1_wrap-guidelines

Minimum guidelines you need mark on your wrap:

  1. Neckline: You can use a choker chain necklace as a ruler. Make sure at the CB this is just above the bone that sticks out at the base of the wrappee’s neck & that doesn’t move when she bend her head forward.
  2. Armscyes (armholes): At underarm find how high the armhole can go without causing discomfort. Place masking tape horizontally under the arm. Have wrappee arms down to check if the tape’s top edge is cutting into her arms. Reposition if necessary. Then find arm joint at shoulder (ie end of standard shoulder seam – see #8 below). Mark from this point down, connecting it to the arm creases, then around the underarm – going no higher than the top of the masking tape at the side seam.
  3. Bust Points: You can also mark the whole Bust line. A narrow 1/4″ elastic that goes around the body can be used as a ruler. Try to keep the line level / horizontal.
  4. Waist: Again the narrow elastic can help & keep this line level too. If the wrappee normally wear her waist slanted – eg because of rounded tummy, you can mark this as a second reference waistline. Just make sure it’s easy to distinguish the two!
  5. Hip: Ditto with the elastic & keeping the line level.
  6. Center Front & Back: You can use a plumb line or retractable tape measure as a ruler.
  7. Side Seams: Aim to have these start at the middle of the armpit so it will be easier to match the side seam to the sleeve’s seam. This point may not be exactly halfway between the front & back. From this point down it’s your choice how you want to the line to go – straight down or divide the torso evenly in half (this may slant towards the front at the waist, then slant back towards the back at the hip).
  8. Shoulder Seams: 1_wrap-guideline_shoulderTipAim to have these start at the centre of the neck base between Front & Back, and end at the dimple at the arm joint when the wrappee raises the arm. If you can’t see any dimple here, then aim for top & centre of the bone bulge that’s usually closer to the Front than Back of the arm joint.

Additional guidelines I use:

Some of these are useful for standard pattern alterations/designs, eg Princess Seams, Shoulder Blade Apex. Others are useful for checking specific designs – eg Belly Button & High Hip useful for low-rise skirts; High-Bust & Breast Shape useful for strapless, sweetheart neckline, bustier, wrap front; Under-Bust useful for empire waist.

  1. Cross-Front & Cross-Back: I eyeball this at approximately half-way up the arm joint – ie visually dividing the F/B armscyes height in half.
  2. High-Bust/Chest
  3. Under-Bust
  4. High Hip
  5. Bum Bottom: Absolute minimum bottom length!!! 😉 Just under your bum cheeks.
  6. Front & Back Shoulder Princess Seams: I start midway on shoulder seams (between neck & shoulder tip), slope down to the bust/shoulder blade apices, straight down to the waist, then slightly curve lines down towards the middle of each thigh on the Front & Back.
  7. Breast Shape: This does require you to wrap the cleavage. You can use the underwires of the bra as guides for the bottom edges of the breast shapes. For the top edge, you may or may not get a clear boundary between the flat bit of the chest & the mounds of the breast. If yes, great, trace that as guide. If no, just trace as far up as there are clear boundary.
  8. Shoulder Blade Area: This can be hard to pin-point as some backs are fairly flat & the blades are weirder shape than breasts. I circle the most prominent region in the blade area. If you can’t locate this, leave it out. You may be able to determine this later when you flatten your wrap with slashes from the shoulder & the waist. It’ll be where these darts point toward.
  9. Belly Button/Navel

Wrapping process

Don’t wrap too tightly! The wrap should be a second skin, but should not compress the body. Otherwise, even after adding ease, your Block may be too small for standard woven fabric. Remember, we’re aiming to record your body in 2D, not making you shapewear!

The wrap doesn’t have to be even number of layers all over. It’s OK that some bits have more film layers than others. Just follow the curve of the body & work quickly. If you’re using a narrow film & wrapping continuously around the body, cut off & start a new strip wherever it becomes too difficult to continue with the same strip.

If wrapping dress length, for Wrappee comfort it’s probably best to wrap from bottom up so they can breath unrestricted for longer. It’s also easier to wrap the bottom up until the breasts start causing your wrap to go in all different direction!

If you can wrap quickly, wrapping to the bottom of the bum helps keep the wrap in place. I noticed that the wraps that only went down to the hip sometimes rode up because the Wrappee moved – they’re only human! When the wrap goes below the bum curve the opening is smaller, so can’t ride up.

For bust you can choose to capture the cleavage or not. If yes, criss-cross narrow strips of films (& later tapes) between the boobs (ie from Left Back Shoulder Blade to Right Front Waist & Right Back Shoulder Blade to Left Front Waist). The wrap might not stick well & conform to the boobs until you put tapes on them. If you don’t want cleavage, then just continue wrapping as you do the lower part of the body until you hit the armpits.

