Patternmaking Classes are becoming Pattern Design Guides

December 13, 2013 on 6:31 pm | In General Info, Online Classes, Pattern Design Guides, Sewing Techniques, pattern making | Comments Off

Having just turned 70 I am in the process of “closing the doors” of my online Patternmaking Classes on Dec. 31, 2013. But having developed almost 400 videos to demonstrate patternmaking techniques for these classes, I didn’t want them to disappear completely. So I am experimenting with a new form which is to embed videos in Adobe PDF files to create interactive e-Books. I call this approach “watch-a-little” “read-a-little.”

My first series of interactive e-Books is a topic I have wanted to pursue for a long time, How to Make Custom-Fit Corsets. For this series I have developed a free introductory e-Book that will allow you to verify this type of PDF file will work on your system. Caveat — I am developing these new e-Books for computers, not tablets, so don’t expect me to knock my head against the computer to make my work available for every possible system out there. I am too old for that.

If these new e-Books prove to be of interest to folks, I will be reformating the material from my online classes into additional interactive e-Books. I will be adding the information about these new e-Books as they evolve to my website Pattern Design Guides. If you would like to receive information as these e-Books evolve, I will be keeping people posted through my Pattern Design Guide Email List as well as through my Yahoo Groups How to Make Sewing Patterns and How to Make Custom-Fit Bras.

Revisiting the Classics

July 5, 2012 on 6:42 pm | In Book Reviews, General Info | Comments Off

I am going to call this post a “book review” but it isn’t really because this is a book I have actually written. So the truth is I am more excited than objective about this work.

 'Revisiting the Classics,' cover

In this book I celebrate the fine art of the masters from 1600 BC to the 1960s. I merge photographs of my models into paintings and sculptures that have been enjoyed for centuries. I also use the art of the masters as touchstones for original work.

The book includes brief, insightful “behind the scenes” vignettes of the masters and their art, to offer fresh appreciation and interpretation for the classics.

The images in this book are also available on the website I maintain for photographic prints and 5″x7″ greeting cards. For more information about the book, prints, and cards; see my website Revisiting the Classics

Some Background:
I have been very fortunate to find some wonderful models to work with for the illustrations of my various sewing demonstrations. In the process of creating these illustrations my models have become muses. This has accelerated my passion for photography.

I think of photography as being a form of theatre. It is from my dedication to theatre that I acquired back in 1959 as a junior in high school that I learned to sew and create patterns. I also developed a deep appreciation for the classics. The first play I acted in was Shakespeare’s MacBeth. Not wanting to leave the results of my photographic journey buried on my computer, I have created this book from photographic prints I exhibit.

I, like the master artists of the past, have worked on some of these images with my models unclothed. One thing I have learned from helping people create clothes that fit is that Mother Nature never makes the same shape twice of anything. In my opinion she is the ultimate artist. Some of these photos are how I celebrate her unparalleled work.

For those of you who follow my sewing exploits, I did create the Pixie costume in Faerie Magick, the Mermaid costume in Mermaid’s Lagoon and Apparition at Lands’ End, the complete costume in The Cage, and the restoration corset in Portrait of a Woman.

One costume which I “created” using photo editing is the Minoan Snake Goddess in When Women Ruled. This is an image I first saw when I took art history as a college freshman. The structure of the bodice and the intricate tiers of the skirt have been indelibly lodged in my memory ever since.

As a part of my research I purchased a replica of the statue. After trying to get the photo of my model to “fit” into the costume I realized one of three things was happening: the corset-like bodice was extreme, their bodies were different, or the artist took liberties with reality. Her 1/4 scale equivalent measurements are Bust: 34″, Waist: 16″, Hips 35″. A true hour glass figure from 1600 BC.

But what really blew my mind during my research of this woman dominated culture is the story behind the preservation of the Papyrus Fresco. This fresco was excavated from the island of Thera in the 20th century. The island, that had elaborate art and buildings, was completely devastated by a volcanic eruption that buried it in ash. But the archeologists did not find a single human remain. If you think about what happens in today’s world when a natural disaster occurs, all I can say is “what a culture.” As a tribute to their amazing survival skills I call my image When Women Ruled.

