Friday, 21 November 2014

#SewingFrancoise: More Fitting Alterations



Making the Francoise dress? We’ve talked quite a bit about fitting:
Today I want to show you a few more examples of pinching out or slashing and spreading fabric on a toile and transferring those changes to the paper pattern. Fitting is a huge topic and this list is by no means comprehensive - but I hope that it will give you a general understanding of the principle of adding and removing fullness which you can use on the particular area that you need to alter.

If you do need more help, I'm going to link to some further resources at the end of this post, written by people with much broader knowledge of the subject than me. Don't feel overwhelmed though, you really don't have to read a fitting book cover to cover in order to make something that fits you - you probably only need to make a handful of tweaks to a sewing pattern for your own fitting issues, and once you know what they are it'll become easier and easier for you to make these changes as you sew more things. Hooray!

(Ooh, BTW, in case you're looking at the piccies of the toile below and thinking, "But she said I didn't need to finish the seams on my toile!", you don't - ignore the zigzag stitching and stay stitching in the photos, this was a toile made by lovely Laura when she was testing out the pattern instructions - that lady is thorough!)

Right, onwards...


Adjusting the sleeve shoulder seams
One of the versions of the Francoise dress features two-piece raglan sleeves. Since our shoulders are different shapes, you may find that you need to alter the shape of the curve of the shoulder seam that joins the front and back sleeve pieces at the front. (The two-piece shoulder seam is designed to sit 1cm forward of the centre of your shoulder so you can see the style line from the front.) Repin the shoulder curve into a shape that fits you (you may need to unstitch the toile if you need to add fullness here), then draw your new shoulder seam shape onto the paper pattern - on both front and back sleeve pieces. Measure the seams on the front and back sleeves from the neckline to the first notch to check they are the same length, and adjust if you need to.

You can make a similar alteration if you need to add or subtract fullness at the raglan seam lines.



Wide or narrow shoulder
You can also add or subtract fullness horizontally. For example, if you find you have excess - or not enough - fabric at the shoulder on the sleeves, you can pinch some it out or slash and spread it on the toile. Then draw a cutting line in the same place on the paper pattern, marking the stitching line 15mm / 5/8in from the raglan seam line. Cut from each end of the line to this point, leaving a teeny bit of paper intact as a hinge. Slash open the shoulder seam side if you need extra space, or overlap the pieces if you are removing it. Glue or tape in place (with a new bit of paper under the gap if you've spread it open), and redraw the shoulder seam. Do the same on the front and back sleeve so that the shoulder seams end up the same length.


Sway back
If your lower back curves inwards more than most, you may find you have some excess fabric pooling itself horizontally around that area. Pinch out a wedge of fabric where you need to. Mark a cutting line in the same place on the paper pattern, and mark the stitching line 15mm / 5/8in in from the side seam. Cut from each end of the line to this point, leaving a teeny bit of paper intact as a hinge. Overlap the pieces at the centre back seam by the amount you removed from the toile. Glue or tape in place and redraw in smooth seam lines. Redraw the back waist dart.


Gaping or tight back neckline
If you find you have excess fabric - or not enough fabric - around the back neckline, the simplest place to make the alteration is on one of the existing seam lines. Try taking in or letting out the seam at the centre back opening or at the raglan seams joining the back dress to the back sleeve. Depending on the shape of your body, however, this might not always fix the problem...


If you tried that and found that actually the excess fabric falls around the middle of the back neckline, then that's where you want to pinch out a wedge of fabric. Measure how much you pinched out, then draw a dart the same size and in the same position on the paper pattern. If you are happy to sew a dart here on your real dress, then "true" the dart the same way as we did when we moved the bust dart.



If you'd rather not have a dart here, I get you. What you can do instead is draw a long wedge from the top of each dart leg to the bottom of the pattern (or to the waistline). Cut up one of the lines of the wedge, overlap the pieces at the lines and stick them down. Redraw smooth seam lines at the neckline, centre back and hemline if you need to.

