Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Sewing with Vintage Patterns - Part 2 Slash and Spread

In this second post about sewing with vintage patterns I will show you how to grade a pattern to your size. I find that most vintage patterns are very tiny sizes, but with some time and effort you can make just about any pattern work!
This stage is only to expand or decrease the size of the pattern to roughly the right size. Alterations will be required later, so you must stick with the task at hand and not get ahead of yourself.

If this is your first time grading, please choose a simple pattern. Collars, cuffs and multiple panels all make the process much more time consuming.

I have drawn an illustration of the basic principle of grading. In order to adjust the size of a pattern you need to cut the pattern and spread or overlap the pieces to manipulate the size. You do not need to use all of the lines I have draw, they are just areas that you can choose. I never use all of these areas at once but choose two or three that work for what I need.

Continuing on with my Spring for Cotton dress, I have laid out my bodice front and back. At this point I take the measurements of the pattern. With this garment I will take into consideration only the bust and waist measurement, as the skirt is full.

Do not include seam allowances from the pattern when you measure.

Bust- Pattern measurement - 40 1/2" My body measurement - 41 1/2"+1"ease = 42 1/2"
Waist- Pattern measurement - 30" My body measurement - 31"+1"ease = 32"

As you can see, the difference between my measurement (with ease included) and the original pattern(not including seam allowance) is 2" in both bust and waist. I know therefore that I need to add 2" to my pattern overall. If the difference between your measurements and the pattern are not the same in the bust and waist, I would grade to the bust measurement and then adjust the waist line with alterations later, as this is an easier process.

My 2" that I need overall must be divided evenly between the 4 sections of the body. That is 1/2" added to front left, front right, back left and back right.

I will now show the process of enlarging the pattern by spreading it apart. If you need to reduce the size you must overlap the pattern in the same position. It is the reverse of what I will be doing.

When I checked the bust dart position against my mannequin I could see that the position was correct(from centre front to bust apex), and that I really needed the extra space in the sides, and I also needed a bigger armhole. I have therefore decided to slash through the armhole in the side position 2" away from the edge of the pattern.
If I can avoid slashing through a dart then I will shift a little to one side of it, but on this front bodice it is unavoidable. I need to add extra into the sides and increase the size of the armhole, so I will only add extra in this one position.
When I do have to slash through a dart then I close it first. I feel more confident when I do this, as I know that the shape of the dart will not be destroyed.

Here you can see that I have spread the pattern apart horizontally by the 1/2" I need. When cut out on the double this piece will now have 1" extra room. 
You need to glue or pin paper behind the spread pattern piece to hold it together.

When holding up the pattern against my mannequin, I noticed that the pattern is quite short in the body. I have slashed horizontally and spread by 1" so that I have enough fabric to play with whilst fitting.

 You can see here that I have adjusted both pieces an equal amount. I have also re-shaped darts and side seams to make a smooth line and re-shaped the armholes of both pieces.
To re-shape a dart I make a line from the point of the dart to the base and recreate the original shape. Facings should be traced off the new sized pattern, as this is easier than grading the original facings, and takes less time.
All pieces of the pattern need to be graded (except facings, as they are easier to just re-trace). I did exactly the same for my skirt and added the 2" into the side seams, so that the bodice darts continued to match the skirt pleats.
This pattern is a relatively simple one to grade because it is sleeveless and the skirt is free. The more elements you have to a pattern, the more you need to concentrate, because you have to keep in mind what you do to one pattern piece, you must do to the connecting pieces.

The next stage is to make a toile.

Good luck to anyone who gives this a try!
 I'm always here to answer questions if you have any.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Sewing with Vintage Patterns - Part 1 Preservation

For anyone who loves vintage, the history of the piece, its story is part of its appeal. Wondering who previously owned it, who they were and how they lived. We can create our own story and as its new owner, become part of that story. So I think it is relevant to all vintage lovers, whether its furniture, clothing or vintage patterns, that preservation is kept in mind. It is finding that balance between using and enjoying an item with protecting and preserving it so that it can be passed to the next generation to enjoy. In many ways 'We are only trustees, we hold beautiful things in trust during our lifetime.' (My friend Janina told me this once and it really stayed with me).