Book Review: Expecting Style

December 17, 2011 on 6:32 pm | In Book Reviews, Fitting Issues, Sewing Techniques | Comments Off

This year my model Alex has become pregnant with her first child. It has been a wonderful opportunity for me to observe how her body changes during this time and to help her with a few garments to wear.

One of the first things I did was to research the available literature for books on how to make maternity clothes. There is not a lot written and most of them offer pretty dreadful styles. When I checked them out of the library and showed them to Alex she said “I’d never wear any of those.”

There was however one book that I consider to be absolutely brilliant expecting style by Lauren Sara. Lauren has designed her own line of maternity wear and dresses celebrities during their pregnancy. She has also had children of her own.

I was so impressed by how stylish this book is that I purchased a copy as a reference for when we have discussions of styling clothes for plus sizes in my group “How to Make Sewing Patterns.”

Lauren offers a wealth of helpful information for pregnant women about how to style a wardrobe. She talks about how to go through your wardrobe and select garments that can be worn during pregnancy and garments that can’t. She doesn’t give rules so much as helpful advice because as she points out, every woman will experience unique changes to her body. And what might happen during one pregnancy can be different from the next.

The book is richly illustrated with examples of a variety of women during different stages in their pregnancies. One set of illustrations I was particularly intrigued by showed which shoes would be appropriate for the first, second, and third trimester. She even indicates how long you can wear each style. That is just one indication of the kind of detail this book provides.

In another section she shows how to modify a pair of jeans so they can be worn during pregnancy. This is the only section of the book that includes actual sewing instruction. The technique she uses follows very closely to what I discovered needs to be done to create pregnancy pants for Alex which I will be describing later.

Perhaps the icing on the cake for this book is that she talks about the emotions a woman experiences going through pregnancy. She talks not only about her own experience but she has stories from other women as well. The book is strongly geared toward professional women who are adding motherhood to their career lives.

A Photo Exhibit

November 13, 2011 on 8:31 pm | In Events, Favorite Designs, General Info | Comments Off

I am pleased to announce that some of my photos will be appearing in a group photo exhibit at the Harvey Milk Photo Center in San Francisco. The Harvey Milk Photo Center is a program of the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department. The photo center has been a cornerstone of arts programming in San Francisco since the 1940s.

The Opening Night for the exhibit is scheduled for December 1st, 2011 from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. The center is located at 50 Scott Street in the Harvey Milk Arts Center in Duboce Park. The length the exhibit will be on display is undetermined at this point but I am sure it will be at least a couple of weeks if not longer. The normal hours for the center are Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 9 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The center is closed Friday, Sunday and Monday.

For those of you not able to come to San Francisco, I am including my photographs that have been selected for this exhibit I have tentatively titled “Escape from the Legacy.” To see a single photo, click on an image. To see a larger version, click on the single photo.

These photos came about because my model Alexandra Matthew had the opportunity to do a corporate event in the Silicon Valley for an organization that wanted an event based on the Walt Disney film Tron: Legacy earlier this year. But she needed a costume for the character Quorra. I was pleased when the producers of the event allowed me to create the costume for Alexandra. I described the design and construction of the costume in my blog Creating a Quorra Costume.

As it turns out I ended up making a Flynn costume for one of the other participants, Michael Ray Wisely, a friend of Alexandra. The event went so well Alexandra and Michael offered to come by to do a special photo shoot so I could have a record of these costumes I had made. As they are both Equity Actors the photo shoot became a very special event for me. It gave me the opportunity to explore my passion for photography in both my indoor studio as well as in the hills around my home in San Francisco. I have more photos from this event including some “backstage shots” on Flickr, Tron Lookalike Costumes.

It gives me great pleasure to share these images with a wider audience through this exhibit at the Harvey Milk Center. I would like to thank Grant Rusk and my classmates in his “Photographic Themes and Direction” class for helping me figure out how I could bring my eclectic interest in imagery into a meaningful form for this exhibit.

