Friday, May 1, 2020

Flat Pattern Class

In this unprecedented time of #canceleverything, I am grateful for the things that have not been canceled. I've missed out on a historical dance, a historical tea, and a cookie exchange with historical costuming friends, as well as several birthday parties. My school's play, A Little Princess, for which I was doing historical costumes (sense a theme here?), was also canceled. What *is* still happening, though, is the Flat Pattern Class I'm taking at Canada College. Of course, it's been moved online, but I'm glad that I happened to be taking a class more suited to distance learning than say, tailoring or fashion illustration. Our professor is still showing how to do pattern manipulations on Zoom, and we are emailing pictures of our patterns and garments. Obviously, we don't all have mannequins on which to display or test our garments, but it's working fairly well, all things considered.

But back up a little: if you don't know what flat pattern manipulation is, it's where you take a basic sloper pattern (plain fitted bodice + sleeve + straight skirt with darts in "standard" places) and by shifting darts around, adding fullness, and contouring, can totally change the pattern pieces to make anything you want. I realized after the class started that I'd basically already been doing this to a lot of my TNT patterns in order to get the style lines I wanted for various costumes, but it was nice to learn it "officially" so that I could pick up on the little tidbits of information I missed as a self-taught sewist. Things like the industry standard for how far to back dart tips off from the apex (instead of my usual "ehh, that looks about right!"), or the proper way to add fullness (slashing and spreading at multiple points, then truing the stitch line, instead of my haphazard scooting the pattern piece over until it looked right...are you sensing a theme here, too?). I confess I do get a little impatient sometimes about the pace of the class, because I feel like all these manipulations are obvious, but then I have to remind myself to take a deep breath because not everyone taking the class has been doing this for years. Teachers really do make the worst students sometimes.

Anyway, so one of our assignments was to make a top with a sleeve of some kind and a collar that had a closure, and show the pattern manipulation work that went into it. I didn't want to make some variation of a cutesy Peter Pan collar on a button up shirt with puff sleeves, which which is what a lot of people went with. So I started brainstorming...and coming off of my mourning for the Victorian costumes that I made for A Little Princess that would never be worn, I decided that I was going to make a turn of the century, early 1900s-style blouse, with a high stand collar, bishop sleeves, and a full gathered front, pouter-pigeon look. And as I looked at the fabrics available to me in my stash (lots of gray, green, and black), I decided that I was going to go all in and make myself a historical Slytherin costume. The final garments for this class have to include a top and a skirt (or an entire dress...basically it has to cover a dress form so that it's dressed "decently"), and if I made a top for this assignment, then I could just make a skirt to complete the final outfit. Was I making a lot of extra work for myself, drafting such a complicated outfit? The answer is yes. Did I care? No. I'm using all my Canada College classes as an excuse to indulge in my love for historical fashion (see Exhibit A, Fashion Illustration classes, and Exhibit B, Tailoring Class).

Here's what my quarter scale work looked like. We're supposed to work out our designs in quarter scale first so that the professor can check our work, then we make the full-scale pattern and mock it up. I didn't bother with a mock-up and just went straight for fashion fabric, because 1) we're designing for a standard size 8 mannequin, which is basically my size so I have a fairly good idea how things should look/fit, and 2) my fashion fabric is thrifted sheets, so no big loss if it doesn't work out. I did dress it up more with some stash lace, which was so shifty that I had to hand baste it all in place before I could start sewing, so that was also obviously an excellent time-saving decision in this time of extra work due to home-schooling.

I'm pretty pleased with how centered I got the lace motifs!

I think the side profile has the right kind of poofy pigeon-breast look. 

Oops, Cecily's skirt, my stand-in until I make the real one, is slightly off-center. It's a thrift store find that used to be a too big, 90s-tastic, empire-waisted, tea-length, burnout-velvet dress, so I cut off the top portion and redid the top edge with a petersham ribbon facing to make it into a floor-length skirt.

The back closes with hooks and bars, as do the sleeve cuffs, mostly because I had lots of them leftover from our anniversary trip to the UK, where I found a vintage pack of a hundred at a charity shop. I've gotten a lot better/faster at sewing them on now, but I still don't like doing it and mine aren't particularly neat. But they're all hidden, and black on black is hard to see, so I think ultimately the pragmatic Slytherin thing to do is to get them done functionally and save all the agonizing over perfection for when Voldemort is actually watching the parts that are actually showing.

More Slytherin secrets: the inside seams aren't finished. 

I had to look up how to finish the sleeve placket because I haven't done one in oh, at least five years. 


Pattern: Self-drafted, but based on period illustrations/patterns like the one below.

Source: the Original Pre-1929 Historical Patterns tumblr is a treasure trove.

Fabric: Half of a full-size flat sheet in gray cotton sateen, thrifted and leftover from drama costume making, for the main blouse fabric. The yoke was overlaid in black lace from a 1/2-yard remnant that I bought from Joann's years ago. I don't know the fiber content anymore, but it's definitely synthetic. For the cuff and collar lace overlays, I used scraps from a remnant pack that I bought at the Dark Garden trunk sale years ago. The strip of black fabric for back closure was from another thrifted cotton sateen sheet scrap, and the bias tape binding at the hem is silk dupioni leftover from my Ursula bustier. I'm really pleased with how I've been able to use all leftover pieces of fabric from my stash for this!

Notions: Interfacing for the collar, cuffs, and back closure, pieced together from the leftover of my tailoring class coat, and souvenir hooks and bars

Hours: A couple hours each for drafting and cutting, another hour of hand-basting lace, maybe five hours for actual sewing, and then another hour of hook and bar sewing, so let's say 11 hours total.

How accurate is it? Like everything else I do, not really: a cotton shirtwaist would need to be in thinner material, and obviously synthetic laces are right out, but I tried to get the overall impression of the look right? I think the thickness of the sheet fabric prevents the gathers from falling as nicely as they should, but my pattern pieces are pretty good I think.

Total cost: It's made from so many little scrappy leftover bits, it's hard to say, but I would say definitely less than $10.

Final thoughts: It's hard not to focus in on the one mistake I know I made: I cut the center front piece wrong, so there's something wonky going on in the middle. Plus, the stiffness of the sheet fabric makes for an awkwardly puffy-looking blouse (as opposed to period-accurate puffiness), so I feel like I should go back and redo it. That would involve A LOT of seam ripping though, so I may wait until the full ensemble is done to see if it still bothers me enough to warrant fixing it. I am hoping that once I finish everything else (skirt, belt, and Eton jacket/bolero-y thing), the overall look will be good enough that I won't feel like I need to.

Fingers crossed!


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