Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Dress Starts with Paper

I have successfully unearthed my sewing table, and therefore been able to start my next sewing project.  It will be a latin dress using the pile of pink lycra I discussed previously.  To me, a dress project begins when I start one of these:

This pile of paper will be the project notebook for this particular dress.  The front page is where I sketch out and make notes about the different parts of the dress: what the front and back look like, a rough idea of how the underskirts and leotard will be put together, what fabrics will be used where, and some idea of what decorations or stoning patterns I plan to use.  I'm not a great artist, but the sketches capture my ideas and give me a sense of what pattern alterations I will need to do.  The plans for this dress are fairly basic, since it will have two only parts, dress and leotard, and I have made no plans for stoning patterns.  Below you can see some of the sketches I've made for other ballgown projects, which were more involved.

The second page of these paper stacks is where I note down what measurements this dress will be made to (my own in the current project), what dress patterns I am basing it on, and what size I am using from those patterns.  This project again is simpler than most because both dress and leotard will be based on the same leotard pattern.  As I am using primarily fabric left over from other projects, I also get to skip the two or three pages of calculations that would normally follow as I estimated how much fabric to buy.  From there on, the project notes are where I jot down what sewing machine settings I use, what alterations I end up needing to make, how I assemble different parts of the dress, and any useful hints I discover along the way.  By writing it down, I can refer back to information if I end up using the same pattern again or need to double-check what settings I used previously.

The next step is to make the paper pattern pieces for a test leotard.  This will be my test drive of any major alterations I am doing to the bodice of a pattern, since I am still mastering the art of redrawing necklines.  I'm using a master pattern from a book, so I trace the pieces I want onto tissue paper, transferring all pertinent notches, hip and waist lines, and so on.  I also add in the obvious changes I want to make, like changing the neckline to a boatneck and only tracing the part of the back I am using for this dress.  I also have to add some additional fullness into the bust.  Lycra is plenty stretchy and can contain a lot of chest, but it will flatten the bust in the process.  My goal is to have the leotard be as close as possible to the body measurements when not stretched, and save its stretchy abilities to handle movement.  So I add a bit of fullness to the front because I know that it makes me more comfortable.  This is done by increasing the length a bit . . .

 . . . and adding a bit more fullness under the arm.

I then hold the paper pattern up against myself to get a sense if it is long enough.  This little check helps avoid cutting out and sewing a leotard together, ripping and redoing the side seams six times to get them smooth, only to find that the leotard is a scandalous four inches too short.  I am happy to report that this pattern appears to be a decent length.

With that, my paper pattern is ready for cutting the test leotard and the first major challenge of this project.  My leotard pattern has no real shaping to the bust; it simply adds extra fabric in the front and gathers it into the side seam.  This dress will not have an upper back, however, so there will be no real side seam to gather the extra fabric into.  I could gather the fabric itself there, but I would prefer not to have ripples under the arm.  My tentative plan is to add bust darts to hold the sides of the bodice against the body, and I'll use the test leotard to figure out where to add the darts in the pattern.

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