As a side note I’d like to congratulate Alexandra on the forthcoming birth of her first child and for starting her business as an English, German, and French speaking voiceover artist.

Creating a Pixie Halloween Costume

November 1, 2011 on 2:35 am | In Favorite Designs, Sewing Techniques, pattern making | Comments Off

A Pixie Costume

Pixie costume

My background is costuming. So when I worked with my model Fallon Niedzwiecki on Wed, Oct. 19th and she mentioned she tried to find a pixie costume for Halloween but none fit her–how could I resist? On top of that I had just received an email from Mood Fabrics saying they were running a Halloween Costume Contest. Mood is the fabric store in NY and LA that the designers from the TV show Project Runway go to for their fabric. How could I resist participating in that contest.

The following is a description of the creation of this costume.

The Design Concept
When I work with a model I really like it to be a collaborative process. So the first thing I did was to do some Google image searches for pixies and forest nymphs. I recorded the links I thought looked interesting and asked her to tell me the ones she liked. The image below from Fancie Dress was the one she liked best–except for the color. Fallon wanted forest colors and a shorter hem.

Pixie Costume

Fortunately, unlike the designers on the TV series Project Runway, I have time to mull on a design before I commit to fabric selection, notions, etc.

One of the key issues was what to do about the wings. When we were talking initially Fallon said she did not want wings because when she went to a party it was too easy to whack someone. On the other hand I was intrigued by the idea of making wings and there were wings in the image we settled on. Making wings is a project I had never undertaken and I was really looked forward to it. So I decided to make her a costume that had interchangeable wings, one for parties and one for photo shoots.

I mulled on several ideas about how to attach removable wings to the costume. Most of the ideas weren’t very good. I’ll spare you the details. Then a light bulb went off and I realized I could leave a long vertical pocket in the corset at center back (down her spine).

The next thing I had to do was to determine what the wings would look like. I did more Google searches and really liked the look of dragonfly wings. Each side has two wings and each wing comes to a single junction where it joins the body. I realized that this type of wing could easily be adjusted after the costume was made. This would give it a lot of flexibility. So it was off to find the fabric.

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Finding the Fabric
It is common to find solid colors but I really wanted a variegated green for the dress. I was afraid I was going to need to dye fabric to get the effect I wanted. Fortunately the fabric store I went to had variegated green chiffon. It has been my experience as a costume designer that sometimes you have to do a lot of shopping to find the right fabric. Other times you are walking along and the fabric just jumps off the shelf and into your arms. This was one such occasion.

My second happy fabric search was to find a green organza fabric that was iridescent. Once again there was no choice to make. The idea of having translucent dragonfly wings made my heart sing. The other principle fabric I need was for the corset. But I had made myself some swim trunks out of a crushed brown velvet that had a wonderful tree bark like look. So it was off to start the construction process.

While I was in the store I found some wonderful artifical flowers and a cute butterfly pin. I couldn’t resist.

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The Wings
I realized the wings needed to come first. If I couldn’t make the wings I envisioned, then I might need to change my entire design concept. How were the wings going to work with the rest of the costume and I needed to make two different sizes. To create the shape I opted for 14 gauge solid electrical wire. I had printed out an image of dragonfly wings I liked so I knew the shape I wanted to create. I took the wire over to a body double (aka dress form) I had of my model Alex to determine the proportions.

The other decision was how to treat the fabric. Initially I had intended to use a double layer so I could sew the two layers together, turn it and just pull it over the wire frame. But I really liked how fragile the organza as a single layer would work. I felt this was so appropriate for dragon fly wings. Below are the steps I followed to create the wings.

