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]