Hi there, I hope someone can help us. My daughter would like to try
making a dress of her own design. But we aren't too certain how to go
about it. When I was googling for pattern drafting sites the sort of
thing that came up was pretty basic. Does anyone know how to go about
doing something more different?
Her idea is to have gathered shoulders, sleeveless; the bodice will have
the right side crossed over the left so the neck will be v-shaped. She
is yet sure if she wants the waist to be defined or not. If there is a
waist line (with a seam) then she wants the skirt part to be gathered at
the waist and very full (sort of 50's style I think). If there is no
waist line then it would hang fairly straight.
So I guess we would like either help for finding a patttern like this or
help in how to make our won pattern.
You can buy patternmaking software. I have PatternMaster Boutique from Wild
It's pretty good, but you need to get the basics right first. For that, you have to take lots of measurements and make up a basic garment. Based on how that fits, you tweak your original measurements until the fit is perfect.
Once your basic garment fits perfectly every other garment made from the
same measurements will also fit perfectly. The bust darts will be the right
depth, the armhole will be in the right places, the waist will be level...
You can get quite spoiled by garments that fit so well.
An alternative is to start with a fairly well-fitting bodice block and I'll
walk you through how to alter it for the style you want. By "well-fitting
block" I mean something like Mccall's M2718 fitting shell,
You still need to fine-tune the fit before using it to make patterns. The disadvantage is that you'll have to add ease manually, whereas the software will automatically add the appropriate amount of ease for whatever you're making, from fitted dress to coat.
Another way, if you want to start from basics, is to draft your own block
using a patternmaking book like Winfred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting.
Don't be put off by the somewhat old-fashioned illustrations in the book
(you can Search Inside on Amazon): the principles of patternmaking don't
change. It's a marvellous book on creating all sorts of clothes.
The problem with all the methods above is that they assume certain sewing
skills. PatternMaster Boutique (PMB) will give you basic instructions, but
they _are_ basic and you need to run a sanity check over them. They won't
tell you, for instance, how or at what stage to insert a zipper (Shoben and
Ward's Pattern Cutting and Making Up will help with the how-to).
The easiest way is to go to the fabric store and search through the pattern
books until you find something your daughter likes. If you live in the US
the big fabric stores have frequent days when patterns are only 99c. The
rest of us have to pay rather more :-(
Patternmaking is fun. If you can read maps and blueprints, you can certainly
make patterns. If you can't I don't think it's as easy because you can't
visualise the results as easily, but it can still be done. Once you
understand the concepts and have your well-fitting basic blocks you can turn
out anything fashion decrees is cool, and have it fit well.
Sally - Thanks for all the information. I think to start with we should
go find her a pattern (she wants the dress for new years eve!). But
the books and software gives some ideas on where to go for more long
term designing. I checked out the book you recommended...I see now that
we need to be prepared to start with the basics before getting too fancy.
I have a fair bit of sewing experience so I can help her out with the
technical side of things. But I haven't done anything "from scratch" so
to speak. So I guess we'll be combining what I know with her ideas ....
should be interesting!!
If you don't have any practice with design, that sounds like a really
You will have TONS of fun, but remember, starting out you have to expect
to make mistakes the same as you made when you first started learning to
sew. But it's a great adventure, and it will be even more fun to have
it be a mother-daughter adventure.
I, too, have PMB, and use it all the time, but with many alterations to
make them mine.
All women's wear, from bathing suits to heavy coats, begin with a basic
garment called a sloper. It consists of a fitted bodice, straight
skirt, and long, fitted sleeve. These pieces are altered by tracing
them without seam allowances, then either cutting and slashing for the
design in mind, or pivoting.
Gathered shoulders would be accomplished by slashing the shoulder in
several places, and slashing along the waist or side bust dart (maybe
even both). The bust dart is then closed, allowing the shoulder
slashes to open, thus forming the gathers. If more gathering is
desired, then the pattern needs to be slashed again, this time to the
waist and possibly to the side seam if it does not have a waist seam.
Since time is short, this is probably too late to begin from scratch.
Try to find a pattern that is close to what she wants, and work from
Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear by Winifred Aldrich, £20.99 at
Amazon.co.uk, but I see there'll be a new edition in February at £15.75.
Her women's amd children's wear books are excellent.
I hope you've got David Page-Coffin's Shirtmaking?
Duh! Sally got there first with the suggestions I was going to make! ;)
Great books all, and for tailoring techniques, Tailoring: A Step-by-step
Guide to Creating Beautiful Customised Garments (Creative Publ Intl,
£6.99 from Amazon). I got this one for Christmas, and it looks good!