Jeans sewing – why bother?

Giulia left a couple of interesting questions on my last Ginger Jeans post which I thought was worth exploring further:

“I try to sew everything nowadays, two things though are not making it : underwear and jeans. So I ask, if I may, apart the interest of experimenting, is the fit worth it? I mean, more than a pair of very good quality jeans (bought at high discount :D)? And what pushed you to use a pattern rather than self drafting?”

RTW vs make your own

For me, the problem with RTW is not just an issue of fit. It’s also a problem of fashion (when you actually want a classic). And hating the whole process of shopping (except when it comes fabrics & sewing gadgets of course!)

Jeans count as classics for me. I only shop when old ones wear out and I basically want an exact replacement. But I have not managed to find a fit that I like among the brands that position themselves as classics (and always available). The ones I do like tend to be from fast fashion high street brands, which means that by the time I need them replaced, the fashion has long since changed.

Hence the need to make my own. True, trends in fabrics and notions may affect my ability to reproduce the exact same pair a decade later. But at least I have more control over the other elements of design. And if I manage to grasp the fitting principles, I won’t have to worry about the style I like not being available in my size.

I’m sure among the high end jeans there may be some new fangle technology that I can’t reproduce at home. But at least it doesn’t seem as daunting as the engineering required to make a good supportive bra. The latter I aspire to, but may never get around to making.

Commercial pattern vs self drafting

This really depends on how easy it is to draft my own and whether there are commercial patterns that are already pretty close to my blocks.

For skinny jeans, because of the lack of usual waist darts, the stretch nature of the fabric, and the number of pieces involved, it would take a lot more effort to draft from my Block. Plus you then need to work out the construction procedure.

I gave Ginger Jeans a go because Heather of Closet Case had already done so much of the homework and thankfully her pattern isn’t too far off from my 0-ease Pants Block. (I also have Baste + Gather’s Birkin Flares jeans pattern, but haven’t gotten around to trying that out yet.) It’s also nice to be able to support independent pattern companies who put in the effort and do so much of their own research. Not all are to my taste, so when I come across one that suits my style and saves me time & hassle, I make an effort to support them with a purchase.

But if the style is simple enough to replicate from my Blocks, or if it takes too much effort to alter to fit, then I won’t bother with commercial patterns. I may still buy the pattern for the instruction and/or pattern shapes, but I’ll use my Blocks & replicate the style lines. In fact, I’m doing that right now with a sailor trousers from a Burdastyle magazine. I did trace out the pattern, but gave up alteration when it looked too complicated to get it close to my Slim Trousers Block.

 

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Choli Blouse Block Odyssey part 3

Firstly, thank you for your kind comments & understanding in response to my post about dialing down my self-imposed blogging perfectionism.

… now continuing from part 2 of my choli block quest months later …



Hypothesis Half-Popped

It started with such good intention…but I didn’t have the stamina – nor time – to test my hypothesis thoroughly. To recap, I thought that to secure low open neckline & increase sleeve mobility, I simply have to:

  • not have back neckline edge on shoulder blade peak; and
  • make the shoulder slope more square than my actual shoulder slope.

I was going to test this out in two ways…

1. Authentic choli pattern instruction found online

I used the Sari Blouse pattern instruction from Vani’s Blog. The pattern came out looking a bit large – especially the back (dotted line in the pattern photo above is my KK Top Block with wearing ease already added). This made me nervous about testing it out with one of my pre-embroidered Nakkashi choli fabrics. As I was in a rush to get one of my Nakkashi outfits sewn up for a trip, I didn’t bother making a muslin of this. Checking instructions on a few other blogs, this instruction seems fairly standard. Maybe this is the everyday fit rather than the Bollywood glam fit. And given that the instruction doesn’t call for a low open back, maybe it won’t work so well when you lower the back.

There is one YouTube video I found in English that offers a theory of what changes you need to make to lower the neckline. The narrower shoulder lines you see above is my attempt to apply that theory. But I was still too chicken to test on my pre-embroidered fabric.

