Thursday, July 21, 2011

Books for Couture Enthusiasts and updates

Readers, forgive me for patchy posting these two weeks! These are my last days in my current job, and I got loads of work to do before I finally leave. I have been sewing nevertheless, and, once things calm down this weekend, I will upload all the images and posts and tutorials that I am so keen on sharing with you! These will include a sneak peek into the inside of my LBD, which I just recently finished and which I started as a part of my class with Susan Khalje in June. I've learned some great new couture techniques and want to share them with you.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in some couture-related books from my library, read my new post on Burdastyle



Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fitting Shells Q&A

Enough of Muslingate! In this post, I only want to follow up on some comments regarding fitting shells. But, before I proceed, readers, here are my Miranda rights: I have the right to talk ;-), nothing I say here can be used or held against me anywhere in the blogosphere! This is my opinion and feel free to agree or disagree by leaving a comment (or quoting on your blogs). I am an avid fan of your comments, positive or else!!!

Ok, back to fitting shells. Some commenters on Burdastyle suggested using a fitting shell instead of making a muslin, some wanted to know more about them. So, here is some info and further reading, if you want to yield to yet another step in fitting commercial patterns. 

I say commercial patterns (or patterns made to fit some abstract body) because those patterns don't take into account your unique measurements and figure. If you use custom-made patterns, which are based on your personal sloper (or pattern template) or a draped design, you can skip this fitting-shell step altogether. 

Q: So, what is a (commercial) ‘fitting shell’?

A: Essentially, it’s a template pattern with seam allowances, which the pattern company uses to create all other patterns from. So, ideally, once you fitted the company’s fitting shell you should be able to easily fit all the other patterns from the same company. In other words, once you put the original fitting shell on a pattern from the same company you should be able to see the amount of design ease, dart manipulation or other design elements that were added to that pattern.

Q: So how does this fitting shell help me if it is based on some abstract measurements determined by a pattern company?

A: As such, it doesn't - you will still need to try it on and fit it!

Q: Are fitting shells from different companies the same?

A: No, they may differ depending on the company's target group. Theoretically, as an example, a fitting shell for a younger woman may have higher apex placement than a shell for an older woman. 

Q.: Does every company publish a fitting shell?

A: No. However, here a few ones that do:

Vogue Patterns for example has a dress fitting shell...

Here is the McCall’s version:

I am not sure if Burda has a fitting shell. They definitely had one, which was discontinued at some point.

Q: What about out-of-print (OOP) fitting shells?

You can still buy old ones on eBay or elsewhere, but the company's template pattern may have been updated since then. Does it matter? I don't really think so, since at the end you will be fitting the shell anyway. So, you may be better off making you own sloper / fitting shell (= a sloper with seam allowances)

Q: Can I make my own fitting shell?

A: With some patternmaking or draping skills, you can. Essentially, what you will be making is a personal sloper (a fitting shell without seam allowances), then adding seam allowances and fitting to refine the fit. Check out some resources and recommendations for you below.

Q: Do I still need a commercial fitting shell?

A: If you can make your own, you don't, unless you want to examine the relationship between the company’s ideal/fitting shell and their patterns. Design changes and decisions are more obvious when compared to the original shell, and this can be an interesting learning experience, but at the end what you need is a sloper that fits you.

Q: How do I adjust a commercial pattern with the help of a fitting shell?

A: By aligning center front and center back on both, as a start; by pivoting darts to line them up with the pattern shaping; by checking the correct position of the waistline, bustline, hips – these are just some steps. For more details check out my suggestions at the end of this post. 

Q: After I made adjustments on the pattern, do I still need to make a muslin?

A: I would, to fine-tune the fit, especially, if I am working with a fitted garment or expensive fabric, or fabric that requires matching. Whether you use a fitting shell, or not, learning how to adjust patterns before you make a muslin will often help you avoid several muslin fittings. Has it ever happened to you? I hate it, especially with pants or jackets.

Q: Where can I find information on how to fit a shell?

A: Threads Magazine had a great article on a fitted basic shell printed in October/November 1998 issue of the magazine, which also appeared on their website ten years later: The Merits of the Basic Fitting Pattern.

If it’s still confusing, check out this great discussion on fitting shells on PatternReview.com. 