If you change the neckline, don't forget to add or subtract the same amount of fullness to or from the neckline facings and the collar if you're making it.

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I do hope this helps. But if you do need a more comprehensive list of fitting alterations, may I suggest the following resources:


Next week, we're going to cut out our Francoise dresses and then get sewing. I'm so excited to see what you make! Have you chosen your fabric yet? What did you pick? Tell me, tell me!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

#SewingFrancoise: Bust Adjustments



Sewing the Francoise dress? Let's talk about boobs.

The pattern is fitted at the bust and - since our chests and boobies are all different shapes and sizes - you might find that you need to alter the bust on the pattern to fit your body. Today I'm going to show you three fitting alterations that you may or may not need - moving the darts, adjusting the pattern for a fuller bust, and adjusting the pattern for a smaller bust.

Moving the darts

Let’s talk nipples. (Teehee, nipples!) Our nipples don’t always necessarily land at the point where a sewing pattern hopes they will, in which case you may need to tilt the tip of the bust dart. You want the tip of the dart to point towards your nipples but end about 2cm / 3/4in before them to avoid them looking too pointy.



Personally I find the simplest way to tilt a dart to fit my body shape is to move it on the toile. Unstitch the original dart and refold it in the new position. Pin it in place and baste stitch (tack) it to check the position. Mark the new dart lines onto the paper pattern - like in the photo above, but your darts may be higher or lower or pointing in a different angle.




All you need to do now is “true” the dart, ie. get the dart leg lines the same length and redraw the side seam of the dart so that when you sew it together you don’t get any weird sticky-out bits at the seam allowance. Fold the dart closed temporarily, bringing the two legs (lines) together, folding the dart downwards, and taping it in place. Redraw a smooth side seam across your new (folded) dart, then roll a tracing wheel over it.



Untape and unfold the dart and you should see the perforations made by the tracing wheel – draw over these lines from the centre fold to make the side seams of your dart.

You may also want to redraw the waist darts so they are also pointing towards your boobs.

Adjusting bust fullness

If your boobies are on the larger side, you may find that the pattern fits your bust but is baggy above the bust at the upper chest and shoulders. Our sewing patterns include a 5cm / 2in difference between the full bust (measured around your nipples) and high bust measurement (measured around your upper chest just under your armpits). If you have around 7.5cm / 3in or more difference between your full bust and high bust, then what you can do is pick a smaller pattern size based on your high bust and then add extra room at the full bust by doing a full bust adjustment – AKA an “FBA”.

If, on the other hand, your bosoms are on the smaller side, you may find that while the full bust fits you, the upper chest and shoulders are too tight. In this case you can pick a larger pattern size based on your high bust and then subtract room at the full bust by doing a small bust adjustment, an “SBA”.

Measure your high bust (around your upper chest just under your armpits) and add 5cm / 2in. Choose the pattern size with that measurement at the bust to do your bust adjustment on. How much larger or smaller is your actual full bust measurement from the bust measurement on that pattern size? If it’s 2.5cm / 1in bigger, you’ll be adding 2.5cm / 1in when you do your full bust adjustment; or if it’s 2.5cm / 1in smaller, you’ll be subtracting 2.5cm / 1in when you do your small bust adjustment, and so on. Since the front dress pattern represents one half of the front dress (as the fabric is cut on the fold) – or one boob – you’ll be adding or subtracting half of that difference - 1.25cm / 1/2in in this example - to the pattern piece.

Both adjustments start off the same way by marking some cutting lines on your toile or pattern, slashing them open, then either spreading them apart or overlapping them depending on whether you want to make the bust larger or smaller. I’m going to show you how to do them on the pattern pieces since it’s easier to see what’s going on, but the same principle applies to altering the toile – you might prefer to make the alterations to the toile first, before transferring the changes back to the pattern, so you can be sure that you’re increasing or decreasing the fullness by the right amount for your body. Whichever method you choose, trace off copy of your pattern so you can keep the original one intact in case you need to go back to it.

