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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Even More Indian fabrics

I’m sorry. I really just couldn’t help it…even though I have 0 chance of ever wearing such fanciful garments. I blame it on depressing world events.

From Indiwear.com

From Rachelboutique.com

For most of these I think I will make the Indian blouse as intended, but adapt the skirt & shawl to more wearable western style garments. It seems such a shame not to make them up as designed, but ultimately Function trumps Form for me.

And to store my ever expanding Asian lovelies I ended up making a dozen storage bags. I was going to buy readymade saree/lehenga storage bags. But most are made with clear plastic, and various online articles advise storing these away from light. So I pressed some unloved non-woven interfacing & horticultural fleece from the Stash into service.

Nakkashi 4053 Half & Half Saree
unstitched choli blouse + seamed saree (skirt-shawl) + under-skirt fabric

available at Indiwear.com

These “Half & Half Sarees” are skirt & shawl fabrics joined together to create a 2-colour saree. They’re worn like sarees & are different from “Half Sarees” which seems like another name for lehenga outfit with separate skirt & shawl.

I’m thinkning of keeping this one as designed. The presumably polyester chiffon skirt-shawl without stiff interfacing makes it more casual & wearable. 

Nakkashi 4068 Half & Half Saree
unstitched choli blouse + seamed saree (skirt-shawl)

available at Indiwear.com

Another 2-fabric saree. I think I will separate the fabrics & just use as fancy fabrics for western designs.

Nakkashi 5063 Lehenga Choli
unstitched choli blouse + part-stitched lehenga skirt + finished dupatta shawl

available at Indiwear.com

First of 3 lehenga skirt outfits, these will be harder to adapt as the skirts are panelled & partly sewn. The skirt hems all have stiff interfacing making them impractical for normal wear. But at least the fabrics are neutral enough to work in western style garments. 

Nakkashi 5061 Lehenga Choli
unstitched choli blouse + part-stitched lehenga skirt + finished dupatta shawl

The colour of this one is least like in the designer photos. But it’s still my favourite of the bunch because the emellishment can also pass for fancy European embroidery.

Nakkashi 5068 Lehenga Choli
unstitched choli blouse + part-stitched lehenga skirt + finished dupatta shawl

Like the pink one above I chose this one because the fabrics are neutral enough to work in western style & the combination of fabric & trims work well together (rather than look randomly thrown together like in some other designs).

I better stop buying more of these fancy Indian outfits until I figure out what to do with these…AND sew some up! DH is threatening to get me on one of those Hoarder TV programmes! 

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More Indian fabrics

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

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

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

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

available at Haya Creations

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

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

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

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

available at Haya Creations

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

 

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

available at Haya Creations

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

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

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

 

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

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