 

2. Body warp with tilt-to-square shoulder alteration

I ended up retreating to my comfort zone of tinkering with my own moulage. This time I did use the body warp instead of the Kenneth King Moulage I drafted a while ago. I was hoping the more precise body wrap would yield a better fit. Well, more isn’t always better. It was a nightmare trying to figure out what to do with my lopsidedness. You can see in first two photos above how my left & right sides differ. I wouldn’t have minded the extra work if the result was better. It wasn’t. Once you add ease back in, much of the minor lopsidedness wasn’t visible anyway. I guess if your lopsidedness was more extreme, then the precision may help. So the conclusion? Either Moulage Drafting or Body Wrap will work. Pick whichever method is easier for you: Moulage Drafting requires lots of measurements & calculations, Body Wrapping may be uncomfortable while you’re being wrapped & you’ll need to decide how much lopsidedness you’ll bother to incorporate into your Blocks. If you go with Body Wrap, you’re probably fine to gloss over minor differences between your left & right sides if you’ll mostly make stuff with wearing ease. Don’t drive yourself crazy like I did!

Now back to my choli pattern & drafting for arms up position, you can see in photos 3 & 4 how I tilted the shoulder seam by adding a wedge radiating from the princess seam / back waist dart to the side seams. This lengthen the side seams, make the shoulder more square and the neckline more U-shaped. The difference in side seam & shoulder seam lengths with arms up vs arms down was about 1.5″ for me. I ended up adding at the side seam about half that difference – because it seems like a sensible compromise & also it makes the necklines conform better to the pre-embroidered necklines. I positioned the pivot points of the tilt / wedge at the base of the necklines where they start angling up because I think this is where the tension will be and body movement will make the neck opening spread out, causing the sleeves to fall off the shoulder.

The last two photos are the final bodice patterns. The sleeve pattern was drafted to Sari Blouse instruction found on Style2Designer blog.

So how did it turn out?

Hurrah I can raise my arms. Boohoo no luck on stay-put low / open neckline. I ended up having to add the dori back ties to prevent wardrobe malfunction.

So what went wrong?

I now think stay-put low / open neckline is impossible once you add wearing ease to the bodice. What I noticed is that when I move, the ease at the waistline allow the whole bodice & neckline to shift up, and this make the neckline too big for the new higher position. So the sleeves fall off the shoulder.

I checked the House of Blouse top with the stay-put neckline again, and indeed the bodice was quite tight. Too tight for my new spreading middle in fact! As soon as I let out the side seams, et voilà – same off the shoulder problem as my own make!

So there you have it (I think, for now anyway), if you want open neckline to stay on the shoulders, go with stretch Choli Blouse with 0 or even negative ease. If you insist on lovely pre-embroidered woven choli fabric with low open necklines, then stop being stubborn & keep that dori back neck-tie. That’s me told off then! 🙂

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Choli Blouse Block Odyssey part 2

continuing from part 1 back in July 2017…



Going Native-ish

I began to wonder if my requirements are even possible. But surely billions of women from the Indian subcontinent over the centuries wouldn’t have put up with immobile sleeves that keep falling off the shoulder & bodice that offers no bust support! Time to go back to the sources & try to discern the underlying principles even if the surface instructions make little sense to me.

  • Looking at RTW & designer choli photos, some seem to show a bit of looseness / excess fabric near the underarm area.
  • Most of the Indian drafting instruction I found online has shoulder slope of 1/2″ to 1″ at most. According to Fit For Real People standard western patterns (Big 4 presumably) assume a slope of 1-5/8″ – 2″. And the Indian illustrations seem to indicate a more T-shape finished garment shape than sloping sleeves.
  • I decided to try a couple of  custom-made choli blouses from House of Blouse to see how an “authentic” fit may look like on me. Because it’s made to measure, you can actually pick & mix your design details. I pushed the envelope and went for very low back neckline with no dori back ties. One big caveat before we talk about fit: the measurements instruction was rather imprecise, so that may have affected the fit…

House of Blouse Choli 1

Regular length princess cut with Wide U Neck front & Classic U Neck back (no dori ties), back opening, bust pads, & elbow length sleeves.

