by Daughter Fish

About ten years ago, when I still lived in Seattle and would make a few yearly pilgrimages to Portland’s Powell’s City of Books (a.k.a. a city block of awesome), I bought Dress Design: Draping and Flat Pattern Making. At a cool $40, it was a big splurge*, especially on a used book, but I couldn’t resist the cornflower blue cover and intricate hand-drawn illustrations. Since then, I’ve flipped through the pages now and again, hoping to pick up a few tips, only to shut the book abruptly, intimidated by Mses. Hillhouse and Mansfield’s authoritative tone—which is far more Jane Austin Goes to Design School than the Easy Peasy Summer Sewing Camp I wanted to dive into.

To be fair, I didn’t have a dress form, which you really need to do the exercises in the book. Until recently, I also wasn’t ripe enough as a sewer to tackle the density of this textbook. However, I think the time has finally come. After my initial year of getting back into sewing, and tackling a range of projects, I’ve hit a plateau, or stalled, or continued to make the same silly mistakes repeatedly. Basically, I feel like I need some new skills, and so I’ve decided—with the help of my recently purchased half-scale dress form, Stella—to teach myself how to drape. And Dress Design: Draping and Flat Pattern Making is going to be my first course.  I hope I’ll be a good student, and won’t teach myself to do things the wrong way (this, of course, is the danger of teaching yourself!).

Last week, I worked through the first “problem” in the blouse chapter (each chapter is broken into a series of problems), draping the front and back of a basic blouse with shoulder and waist darts.

After I take the muslin off Stella, I’ll make a basic bodice block. Since the instructions are for working on a full-scale form, I’ll end up sizing my patterns up, and I suppose I’ll know if I’ve draped correctly when I try on a me-sized version.

To keep myself honest, I’m going to try to post once a week about working my way through this book . My hope is that in a few months (or many months), I’ll go from draping this:

To making more complicated garments, like this beautiful cowl-sleeved blouse:

I suspect this new endeavor is going to be much tougher than taking a class, but I’m kind of bull-headed about thinking I can teach myself anything. Maybe it’s that good ’ol American spirit (I can do anything!!!). Any other stubborn seamsters out there? If you’ve taught yourself how to drape,  how did it go?

*Design: Draping and Flat Pattern Making appears to be way more expensive than $40 now. I saw it a few months back on the Center for Pattern Design‘s website, for much less than the used prices on Amazon, but it doesn’t appear to be available there anymore.