  1. Shape the wire with one continuous length for each pair of wings. I wanted the left and right side to be from one continuous length of wire.
  2. Tape the two stems of the wire together to stabilize the shape.
  3. Paint the wire green. I left the white insulation on to maximize adhesion and friction with the wing fabric.
  4. Cut the fabric to more than cover the two sides of the wings.
  5. Zigzag the fabric to the wings. This was a little tricky. You really need to think through how to move the wire through the sewing machine and still retain the desired shape.
  6. Cut the wings with a hot knife to seal the edges of the fabric close to the wire.
  7. Zigzag the fabric to the wire a second time to hold the cut edge close to the wire.
  8. Use Sobo glue mixed with an equal amount of water to further secure the fabric to the wire. I felt this was necessary because I could see how easily the fabric could be pulled loose from the zigzag stitches.
  9. Tape the upper and lower wings together along the stem.

The photos below show the various steps of this process.

Dragonfly Wings

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The Dress
For the dress I wanted a strapless dress with an uneven hem. I opted for the concept of a handkerchief hem. I figured if I wanted more of a petal effect, I could add it later.

To avoid a closing device I knew I needed to make the center circle larger than the hips so the dress could be pulled on. I could then enclose the waist in elastic to reduce it to the size of Fallon’s above bust dimension. I used the wonderful pattern-making calculator from String Codes to determine the radius I need for the circle from the full hip measurement. I used just the hip measurement because I knew when I added the elastic I would be rolling it to create an even larger circle. If you haven’t tried the String Code calculator, I recommend you do. It is free and does too much for me to describe here.

I cut the center circle and all edges of the fabric with a hot knife working for a freehand jagged around the outside edges. I then used a Swimsuit Edge finish to add the elastic. Fallon is allergic to latex so I was careful to roll the elastic a couple of times.

Handkerchief Dress

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Checking the Design
About this time I was thinking “Okay enough for the theory. Let’s see if it works.” My model Fallon was out of town on an extended modeling gig. I knew she wouldn’t be back until it was time to shoot her wearing the finished garment. Fortunately I had worked out custom-fitted bodice, skirt, and bra slopers for Fallon so I was able to construct a custom dress form for her as I describe in my book How to Make Sewing Patterns. To keep it simple I just taped this dress form to a stool that was a good height. It took about three hours to make the dress form which I now have to use for other projects. And it saved me a lot of anxiety wondering about whether the costume would fit or not. The photo on the left shows the dress form. On the right you can see how I could check the drape of the dress.

Dress Form

When I saw the dress on the form I realized the front was too long. Fallon wanted it knee length. I think the error I made in my measurements was that I doubled the above bust to knee measurement for the overall length. I forgot to factor in the height of the center circle.

They say there is a silver lining to every cloud if you can find it. I liked the idea of the back hem being longer than the front. So I pulled out my trusty hot knife and shortened the front.

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The Corset
The corset was a relatively easy pattern as I already had my fitted slopers for Fallon. So I just traced them to create center front, side front, side back, and center back patterns. I started it just under the bust and carried it three inches below the natural waist. I extended it below the natural waist because that contour of the body makes great support. Particularly because I wanted adequate support for the wings.

For the front lacing I shortened the front pattern by an inch which left a total opening of 2 inches. I first cut the pattern out of some stretch denim I had around the house. When I tried the initial denim on the dress form of Fallon, I felt so secure in the fit that I decided I would only need boning at side back to support the wings and center front to support the lacing. If you haven’t tried lacing, you need the boning or the lacing will squeeze the height of the corset down. The following is the sequence I used to create the corset.

  1. Cut the denim lining for the corset.
  2. Sew the lining together.
  3. Cut the plastic boning with a hot knife then zigzag it to the lining. The hot knife seals the end of plastic boning. If you don’t do this the plastic rods in the boning can stick out and puncture your fabric.
  4. Cut then sew the fashion fabric.
  5. Sew the fashion fabric to the lining, right sides together, around the front, top and down the other front.
  6. Trim then turn the fabric right side out.
  7. Turn under the bottom of the corset.
  8. Top stitch around the edges of the corset.
  9. Insert the grommets.

Initially I was considering adding a second skirt to the bottom of the corset. But during the process above I kept checking the corset on the dress form. I liked the simplicity of the single layer of skirt so I abandoned the idea of additional layers.

