Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Copying RTW Clothing Using Silk Organza

As I mentioned in my last post, I took two classes this summer at Canada College, one of which was Copying RTW with Lynda Maynard. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this class, especially since I've already copied a couple of my favorite RTW items both by taking them apart, and by using the pin-stabbing method (pretty sure that's not the official name, but that's what I call it). But then, I thought I already had a good idea of what I was doing when I went into Lynda's bustier construction class (because you know, I'd already made up that pattern once), and yet I still learned tons. By now I know that Lynda is full of useful tips and of course she has years of experience, so I went ahead and signed up for the class anyway.

Lynda's method is very different from the more slapdash pin-stabbing method, and just as precise as the deconstructing-a-garment method, except that it doesn't require taking the garment apart! I'll do my best to give a brief overview of the process. She recommended that we start with a striped or plaid woven garment, just to make the process more straightforward. To be honest, there aren't that many RTW woven garments I wear anymore aside from jeans (partly because my shape is constantly changing, and stretchy garments are so much more comfortable, and partly because most of my woven garments even from pre-pregnancy are me-made!), so I decided to try rubbing off one of Mr. Cation's casual button-down shirts. It's originally from G by Guess, and was quite pricey, but it's got some interesting style lines. Most importantly, though, it's plaid, so the grain lines are very easy to follow!

Here's what the original shirt looks like on Mr. Cation. 

Least favorite part: the huge honking piece of embroidery on the back. 

It's important to be able to see the grain lines because the first thing we did was use brightly colored thread to trace the grain lines (and seam lines, if they are hard to see) on each individual piece of the garment. Lynda recommended that for large pattern pieces, (e.g. the center back piece), we put in multiple grain lines for reference points.

I almost didn't need to put in my thread tracing because the plaid makes it so easy to see!
Here's the interesting little front piece that makes this shirt so unique, all thread traced.

After the grain lines are all marked, we measured the distances between them and penciled in the same lines on silk organza pieces that were cut to be about the same size (but slightly bigger) than the individual pattern pieces. It's important to use silk organza because 1) it's see-through, 2) it's flexible but still fairly stable. (One could technically use poly or nylon organza, but those tend to be shiny and harder to work with.) We then pinned the marked-up pieces of silk organza to the garment by matching the grainline thread-markings to the pencil markings. From there, it's just a matter of smoothing the organza over the rest of the pattern piece and pinning the heck out of it.

I'm pinning the silk organza to the bias-cut outer yoke piece here.

In this way, you are mirroring the pattern piece shape with the flexible organza (this is why it's better than trying to spread out the garment on paper and pin it), which theoretically makes it easier to rub off complex garments with weird, curved pieces. Once the organza is pinned to the pattern piece, you use pencil to mark the seam lines and any other places of note, e.g. where pattern pieces join or pleats and darts. When you unpin the organza, the shape of the pattern piece should be all sketched out!

Here's how the front piece and collar pieces turned out when traced onto the silk organza. The solid lines are my grain lines to match the thread tracing, and the dashed lines are my rub off of the seam lines. 

The sleeve, with markings showing where the button tab, sleeve placket, and pleat went. After unpinning the silk organza, we had to go back and measure all the seam line lengths to make sure that we rubbed it off correctly. Then we had to measure all the seams that went together to make sure that they matched. All this work paid off, though, since by the time it came to actually sewing, we were assured of an accurate pattern where all the pieces fit together perfectly!

Mr. Cation's shirt was pretty straightforward to rub off; some people in our class had bias-cut cowl necks, crazy gathered sleeves, lace insertion, and other design elements on their garments. It'll be interesting to apply this method to a more "difficult" piece to see how it works! In the meantime, I transferred the markings on my silk organza pieces to paper, then sewed up a muslin.

And here's what it looks like all laid out. Look at those nice sleeve plackets! It's the first time I've ever done a real tower placket, thanks to the helpful Threads tutorial and pattern. I did manage to sew my first one on inside out, though...

According the Mr. Cation, the fit feels the same (as it should!), although there was a moment of alarm when I presented the muslin to him and he was like, "This isn't going to be the real shirt material, right?!"

Front.
And back.


The whole process was definitely more time-consuming than a pin-stabbing rub off, but the results are incredibly accurate. Lynda's only caveat was that if one is doing a rub-off with stretchy fabric, one has to be very careful not to distort the fabric in any way, and then of course there's the challenge of finding a fashion fabric with the same amount of stretch and drape. Generally, though, I'm pretty excited about this method. There are a lot more details that she went over in class, like how to transfer the darts and such, but apparently you can find all of the same information in Kenneth King's CD book (I'm not being paid to link to him, just passing on the information in case anyone is interested!).  

I'm not sure when I'll get around to actually making this shirt in real fabric, what with school starting in a month and SHB coming the month after that...also, Mr. Cation is incredibly picky about what he wears, so finding an appropriate plaid will be a challenge! Where do all of you ladies who sew for your significant others find good shirting material? 

30 comments:

  1. Thank you for your detailed explanation. I am very keen to copy an amazing RTW jacket but it has all sorts of unusual stuff going on (and no plaid or stripe to go by!). Maybe the Kenneth King book is a good place to start. BTW, your version looks excellent! No recommendations from me as I am in Aus.

