13 August 2011

Back to School: Pattern Cutting

Thank you for all your thoughtful words following my last post. Things seem to be calming down now, in London at least, so it's high time to move on from the destruction and get back to making things.


Last week I took a week's holiday from work. When my colleagues asked me if I was going anywhere nice, they were rather bemused that my answer was, "Yes, Shepherd's Bush!" I spent the week at the London College of Fashion on a pattern cutting course, Womenswear 1.

In preparation, I got a bit overexcited in Rymans stocking up on stationery and couldn't resist a big portfolio case to carry my patterns in. I must have looked a type, as on the first day a bin man gave me directions to the college - without any prompting...



It really did feel like going back to school. Not only the echoey corridors, the nervous first registration, and the instructions on which way to hold a pair of scissors. The first couple of days felt a bit like sitting in a physics lesson, trying to get my head round alien concepts, using a totally different part of my brain than I normally use. It was pretty exhausting, but extremely stimulating and I soon got the hang of it. Once you understand the basic concepts of dart manipulation, you can let your creativity take over. Or as our teacher put it, "Once you understand the rules, there are no rules". Hurrah!


We began by tracing off standard bodice blocks. They have shoulder and waistline darts on them, and the idea is that you can move these darts to other places on the bodice, combine or divide them, put them in different configurations (straight, curved, square...) or develop them into style lines (eg. princess seams). There are two methods of dart manipulation - pivoting on the one hand, slash and spread on the other. Personally I like pivoting for standard dart movements, but slash and spread comes in handy later when things get more complicated.



We got to play around a bit, trying out different techniques and our own ideas, making up a blouse toile. Later on we drafted patterns for different kinds of collars, sleeves, facings, a button stand and skirts. The combination of drawing and maths is super appealing to me - my two favourite subjects when I was at school. Add that to the dressmaking possibilities that knowing how to draft your own patterns opens up and you have a winner. I have soooooo many ideas for designs and now I know the basics of how to make them into patterns... the only trouble is I don't know which one to make first!



What I do need to do next is to invest in a dress form. Do any of you have a reasonably priced dress form that you can recommend? One that's sturdy, with a pin-able cover, preferably on a swivel if possible...

[Soundtrack: 'I'll Come Running Back to You' by Sam Cooke]

45 comments:

  1. Very interesting design work.

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  2. Sounds like a really inspiring and useful course.

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  3. Glad you finally took the course and you loved it. I'm sure you will be making lovely things with all that knowledge.

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  4. Wow, it looks like it was such fun! I would like to get a dressform of my own sometime, just short on money and space! Good luck in your search!

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  5. Ooh, wow, looks like a fantastic course! I'd like a dressform of my own, too, but I don't know where I'd put the thing - it might creep my guests out, lounging on the armchair...

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  6. sometimes it's possible to find dress forms secondhand. when i was a fashion design student @ parsons in NYC i found a vintage dress form via craigslist. seems like craigslist would be a possibility especially in bigger cities that have a fashion design industry/schools.

    good luck! :)

    (p.s. i believe i know your brother; he and my husband work together here in the states. he was the one who pointed me @ your blog! and i am happy he did. nice work. :) )

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  7. How I wish I could have sat on your shoulder and taken notes all the way through this, Tilly. (Though, sadly, that would have involved crushing you to death.) It looks absolutely AMAZING. Can't wait to see how the inspiration fuels future makes.

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  8. So envious! This is exactly the sort of course I would love to do. I have a dressform which covers all the things you say and I love it. I got it on ebay and I think it was called an Adjustoform (I think!!).

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  9. So glad you enjoyed it - it is such an inspirational week, isn't it? I bought a dress form as soon as I got home from LCF too. I got a "lady valet" off ebay, and it's come in very handy. Adjustable, pinnable cover, swivel and has the added bonus of being quite pretty because the base is wooden. I was also massively amused by the marketing for it. Apparently the busy woman can put her clothes out on the "lady valet" the night before. Erm, what?

    Can't wait to see what you get up to with your pattern cutting skills!

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  10. Very interesting. When I took an intensive pattern making course, which was about 20 days, instead of tracing the basic patterns, we had to take the measurements for our mannequins and draft skirt and sleeve slopers. We draped the bodice because the teacher thought that was faster than doing it by the flat pattern method.

    It was hell for me because I didn't have much sewing experience and my measurements for the dress form always seemed to be a bit off. After my class, the form was often being used by students in other classes.

    Tracing the pattern sounds like a good way to get into the concepts quickly in a week.

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  11. This is such a timely post Tilly, I decided yesterday that I would go to the LCF and do this course - it's so great to hear it's a good one. Thanks!

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  12. What a wonderful course you took! I would love to take something like that!