I sew almost exclusively with vintage patterns, occasionally a reproduction pattern is thrown in or a self drafted pattern. When working with vintage patterns there is usually quite a bit of work required, and there are very few resources online that can help if you're new to this.

This month in honour of Spring for Cotton I will share with you the basic principles for sewing with vintage patterns by using the above pattern as an example.

The first step is to make a copy of your pattern. Personally I do not iron the original pattern pieces because I have had bad experiences of doing this on old patterns. Instead I smooth the pattern flat by hand and lay my tracing paper/fabric over the top. I don't use pins on original patterns, instead I use pattern weights if necessary.

I use Pellon Easy Pattern to trace off my patterns and it works really well. You can see through the fabric enough to copy off all pattern details. The fabric is stable enough to fold, unfold, iron and draw on whilst being flexible.

You can see through Easy Pattern just enough to trace around the pattern and all notches, markings and instructions. I use a ball point pen to do this.

It is important that every pattern piece is copied and that you are careful to include all details on the pattern. if you miss any details it will be difficult to sew your garment later.

Once you have traced off all pattern pieces they need to be cut out and counted. This is the point that I check all pieces are included in the pattern. If a piece is missing then you will need to draft one yourself. Personally I only buy complete patterns because drafting a new piece can be a pain.

I have the pattern envelope and instructions photocopied at my local post office.

I stick the envelope copy on to a manila envelope. I also write any important information on the back of the envelope, especially any changes I made to the pattern, so that when I come back to it another time I have everything prepared.

Inside the manila envelope I store a copy of the instructions and the new pattern.

I store the original pattern in a plastic comic book sleeve backed with acid free card to keep the pattern flat.
I only keep one new copy of the pattern. Due to lack of storage space I do not keep any pattern development. I work on my pattern and keep the final altered copy that fits as I want so that it is ready to use when I want to make the garment. This works for me as I am lucky that my figure and measurements do not change. If you find it useful though, do go ahead and keep the pattern development and an unaltered pattern copy, especially if you know that your measurements are changeable or you might make it up for someone else.

Next time I will explain a little bit about grading your pattern.



Monday, 13 April 2015

Spring for Cotton Sneak Peek

Spring for Cotton is well under way and I have been working hard on my project, so I thought a cheeky little peek was in order before it was finished and photographed properly.
I used a 1950s pattern that needed grading, altering and toiling in order to achieve a finished garment. It was a lot of work in comparison to using a modern pattern that comes with a variety of sizes available.
I have been sewing from vintage patterns since I started to sew years ago, but there are very few resources on the web to help, so this month in honour of Spring for Cotton I will provide a few hints and tips to help beginners, using this dress as an example.
I've not finished but don't have far to go now, so watch this space later in the month to see the finished look.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Molly Makes Easter Bird Garland

I must admit that I love any excuse to decorate at home, and Easter is just perfect to combine decorating, a little bit of crafting and chocolate eating. Winning combination if you ask me!!!

I created an Easter display in the kitchen to showcase my most recent crafting accomplishment: an Easter Bird Garland. It was a lot of fun making these little birds and I have been super excited to get them up on the wall.

These little birds are another felt creation from Molly Makes magazine. The designer is Samantha Stas who designed the Christmas decorations I made in December. Her style is just the right amount of kitsch without being overbearing and has a fairy tale quality that I adore.


So far this year I have been impressed with Molly Makes and find each issue inspiring. Definitely worth flicking through for the beautiful pictures alone. Issue 51 (march issue) is where I found the bird garland tutorial.

I couldn't resist using my new tablecloth (of course when I say new, I mean super old but recently acquired). The hand embroidered tulips are stunning and perfect for spring time.

Happy Easter to Everyone