Armpits & up: If there’s not much curve here, just use larger film strips to cover the area quickly & move on to tape to keep the films in place. Because the film won’t go around the body it can be hard to keep them in place otherwise (unless your film has super sticky power).  Make sure you go up & out far enough at neck & arm joint to reach the neckline & armscyes.

If your Wrappee feels constricted by cling film at the CF neckline, quickly stabilise the front neckline with clear packing tape, mark front neckline & top of CF line, then cut the top of the CF line apart with the bandage scissor (from neckline down). Continue with rest of the wrap.

As long as the body is covered, you can move on to the clear packing tape. Be careful of gaps in the film – patch these as necessary so the clear packaging tape won’t stick to the skin/undergarment, making it hard to take the wrap off later on.

It may be useful to have many strips of tapes pre-cut & one end stuck to edge of a table. Shorter pieces are useful for necklines, armscyes, boobs. One layer may be enough if your tape is stiff. Otherwise add another layer. Make sure all the guidelines – if you pre-marked these – are taped. This is especially important for cut (seam) edges like CF, CB, side seams, shoulder seams, neckline, armscyes.

You must either wrap enough layers of film if you don’t want the whole wrap covered by the packing tape, or wrap the whole thing with a layer of packing tape if you only wrapped a layer or two of film.

Next mark the guidelines on the wrap. If you have pre-marked these before wrapping you can just trace the guidelines. Otherwise figure them out now.

Cutting out is easiest at the CB, from bottom up – less risk of poking the Wrappee with the scissor! It may be necessary to cut the shoulder seams as well (from arm towards neck) for ease of getting out of the wrap. The film may stick to the skin, so peel off carefully. If bits of film won’t stick to the inside of the wrap, don’t worry, the important part is preserved by the outer layer of clear packing tape.

From Wrap to 2D Moulage Block

Once off, be careful NOT to squash your wrap. If your whole wrap has a layer of clear packing tape it should be harder to squash. But if there are areas that are just cling-film, it may be easily squashed.

You need to flatten the wrap by cutting apart (seams) & slashing (darts), not by squashing the wrap.

Before you cut, label the Right Front, Left Front, Right Back, Left Back so you don’t get them confused once the wrap is cut into pieces. I’d label to bodice & bottom part separately – in case you end up cutting apart at the waistline as well.

If you’re not familiar with pattern-making guidelines, you may also want to label the other guidelines.

Where you cut initially doesn’t matter as much – just make sure you don’t cut off & discard any bits between the neckline to your hem/bottom line, and between the armscyes.

If you make a mistake or change your mind about where to cut, just put the pieces back together & tape over the cut.

Aim to cut & slash your warp so your 2D map looks similar to the standard fitting shell patterns used in pattern-making or fitting alteration books you have. Because then it’ll be easier to follow the book instructions to create other designs, or to add ease / grade up / compare your 2D body map with commercial patterns.

1_Block_Moulage-Wrap

First the cuts, which will give you seams. A quick survey of the books & the commercial fitting shell patterns I have show that this is generally:

  • Separate top & bottom pieces: so cut at the waistline
  • Separate front & back pieces: cut at the side seams & shoulder seams
  • Normally half a body: cut at the CF & CB seams. Most books will assume you have or are aiming for a symmetrical body. But your body may be asymmetrical, and there will be times when you won’t be able to disguise that asymmetry – eg very close fitting clothing or at openings (neckline, etc). So do keep both your Left & Right pieces if they are asymmetrical.

This should give you 8 separate pieces: 4 bodices (LF, LB, RF, RB) & 4 bottoms (LF, LB, RF, RB)

Next you need to flatten each piece with slashes that spread apart to form darts. Below are the standard darts used by books & commercial fitting shell patterns. But you’ll probably find that you have to slash in more places to be able to flatten the wrap without crushing it in places like the boobs. When you slash, only slash as far as needed to flatten the wrap, don’t cut all the way to the apex points (bust points, shoulder blades).