Okay, let’s do this.


Mark the apex of your bust on your toile or pattern – ie. where your nipple lands. Now draw three lines fanning out from this point – one through the centre of the bust dart; one vertical line straight down the dress (parallel to the centre front line and perpendicular to the lengthen/shorten lines); and one diagonally through the raglan seam. We’re going to ignore the seam allowance so we don’t change the length of the raglan seam line – mark a point 15mm / 5/8in in from the cutting line on the line you just drew through the raglan seam.


Cut up the long vertical line to the bust apex, and from here up the diagonal line to the point 15mm / 5/8in from the raglan seam. Snip in from the raglan cutting line to a teeny bit before the point you just stopped cutting to, creating a hinge. (If you accidentally cut through the hinge or if it falls apart, don’t worry, just keep the pieces touching at this point when you come to move them later.) Cut along the dart line too, from the side seam to the bust apex, again stopping just short of it to create another hinge.


Full bust adjustment

Lay your pattern over a new sheet of paper, taping the centre front of the pattern to the paper to hold it in place. Spread the pieces apart at the vertical cutting line by the amount you need – either based on what you added to your toile or the amount you calculated based on your high bust measurement (see above). The bust dart will open up and the seam allowance at the raglan seam will close. Pin, tape or glue the pattern to the new piece of paper.



Now to redraw the enlarged bust dart lines. Draw a line through the centre of the new dart to the tip of where it’s been opened up. Mark a point about 2cm / 3/4in to the left – this is now the tip of your new dart. Draw in the dart legs from this point out to the points where the old dart legs started at the side seams. Redraw in the side seam lines, connecting at the centre line.



The changes we’ve made have also made the hemline uneven – now to tidy it up. Extend the centre front line downwards, and extend the hemline from the piece on the left across to meet the centre front line, making sure that there is a 90 degree angle at the corner.

And that’s your new pattern piece!

Small bust adjustment


Overlap the pieces by the amount you need – either based on what you subtracted from your toile or the amount you calculated based on your high bust measurement (see above). The bust dart will become narrower and the seam allowance at the raglan seam will open up. Pin, tape or glue the pattern in place.


Redraw the narrowed bust dart legs from the tip to points where the old dart legs started at the side seams. Draw a line through the centre of the dart, then redraw in the side seam lines, connecting at the centre line. (See the green lines.)


The changes we’ve made have also made the hemline uneven – now to tidy it up. Extend the hemline from the piece on the left across to meet the centre front line, making sure that there is a 90 degree angle at the corner. Cut off the piece below the line you just drew.

And that’s your new pattern piece!

I'll be back soon with some more fitting tips for you...

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

WHEN, WHY + HOW TO MAKE A TOILE OR MUSLIN


What is a toile/muslin?

A toile ["twahl"] – or a muslin – is an initial mock up of a garment made in cheap fabric so you can check and alter how the pattern fits your body before cutting into your nice fabric.

Why should you make one?

While taking accurate measurements to select your pattern size is a great first step in making a garment that fits you, there is more to fitting than bust, waist and hip measurements. Our bodies are all totally different shapes, whether we have broad shoulders, a sway back, high or low boobies, big guns, a bodacious booty... etc etc. A sewing pattern is a template to make a garment, and may well need a few tweaks to fit your particular body shape.

It may seem like a pain in the bum to make a toile when you’re itching to get on with sewing your dress for real, but for certain kinds of dressmaking projects it will save you time, money and frustration in the long run to do a test run on fabric that you don’t mind going to waste.

So which projects should you make a toile for?

There are some dressmaking projects that are easy to alter to fit you as you sew them, and which personally I wouldn’t bother making a toile for. For example, Coco is designed to have a relaxed fit, is made in knit fabric which has the flexibility of stretch, and because the seam lines are only at the sides and shoulders it’s easy to alter the shape and size as you go along through pinning and basting before stitching for real.

