Learning to Sew – Fabric

You’ve got your sewing machine and your basic tools.  What now?  It’s time to choose a fabric for a simple first project.  You will want to select something that appeals to you, of course.  But it also must be appropriate … Continue reading

Pattern Drafting – A New Vocabulary

I am an expert at home sewing.  I know the techniques, the tools, the jargon.  I’ve made tailored suits, coats, lined dresses, and many other detailed garments.  BUT I almost always started with a commercial pattern and step-by-step illustrated instructions.  I have made very little without a pattern, and those few items were relatively simple.  I suspect that this is the same for you.  So this new pattern drafting venture will require that we get familiar with some new terms introduced in Chapter One of our textbook, Pattern Making for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong.

Pattern Drafting is the term for what we are in the process of learning.  It is a system of creating patterns from measurements taken from a model or a dress form.  The first process is to create a Basic Pattern Set, which is a set of five fitted patterns that are created without design features.  The pieces in this set are then traced to create a Working Pattern, from which the designers (you and me) create patterns with added design features.  The process of developing designs from this basic pattern set to other working patterns, and then to final patterns for use in creating a test garment is called Flat Patternmaking.

The Basic Pattern Set consists of a bodice front, bodice back, long sleeve, skirt front, and skirt back.  After we learn how to take measurements correctly in Chapter Two, we will be creating our very own basic pattern set from these measurements in Chapter Three.  Once you have your basic pattern set, anything you create from them are your very own designs.  Even when you create something simple from them – like a gathered skirt – it is still an original design by you, the designer!  And we are going to do much more than that.

When working with flat patterns, we will need to know how to True seam lines, to transition smoothly from one angle to the next.  If you have ever made a garment using a multi-sized commercial pattern, and cut a different size pattern line for the waist and the hips, you have already done this blending of seam lines.

Dart lines and notches are some of the ways patternmakers mark working patterns.  Special instructions are also written on the pattern piece that mark the location of fabric features, such as stripes or plaids.

Balance refers to a perfect relationship between all the parts of the pattern.  To Balance a pattern, the designer makes adjustments to improve the fit and hang of the design.  Horizontal Balance Line (HBL) refers to any horizontal line on the dress form.  HBL lines help guide the balancing of patterns.  A Plumb Line is a vertical line that is at right angles with the floor.

Styleline Guides are created on a dress form by Pin Marking or Style Tape Marking, as I did on my dress form in the following photos.

Style lines marked with pins

Style lines marked with pins

Style lines marked with adhesive tape

Style lines marked with adhesive tape

There are also a few production terms that we need to be familiar with.  A First Pattern is the original pattern developed from the basic pattern set for a new design.  Improvements are made to the first pattern, unless a decision is made to drop that particular design.  After patterns are tested by cutting and assembling in muslin, the final and error-free pattern is made.  This is the Production Pattern.  Grader is then used to size the pattern.  Designers use a medium size for developing patterns, then grade up and down to form other sizes.  (This was interesting to learn; I always assumed pattern drafters used those six-foot size zero models that walk those runways…)

*Heads up Be looking for a medium sized female to act as your Fit Model.  And if you don’t have a dress form, you will need one with measurements close to, but not bigger than, your fit model.  Don’t waste your money on those cheap crank-out forms that the fabric stores sell.  Purchase a professional dress form, such as those available from Fabulous Fit.  These come with a padding kit, so that you can make your dress form conform to the actual measurements of your fit model.

Marker is developed from production patterns.  Markers are made by arranging all pattern pieces for the entire production line onto paper, or by computer.  Before this step, the independent designer or the company has already determined how many finished garments will be produced and in what sizes.  The number of layers of fabric that are spread for a marker play a role in this process as well.  Patterns are arranged on the marker paper, or by computer, to minimize waste of fabric.

Cutting patterns from a marker differs quite a bit from what we are used to in regular home sewing.  Fabric is spread in single layers, not folded with selvages together.  Each left and right of a design requires a separate pattern piece.  And when a production house cuts out the pattern, several layers are cut at once using special fabric cutters.

To see the process of spreading fabric for a marker, watch this YouTube video.  To see the process of cutting the fabric from the marker, watch this YouTube video.

This chapter includes information about fabric qualities.  I am assuming that if you are following along with me, you are already a rather advanced sewer, and you know fabric.  If this is not the case,  please refer to my posts on Beginning to Sew topics.

Chapter One concludes with a discussion on cost sheets, pattern charts, and design spec sheets.  All of these are extremely important if you decide to go into production one day.  If that is your goal, please buy this textbook. Or go to design school.  Or both.  For our purposes, we will move on to something that directly involves pattern drafting.  In our next lesson or two, we will learn how to accurately measure our fit model and our dress form.

Learning to Sew – The Essential Tools

These are the tools we keep at every sewing machine for our students here at Golden Needles Studio.

These are the tools we keep at every sewing machine for our students here at Golden Needles Studio.

Here at Golden Needles Studio, we have a few items we consider essential for our sewing students.  In a plastic bin at each sewing station are the nine items shown here.

