Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Princess Dress - Patternmaking

Drafting a pattern can be scary. I started out using a draping method on my dress form, which is a bit more foolproof. Actually drafting a pattern requires a knowledge of what pattern pieces look like, and how different parts of the body require different shapes and ease. 

I don't claim to be an expert, and when making pieces for someone I can't fit personally, I prefer to work off of an existing pattern. However for my new business, (Your Little Princess Costume Design) I have to draft my own patterns for copyright reasons. Thankfully, dresses for little girls are some of the easiest pieces to draft if you have any knowledge at all, and I've made plenty of costumes for my sister, cousins and nanny charges over the years. 

 Items you'll need:
The design you're working off of
Measurements for your client
A hard surface
A pen/pencil (I like pens because they show up better, but pencils work too)
A ruler
A measuring tape
Large sheet of paper (I use butcher paper, but you could also use tissue paper, newspaper, or even muslin)


 Most of the measurements are fairly intuitive. How long is the client from shoulder to waist? Add seam allowances and voila! You have your height. For width measurements you also have to add some extra room for movement.


Long division gets to be a headache, and there's a quicker solution than getting out the calculator. Just fold your measuring tape over!


See how easy it is?


1/2 inch for room, and another 1/2 inch for seam allowance.


Pattern piece is shaping up! Necklines and armhole openings are the most difficult to work with. They've got to be big enough, but not too big. It can help to use an article of your client's clothing for measurement. OR...


I can't use a commercial pattern for this dress. HOWEVER. I can take a pattern that is about the same size as my client, and check to make sure that the neck and sleeve openings are roughly in the right ballpark. This pattern piece utilizes a tilt in the shoulder seam that I realize has a good practical purpose and I add a bit of a tilt to my own (although it's still different than the commercial pattern).


Here we go! The front pattern piece!


For the back,  I trace the pattern front and make a few alterations. Backs typically have higher necklines than the front, and the armholes do not cut in so deeply in order to allow enough room for the shoulder blade.


Also, if you are working with a zipper or buttons, you need to add extra room for that!


Sleeves work much the same way. I measure down how long I want, and add on the seam allowances.


Then I figure out the upper arm circumference (and wrist circumference if longer) plus allowance and movement room...


For the upper arm curve, I get my measurement off the bodice pattern pieces.


The lower sleeve here is a pretty basic piece, really the only important measurements from my client's sheet are the length and upper armhole width.

What about the skirt? I rarely make patterns for skirts as they are pretty flexible and often vary based on fabric width and grain. I'll demonstrate my technique in post #2 for this dress!

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