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    1. The plaid/stripe isn't required, although it does make it easier to find the grain line. You just need to be extra careful when you thread trace (easier said than done, I know!).

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  2. Looks fantastic! I love the lines of that shirt. An interesting change from the conventional style. I might try to make hubby one like this...save me tearing my hear out with boredom, having to sew another same old same old business shirt ;-)

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    1. Hehe I haven't made Mr. Cation many things, so I'm not ready to tear my hair out just yet...I think it would be a fairly easy change to make to a standard shirt pattern, though!

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  3. That's a super-cool technique - thanks for sharing. I actually wish I knew where to find better casual shirt fabrics; there are higher-end shirtings at one of my local fabric stores but not much else.

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    1. The only place I've seen shirtings I liked was at the Pendleton outlet in Portland...but that's not really practical for regular shopping!

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  4. Kenneth King also demonstrates the method in his Jean-ius Class on Craftsy.

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    1. I know Lynda worked extensively with Kenneth King, so that might explain it!

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  5. Thanks for sharing this technique! You are in the Bay Area, right? Try Britex for shirting. Last time I was there they had some really nice shirting weight fabrics.

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    1. I never make it out to Britex, because I just assume it will be all super-expensive stuff, but maybe I should give it another try...

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  6. Interesting method. I've seen some similar ways of rubbing off a pattern by the draper/cutters I've worked with but they usually use a tracing wheel and transfer paper.

    I might have to try this with some of the cotton organdy yardage I have in my stash (it's far less expensive than silk).

    Thanks for sharing your class with us! =)

    ~ Brooke

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    1. Cotton organdy sounds like a much more budget-friendly way of doing this! That's my only gripe with the silk organza...to rub off one garment can cost so much!

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  7. Cool! I'd never seen this method before until your Instagram. Thanks for going over the details. Your muslin looks awesome! I've bought shirting from Denver Fabrics online before. Lots of plaids and stripes for about $5 a yard. http://www.denverfabrics.com/c30_apparel-fabric-shirting-fabric

    Please don't embroider a huge fleur-de-lis on the final shirt, though.

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    1. Thanks for the link...I've never shopped Denver Fabrics before!

      And there's no way I'd ever put a huge fleur de lis on the back...that's one of Mr. Cation's least favorite things about this shirt. Maybe I could embroider a huge cat face, though ;)

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  8. Really interesting post! That class sounds like it could be really great. I'd love to try out that method sometime!

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    1. It's a pretty foolproof method, although darts and such are trickier, but if it's a simple garment it works beautifully!

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    1. I'm glad others find this interesting!

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  10. I am currently using this method to copy a pair of jeans (Kenneth Kings Craftsy course). I am still at the thread tracing stage though.
    I buy my shirting material in a store in Amsterdam where they have a huge collection of sample books so you can touch the fabric and see what the fabric looks like and then they order it for you. If I plan on making something for my boyfriend I take him with me so he can pick the fabric out himself, then he can't complain later that he doesn't like it. Not very useful information for you though unless you intend to go to Amsterdam for a week or so in the future...

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    1. Hah! If only I could just pop over there to pick out shirting fabric!

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  11. Why does everyone who knows nothing about sewing always freak out about the muslin??? haha! Of course not, silly! Do let us know if you end up finding a place that sells good shirting fabric... it's something I've always struggled with. Love how the pockets on his original shirt are angular at the bottom! Your copy version looks bang on :)

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    1. Muslin is really scary for some reason! I find it slightly hilarious.

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  12. Your sharing what you have learned in class is fantastic. Your detailed instructions plus pictures are super helpful. Wow! Thank you. I'm so glad you are a teacher. :-)

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    1. Glad that you found this helpful! I love being able to share what I've learned.

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  13. This is a really great technique but you're right, it's super slow (I learned it from the Kenneth King Jean-ius course). As far as shirting goes, I've found really, really nice stuff from Mood at around $14/yd. I've bought shirtings from cheap stores in the Garment District and the plaid has gotten really distorted in the wash every time, so I'm learning the lesson that I'd rather pay more than fight with warped plaid. :(

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    1. I'm starting to regret not stocking up more at Mood when I still lived in LA...oh well. Next time I go back, I guess! Thanks for the tip about cheap plaids, too; that would drive me crazy!

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  14. Thank you! I only wish I had known about this method a couple of years ago, when I used the paper method to knock off a pair of pants for a job. They were frustratingly off in the hips/crotch, this looks much more appropriate for curvy areas.

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    1. A lot of ladies in the class used this method for copying trousers and they all turned out beautifully, so I'm inclined to agree re: the crotch curve!

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  15. Wow, silk organza sounds expensive. My friends and I actually copy a bunch of our favorite shirts/jackets/patterns using clear painter's plastic dropcloth and sharpies, which I've never seen anyone else blog about: cheap, waterproof, clear, pinnable, tapeable, takes tons of abuse... are we crazy and there's something that we've missed that everyone else knows to avoid? Or maybe I should just keep it a secret...

    Anyway, sorry about the rant. Your muslin looks amazing! =D

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    1. Huh, I never thought about using painter's dropcloth...but I don't see why it wouldn't work! I'm going to have to give that a try!

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