Don’t panic, I’m not about to become the next new Indie designer – I really only wanted a body block and I am now completely immersed in the glories of dart manipulation. I’m doing the patternmaking course at Workspace with Sarah, who is not only an expert at patternmaking, but is also the most patient person in the world.
For those of you who aren’t certain about the intricacies of dart manipulation, here is a picture (courtesy of Sarah) of a bodice block with all the potential darts drawn in.
Moving the darts to different positions gives quite different looks and is somehow a magical process. Some examples:
Above is the classic set of front darts – at the side seam and in the front. Then we have French darts which are long and come from the side seams towards the apex. Please excuse the grainy pictures – they were taken with my phone.
These next two are basically the same – a centre dart, but one has a seam at the top of the bodice and the other has the seam at the bottom. The effect is quite different.
So, I now have a bodice block which I can use to modify almost any bodice whilst being confident that the darts will be in the right place and the bodice will fit me, and which I can use to resize and hack patterns. Case in point; I have a 1940s Marian Martin pattern which is designed for a 31″ bust. I am a trifle bigger than that, so I attempted to grade the pattern. Total disaster. As you can see, the whole dress is cut on the bias and I had no real idea of how to resize it.
I took the problem to Sarah and we had a lovely morning playing with this pattern. First we discovered that very few of the pattern pieces lined up properly. In the past I would have blamed myself, but now I know that this is a common manufacturing fault.
We traced the very precious tissue onto vilene, trued up all the misplaced dots and marks and sewed the pieces together.
Whilst it doesn’t look too bad in this photo, there are strange wrinkles in the bodice.
We Sarah decided to go back to first principles and manipulate the darts and design lines to see if we could replicate the pattern but fix all the problems. First the design stage:
We had a couple of iterations of this design. Then it went on to the vilene and was pinned to the dummy.
The shape is much better and the fit is perfect. We are planning to make a few versions of this dress: the original design with kimono sleeve in stripes, one with set in sleeves in a striped jersey, and a colour blocked version in silk. We will also play with the skirt design. I am quite excited by this project and will keep you up-to-date with my progress.
One last thing that was a revelation to me: each of these photos is taken on a half-scale dummy, except for the one with the brick wall behind. I’ve seen half-scale patterns and not understood the reasoning behind them, but it is so much easier and quicker to play with a small amount of material (not to mention, thriftier) and I am a complete convert.