The kinds of projects that I would make a toile for are those that are more closely fitted or that have darts and seam lines across the bodice that you want to position in the right place. For example, the Francoise dress is fitted at the bust with both bust darts and French darts. It also has raglan sleeves which, while easier to sew than set-in sleeves (the kind that are inserted into the armhole at the shoulder as tubes), may need to be tweaked depending on the shape of your upper chest, back or shoulders.


How do you make a toile then?

Find some cheap fabric that you don’t mind using up. Traditionally toiles are made of calico – unbleached cotton. However, cotton prices mean that calico isn’t actually that cheap any more, not in the UK at least, so feel free to use something else like an old bed sheet or maybe some fabric in your stash that you don’t like that much. A lighter colour will help so you can mark any changes on the fabric in pen.

Bear in mind that calico or a cotton sheet may not be appropriate for your toile if the fabric you’ve chosen for your real dress is something totally different. Choose a toile fabric with similar properties to the fabric you’ll be sewing your dress in – so if you’re using a drapey or stiff fabric, stable or stretchy fabric, heavy or lightweight fabric, find a similar inexpensive version of that fabric for the toile, otherwise you might find that the final dress hangs, fits or feels totally different.

Cut out the main pattern pieces of the garment that you need to check the shape or fit of. For example, for the Francoise dress, toile up the front and back dress pieces and (depending on which version you’re making) the sleeves or yoke. You can toile up details such as the collar if you want to see how the shape looks on you or if you want to practise constructing them, but it’s by no means essential.

Thread your sewing machine in a contrast colour thread to your fabric so you can see – and rip out - your stitching easily. Set your machine to a longer stitch length and tack (baste) stitch the pieces together in the order outlined in the pattern instructions. Don’t bother finishing the seams, this is just a rough mock up. And personally I wouldn’t worry about installing a zip or buttonholes – you can simply pin the openings together on the fitting line where the zip or buttonholes will go. Don’t make the neckline facings either – if you’re making a plain neckline, I would trim it down to the stitching line (15mm or 5/8in down), or if I’m adding a collar later I like to draw the neckline on the toile in pen or pencil, notch the seam allowance and fold it down to the stitching line so I can get a feel for how high or low the neckline is.

What do you do once you’ve made a toile?

Now you can try it on and assess how it fits you. Take a look in the mirror – is it hanging nicely? Do you see any areas where the fabric is pulling because it is too tight, or sagging because it is too loose? Can you move your arms, sit down and walk around comfortably? Are you happy with the overall sense of ease? Remember that fit is subjective, so you need to make sure that the amount of ease in the garment feels comfortable for you.

Now you can get to work on the toile, making alterations to fit your body. Some changes may be as simple as lowering the neckline or re-stitching the side seams or raglan seams with a wider or narrower seam allowance. Mark your new stitching or cutting lines (whichever you choose, be consistent) on the toile in pen.



Others alterations may involve moving the bust darts. I like to draw the points where my nipples are in pen (that sounds wrong, but let’s just go with it) and check that the bust darts are pointing towards the nipples but are about 2cm / 3/4in shy of them to avoid the Madonna effect.


Other changes may involve opening or closing up the toile somewhere away from the seam line. If an area is too tight, cut that part open with scissors, and patch up the opening with an extra piece of fabric – also known as “slashing and spreading”. Here's an example of where I've added extra fabric into the waistline of a toile for a playsuit I was making this Summer.



If an area is too loose, pinch out the excess fabric and pin or stitch it in place. In the delightful yellow mess a few photos above, you can see where I repositioned the darts and also took out some excess fabric in the upper chest to fit my torso.

Now you can transfer the changes you’ve made to the toile back to the pattern. Trace off a copy of the pattern, measure the positions of the points where you made the changes on the toile and map them onto the pattern. If you slashed open the toile, do the same on the pattern, patching up the opening with spare paper; or if you pinched out excess fabric on the toile, cut and overlap the pattern in this area by the same amount and glue or tape it in place - similar to the way we lengthened and shortened the pattern here.


