No news on Stretch Pattern School book :-(

Catching up on emails some of you left via my contact form, I noticed quite a few inquiries about when Stuart Anderson – the author of the now defunct (Stretch) Pattern School website – will be publishing his book on drafting swimwear patterns. Unfortunately I have not received any update from him. And the method I contacted him previously also seems inactive now. Sorry.

It’s a shame that the knowledge may be lost, but I have to respect the man’s right to a peaceful retirement. If he feels it’s too much work & investment to assemble & publish a book sharing his knowledge, then it is too much work & investment. Of course if I do hear back from him I will pass on any news.

Let’s just pray that if it’s not him, then some other stretch pattern expert with proven industry experience will step up to the plate. And let’s appreciate and not take for granted all the wonderful online resources that are still available, many of which are free! Who knows which website will go offline for one reason or another. Access to these info is not a right, it’s a gift from authors & teachers who generously share their knowledge with us. Let’s support them when & where we can. At the very least thank them for sharing!

And I’m certainly grateful to Stuart for sharing his knowledge that enabled me to develop my current set of pattern blocks for stretch fabrics.

 

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Block dilemma

Firstly, thanks everyone who left kind messages regarding my Mom. I guess sooner or later all of us have to deal with parents needing care or moving on. It’s sad but a learning experience as well. I will try to stay positive.

My last few days before next care duty and I’m trying to sort out my pattern-making blocks. I want to make those card blocks that are used for tracing out guidelines for pattern designs. But I’m confused about whether to cut the darts out or not. If they’re cut out, the blocks become a bit fragile & flimsy. If they’re not cut out, how do you trace accurate dart lines as guide for designs?

Surprisingly I can’t find any good photo examples of these card blocks in the pattern-making books I own. Perhaps this is something that pattern-making classes would have covered. But it seems rather pointless to take a class just to answer a simple question like this.

Do you design your own patterns & work with card blocks? Or maybe have friends who do? Or even taken a class where you were taught how to create and use these card blocks?

Do you have the answer to my question??? 😮

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Dartless Raglan Fitted Knit Top Block the end

Warning, more boring hair splitting / fit tweaking ahead. So let’s get the style shots out of the way first. Then you can tune out if you’re so incline!

Problems recapped

My complaints about my Dartless Raglan wearable muslin Test 1 were…

  1. position of the raglan seams looked off and unbalanced
  2. armholes felt a bit tight
  3. more sleeve drape at underarm than I would have liked

Tests 2 & 3

First, I started with my latest revised Dartless Fitted Knit Top Block and its re-drafted from scratch sleeves (turned into Camden Kids Wannabe top). I had hope the new sleeve draft would magically make my mis-matching bodice vs sleeve raglan seam lengths go away. No such luck. So the question is how to increase the bodice raglan seam length and/or reduce the sleeve raglan seam length. The problem is partly caused by the sleeve cap height.

  • In Test 1 I reduced the sleeve cap height by allowing it to overlap the bodice armscye.
  • For Test 2, I tried simply extending the bodice raglan seams at the side seams. But this caused unsightly bagginess on the bodice under the armpits.
  • So for Test 3 I tried lengthening the bodice raglan seam by lowering the underarm 1/2 the overlap amount from Test 1, and shortening the sleeve raglan seam by raising the bicep the remaining 1/2 of the Test 1 overlap amount. This has the added benefit moving the position of the raglan seams so that it’s more diagonal and to my taste.

Test 3 Mug Shots

The Verdicts

Problem 1 (weird raglan seam positioning) I think I solved.

Problem 2 (tight armholes) is marginally better. I think my base block is probably just such close-fitting pattern that any derivatives will have the same claustrophobic armholes unless I lower the bodice underarm further and increase bicep width. My uneven shoulders also don’t help – I haven’t made any adjustment for this in these muslins…because I was lazy and hoped the stretch alone would be enough. Again, lowering UA would probably help if it continues to bother me.

Problem 3 (too much sleeve drapes at underarm) I tried to solve, but I don’t think it’s any better. Re-reading Stretch Pattern School’s instruction again, I think the problem is the fact that I removed the negative ease which keep the sleeve and bodice under balanced tension to prevent tension draglines. Once the negative ease was removed, the shallow cap / arms up horizontally sleeve draft inevitably shows the natural excess of fabric that bulk up under the arms when the arms are down.