  • Bust:
    • I was surprised that the bust pads actually created a more lifted look. I’m now tempted to try this in my own makes now.
    • Interestingly even with the princess seam, they added a centre front fisheye bust dart. It creates a nice shaping & probably holds the bust pads in place for better bust support.
  • Neckline:
    • Yeah! It stays on despite the wide open back, even when I tug at the sleeves.
  • Sleeve:
    • Cross-front feels a bit too narrow while cross-back a bit too wide. Can feel the back armscyes cutting into the arm joints. This may be a problem with incorrect measurement or my posture / posterior arm joint “feature”.
    • Total mobility. No problem with arms forward or up.
    • You can definite see the fold of excess fabric underarm & armholes feel quite high up against the armpits. In the soft fabrics that I choose this probably won’t be a problem. But I wonder if this would feel a bit uncomfortable in more heavily embroidered fabric like my Muslin 2 above.

House of Blouse Choli 2

Regular length 3-dart cut with Armband Sweetheart Neck front & Armband Sweetheart Neck back (no dori ties), front opening, bust pads, & 3/4 length sleeves.

  • Bust & sleeve: same as above
  • Neckline:
    • Problem here. It easily slips off the shoulders
    • I would assume they drafted this with the same measurements.
    • Not sure if they derive additional styles from a block like western pattern maker or each design is drafted from scratch using a different formula.
    • Not sure if the problem here is the Sweetheart neckline or the Armband design.
    • This problem + the excess fabric foldat underarm for sleeve mobility rather defeat the armband design.
    • As there’s not much excess seam allowance in shoulder & armscye seams the only fx I can do is to add dori ties to the back neckline to keep the sleeves on.


My current hypothesis

  • To secure low open neckline + increase sleeve mobility:
    • Don’t have back neckline on shoulder blade peak.
    • Pattern’s shoulder slope need to be more square than actual slope of the body. A bit of fold under arm is the price to pay for sleeve mobility without excess width. Try pivoting on princess line to shorten neckline & lengthen side seam at the same time. Draft for arms up (shorter shoulder length, longer side length).
  • To test this hypothesis I plan on trying 2 more pattern drafting approaches:
    1. Custom draft based on authentic choli pattern instruction found online
    2. Custom draft base on my moulage with the above shoulder slope modification

Flattened plastic wrap bodice front

Speaking of moulage… This time I will be basing my pattern on flattened plastic wrap. I’m not sure if my K. King moulage is 100% accurate as it’s drafted to a formula. Even though the muslin fitted like a second skin maybe it glosses over subtle concave areas like a slight hollow chest. This becomes more of a problem when you lower necklines or move the garment edges into these gentle valleys, thus exposing gaps. I’m hoping the plastic wrap would be more accurate. I have flattened & traced it, but haven’t rationalised the block yet. So you’ll have to wait a while for part 3!

 

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Choli Blouse Block Odyssey part 1

Back in July 2017 before I gave in to the middle age slump…


With so many beautiful choli blouse fabric in the Stash I really need to get some pattern block for choli blouse sorted. And I have in fact been working on it for ages. So much so that I now have way too many pattern pieces, muslins (wearable & not), & mug shots to confuse me never mind you…argh! Long story short, no cigar yet. But I have a hypothesis with 2 more pattern drafting approaches to test. On to the nitty gritty…


My 3 requirements for Choli Block:

  1. Bust support lift & shaping: Depending on the back neckline design, I may not be able to wear a regular bra with my choli. So built-in bust shaping / support would be nice. But it needs to work for woven fabric & not constrict breathing.
  2. Stay-put neckline: Allow low / open front & back neckline without the top falling off the shoulders
  3. Fitted sleeve mobility: Allow arms up & forward without excessive sleeve width & winged effect on short sleeves


Experiments based on
K. King moulage > top block

Since I already had a top block that seems to fit alright I thought I’d get better results using that as the basis for my draft rather than follow the relatively less personalised authentic Indian instructions. (Typical Westerner!)

Well, it didn’t work out so well.

Wearable Muslin 1 >
Gajiwara 7384 Wannabe Choli with home embroidery

  • I tried to raise my ageing bustline unsuccessfully. It was only like 1/2″ higher on my pattern. But I think my custom embroidery shrunk the pieces despite being stretch taut on a frame frame. And because I was worried about metallic embroidery thread being scratchy I didn’t extend the embroidery far enough into the seam allowance to allow me to let out at the shoulder seams. I ended up with some draglines in the upper bust area for my big day. (Did let out what I could afterwards. But there wasn’t much seam allowance to fix it entirely.)
  • Lowered neckline (aka unintentional off-the-shoulder look) wasn’t an issue in this version as I used the cross-back ties that one finds in many authentic Indian choli.
  • But limited sleeve mobility was an issue despite a moderately shallow cap. The bit that feels most restrictive was mid arm joint height, as if the cap area wasn’t wide enough.