    I have a dress form. It wasn't super expensive. Its adjustable and fits pants as the center pole moves so you can slide pants on it. I have so far liked it. I did a post on my blog here as to why I had picked this one
    http://texan.blogspot.com/search?q=dressform&updated-max=2010-12-31T18%3A16%3A00-08%3A00&max-results=20

    and then a review on it here after I got it.
    http://texan.blogspot.com/2011/01/dritz-my-double-deluxe-dress-form.html

    and here is the final result after I got her fully adjusted and covered in her second skin.
    http://texan.blogspot.com/2011/01/i-saw-home-depot-had-got-in-some-fruit.html

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  14. Hey Tilly, I can't wait to get stuck into some courses when I get back home to Australia. I bought a 'Lady Valet' when I was in the UK and found it to be great. It's not perfect if you have a large bust (as the Lady has about a B cup) but she is adjustable and pinnable. I think I bought her for about £130 so fairly reasonable. All the others were ugly, non-pinnable, or way too over priced for my budget. Good luck and I look forward to reading your blog from Australia... Cyd xx

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  15. You lucky girl! I've got to pay off my student loans before I'll allow myself to attend any sort of class like this.

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  16. Wow, I am so jealous. I wish I could take a course like that. Your toiles look amazing.

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  17. Coo! I'd love to go to do this course. I've been toying with the idea of a pattern drafting course in ages, it so good to see a review of one. Thanks Tilly.

    It's also nice to know that someone who I follow sewing-wise and is miles better than me doesn't have a form either. That makes me feel a whole lot better, not to say the form isn't on my shopping list!

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  18. So interesting, Tilly. Looks like fun. I like the math, but am not so sure about the drawing. I will be anxiously awaiting to see what you come up w/ for your first pattern...

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  19. How fun that you took a sewing vacation. I feel like I need one of those after the crazy week I've had at work. I do get a vacation here in a few days, but it's a wonderful second honeymoon, so no sewing will be involved. Perhaps in the fall or winter when it's cold and wet? Anyway, happy sewing to you and all your new found knowledge!

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  20. http://bellaindustries.blogspot.com/2011/07/ways-to-get-tailors-mannequin-dress.html

    is on my blog about how to get a mannequin/dressform.

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  21. Totally cool, these designs are perfect for easy summer days. Love the yoke front skirt. Girl you how to take a vacation!

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  22. Congrats on doing the course - patternmaking can open up a whole new world!

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  23. Fun! I'm taking a similar course, though it's through private lessons. I'm in the States, but I bought a Lady Valet dress form from the UK and I love it! It was cheaper than ones of similar quality here (even with shipping and fees). I like that it's a neutral color and is pinnacle. The wood stand is also very nice.

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  24. I bought my dressform from jaycotts.co.uk. I got the "cheap" Supafit (currently £95, but I think I paid a little more) and it sometimes surprises me just how much like me it can be when I get all the measurement settings correct. It is only a B cup which is a little small for me, but whenever I have a garment that fits me incorrectly in lots of places, it seems to fit Dolly (as she is known in our house) incorrectly in all the same places.

    I'm not affiliated with jaycotts in any way - I just use them fairly regularly as a customer. If you order over a certain amount then you get free P&P and the delivery is, in my experience, always within a day or two.

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  25. I would love to take a course like that. Too bad there's not many fashion schools in Mississippi.

    On the topic of dressforms, I found a great tutorial on how to make your own personal dress form that actually looks pretty nice.

    http://sartorialdiy.com/post/5509542125/diy-dress-form-for-men?692efce0

    The dress form in the post is for a man, but I'm sure it would work just as well for women. I'm planning on making one eventually.

    Hope that helps.

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  26. Sounds like so much fun! Can't wait to see what you'll make next!

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  27. I'm so jealous! I would soooo... love to do a course like that but haven't been able to find one that isn't the whole shebang of fashion design. Not that I wouldn't like that but would prefer to do it in smaller sections.

    Glad you enjoyed it. I'm sure you will find it very useful and I can't wait to see how you put all that knowledge to use.

    I bought a Lady Valet dress form a couple of months ago and find it quite good. Fully adjustable and pinnable. Photo's on my blog if you want to take a look.

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  28. Such a cool idea. Now you make me wanna go to London just for that. I will be spending next week sewing at home...can't wait for that. I would also love a dress form. I am fed up of sticking pins through my flesh!

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  29. Woohoo! Looks like you had a great time. I can't wait to do mine in October. :) And guess what, I took advantage of the discount and signed up for the 2nd part in November. Yay!!!

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  30. What a great class to experience!

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  31. Wow, that looks like a completely amazing and totally fun course. I had no idea such classes existed. I'll have to look for something like this in Northern California.

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  32. That course looks fantastic - you'll be in a whole other league now! I recently bought an Adjustoform Supafit dress form for about £100. http://bit.ly/rmjkKz It is a bit pricey but probably at the lower end of the market anyway. It's pretty good - you can't turn it on its axis so to speak but it's light enough to turn around and lug about. Hope that helps :)

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  33. What a fun way to spend a week! I wish more schools here in the US offered classes like this (I'd be first in line to sign up ;). Isn't pattern drafting terrible addicting? I cannot wait to see where you take this new-found skill--I'm sure this is going to result in lots of fantastic garments!