When I was figuring out the spacing for the grommets I eyeballed how many looked right to me. Six grommets looked right to me so I knew I needed to divide the space equally in fifths. I whipped out my Scale Rule and used the 1/5th scale to establish the distance–no head math or calculator needed. The dimensions are right there in front of your eyes–whew!

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Head Band
I thought adding head and arm bands would be nice. It would give me a chance to use the artificial flowers and cute butterfly pin I had found.

I had not measured Fallon’s forehead but I know that head sizes vary between 20 and 22 inches. I figure Fallon had a smallish head so 20″ should work. I used a strip of my Lycra and a band of 1-1/8″ elastic to make the head band.

  1. Cut the elastic and Lycra 21″ long. Cut the Lycra 3″ wide.
  2. Overlap the elastic by an inch and zigzag in a loop.
  3. Sew the Lycra ends with a 1mm zigzag stitch using a 1/2″ seam allowance.
  4. Zigzag the Lycra to one edge of the elastic with a 4mm wide stitch.
  5. Wrap the Lycra around the elastic, then top stitch down the center of the band.
  6. Turn the band wrong side out and trim off the excess Lycra.
  7. Hand sew the flowers to the head band.
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Arm Bands
I use a palm measurement to verify a sleeve will fit over the hand. I did some testing and determined that the palm measurement would be a good dimension for an arm band. I wanted some of the chiffon at the bottom of the arm band to echo the appearance of the dress and corset. So once again I opted for a handkerchief hem with the 8″ opening. I decided that 3″ was a good length for the short side of the chiffon. So here is how it came together.

  1. Cut the chiffon with a hot knife.
  2. Cut two Lycra rectangles 6″ by 9″ (the palm measurement plus seam allowances.)
  3. Pin the arm seam, then sew with a 1mm zigzag stitch.
  4. Pin the chiffon to one end of the arm band, right sides together.
  5. Turn the ends of the arm band to the inside, then top stitch with a 4mm zigzag.

Initially I had planned to add elastic to the top and bottom of the armband to further secure the edges. But I found with a trial fitting that the stretch in the Lycra was adequate and no additional elastic was needed.

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If this had been a complicated costume to make, I could not have explained the process as easily as I was able to. My wife thought I was crazy to take on this project. But when she saw how quickly I was able to create this costume, she was surprised. I guess this was a big surprise because I spent a full month creating my Quorra costume and I completed this in less than a week from start to finish.

I am pleased to say that when Fallon tried on the costume for the first time, no fitting adjustments were required. She wore it for a full afternoon of photo shoots, dinner at a local restaurant, and she even drove home in it instead of changing back to her street clothes. She said that the corset was the most comfortable corset she had ever worn. I attribute this to the custom fit and minimal use of stays. I also asked her at dinner if the headband she was still wearing was comfortable. She said it fit her so well she didn’t even feel she was wearing it. To me that is one of the goals I pursue for custom-fit clothes. When they fit, they are comfortable and a pleasure to wear.

To see more images, visit my Flickr photos.

If you have any additional questions about how I made this costume, I would be happy to answer them through my Yahoo group How to Make Sewing Patterns.

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Bust Sling Nursing Bra

July 20, 2011 on 7:05 pm | In Bust Sling Bras, Custom-Fit Bra Making, Fitting Issues, Online Classes, pattern making | Comments Off

The basic concept of the Bust Sling Bra is to support the breast from above instead of from the side (which is the cantilever structure of a conventional bra). For more on the comparison of these two structures see my post Introducing the Bust Sling Bra. It was my hope in developing this design that it would provide a more natural and comfortable support for the breast.

From my research I learned that one of the most sensitive times for a woman’s breasts is when she becomes pregnant and then starts nursing. It was my hope that the Bust Sling could be used as a nursing bra such as the one you can see in the photo below.

Bust Sling Nursing Bra

While the example above supports the bust sling with a strap around the neck, other variations are possible as you can see in the description of my online class for Bust Sling Bras.