1)  Tape Measure, for taking body measurements, and for checking the grainline placement of patterns on fabric; 2)  Glass-head Pins and Magnetic Holder.  We like glass-head pins because they will not melt when using a steam iron to press things that are pinned;  3)  Fray Check for sealing the ends of serged seams, and several other handy applications;  4) Glue Stick for holding buttons and other things in place for sewing;  5) Fabric Shears, for cutting fabric only;  6) Small Scissors to use for clipping threads and other small jobs at the sewing machine;  7) Hem Gauge, or seam gauge, to accurately measure seam allowances and hems;  8) Seam Ripper, which is an unfortunate name.  It should be called a “seam picker,” because that is what you actually do with it.  If you use this tool to quickly rip a seam open, you are very likely to rip fabric and ruin your project.  Pick the threads of the seam out with this tool, no matter what you call it;  9) Chop Stick, which is just a handy little tool to have around.  We use them for gently turning out corners of pillows, and for holding things in place for pressing to keep fingers away from steam.

These tools are kept on a supply shelf for our students.

These tools are kept on a supply shelf for our students.

Some tools are not used quite as often, and are kept on a supply shelf here in the studio.  Shown above are:

1) Tracing Paper and Tracing Wheel, which are used to mark placement lines on the wrong side of fabric;  2) Marking Pens and Pencils, for placement markings that fall within the seam allowance.  Some disappear with time, and some require water for removal.  Marks from chalk pencils easily brush off;  3) Paper-cutting Scissors, for cutting out patterns.  We mark ours with a “P,” to keep them far away from the fabric shears;  4)  Large Safety Pin, for inserting elastic into a waist casing;  5) Loop Turner, for turning straps right side out.  The few times we’ve heard colorful language in class was mostly during this lesson.  Still, once you get the hang of it, it’s a handy tool.

If you are just beginning to learn how to sew, you will really need these essential tools.  There are many, many other tools that you will want to add as you need them, but these will get you a long way down the road of learning all the basics.  When shopping for sewing tools, keep your eye out for sales.  The fabric stores call these items “notions,”  which is not really correct.  A notion is anything that you actually sew into a project, like thread and zippers and buttons.  These are sewing TOOLS.  But if they are going to give you 40% off, that’s no time to argue semantics!  You can also use store coupons when you need a pricey tool that is not on sale.

Another nice addition to your sewing room (or corner) is a book such as the one shown below.  This one is easy to use, and has lots of photos and illustrations.  Of course you can google anything, but I still like to have a reference guide close by.  Old school, I know.

So, start gathering your tools!  Next time, we will talk about fabric qualities and why that matters.

A handy sewing reference guide is handy for looking of sewing terms and procedures.

A sewing reference guide is handy for looking of sewing terms and procedures.

Pattern Drafting – A New Journey

I’ve had the textbook for a year or so:  Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong.  It’s time to get serious about learning pattern drafting.  This is the necessary first step in creating my own designs.  Plus, I hear that learning new things keeps the brain sharp, and that’s always a good thing.  Forget Lumosity…let’s learn to create patterns and design us some gorgeous clothing!

IMG_2612

So today, we start with Chapter One: Patternmaking Essentials for the Workroom.  I had many of these tools already, like pins and holder (mine is a magnet), paper and fabric scissors, assorted pens and pencils, a French curve ruler, weights, and tape measure.  I had to buy more rulers, a notcher, an awl, and a handy-looking tool called a Simflex folding measure.  I also – just now – ordered marking paper, used to develop first patterns from model measurements.  I will use it to learn to create a basic pattern set.

This handy tool helps to space buttonhole markings correctly.

This handy tool helps to space buttonhole markings correctly.

Weights are used in place of pins, for a quick way to cut patterns from fabric.  Pictured here are 2" washers, available from hardware stores, and Wiggle Weights that I bought at Atlanta's Original Sewing and Quilting Expo last March.

Weights are used in place of pins, for a quick way to cut patterns from fabric. Pictured here are 2″ washers, available from hardware stores, and Wiggle Weights that I bought at Atlanta’s Original Sewing and Quilting Expo last March.

Tools pictured here are marking chalk and holders, used to mark fabric; an awl for punching holes in pattern paper to mark things such as the point of darts; and a notcher, used to notch pattern paper at strategic places.

Tools pictured here are marking chalk and holders, used to mark fabric; an awl for punching holes in pattern paper to mark things such as the point of darts; and a notcher, used to notch pattern paper at strategic places.

The French curve and other rulers are used to shape patterns at the armholes, hips, and other areas.  Not pictured are the vary form curve and the hip curve,both of which I have on order.

The French curve and other rulers are used to shape patterns at the armholes, hips, and other areas. Not pictured are the vary form curve and the hip curve, both of which I have on order.

Most sewers will already have these items on hand: pins and holder, paper and fabric scissors, and a variety of marking pens and pencils.  The pens and pencils pictured here are for making patterns, not fabric.

Most sewers will already have these items on hand: pins and holder, paper and fabric scissors, tracing wheel, and a variety of marking pens and pencils. The pens and pencils pictured here are for marking patterns, not fabric.

Also listed as items needed in this chapter are push pins, stapler and staples, and black twill tape which is used on the dress form to mark style lines.  The one thing listed that I am not going to purchase are hanger hooks or ringers.  These are used to organize and hang patterns; I am not going into production anytime soon, so I don’t think I need this.  I will use, instead, skirt hangers with metal clips to organize my patterns while working my way through this textbook.

So, gather the tools you need, and maybe this textbook, and let’s learn this process together!

Next time, we will discuss some patternmaking terms from the second half of Chapter One.