Wearable Muslin 2 >
Nakkashi 5036 gold embroidered Choli

  • I had to tweak my personalised pattern to fit the ready-made embroidery, which is presumably shaped to work with standard Indian pattern-drafting. Eg the allowance for back waist dart is smaller than my back waist dart, so some of mine had to be pivoted to the back cut-out area. In other areas I had to twist the fabric slightly to fit my pattern, or even patch a bald area with embroidered scraps.
  • Bust & neckline not an issue here as I didn’t attempt to lift the bust & this design has a back cut-out rather than lowered neckline.
  • Sleeve mobility wasn’t too bad, but comfort was my main issue here. I made the cap even more shallow & wider to increase mobility & tapered the sleeve width more sharply to minimise the winged look. The result was the heavily embroidered underarm areas getting too close for comfort. I felt like I was holding something with my armpits! Again had to suffer through it for a friend’s wedding, but redid the sleeve increasing the cap height (by shortening the sleeve seam length) & removed as much embroidery from the area as I could. Wearable. But now the sleeve’s more restrictive. So I wouldn’t reach for it naturally.

After armscye alteration…

 

More muslins & research…

  • Stay-put lowered neckline:
    • Tried the instruction for lowered F&B neckline from K King’s Moulage book. It was a method devised by his Indian teacher. Didn’t work for me. Actually made the shoulders slip off even more easily. Maybe I didn’t follow the instruction correctly?
    • My patterns had the back neckline at shoulder blade width, but the muslin necklines all spread out more widely. Perhaps it was too much to ask the neckline to stay put at the shoulder blade peaks?
  • Sleeve mobility:
    • Tried cutting sleeve on the bias. Sleeve looked marginally less wrinkly, but made no noticeable difference to mobility nor decrease the winged look.
    • Tried on a me-made choli based on older bodice block for comparison & was surprised to find that it actually had better sleeve mobility without excess sleeve width & winged effect. I had thought the shoulder slope & sleeve cap fit was off on that version, causing excess fabric folds pointing to armpits & draglines from centres of neckline as if the sleeves were pulling the neckline outward. Comparing the latest sleeve draft to that choli (don’t have the pattern anymore) that earlier sleeve shape was actually closer to my immobile fitted sleeve – cap taller & narrower than my latest drafts…WTF!?!?!

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Link

Intimate apparel & swimwear industry articles (updated)

UPDATED 2017-05-26 – changes highlighted in red text…

While searching for a replacement for the defunct (Stretch) Pattern School today, I came across an intimate apparel industry publication website that offers some interesting intimate apparel & swimwear technical articles at US$19.90 a pop. The site is based in Hong Kong, but with international contributors.

The article that lead me to this site initially is “Introduction to Swimwear Pattern Cutting Principles” by British Intimate Apparel Technical Designer David Morris, who seems to have worked for well-known companies & taught at university level. He also offers a remote learning course on “Swimwear Pattern Cutting & Grading” at £250 a pop.

For bras there are obviously a few other home sewing resources available already – eg Bevely Johnson’s books & Craftsy classes. Nonetheless some of the other technical articles still look interesting & unique, like…