It is with great pleasure that I have recently heard from Kenna who made one of these custom-fit nursing bras for herself and has reported the results of using it. With her permission I have included her comments below. To give you an idea of the support she requires she wears a “DDD” cup in a conventional bra. She is not the model you see in the photo above.

Bust Sling vs. Conventional Bra

As for nursing, the bra works very well. I have quite a bit of experience with
conventional nursing bras. Usually the part of the bra that falls away for
nursing is the part of the bra that supports the breast. Therefore, when you
nurse, the bra drops the breast. I love the fact that the bust sling does not
do that. The breast is supported through the nursing, and that feels better to
me. I do have to hold my baby a little further out from my body due to the
projection, but that has not been a problem.

Fungal Growth

It’s not unusual for women with ample busts to struggle with fungal growth on the skin underneath the breast. This is a real problem. Your design prevents skin-on-skin contact, which prevents sweating, which prevents that fungal growth. A+ for the help in that department.


The other day I started experiencing pain from a clogged milk duct. Guess what! The fact that the Bust Sling Bra has no underwire and is very gentle on the breast tissue made it the perfect bra to wear while trying to prevent the pain from turning into full-blown mastitis. Another A+.

Cost and Durability
Kenna is new to sewing. She found this an easy bra to create.

It’s nice to know that even a beginner’s experiences can be useful. I plan to recommend this bra design, and your class, to anyone who asks me about nursing bras. I find your design very refreshing. Bras have been a constant source of angst for me for many many years.

Another little tidbit about your approach that I love is the cost factor. When I buy conventional bras, they easily cost me $60.00 per bra, if not more. Then they last for no more than a year, and often times less than that. If I launder them adequately to prevent fungal growth, they will last no more than 3 months. With your approach, I can make a bra out of material that can be laundered, and I can do it very economically.

All these things have me very excited! I get good fit, adequate support, ease of care, better skin health, and a great nursing bra for a very reasonable price.

Period Patternmaking

July 7, 2011 on 1:02 am | In Historic Patterns, History of Fashion, pattern making | Comments Off

The history of patternmaking is an interesting field which I have only explored minimally. From the research I have done, the early patternmaking techniques use detailed instructions to create patterns from measurements for specific garments. These instructions must be followed by rote.

To show you what I mean, below I am including an illustration and instructions from the Cutters’ Practical Guide: Gentlemen’s Garments for making Jodhpurs. To the best of my knowledge the copyright of this book has expired so sharing this page is not a violation of anyone’s rights to this material. The written instructions are exactly as they appear in the book.



Diagram 6.

Measures. 32 waist, 38 seat, 13½ to knee, 30 full length, 42 sideseam, 14 knee, 12½ small, 14 calf. Bottom measure to taste. Scale equals half seat 19.
1 from O equals the bodyrise, 12ins. 2 from 1 equals 2ins. 3 from 1 equals ½in. 4 from 0 equals half-scale. 5 from 4 equals 1½ins. 6 from 2 equals one-fourth waist plus ½in. Spring out ¼in. to 7. 8 from 0 equals one-sixth scale plus 1in. 9 from 8 equals 1in. 10 from 9 equals length to knee. 11 from 9 equals length to small, 2½ins. below. 12 from 11 equals 3½ins. 13 from 9 equals full leg length plus a seam. 14 from 10 equals 1in. square down to 15, 16 and 17. 18 from 10 equals one-fourth of knee. Square down from 18 to 19 and 20. 21 from 18 equals half knee. 22 from 19 equals half small. 23 from 20 equals half calf. 24 from 17 equals ½in. less than 23 to 16. 25 from 0 equals one-sixth of scale. 26 from 14 equals 1½ins. Join 26 to 5 and add 3ins. of round to the sideseam.
The Undersides. 27 from 0 equals one-third of scale plus 1in. Draw the seat angle from 25 through 27 to 28. 28 from the waistline equals 4ins. Hollow the seat seam 3/8in. at 29. Measure from 2 to 6 and apply by half waist measure from 29 to 30 plus 2ins. for seams and waist dart. Spring out 1/4in. to 31. 32 from 28 equals 2ins. 33 from 32 equals 1½ins. 34 from 25 equals 2½ins. 35, 36, 37 and 38 are each 1in. Measure from 21 to 14 and apply from 35 to 39, the knee measure plus 1½ins. for seams and ease. Measure from 22 to 15 and apply the small measure plus 1½ins. from 36 to 40. Measure from 23 to 16 and apply the calf measure plus 1½ins. from 37 to 41. 42 from 13 is ½in. less than 41 to 12. 43 from 39 equals ½in. 44 from 36 equals ½in. Shape the knee gore seam as shown to intersect at 45. 46 from 5 equals 2ins. Join 46 to 43 and shape sideseam,. 47 from 46 is ½in. less than from 5 to the knee tack, ½in. below 14. Shape 47, 45 and 44, making the seams equal in length. 48 from 31 equals 3½ins. Mark out ½in. dart as shown to 49 and 50. Add 4½ins. for permanent turn-up bottoms. When the pattern is cut, add seams to each of the gore seams from 43 to 44 and 47 to 44. Reduce to bottom measure by dart to calf line.

