Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Pattern Cutting Weekend at Ray Stitch


I've been sewing for five years now and would like to think that my dressmaking skills have improved a teeny bit during that time. One thing I still don't have much of a clue about though is fitting. I've never been properly taught how to fit patterns - everything I've learnt has been cobbled together from reading sewing blogs and books or by following sewalongs. Yes, I can more or less tweak a pattern to fit me, but I don't really know how and why I'm manipulating it. I've always wanted to be able to make a sloper or block to fit my proportions exactly, which I can then use to adapt other patterns. I don't want to become a designer, I just want somebody knowledgeable to explain the basic mechanics to me. 

So when Katie posted this excellent review about the three day pattern cutting course she'd taken at Ray Stitch, I was on red alert.  I knew that this was exactly the course I'd been looking for and booked in for the October Pattern Cutting Weekend. During the weekend I would create a skirt and upper body block and learn how to use the blocks to adapt commercial patterns and even create my own!  I. Could. Not. Wait!


The course was taught by Alice Prier, a super-stylish pattern cutter and designer with a ton of knowledge and experience to share. Alice was also very engaging and funny, which really set the class off on the right foot. This was a world away from the soul destroying needlework lessons at school! We started by taking 'accurate' measurements of each other. It was reassuring that Alice could take one look at our pattern paper and know immediately if we had an incorrect, or, in some cases, physically impossible measurement (ahem!) We each created an upper body and skirt block joined together at the waist to form a dress, which we then sewed up in calico. After trying them on, we all needed only minimal adjustments to ensure a perfect fit. Honestly they all looked great, and that's saying something as calico is notoriously unflattering (see photo below…) I achieved a good fit across the bust (hallelujah!) but needed to add an inch across the stomach and bum area i.e. the widest part of me, as the toile turned out a bit tight. I also had to pin a small chunk out of the front neckline as it was slightly gaping. Apart from that it fitted. Perfectly!

Any pulling you see is just the way I'm standing - it actually fits like a glove

This all happened on the first day - the second day was devoted to learning all about darts. Now I've done the odd FBA (full bust adjustment) and gaping back adjustment in my time, so I had a rough idea about what happens if you pivot or spread a dart.  Having it explained properly really did cement it into place for me - this was definitely my lightbulb moment of the whole weekend! Alice slashed a bodice into sections and then showed how a different fit/look could be achieved by pivoting the darts around the bodice.

This is the block we started out with. It has darts at the top and bottom
Once a bodice block is created, there is a set amount of shaping within the darts - so as long as this total amount of dart area remains the same, the darts can go anywhere. It can all go into one dart.


It can be redistributed between two different darts.


It can be joined together to form a princess seam (forgot to take a picture of that one.). It can be an underarm tuck.



Or, if you want more ease, you can simply choose not to sew the dart up at all.  This may be obvious to a lot of people, but it wasn't to me, so to finally understand it was well worth every penny of the course fee. These basic principles can then be used to create patterns for whatever you like. The possibilities are endless and I came away bursting with ideas. I've now transferred all my scribblings to my 'fitting' notebook', just in case I forget anything, which is highly likely. I've also decided to take Alice's advice and trace my block onto card to preserve it.

Obviously you're not going to learn everything there is to know about pattern cutting in just one weekend, but I felt that I learnt more than enough for my purposes.  I also met some lovely new sewing pals and a very inspiring teacher. Plus we were constantly plied with chocolate cake, which didn't hurt. Thank you to Ray Stitch and to Alice Prier for an excellent weekend course. x





32 comments:

  1. Fascinating! I thought I recognised you in the instagram photos from ray stitch..!
    bestest disy j x

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    1. Haha, I'm not on Instagram so only just saw that photo - thank you! x

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  2. What a really interesting post - thanks. Cake does seem to be synonymous with sewing workshops!

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    1. Yes it definitely helps, it's brain food really! x

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  3. Hello Jane, what determines the dart width in a block? Thanks.