Q: Where can I find information on how to create a sloper myself:

A: My favorite is a book by Suzy Furrer, “Building Patterns: The architecture of Women’s Clothing”. It contains a lot of information on how to create slopers and a moulage (a mold of the upper body from the neck to the hip).

Patternmaking and fitting e-books by Kenneth D.King are another excellent option, but be prepared to buy several books to cover all types of garments. 

Some people also recommend Fit for Real People by Palmer Pletsch, however, I am not familiar with the book myself.

Now, do I use a fitting shell? Hardly, I had a sloper for pants before pregnancy – and it was very useful. I now need to make a new one, because my figure has changed making pants fitting even more challenging. Apparently, according to one smart fitting book, I got ‘flat buttocks’. This comes from blogging, readers - I am sure! I should be exercising instead, right?!!!

What about you? Do you think fitting shells are useful? Have you attempted/ would you attempt to make your own sloper?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I am amazed and amused at how a simple post on making a toile turned into a Muslingate.

I am talking about my Burdastyle guest blog post. The post triggered lots of positive comments and great questions. Of course, some readers also explained how they never make a toile, or, even, how toiles are a waste of time. That’s ok, right? I believe in personal choice, and we all want to have an opportunity to express our opinions.

But there were also some pretty fiery comments, like the one Gertie decided to comment at on her blog. I read her post on Google reader, before, couple of hours later, she removed it from her blog.

“Enough people were irritated by my directly quoting a Burdastyle comment that I figured I should take my earlier post down lest I offend anyone else,” she said

Ok, here is the culprit:

“Unfortunately it seems to me that this one-upmanship in the couture standards (as if every single summer dress needed to be a work of art) has been muddled with working methods of past custom dressmakers, so that innocent beginners now thing it’s normal to muslin every t-shirt. As a result they have encouraged pattern companies to be even more slack in sticking to their defined sizes. So one now often needs to do a muslin when sewing up the big 4, which seem to be morphing from merely strange sizing to really all over the place. Sigh.”

I did comment on this on Burdastyle, readers. Nothing scandalous - be disappointed :-) but, seriously, do you think pattern companies are lurking in the blogosphere looking for a pretext for neglecting their jobs?.. or, is there really a need to protect ‘innocent beginners’ from negative side effects of muslin-making?..

Now, about directly quoting the comment here. I posted it, readers, because I have something to say about it. I know it may seem ‘frightening’ to some that a comment can be reposted and responded to, but that’s the essence of social media we all are part of– we act and react. There is nothing bad about it. We do want to be nice to each other, but we also want to be able to express our opinions, like that person who posted the initial comment on Burdastyle.

Now, do comment, criticize, argue, but ‘keep it civil’ as Gertie said. I believe constructive debates are very useful!

I am adding this edit after I read Gertie's comment that she intends to repost her post with some changes. I am looking forward to it!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New post on BurdaStyle and the winner of the Crescent Skirt Pattern

Readers, check out my next post on BurdaStyle blog! This week we toile, yay! Click the Burdastyle banner below to read the blog post


Now, the winner of Tasia's Crescent Skirt is...

...Creative Mama of Adithis Mama Sews. She said:
"I self draft my patterns, but would love to see how a commercial pattern is. Here, in India, we don't get commercial patterns for sale. I have downloaded a few of Burda's free patterns, but never have seen a commercial pattern with a cover, I would love to see how it works."
Congratulations, Creative Mama, and enjoy the pattern. I can only recommend Tasia's patterns, and check out her Sew-Along for the Crescent Skirt. Now, all you need to do is to send me a mail with your address at mvk(dot)fashion(at)gmail(dot)com.

Readers, I wanted to thank you for your suggestions for my Burdastyle posts. I will try to cover all of the topics you suggested, and as a small teaser, I am planning a post on boning and structure of a couture garment, will update you later on this one! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tutorial: Making a Toile (Part 1)

Dear readers!

First of all, thanks to everyone who commented on my post on muslins. My post for Burdastyle is ready and I will let you know once it is uploaded there. Here, I am now posting a tutorial on how to make a muslin, as I learned in different classes, from Thread articles and books. Hope you will find it useful!