If you’ve made lots of changes, it’s usually worth making a second toile just to check the fit again. For a more complicated garment you may end up making multiple versions! If I’m more or less happy with the fit but want to test it out in real life, I sometimes make a “wearable toile”, ie. a full version of the garment in a fabric that's cheapo but not totally horrific, and wear it around the house for a day or so to see how comfortable it is to sit and move in.

Once you’re happy with the fit and have transferred the changes to your pattern, you can cut out your real fabric – hooray!

In next post, I will outline some common fitting alterations that you may want to make to your toile or flat pattern of the Francoise dress. In a later post, I’ll suggest some further resources to help you learn to tackle your own individual fitting issues...

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

#SEWING FRANCOISE: CHOOSE YOUR SIZE + ADJUST THE PATTERN


Sewing the Francoise dress? Let’s talk sizing. In this post, we’re going to cover choosing your pattern size and some simple flat pattern adjustments that you may or may not choose to do – lengthening the pattern, shortening the pattern, and combining different pattern sizes (also known as “grading between sizes”). Later this week we’ll talk about other fitting adjustments you might need depending on the shape of your body.


Tilly and the Buttons patterns are multisized, covering eight different sizes (take a look at the full size chart).


To select your size, start by measuring the circumference around your bust, waist and hips:
- Bust – we’re talking the fullest part of your bust, ie. around your nipples
- Waist – the point at which you bend to the side
- Hips – the fullest part of your hips

It’s best to measure yourself in your undies, the kind you would normally wear under this kind of dress. Make sure you (or a helper) are holding the tape measure parallel to the floor all the way round.

Circle your measurements on the pattern size chart. If a measurement lands between sizes (for example, if it's 37in rather than 36in or 38in), it’s nearly always better to choose the larger size, as it’s easier to take the dress in if it’s too big than to let it out if it’s too small.

I just want to talk about ease for a minute - in case you're wondering what size the finished garment is going to be. The pattern includes ease, meaning that the finished garment will be bigger than your body. Part of this ease is so you can eat your dinner, sit down comfortably and (mercifully) breathe. And of course some of it is "design ease", in other words a feature of the garment design. If you compare the body measurements chart with the finished garment measurements chart (both included with the pattern instructions), you can see that there is 5cm / 2in ease at the bust (the dress is fitted at the bust and includes the minimum ease you need in woven fabrics to breathe normally), 6.5-7cm / 2 1/2in ease at the waist (the dress skims the waist without being tight), and 8 1/2cm / 3 1/2in ease at the hips (the design is an exaggerated A-shape skirt).

Right, back to finding your size. Do your bust, waist and hip measurements all correspond to the same pattern size, listed on the left side of the chart? Great – that’s the size you need to go for. On the pattern sheets, the size you need to cut fabric from is marked with both numbers and a particular style of dashed/dotted/solid line – the pattern size key tells you which is yours.

It’s totally normal if your measurements span two or more pattern sizes though. The size chart is based on common UK body proportions, however since we’re all different shapes, many of us (me included) are going to need to mix and match different bust, waist and hip sizes to get a bespoke fit (part of the beauty of dressmaking - hooray!). I’ll show you how to do that below – under ‘How to combine pattern sizes’. But before we do that…


Do you want to lengthen or shorten the pattern? Go back to the finished garment measurements chart and you’ll see that the length of the dress is listed for each size – measured from the nape of your neck to the hemline. The dress is designed to fall mid-thigh on an average height person. If you’re particularly tall or mini (like me), or if you prefer your dresses longer or shorter, you might want to lengthen or shorten the pattern. You can of course adjust the hemline just before you sew it, but if you want to change the length by more than a couple of cm or an inch or so, then it’s better to do so on the pattern before you cut the dress out.

Roughly cut around the front and back dress pattern pieces with paper scissors – or, if you want to keep them intact, trace them off onto a new sheet of paper, along with the markings, including the “lengthen or shorten here” lines.