Now this last observation about the effect of holding the garment under balanced tension is fascinating and mind boggling. I still don’t completely grasp the principles. But I have definitely seen in my recent test how frequently the muslins with more ease actually look worse (more draglines and seemingly random bagginess) than the tighter fitting muslins. Even breathing in vs out affects draglines from waist side seam to bust point. With breathe in (ie rib cage expanded & garment under more tension) the draglines disappear, but with breathe out (ie rib cage contracted & garment hangs looser) the draglines appear.

And as I mentioned before, the fiber content also seem to affect this, with rayon / cotton more accommodating and molding to the body, but then staying stretched and baggy under it’s steamed out. That’s even with decent amount of lycra content. The polyester-lycra I tried on the other hand recovers easily, but also shows the tension draglines more easily.

Mind twisting isn’t it? Hopefully with more experience I will eventually grasp the tension concept and know how to adjust patterns to create the fit I want for each garment and fabric. But for now I think that’s enough fitting tweaks for a while, don’t you?

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Breton Odyssey Adrift

My quest for Raglan & Semi-Fitted variations to my Fitted Breton T wasn’t quite the smooth sailing that I had hoped. While not Titanic disasters, they have not delivered me to safe design harbors yet. So I see more fussing with fit ahead.

The Raglan Experiment

Mug Shots & Style Shots

What went wrong

The muslin is wearable, but the position of the raglan seams just look wrong. Unbalanced as the GBSB judges might have said. And the armholes feel a bit tight. There’s also a bit more drape underarm than I would have liked.

I think the problem stems from trying to follow standard flat-pattern design drafting instruction using my non-standard Blocks. Sometimes the steps are just impossible to follow once you’ve altered your Basic Blocks to fit your figure quirks.

I first tried Stretch Pattern School’s instruction for Raglan Sleeve. But I failed at step 3. I couldn’t get the corresponding raglan seamlines to be the same lengths. So I gave up and tried the instruction in Designing and Patternmaking for Stretch Fabrics instead.

This instruction was just about possible to achieve with my wonky Blocks. But the result, as I said, wasn’t perfect. I’m wondering if its approach of disregarding any overlap of the sleeve head and bodice at the armscye-shoulder area might have contributed to the armscye tightness – ie the raglan seam ended up too short and drew the underarm closer to the body than the set-in sleeve original. Maybe it’s an approach that’d work better with looser fitting Blocks.

The Semi-Fitted Experiment

Mug Shots & Style Shots

What went wrong

Again the muslin is wearable, but I don’t like how the back is loose until it hits my hip. And it’s not that the hem is too tight for my hip. The hip actually has 2-1/2″ of ease. Releasing the side seams I discovered that it’s in fact the shaped waist that’s the culprit. Instead of letting the back fall straight from the shoulder blades to the hip, it pulls the back in slightly under the blades. The ease added gave the back a loose fit until it hits where the bum protrudes out more. Then it goes into skim the bum mode. A very weird look indeed.

If I shorten the top to above this point, then problem solved. But with the looser fit I kind of prefer a longer length so that the width doesn’t stand out more than the length. I reckon if I let out the waist about 1″ at each side seam then I’ll get the smoother loose fit I want in the back.

The other problem I discovered are slight draglines pointing to the neck-shoulder points, as if the shoulder slope is too shallow. I then check the Fitted Breton T muslin I just made, it too has the same draglines, but just not as noticeable. Urgh.

Where next…

If I weren’t planning to design from these Blocks I might let these minor imperfections slide. But because I do want to get more creative with them, I don’t want those imperfections to multiply and amplify. So I will have to go back and fix these.

But I think I will abandon my original plan to go immediately into production mode with the Breton Ts. I’m feeling a bit seaksick after three wearable muslins in the same stripy knit. Time to disembark and head ashore for a change of scenery me thinks…

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Dartless Knit Top Block Take 2

As I was saying, I’ve been messing with my Knit Top Block again. I was trying to get dartless to work so I can make Breton tops and hopefully have stripes that match well across seams. Bust darts just seem like they would get in the way.