  • Back Bodices generally have a Waist Dart & a Shoulder Dart:
    • Slash from waistline straight up towards the bottom of the shoulder blade
    • Slash from shoulder (say midway between neck & shoulder tip) towards the top of shoulder blade
  • Front Bodices generally have a Waist Dart + either a Shoulder Dart OR a Side Bust Dart: The commercial patterns & alteration books generally uses the Side Bust Dart. Patter-making books varies in which one they use as the base pattern, but they generally will teach you how to pivot / rotate the dart to derive the other dart location.
    • Slash from waistline straight up towards the bust points
    • Shoulder Dart: Slash from shoulder (same position as the back) towards bust points
    • Side Bust Dart: There seems to be no standard where this starts at the side seams. Commercial patterns seem to start about 1″ below the bust line, Mr King’s Moulage book suggest 1/3 way up from the waist line. Whichever you choose, slash from side seam across towards the bust points.
  • Front & Back Bottoms generally have 1-2 Waist Darts each: The commercial patterns & alteration books generally uses 2 darts per piece (8 darts total). Patter-making books again varies, but 2 darts seem to be the more popular starting point. However, if you have small waist compared to hip, more darts may be needed to fully flatten your wrap with just slashes.
    • Dart 1: Slash from waistline down towards the bulges – eg hip, bum, tummy. Start at the same position as the bodice waist dart if possible. Avoid slanting towards CF/CB. If this seems necessary – eg tummy at CF – start the slash closer to the CF at the waistline. If it’s visually more pleasing you can angle slightly towards the side seam – eg to echo your hip curve! On my wrappees I did mark the princess lines to guide this & I angled these lines so they end at the horizontal centre of each legs.
    • Additional Darts: These are added on the side of Dart 1 that is closer to the side seam. Space these 3/4″ – 1″ apart depending on how many darts you need to flatten your wrap with just slashes.

If the standard slashes aren’t enough to flatten your wrap without squashing, slash where you need to. Normally these would start at an existing cut edge – eg the seams or outer edges like armscye or neckline – and point towards the peak of the area you’re trying to flatten – eg the boobs, rounded tummy,  rounded upper back. I don’t had enough experience slashing wraps of other body shapes to know if you’d ever need to start from the leg of another dart. But slash where you need to to get the wrap flat without squashing the wrap.

All these extra slashes & any non-straight dart legs are like your personal Contour Guide Pattern. Personally I’d like to record these details in my Moulage in case they come in handy for particular designs. For example, for a very low neckline or a wrap front, the extra slashes/darts may tell you there may be gaps in the neckline if you don’t pivot / rotate the darts that crosses the neckline to somewhere else.

Trace the outline of your flattened wrap pieces to create your 0-ease Moulage. At this point you can test the fit if you like, or make a copy & add wearing ease before you test the fit.

Testing the fit of your Moulage

7_wrap-fit-testBecause your Moulage has 0 ease, if you’re going to test the fit you’ll need sturdy fabric & seams. You won’t be able to tissue-fit nor pin-fit. Use non-stretch fabric, say a mid-weight muslin/calico & machine basting stitches.

You’ll also need a long zipper for the CF. I recommend putting the zipper on the CF because it’s easier to zip up in this restrictive 0-ease fitting muslin/toile. If you have a helper you can of course put the zipper on the CB instead. It can be a separating zipper or an extra long one that goes from base of your neck to few inches below your hip.

Trace your Moulage onto your sturdy fabric. The outlines will be your seam & dart lines. For accuracy you do need these lines drawn on the fabric – don’t use fabric cut edges as your sewing guide. Up to you whether you also want to trace the other guidelines like bust line etc. I like them traced so I can check their positioning is right.

Where you have darts ending in the seams, bring the dart legs together & fold the dart allowances downward (horizontal darts) or towards the CF/CB (vertical darts), copy the seam line overlapping the dart allowances onto both sides of the dart allowance fold. When you unfold the dart you should have the familiar “dart extension” you see on commercial patterns.

Cut with wide seam allowances – say 1″ for shoulder, side, CF, CB, waist seams & the hems. For neckline & armscyes, use maybe 1/2″ hem allowances.

Stay-stitch the neckline & armscye with normal size stitches. Clip the neckline & armscye hems to the stay stitching.

Stitch rest of the standard darts & seams with a long basting stitch. Up to you whether you want to also stitch up the extra contour darts. Personally I would, just to test if they’re accurate. If you have any fisheye darts, you may need to clip the dart allowance for the dart to lie flat.

Baste the zipper into the CF or CB.

Try on your Moulage muslin/toile & check for fitting issues. You may feel unable to breathe & as constricted as when you were wrapped, but as long as there aren’t any clearly visible wrinkles & draglines, and no edges cutting into your flesh or joints, your Moulage should be OK.

If you do get wrinkles & draglines, consult a fitting alteration book for help with tweaks.

If you can’t even zip up the muslin/toile, then there might have been mistakes made during the wrapping (eg too tightly) or the flattening process (eg wrap squashed). You may be able to sort it out with fitting alterations, or you may have to try the whole process again.


OK, I’m exhausted. Some suggestions & ideas about using your Moulage next time! Hope this is helpful. Do keep in mind though I’m no expert – these are just my own observations & hypothesis.

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