Finished: Patternmaking I (PM 121)!

Hi, all!  If you heard a gigantic sigh of relief radiating from the east coast of the U.S.A. last week, that was probably me turning in my final project for my first patternmaking class at FIT!  It was such an adventure– I’ve been excited to tell you guys about it, but struggled to find the time to post!

The class, PM 121 (Patternmaking I: Misses’ and Womenswear), is the first class in the patternmaking certificate program at FIT, a credit program for evening/weekend students.  Over the course of 15 weeks, we learned the basics of drafting front and back bodice slopers as well as sleeve and collar variations.   We started with the absolute basics, spending time learning how to take careful, accurate measurements before we began developing and fitting basic bodice slopers first in paper, then in muslin.  (Just a note if you’re planning to take the class– you’ll be working with a single dress form, so unless you are lucky enough to have the measurements and proportions of an older dress form, you probably won’t be able to fit into anything you make).  Once we perfected the fit of our slopers, we studied variations for bodices, yokes, sleeves, collars, and necklines, and our final project was drafting, patterning, and sewing a blouse to fit our dress form and conform with industry standards.

Here’s my bodice sloper in muslin form! Remember darts are drafted to the apex, so excuse the, erm, pointy bits…

One thing I really appreciated about the class was getting a little better grasp on some of the rules of pattern drafting.  I tend to be a sort of “let’s wing it and see what happens!” type of person (probably not the ideal seamstress, ha), so it was good to learn the textbook method for things I’ve been doing wrong all along like adding seam allowances to patterns or drafting facings.  Once I learned some of the rules it was fun to learn where I have more freedom to experiment (for example, you can draft a collar to any size, but you want to make sure it’s always 1/4″ deeper than the collar stand so your stand doesn’t peek out beneath the collar).  These are probably really obvious to most of you, but I didn’t know them coming into the class.  I also appreciated the emphasis on working from seamlines– it really does make fit or style alterations much quicker to work from a sloper without seam allowances, something I haven’t experienced before since I sew mainly from commercial patterns with the SA already added in.

The final project in all its glory! The poly charmeuse (brought in by a classmate who works for Vera Wang) was tough to press and there are some odd wrinkles from the twill tape on the dress form underneath it, but you get the idea.

I’m really glad that I learned some techniques that will be really helpful for my personal sewing (things like drafting a sleeve placket or a collar stand).  While many of the things we drafted are pretty old-fashioned or dated, it’s still good to know how to do it.  But, if I’m being perfectly honest, I found the class experience to be a bit frustrating at times.  Since my crazy job schedule leaves me with limited time to sew, I tend to be a results-based sewist and enjoy quicker projects more rewarding.  Sometimes it was hard to make myself work and work and work on patterns and muslins for garments that I couldn’t fit into and wouldn’t wear even if I could.  Patternmaking is time-consuming and can be very, very tedious, and there was a lot more homework than I anticipated.  Since class and homework sucked up almost all of the free time I normally dedicate to sewing my own garments, my fun hobby turned into a bit of a chore and I had a tough time keeping up with my Mood Sewing Network deadlines.

Look at those sleeves! The cropped bodice with the 1/4 circle sleeves looks like Daisy Duke joined a church choir, ugh!

If I sound a little negative about the class, it’s not because of the quality of the class, but rather because patternmaking isn’t really my strong suit.  I’m sloppy, don’t enjoy detail work, and am terrible with numbers, so I continually made lots of dumb mistakes that took a long time to fix and really frustrated me.  And I’ve never been much of a student, so it was an adjustment to be back in class, especially a nearly-four-hour class at the end of a long work day.   But the information I learned in the class was really good and I’ll definitely be utilizing it in the future.  Plus, if you’re a NY resident, the tuition is really affordable (the rate for an entire semester is about the same as what you would pay for a four-session class at the average Manhattan sewing studio, and I’ll guarantee that you will learn a lot more).  I’m really impressed by the wide variety of classes offered at FIT, and if my schedule and budget allow, I’d love to keep taking classes there (not to go all Portlandia on you guys, but I spied students working in a jewelry lab with soldering irons and little blowtorches and guys, I WANNA USE LITTLE BLOWTORCHES!).

So, let’s hear from you guys!  Do any of you have any experience with patternmaking or with sewing classes?  What were your experiences like?  And for you patternmakers out there, does it get easier?  Am I basically doomed if I’m the kind of person who goofs up measurements or adds them up incorrectly?  Are you interested in drafting your own patterns?  Would you take a patternmaking class if you could?

Book Report: Patternmaking for Menswear!

Oooh, you guys– I have a super fun book to show you today!  It’s Patternmaking for Menswear by Gareth Kershaw, sent to me by my friends at Laurence King Publishing.

I was really excited to see this in my mailbox for two reasons– firstly, because I’m suddenly feeling comfortable enough with my sewing skills to want to sew for my fella, and secondly, because I’m about three-quarters of the way through my first patternmaking course at FIT and ready to delve more deeply into that world.  Folks, this puppy does NOT disappoint!

The book draws inspiration from the world of fashion, but the pieces are classic and wearable.

To make the projects in the book, you create basic pattern blocks, then use them as a jumping-off point to create patterns for different looks.   (I have to say, after spending a semester drafting for women, the lovely straight lines and dart-free lines of menswear really appeal to me!).

At the beginning of each project, the author lists the changes you need to make to the block and the techniques you need to learn.  It’s all laid out in a simple and straightforward fashion, which I appreciate.  The drawings and instructions are much clearer than the textbook my patternmaking teacher references (an older, out-of-print book with small, hard-to-see illustrations).

There are enough patterns and variations in the book to dress a dude really well.  Also, not to be TOO much of a superbrat, but lots of the details and skills included in the book translate to women’s sewing, too.  I would TOTALLY wear this shirt (I KNOW, I KNOW, I’LL MAKE SOMETHING FOR MY DUDE FIRST).  In the project shows above, you need to create cuffs, yokes, plackets, a curved hem– all kinds of things that would come in handy for guys and gals alike!  Did I mention that I would TOTALLY wear this shirt?

There are twenty patterns included in the book, and they’re a great mix of basics and hipper garments.  For example, there’s a basic buttondown and basic pants, but there are also cargo pants, a hooded sweatshirt, a henley, and a lovely trench coat.  This is about as much bang for your buck as you could possibly get sewing for guys– I don’t think you could buy 20 patterns on sale for the amount this book retails for on Amazon ($38!!!)!  I should also mention that I think this book would come in handy even if you’re not interested in drafting patterns from scratch.  If you want to change up favorite commercial patterns, there’s lots in here to help you update basic patterns and turn them into new looks.  Also, in case you were wondering, the book uses the imperial system– no metric measurements.

If I sound really excited about this book, it’s because I am!  And, the good news is that I have a copy to give away!  Sadly, I can only send it to U.S. residents, but I will plan a giveaway soon for international readers.  I’ll choose a winner at random one week from today, at 10P EST on Thurs., Nov. 21st.  If you’re interested, leave a comment below!  I’d love to know what you’d be most excited about making from this book!