Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Draping & the Grain (and Fabric Choices)

As I have already mentioned in the first post on draping, I decided to follow instructions from a great Dutch book Draping: Art and Craftsmanship in Fashion Design.  Yet, when I started preparing the toile, I realized that instructions for the one-piece circular skirt were misleading.  To understand what was wrong with these instructions I needed to know more about fabric grain and its role in garment construction. So, before I post the blog entry on muslin preparation, let me elaborate on some terminology most of you may already be acquainted with.

Grain is the direction of the yarns in a woven fabric

Selvage is the narrow woven border at both lengthwise sides of the fabric.

Lengthwise (straight) grain is formed by warp yarns, which run parallel to selvage. Warp yarns hold their shape best, that’s why most of the garments are cut on lengthwise grain.

Crossgrain is formed by weft yarns; these run perpendicular to selvage. Weft yarns have a greater stretch in comparison to warp yarns. This quality is useful for constructing figure-hugging garments.  Little stretch of weft yarns allows for comfort without obstructing the movement. However, if the crossgrain is perpendicular to the floor it will stretch and droop over time, especially on light- to medium-weight fabrics.

Bias is an imaginary line that falls at any diagonal angle to the selvage. Cutting on bias adds stretch and elasticity to the garment. If you want a flirtier or sexier garment and are not afraid of revealing your body curves, this is the construction method for you.

True bias always falls at 45-degree angle to the selvage.

This Draping on Grain Exercise helps understand different grains better:

You will see the most difference if you use less stable fabrics, such as silk chiffon or silk charmeuse. Medium-weight fabrics are also interesting to experiment with.

1. Drape fashion fabric over dress form with the lengthwise grain perpendicular to the floor.

2. Now repeat the same with the crossgrain.

3. Finally drape the fabric with the true bias perpendicular to the floor.

Do you see any difference? Observe how fabric folds fall. Where do the folds start to form? Does the drape conceal the body shape or reveal it?

I take pictures of draping steps from this stage on and until I am finished with draping. This ensures that all stages are documented well and I can easily recreate the garment without having to reinvent the wheel.

Finally, I started a journal with swatches of my fabrics where I attach the pictures of draping samples and make notes with ideas. I don’t do it for all fabrics, but only when I feel that I need to explore new ways of handling fabric. For example, I had a nice plaid for a skirt, and I didn’t want to have the stripes align horizontally or vertically – it looked so boring. So, I draped a pencil skirt on true bias, added a circular ruffle at the bottom and finished the hem with contrasting thread.

I must admit that construction on bias is a whole new territory for me, so until now I have been using only stable fabrics for bias projects. Nevertheless, I am always trying to find out first if changing the grain line will help me come up with new styles. Part of the fun in sewing is overcoming challenges and constant learning.

Now, how this post helps me advance with the circular skirt project?

Well, first, it helps me choose the right fabric. As the skirt is draped in a circular manner, it affects its behaviour around your body in different manner. Only the center front is on lengthwise grain; the rest is will hang differently. So, I decided (luckily, it’s winter outside) to go with thicker, more stable fabric – I would rather avoid grain issues at this stage of exploring the basics of draping.

Finally, all three different types of grain are clearly marked on muslin (toile), which makes it invaluable learning experience: observing how fabric behaves while you are draping and knowing what affects any changes in fit or drape.

To conclude, I must say I started indicating grain lines clearly on all my muslins, even those that I create from patterns – it's very helpful for fitting!


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