I firmly believe in mise-en-place  [miz  a(n) plas] concept. This French phrase means “put in place” and is used in professional kitchens todesribe preliminary arrangement of all ingredients and tools required to prepare a dish, or a menu. Having everything set up before you proceed with a task allows you to work without wasting time in search of tools – very desirable in time-consuming couture sewing.

You will need the following tools to make a toile:
18” Transparent Ruler
Red pen
Tracing wheel
Tracing paper
Paper Scissors (for cutting the pattern)
Tailor’s Shears
Tailor’s Point Shears
Wrist pin cushion (optional)
Pattern notcher (optional)

1. Cut and press your pattern pieces.

I cut generously around the pattern pieces, so the pattern remains intact and I can use it later for a different size.

2. Mark Stitching Lines and Grain

If your pattern doesn’t have marked stitching lines, draw them using a transparent ruler and coloured pen. Also, extend the grainlines on your pattern from edge to edge.

A note on cutting lines and seam allowances:
Cutting lines on patterns are useless whenever you custom-fit the garment. They are used in ready-to-wear, which relies on precision cutting for a fast assembly. In addition, seam allowances on commercial patterns are narrower than in couture garments, where they can be as wide as 1” (2.5 cm.).

There are three main reasons why you want to allow 1” (2.5 cm.) or more on your seams:
·      To accommodate fitting alterations and design changes on muslins (and also on fashion fabric).
·      To help seams lie flat and drape well.
·      To avoid bulk by grading seams into several layers where necessary.

That’s why I do prefer Burda patterns, which give you stitching lines only.

Tip: If there are some standard alterations you make on most of your garments, mark them on you pattern as early as possible.

2. Pinning

Place your pattern on muslin (use double layer if needed). Align grainlines and pin the pattern along the lengthwise grain, around pattern perimeter and close to the end of the darts.

Tip: Prepare the muslin by clipping into selvedge to release the tension, and by pressing the fabric.

Graining: Don’t use selvedge as a guide for graining! With muslin, you can clip into selvedge and then tear the fabric into two sections. The fabric will tear more or less accurately along its crosswise grain. The lengthwise grain on your pattern should run perpendicular to it. 

3. Cutting

Cut the muslin around the pattern perimeter leaving generous seam allowances. At this point, seam allowances can be up to 2” (5 cm.), you don’t need to measure as we want to mark stitching lines, which will serve as our reference guides.

4. Tracing (the bottom layer)

Put tracing paper underneath the muslin layers and trace the pattern with a tracing wheel. Don’t forget to trace lengthwise grain lines.

If you are cutting on double–layered muslin, proceed to the next step.

Tip: Marking and tracing the center fold of a dart may be helpful when sewing the dart.

5. Tracing the top layer

·      Unpin the pattern avoiding shifting the muslin layers.
·      Remove the pattern
·      Carefully turn the layers with the traced side up
·      Pin into seam allowances and next to the dart end where necessary
·      Place tracing paper under the muslin and carefully transfer the markings from the traced side using a tracing wheel
·      Unpin the layers

6. Adding labels to each pattern piece

With a permanent marker label each pattern piece on the traced side indicating the following:

·      Name  of the wearer
·      Name of the pattern piece indicating whether it is left, right, center left, center right, top, bottom, etc.
·      Patern number, including the name of the pattern company, and description
·      Size
·      Finally, add an arrow pointing toward the top of the pattern piece.

7. Thread–marking the pattern pieces

You can thread trace muslin using your sewing machine, using a relatively long stitch length. Stitch along your traced lines, thus marking the lines on both sides. Do not turn at the corner where two lines meet, but, instead, stitch from edge to edge – this will ensure more accurate sewing because your seams extend beyond these corners

TIP: When I am machine thread-tracing, I try not to clip the thread at the end of each line, but lay the next piece edge to edge with the previous one, like illustrated in this image above. I cut the thread joining these two pieces later. This saves threads and allows faster thread tracing

8. Assembling the muslin

Assemble the muslin in regular order. If your pattern has sleeves, do not attach sleeves yet – this will be done after the bodice has been fitted. Add zipper, if needed.

Et voilĂ , your toile is ready for the first fitting.

Please feel free to post any suggestions and ideas re muslin-making process!
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