Trial and error – 1st pattern cut

Whenever I’m searching for patterns it’s the technical drawings I look at. When I admire someone’s outfit at work, I’m surreptitiously trying to work out were the darts on (and when we’re friendly I ask to see how the seams are finished – I’m getting a reputation for being eccentric). I now peruse the high end shops on the high street to get ideas, ‘trying things on’ so that I can have some privacy while working out how they are put together – what’s functional and whats design….

‘Technical’ drawing…

All week I’ve been scribbling away, drawing little outfits on whatever scraps of paper are near by. At my class last week our teacher said the first step was drawing what you want to make. This however is not my strong point. I’ve got Friday off, and I figured it was a good day to have a go at cutting my first pattern. I decided to make a simple,  fitted shift dress: high round neck, sleeveless, French underarm darts, waist darts, small shoulder darts, with a back zipper. The scribbling on the right here is what it looks like translating the picture in my head, onto a piece of paper.

I have some cotton in my stash that I got in India last year, which while light weight is a bit firm (if that makes sense). I think it will make a lovely shift dress, and if this experiment goes tits up, at least I won’t have spent a lot money on the fabric.

I realized last week that there isn’t a flat surface in our flat on which to draw out my pattern. The table has cracks, the kitchen floor tiles are uneven and the counter tops mangled. But on Tuesday when G. came home from work, he announced he had a present for me… a large piece of fibre board, I could put out on the living room floor to draw on. How many women would be excited at their significant others giving them a piece of fibre board? I sure was.

Back & front pattern pieces

My first step was to trace my block out onto new paper. I dropped the neck 1″ front and back and the armpit at the side seam by 1/2″. I pivoted the dart from my front shoulder, dropping it below the armpit. And on  both sets of front darts, I reduced their length by 1″.

Seam allowance added and pieces cut out I was ready to give it a go, and see how much was going to need tweaking. I decided not to cut out the neck and armhole facing until I had sewn it up to make sure I liked the neckline.

As I lay my pattern pieces on the fabric, I was just about to cut out the back, when I realised that I hadn’t added seam allowance to the centre back. A very near disaster, as there wouldn’t have been any wiggle room to get around that. And then once I cut out my front and back pieces of fabric, I realised I’d also forgotten to add the vent at the skirt back. Ooppps but ok, no vent necessary.

I transferred my dart markings onto the fabric and it was time to sew!

I sewed  my front darts and back darts and pressed them. Then I sewed the front and back together at the shoulder and side seams. I didn’t finish the seams as I wanted to make sure that things were as they should be first.

I then needed to put in my zipper to check the fit. Ideally I would have a sewing minion who could just pin me up the back, so I can see how it fits, but alas, I have none. So inserting zipper it shall be. After the zipper I quickly put in the bottom back seam. Now it was time to see how it worked…

Trial and error… not as much error as feared.

Putting it on, my immediate impression was that I should have made the zipper longer.  My second impression was that it wasn’t disastrous! In fact it wasn’t too bad. What really struck me was how lovely it fit across my stomach (and my ass!). BUT it was less fitted than I’d expected on the top. And there seemed to be some excess fabric hanging around where it shouldn’t be.

I very nearly decided to just keep it as it was. But then I thought, trial and error right? What could I change to remove that excess fabric under the bust on the sides and on the upper back?

Attempt #1 of redrawing the dart lines.
Attempt #2 of redrawing the darts.

I pondered all evening and even dreamed about pivoting darts. First thing I did Sunday morning was go back to my block and pattern and check how accurate I’d been. Upon comparing and rechecking, I realised when I pivoted the dart to under the arm, it was about 1.5 cm too short on the edge… You can see in this photo my original dart line (solid) and where the bottom line should have been (dotted). I wasn’t convinced convinced however that that was going to make all the difference in the world, I decided to experiment with taking in a further  (adding 4cm in total to the side of the dart). While this helped, there still was excess fabric so I decided to take the darts in further and the side seams. This worked pretty well. It’s not perfect but having un-stitched the side seams three times now, I couldnt quite bare to do it again. Next time (brain wave days later) I try pinning the darts before sewing, to see how it effects what ever defect… I always have great ideas after the fact…

I then ripped out and redid the zipper. The zipper, I must say, is now quite beautifully done (the bottom of zippers are often the end of me)! I redid the back seam, and I was able to give myself a very little vent despite not having cut it on the pattern. I managed this because the back centre seam was cut exactly on the selvage.

IMG_1407Having done this, I went back and finished my side and shoulder seams – using the pinking shears and zig-zag. To finish it off, I decided to use bias binding on the neck and armholes, using up what was in my stash. But I didn’t quite have enough of one, so my neck and one armhole is finished with 1″ dark blue bias binding; and the remaining armhole is finished which 1/2″ white bias binding. Oh well.

Finally having hemmed it – I’m pleased to say its done. Though I remain on the fence about it. The fabric is a bit irritating on my skin… not itchy or scratchy exactly but just… well, I’m uncomfortably aware of it. And think I’ll need a slip if I’m to get through a day in the office without ripping it off and running screaming from the building. I am pleased with it, in as far as it is my first ever foray into pattern cutting, but I’m disappointed as I can’t quite figure out why there was (and remains) some excess fabric… Perhaps I need to take out some of the length in the front and back top?






4 thoughts on “Trial and error – 1st pattern cut

Add yours

  1. Found your blog after the course. Exciting that you have made something up with the pattern! It looks good, though I see what you mean about the extra fabric. Can you compare it to the octopus?!


    1. Hi Rebecca! I’ve pulled the octopus out to check, and technically it should have worked. I’m thinking making the torso is too long? I might have another go, unpick it all and play with it a bit more.

      Have you done anything with your block?


    1. Thanks Linda! You’re right too tight is almost always worse than too loose.

      Its beautiful fabric to look at, but less nice to wear I’m afraid. But I love the color and how the purple and white threads are woven.

      Liked by 1 person

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