The reason I have not explored more of the history of patternmaking is that when I was developing my book How to Make Sewing Patterns, I wanted to understand the concept behind the patterns and how two-dimensional patterns related to the three-dimensional shapes of the body. I did not want to have instructions that had to be followed blindly. I find the instructions above rather intimidating but historically very interesting.

I would love to see a scholarly work that traces all the variations of patternmaking techniques through the centuries. I am afraid this is not a project I will undertake as I have enough to do with my own approach which continues to evolve as you can see by this blog.

Pants Fitting Issues

June 25, 2011 on 12:02 am | In "How to Make Sewing Patterns" book updates, Fitting Issues, Online Classes, pattern making | Comments Off

Getting pants to fit can be a challenge. My mantra is nature never makes the same shape twice. Working with people in my online How to Make a Pants Sloper class I have had the opportunity to hone and fine tune some of the ideas in my book How to Make Sewing Patterns. The information below is intended to supplement the material in my book.

Crotch Curve
One issue that arises is that fabric in a slacks cut pants can buckle under the buttocks as I show in my book.

Crotch Curve

This is caused either by posture or the soft tissue of the buttocks going south. What we discovered by doing some field testing in my class is that this fitting issue is actually reflected in measurements.

When I was researching pants patterns the crotch curve never dropped lower than the top of the inseam. This means that when you add the Crotch Depth and Inseam measurements they will equal the Waist to Floor measurement.

But in some bodies the buttocks can be lower than the ideal location for the top of the inseam. In this case the Inseam measurement indicates the length of the inseam and the Crotch Depth indicates how much the back crotch curve needs to be lowered for an appropriate fit. I have written and illustrated this relationship in a little more detail in a Crotch Curve PDF file you are welcome to download.

Adjusting for Tummies
Another fitting issue that we have addressed in my class is how to optimize the fit of pants for women with tummies. I am grateful for the assistance that Barbara Cleary provided in field testing a new measurement and giving me permission to use pictures of her journey addressing this issue.

Optimizing for a Tummy, Before and After

Once again in my book I indicated how to adjust for tummies on page 40. The concept is to extend the front crotch curve so the pants don’t pull in tightly directly under the tummy as you can see in the “before” photo on the left. What Barbara and I worked out is how to use a Tummy Width measurement to establish how much the front crotch curve needs to be extended so the pants will not pull in here, the photo on the right. Here is a link to the Optimizing for Tummies PDF file you can download.

Caveat: beware of relying too much on the measurements. The only way to really evaluate pattern shapes is in a fitting. Use these measurement ideas only as an initial guide.

