by Daughter Fish

One thing I love about sewing and, I think, pattern making, is that there are rules. Hard, steadfast, mathematically correct rules that’ll show me, almost immediately, when I’ve done something wrong. This is sort of the opposite of other parts of my life, where the right and wrong paths aren’t always obvious, where career decisions could take a dozen directions, where I often have to go more by feel and practice than by someone telling me what to do. Patterns, however, always have a right and a wrong answer, in terms of how they fit together, and this weekend I saw where I may have gone a little wrong on the master bodice block I draped on Stella last week.

If you saw that post, you’ll know I’m teaching myself to drape, using Dress Design: Draping and Flat Pattern Making, a 1948 textbook that covers basic and advanced draping methods. I broke the first problem into two lessons, draping a basic blouse with shoulder and waistline darts last week, then making a master pattern from the draped blouse this week. After removing the blouse from Stella and marking the seam and dart lines, I started to notice some problems. First, my darts all seem much larger than those in the illustrations:

Proportionally, they just look too big. Also, I don’t think I got the right angle on my back shoulder dart, and I may be off on where the neck and shoulder seam meet. What cued me into all of this was by trueing the angles of seams and darts—making sure these lines are at right angles. Even though I’ve drafted a few basic patterns, it still surprises me that although we humans are made of curves, well-fit clothing involves a lot of straight lines and right angles.

I won’t know if the pattern really fits until I grade it up from Stella’s half-scale size to a me size. Before doing that, I have to decide whether to drape the blouse again to make smaller darts and get all of my angles really trued up (I suspect I should do this…against my instinct to just plow forward!).

I had another reminder of the right and wrong of pattern making last week, when I had the pleasure of hanging out with Madalynne, Oona, and Wannett from Sown Brooklyn for lunch and some fabric shopping (two sewing blogger meet ups in one week!? Lucky!).

Oona, Maddie, and me at Mood.

I’ve hung out with Oona and Wannett before (and now Oona and I live in the same hood!), but I’d never met Maddie in real life. It’s always fun to meet someone you’ve followed from afar. Well, the girl’s got serious, professional pattern drafting chops (check out her pattern making series). She said that one of the head pattern makers at her job showed her that when a pattern is correct all of the darts, seams, and other markings of the abutting pieces should line up. Now, as I write that, this advice seems intuitive (and correct me if I’m getting that wrong, Maddie!), but it’s this sort of simple advice I probably need to follow for my pattern pieces up top.

Of course, I half wish I had a trick, like trueing or matching up darts, that I could use on the other aspects of my my life, to take the guesswork out of the everyday. But, then, that might not make life very exciting, would it?