  • Introduction to Swimwear Pattern Cutting Principles: Not so fast! Learn the basic rules of stretch pattern cutting before you venture into drafting or adapting basic swimwear blocks. Being able to understand and apply these rules should…18pgs, a handful of insights, but not in-depth enough for me
  • Grading Swimwear: Do you grade stretch fabric garments differently than rigid garments? The simple answer is no … with a few exceptions. David Morris take us through another insightful design course from the world of swimwear.
  • Long Fit Swimwear: Read how, due to the increase in the average women’s height over the years, customers are complaining about being “cut in half” and how brands are scrambling to create variation in sizes to counter the problem. Enter the long fit.
  • Prima Donna Swim: Check out IAJ’s technical piece on drafting and grading two versions of the Prima Donna bikini.
  • M&S Sport Bra Draft & Grade: Wired sports bras still account for a large share of the market. David Morris walks us through the drafting of the cup and the cradle and shows the option of replacing the steel wire with a polymer version.
  • Triumph Shape Sensation Bra Draft: Follow along as David Morris drafts the Triumph Shape Sensation bra style with Comfort wire, which was developed with innovative cushioned ends that adjust to the body’s every move.
  • Playtex Soft Cup Retro Bra: Who hasn’t heard of Playtex? IAJ brings you a detailed profile on the famous “cross your heart” bra, a retro design that never seems to go out of style.
  • Bra Wire Technology: To the untrained eye, it’s just a piece of wire, but to the experienced designer this wire is the make or break component to any successful wire bra design. Find out what makes this simple piece of metal so important to the fashion world…6pgs, interesting insights, but may be covered by specialist books on bra pattern-drafting / sewing books (See Bra-Making Blog’s book & pattern reviews).
  • Fit Evaluation- How Your Model’s Breast Size Changes: Finding a model is hard enough and it doesn’t help when her measurements change. Check out this article that explores the reasons behind the difficulty in achieving that perfect fit. Hormones play a major role…3pgs, 1 superficial insight, not really worth the price.
  • The Perfect Pants: What constitutes the right fit when it comes to pants? David Morris investigates and reveals his findings relating to ethnicity, pelvic shape, size and age. There’s much to learn from this informative article…9pgs, interesting insights, but no drafting solutions to the problems identified.
  • How Hip & Pelvic Shape Affects Knicker Shape: IAJ sets out to investigate, based on online feedback, the many ways different ethnicities and body shapes affect proper fitting. Major lingerie brands are in search of an answer. Did we find it?
  • Men’s Underwear: For those designers out there, IAJ has another technical article on drafting. The subject this time? Men’s underwear. The article’s author Kimberly Hamiliton includes a brief history of this fascinating garment.
  • Leggings: This technical article takes us through the pattern drafting of “bifurcated” garments, garments with “legs,” i.e., Sports Running Tights or leggings.
  • Bodycon: The word Bodycon is slang in the fashion world for the “Body Confidence” trick. This article looks at shapewear garments, in particular focusing on pattern drafting using Negative Ease, testing fabrics, styling, construction and pattern ideas from foundation garments…25pgs, a bit more in depth with good tips on principles, but drafting instruction is a bit generic & light on details
  • Developing the Control Slip: The brands, the trends, the designs, the technical requirements. It’s all here in our fully-loaded and insightful article on shapewear.

So I bought 5 of the articles. I still need to read them more carefully, but here’s my first impression… In general I’d say these are more updates & top-up learning than foundation education for those going into the swimwear & intimate wear industry. They are not very in-depth, but do offer some unique & more recent research & trends. Also keep in mind that because they are geared towards RTW professionals, the information may not be so useful for those of us creating custom patterns or targeting niche sizing. Number of pages varies, but the pricing is uniform. So not all articles are good value for money.

I’ve ordered a couple more pattern drafting books for stretch fabric/ knitwear:

I will review these when I get a chance.

In general I’d say the info on the defunct Pattern School site is probably quite unique – covering principles & catering for both custom & RTW pattern drafting. Real shame that the author has run out of generosity – it’s not like we fans don’t want to pay for his insights or expect professional level book production. I think most of us would have been happy to pay for a PDF of exactly the content he had on that defunct website. I’m going to put it down to giving fatigue & general fashion industry cattiness!

I’m sure there are other experts out there who can provide the equivalent education – in courses if not in book form or free online info. The problem is of course distinguishing the worthy courses from the rubbish one without having to fork out big bucks to try out every course!

And we need more people like Bevely Johnson who when faced with the bra industry’s reluctance to share knowledge went about doing her own research & experimentations, wrote a couple of books on custom bra patternmaking & sewing, and now share her knowledge through Craftsy classes as well. A woman for the modern knowledge sharing economy!

BTW, for those of you making proper sports swimwear,Debbie Iles of Lily Sage & Co has an interesting blog post swimwear technology. She sews for herself & her family, and she was an Australian competitive swimmer in the 90s, so has some interesting insights on swimwear for proper swimming!

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