There are two sets of horizontal lines on the pattern pieces that say “lengthen or shorten here” – one set near the waist, another set at the hip. If you know that you have a particularly tall or short torso, cut along the waist lines; if it’s the skirt you want to lengthen or shorten, cut along the hip lines. Alternatively you can draw your own set of lines wherever you feel you need to lengthen or shorten the pattern to fit your body (for example, I usually shorten patterns above my armpits as well as at the waist because I have a small torso). Just make sure you draw the lines at the same level on the back dress pattern as well as the front.

To lengthen the pattern:


To lengthen the pattern, cut a new piece of paper and draw two horizontal lines on it parallel to each other, the distance between them being the amount you want to lengthen the pattern by – so if you want to make it two inches longer, draw two horizontal lines, one of them two inches above the other. Draw a vertical line exactly perpendicular to these lines on the right side.


Cut along one of the “lengthen or shorten here” lines. Pull the pieces apart and tape or glue them to the new piece of paper, lining up the cutting lines with the horizontal lines you’ve drawn, and lining up the centre front line of the pattern (the straight one on the right side) with the vertical line.


Use a ruler to redraw the side seam of your pattern size (I’ve redrawn size 3 here) – from waist to hem – to neaten it out. You can use a straight ruler if you’ve cut the lines at the hip, or if you’re lengthening at the waist (like in the photo) use a curved ruler or a gentle hand to draw the gentle waist curve.


If you’ve lengthened the pattern at the waist, you will have cut through the waist dart – the long French dart that runs diagonally down the front dress. Redraw the shape of the dart – it’s almost straight with a curved top end.

Repeat the lengthening process on the back dress piece, lengthening the back by the same amount as the front.

To shorten the pattern:


To shorten the pattern, measure up from the “lengthen/shorten here” lines on the front dress pattern piece by the amount you want to shorten it by and draw a horizontal line parallel to this point - for example, if you want to make it one inch shorter, draw a horizontal line one inch above the “lengthen/shorten here” lines. Cut along one of the “lengthen or shorten here” lines.


Overlap the bottom piece of the pattern on the top piece, aligning the cutting line with the new line you’ve drawn in, and keeping the centre front line (the straight vertical line on the right of the pattern) aligned. Glue or tape it in place.


Redraw the side seam as a smooth line. You can use a straight ruler if you’ve cut the lines at the hip, or if you’re lengthening at the waist (like in the photo) use a curved ruler or a gentle hand to draw the gentle waist curve.


If you’ve shortened the pattern at the waist, you will have cut through the waist dart – the long French dart that runs diagonal down the front dress. Redraw the shape of the dart – it’s almost straight with a curved top end.

Repeat the shortening process on the back bodice piece, shortening the back by the same amount as the front.

How to combine pattern sizes:

Our sewing patterns are multisized, making it easy to combine bust, waist and/or hip measurements from different pattern sizes. You can do this process once you’ve lengthened or shortened your pattern – I’m demonstrating here on the pattern piece I just shortened, so ignore the red lines and pay attention to the green ones.


Let’s say your bust is size 2 and your waist is size 3. As we’re changing the side seam at the bust in this example, start by folding the bust dart on the front dress pattern closed temporarily – bring the two dart lines for size 2 together, fold the dart downwards and tape in place. Using a curved ruler or a gentle hand, redraw the side seam from the top of size 2 to the waistline at size 3.



Now to redraw the side seam at the dart. Roll a tracing wheel over the folded dart at the side seam line you’ve just drawn. Untape and unfold the dart and you should see the perforations made by the tracing wheel – draw over these lines to make the side seams of your dart.

Repeat the process of combining sizes on the back dress. Mark in any notches that you may have moved too.

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So there you have it – some simple ways to adapt the pattern for your body shape. I hope that was helpful. Do remember that a sewing pattern is simply a template, and since we’re all shaped differently you may need to make some other tweaks to get your preferred fit. In the next post we’re going to talk about making a toile, AKA muslin, which is a highly recommended step for making a fitted dress like Francoise