So let’s cut to the chase & show you the result. No point getting into the nitty gritty if this turns out duds right? 🙂

Mug Shots & Style Shots

 

Well I’m pretty happy with the result. The front armscye needs tweaking. But overall this muslin turned out quite wearable. So here’s how I got from A to B…

The Nitty Gritty

sps_top_2-SLPattern Voodoooing

Remember my last attempt at Dartless Knit Top by distributing the bust ease into multiple places (like I did for the woven Tunic Block)? Well, I slept on it and thought maybe the problem is that there isn’t a smooth way to hide the excess without the darts. So maybe I should go the other way: Instead of having excess length at the seams to ease in, maybe I should make the seam lines the finished lengths I want and use the fabric stretch to accommodate the girls. So how do I go about this?

Firstly I decide to use the 0-ease Stable Knit Top Block as the starting point for a couple of reasons…

  • I reckon that this process will probably result in a reduction in the front bust width. If I start with the 12% reduction of the Stretchy Knit Top Block then I might be asking the fabric to stretch too much. By starting with 0% reduction I hoped I could stay within the overall 12% reduction limit for a good fit without much unsightly distortion.
  • I decided that even for stretchy fabrics I would prefer a skimming rather than a tight silhouette. Fact is even I have Michelin Man rolls with a standard bra on, especially in the back. Until I find foundation garments that smooth the silhouette without choking me I would rather not draw attention to my rolls.

Next it took me 3 attempts to get to B.

  1. I first tried Maria Denmark’s old Knit dartless FBA approach of taping up the dart, smooching the bust mound, then attempting to trace the outline.But the method adds width at the CF hem while reducing the bust width more than my max 12% target. So I abandon this approach. (Just found out that she had updated her approach to removing the dart for a knit top. It seems simpler. But I haven’t tested it and there is no result photo, so it’s hard to tell how well it works.)
  2. My second attempt used the Seam alteration method from Fitting & Pattern Alteration. Yeah yeah it’s meant for altering ill-fitting patterns to fit, not to alter a good-fitting pattern to do something else. But nothing ventured nothing gained! I wanted to know if it’s even possible to re-shape my seam lines as I planned. It did sort of worked. But because I had used flimsy tissue paper for this exercise, the resulting pattern was a bit distorted and not usable.
  3. So my final attempt was to redo attempt 2 without all those distorted hanging chads. This time I used the Pivot/Slide alteration method from Fitting & Pattern Alteration, but pivoted at more points rather than just at corners. It worked. And I manage to get the front & back side seams to be the same length vertically as well (rather than just at the seam line) for stripe matching.

For the sleeve, I also redid the bit below the bicep so that it’s symmetrical (rather than leaving it tilting towards the front to accommodate the way my arms hang). This was necessary for stripe matching across the sleeve seam. I reckon the stretch fabric would be accommodating enough for my twisted arms.

Les Tweaks

I then muslined this with my least favorite strippy knit. This is Viscose/Cotton/5% Lycra Stripe Jersey from Tissu Fabrics with 50%H/35%V stretch. It’s OK, but not as soft as the Bamboo stripe jerseys I got from B&J Fabrics. So no tears if this experiment didn’t work out.

Much to my delight the muslin was pretty good right off the bat. The only thing needing adjustment was how the sleeve hang:

  1. the stripe in the sleeve caps were tilting up towards the back;
  2. the whole armholes were tilting towards the back as if my posture was too erect.

For A I decided to adjust the pitch and live with mis-matched seam intersection at the arm pit. I think this is the less of the two evils because it’s less visible. It does mean that I can’t sew the sleeves in the flat – I’d have to set the sleeve in after sleeve seams & side seams have been sewn.

For B since the muslin was already cut with 1/2″ seam allowance I could only increase the cross-back & decrease the cross-front by 1/4″. So the wearable muslin shown above is the result. The back armsyce seems OK now. The front I think could do with further reduction in cross-front, with the removed amount added to the corresponding area of the sleeve cap. And that is what I’m doing for my final Dartless Fitted Knit Top Block.

Caveats

Next up, deriving & testing a Raglan Sleeve version and a Semi-Fitted version. I will also need to test this pattern again in other stretch fabrics in case I was just lucky with this fabric choice. I’ve noticed that the cotton/rayon + spandex knits I’ve used for Breton Tops have generally been better at molding to my shape than the pure synthetic knits. So I’m fairly optimistic that this Block will work as master pattern for my Breton Top collection. But whether it works as a general Dartless Knit Top Block is yet to be proven.

Also, the size of my bust dart in my Darted Knit Top Block is approx. 20° in angle & I’m a pseudo-D-cup. So if you have a larger bust this approach might not work well for you – you may still be better off retaining a bust dart of some sort.

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