Sway Back Posture

June 1, 2011 on 4:01 pm | In "How to Make Sewing Patterns" book updates, Fitting Issues, Online Classes, pattern making | Comments Off

One of the fitting issues that has come up in my online class How to Make a Lower Torso Sloper is the sway back posture which some refer to as a “tilted waist.” If a body has this posture, it can affect the fit of any pair of pants or skirt you buy or make. These garments “hang” when the hips are larger than the waist. If the waist is larger than the hips, then the skirt or pants have nothing to hold them up–except suspenders.

The tummy affects the fit of the front and can be larger than the hips. It is the shaping of the back pattern from side seam to center back that the sway back fit addresses. It is a common posture configuration for many women. If the fit of the back and sides is correct for a particular body, this portion of the garment may also hold up the front even if there is a tummy. Only creating an accurate fit for a specific body will you know whether this will work.

If you look at the picture below you will see how this person’s sway back is flat from the natural waist to about 2″ down toward the hips. If the top of the waistband is low enough, the sway back will not affect the fit. But if the waistband is within the range of this flat area of the back and the dart is not shaped accordingly, the garment will tend to slide down and hang unevenly. This shaping is also important for the Contoured Waistband which I describe in another blog topic.

Dart Shaping for Sway Back Postures

It is my experience that the best way to create a sloper that fits accurately is to align the grain of the fabric to the contours of the body keeping the horizontal grain parallel to the floor and the vertical grain at right angles to the floor. For a sway back posture this means that the top of the hip dart will be parallel or almost parallel where the back is flat, then angle out to the fullest part of the hip at the bottom of the sway back contour.

This posture will also affect the fit of any dress, coat, or jacket that is shaped to fit the back.

Creating a Custom Quorra Costume

May 18, 2011 on 12:54 am | In Favorite Designs, Sewing Techniques, pattern making | Comments Off

Quorra Costume in Black Light

More Photos

The movie “TRON: Legacy” (2010) has inspired an interest in the costumes worn by the principle actors. In February of this year I had the opportunity to create a Quorra lookalike costume for an Equity actress I have worked with, Alexandra Matthew. She used the costume for a corporate gig in the Silicon Valley.

When I started researching I was intrigued that the costumes were created using high-tech body scans. Even so Olivia Wilde, who played Quorra, said it took 11 fittings to create a costume that fit her and could do the required stunts. This in itself was enough to make me want too take on the challenge of creating this particular costume.

More: Costumes in Tron

I knew some adaptation to the costume would be required. Olivia had wardrobe experts to help her into the costume and the batteries that lit the suit lasted only 12 minutes. Alexandra needed a costume that was wearable for at least 4 hours. The first decision the producer and I made was that we would use black light technology for the glow in the dark feature. This was instead of the electro-luminescence technology used in the movie. I also decided to use a combination of pleather, buckram, and Tricot bonded foam to create the “armor” like appearance of the costume. This was instead of the latex foam and spandex used in the movie.

It was extremely tricky to determine the lines of the costume because the movie was so dark. Fortunately, using a Google Image search, I ran across a woman, Briana Lamb, who had seen the movie a number of times and created wonderful annotated line drawings of the costume.

From these drawings I could see a princess line sloper would be the best approach. Fortunately I already had such a sloper for Alexandra. From a pattern perspective there really wasn’t much to do except draw in the design lines on the sloper.

The challenge came in trying to figure out how the costume was to be taken on and off. There was no indication of any opening device. Also the neckline was so close fitting I knew that an over the head pull on would not work. I ended up using hook and eyes and velcro straps on the shoulders and under the arm. It also required a velcro closure at center front to achieve a neckline that was close to the original design–but not exactly the same. During one of the initial fittings we established that some on the closing devices I used could be eliminated.

Then there was wrap around skirt, leggings, and armor for the arms and legs. The final challenge was getting the black light paint to adhere to the pleather. I ended up using an undercoating of acrylic under the black light paint. In retrospect I think a regular paint primer would probably have required fewer coats. I was primarily concerned that the paint would not crack with movement.

The producer purchased the “identity ring” from Toys’R Us and Alexandra purchased the boots and wig.

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