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    1. Hi, the width of the dart(s) is determined by your own personal measurements, so it was different for all the students on the course. We had to take quite a few measurements to make the block but it's worth it to get such an accurate fit. Hope that helps. x

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  4. oh no, 2 bloggers highly recommending this course, I might have to do it!

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    1. You won't regret it, it was fab! x

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  5. Great info, this would be a class I would be willing to take. Anything that expands my knowledge with fitting works for me.

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    1. I felt this course really expanded my knowledge with fitting. I can't wait to start using it in my dressmaking! x

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  6. I'm so glad you seemed to like it as much as I did. Isn't Alice brilliant? The dart stuff was definitely the 'ping!' moment for me too. I've been using my blocks (traced onto card) loads and loads since the course - both for scratch drafting and comparing to readymade patterns to check out the fit - I hope you do too!

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    1. Yes, Alice is fab, I learnt so much from her! So good to hear you've used what you learnt, I can't wait to get cracking. Thanks again for alerting me to the course, I loved it! x

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  7. This course looks perfect, and great that it's all condensed into one weekend (less time to forget stuff between classes!). Cake always helps too ;-)

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    1. It certainly does! The course was perfect, exactly what I was after. x

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  8. Thank you, thank you! for showing the dart choices!! I love reading sewing blogs, but I weary of "I made this" blogs that don't add to my knowledge. This post was worth my entire 2-hours of morning blog reading. I'm buying some muslin and cutting a bodice piece just so I can cut it up. Again, thank you!

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    1. Aw, my pleasure. Learning about the darts was a real turning point for me, glad to pass it on to my readers. Good luck with your bodice! x

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  9. Hi Jane, it was great to meet you, and to see you posting this - despite half term! My head is buzzing as well, and I hope to get my block mounted on to cardboard tonight.

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    1. Hi Avril, great to meet you too. Yep, I had to get it on the blog whilst it was still fresh in my head! Off to buy card to transfer my blocks tomorrow, then there'll be no stopping me! x

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  10. What a wonderful course. I shall have to look into this. I have just started making my clothes after a break of (too many years to mention) ;0) I always made a new dress for each weekend, buying my fabric from Petticoat Lane, and using my favourite patterns.
    Hugs

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    1. It really was a fab course. Keep up the good work with the dressmaking! x

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  11. Sounds a fab course. Will look forward to seeing how this impacts on your projects :-)

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  12. What a cool course! It looks like you covered such a lot in a relatively short space of time. And to have learnt all of that and to come away with your own blocks - worth every penny.

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    1. Yep, it really was worth every penny, I'm so pleased to have learnt so much! x

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  13. I have been exploring the cut and slash thing and it certainly gives a better fit. It is good that you have laid it out so clearly. Jo x

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    1. I'm really hoping it will give a better fit too, fingers crossed! x

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  14. Sounds like a slice of heaven! I'll have to save up for a weekend in London to do one of these courses!

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    1. It WAS a slice of heaven! The course was my Xmas present from my husband, but I would have happily saved up for it if he hadn't stumped up! x

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  15. It looks like a fantastic weekend. I would really love to do something like this. I know I need to figure out how to do a proper FBA soon (and I'm hoping I will have time to make myself a Christmas dress which will need it) but mostly I just fudge fitting. You sound like you have learnt so much doing this.

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  16. Pleased that you found a pattern cutting course that you enjoy. It will open up a whole new world of designs to you. Which will be great as you've a great eye for design and fabric choice so lots more great posts from you!

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  17. Thanks for the great post Jane, the course sounds great! I'd really love to hear about it if you use your sloper to adapt commercial patterns, as I think that's what I'd really use one for and I'm not entirely sure how it works so I'd love to see something you've adapted from yours when you do it!

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  18. Alice is a great teacher. I took a private class with her at Ray Stitch a couple of years ago when I was in London and it was really helpful. There was no cake...but totally enjoyable nonetheless :o)

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