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  34. That sounds totally interesting and awesome! It'll be great to see some designs made entirely by you!

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  35. lucky you! i've wanted to try a pattern making class, but i haven't had the time/money. it looks like it would be soo much fun, though! and definitely appease the mathematical/nerdy side of me :) can't wait to see the designs you come up with!

    re my dressform: i have one of those ~dritz my double~ dressforms... it's a horrible cheaply made piece of shit, to be quite frank. the cover is too hard to push pins into, and the "adjusting" is a joke. i ended up padding mine out with the fabulous fitting system, and it's ok. i mean, it's not exactly my size but i'm pretty sure 99% of that is because i haven't gotten around to tweaking her padding (i may be lazy, but at least i'm honest about it :3) now i can pin in her, though, which is nice!
    here's my blog post on ol' dolly: http://lladybird.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/my-dressform-dolly/

    honestly, i wouldn't recommend going this route unless you can get the form for very cheap - i think mine was $75 on sale (it was a christmas present), and the padding system was $75. of course, you can use batting & fabric to pad it out and save yourself $75, i just loove spending my money lol.

    the only other experience i've had with forms is there is some seller on ebay who sells really pretty white forms on a wooden base... they are cheeeap, like $99 shipped i think. don't buy those - my friend has one, and they are worse than the dritz. just cheap cheap cheap, can't pin into it, can't adjust it, and it falls over because it barely weighs anything. ugh i hate cheaply made things ew hahah

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  36. Oh Tilly, I need to reframe my envy ! It looks like it has been a wonderful course, I'm so glad that I can at least enjoy it through your experiences! Can't wait to see what you do with it next. Very useful comments about dressforms - I would like one too, but even the cheaper Lady Valets seem like a massive chunk of £s. I have read up on making a form using tape ... there are a couple of tutorials online.... & they are precisely individually fitting! However ... something stops me!

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  37. This course looks amazing, Tilly! I recently got 'Make Your Own Dress Patterns' by Adele P. Margolis, so I recognise a lot of the bits in your photos - I'm also excited to get some time to try them out!!

    Regarding dress forms - earlier this year I got a Diana by Adjustoform, which is fine for me. You can't pin directly into her (like a pincushion), but you can pin against the cover, at an angle, if that makes sense? I did quite a bit of research before I bought and I noticed that the minimum sizes for the different models do vary, so bare that in mind - I was thinking of going for a Lady Valet, but the smallest size didn't go small enough in some places for me, whereas the Diana did, so do check that carefully (including the waist height adjustment if you're short like me!).

    I got my form from Hobkirk.co.uk and I would recommend them to anyone - this was the cheapest reliable place I found (£104 for the Diana including next day courier delivery!). One or two places were slightly cheaper, but when I looked up other customer experiences, they had been unreliable. Hobkirk were great - I ordered late one evening, it was dispatched the next day and arrived the day after, and they were really friendly when I called to check when they were dispatching my order.

    Good luck with your quest for a dress form!

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  38. Have you considered getting one of these? I like the "Sew or Die" one. http://www.wornthrough.com/2011/08/15/from-the-archive-needles-and-notions-sewing-inspired-tattoos/

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  39. I can't wait to finish my studies so I can enroll in a similar course - it looks so wonderful. And what a great idea for a holiday.

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  40. I'm very jealous,, I'd love to do this course! I look forward to seeing some of your own designs after this. I bought the Lady Valet from here
    http://www.sewessential.co.uk/Category.asp?CategoryID=94&NumPerPage=5&page=1
    and it's been very useful, as well as looking pretty in the corner of the room!

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  41. That looks like a terrific course! I'm drooling!

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  42. This sounds and looks like a fantastic course Tilly...how excited you must be at the prospect of creating your very own designs!!!

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  43. How absolutely exciting. And what lovely toiles. I had no idea there was a branch of this college in Shepherds Bush. And its a stonesthrow from me! You have planted a seed for sure. I would love to do a course like this. Oh for more hours in a day!

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  44. Ooh, this course looks so exciting - I've been to three courses at LCF (two at Lime Grove too), and they've all been great, and really inspiring.

    Re. dressforms, I don't have much advice on where to buy a reasonably priced one, but I would say, get a proper dressform, not an adjustable one. I have a lady valet, which is fine, but no good for doing proper designing on the stand (no centre or side lines to pin to or check grain and hang!). I'm thinking of padding and covering mine to make it more like a proper form, which is going to be a bit of a pain.

    A friend recently bought a proper dress form from Morplan (an own-brand one, but they also sell the swanky K&L ones), and she's very happy with it (although they're still fairly pricey). They have some online http://www.morplan.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Category4_10053_10001_10785_-1 , but you could probably have a proper look at them if you go to their shop on Great Titchfield Street (you've probably been recommended them as a supplier anyway by LCF!).

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  45. Aww what a great week! Nice work, it looks like you worked hard, learned a lot, and had fun. As far as dress forms go, I like wolf, fabulous fit and avalon. All of them have their ups and downs, but those would be great options for you to look at.

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