Monday, January 23, 2012

Design-a-long - The Paper Pattern Part 1

We're going to start on your customized paper pattern. This may take a few posts to finish. You have taken your measurements and you've done some comparison to garments you already have in about the same weight of fabric that you will be knitting. I ended up using three different garments for comparison, two were purchased sweaters and one was a cotton cardigan I knit a few years ago. All had details that I like but none was perfect on its own for the sweater I want to create now. Keep in mind that this fitting garment will be a work in progress. You may want to develop more than one according to the weight of the project yarn or even variations based on silhouette, say a classic body skimming cardigan that hits at the high hip length vs. an oversize cardigan that hangs much longer that perhaps you wear over another garment.

Ease is extremely personal and accounts for most of the difficultly in choosing sizes when working from patterns. One of the things that I noticed when going through the comparisons is that I like different amounts of ease for different parts of my body. I like minimal ease on my bust but more around my waist. I like a little ease on my sleeve, but no where near the large amount sleeve ease that appears on most patterns. Many designers use either 1/2 the torso ease or 2 inches for the top of the sleeve. It depends on the overall silhouette of the garment. I'm not going to get into specific numbers because the whole point here is to figure out your personal preferences. Other details to watch for are the depths of necklines, (v necks are always too low for me on purchased garments) and lengths for hems and sleeves. Think about what your personal fitting issues are and check those numbers carefully. Do you get garments that pull in unusual ways on your body? If you do, look at the wrinkles created, they normally point either away or towards fitting problems. As an example, vertical lines on the lower back may indicate a curved upper back. The fix may be some short rows or darts in the back. Pulling at the shoulders may indicate that you need a steeper shoulder line, working more rows at the neckline edge may solve this problem. There are so many variations that the best advice I can give you is to look at books for sewers that target fitting and adjustments. Something like Fast Fit (Easy Pattern Alterations for Every Figure) by  Sandra Betzina or The Vogue Sewing Book of Fitting, adjustments, and Alterations by Patricia Perry will help you to understand necessary adjustments.

Go through your numbers and make a third list. Your first measurements were of your own body. The second measurements were ones taken from a garment and possibly changed to get closer to your ideal. The third list numbers are your pattern numbers. They have the ease incorporated.

I like to work on graph paper that is four squares to one inch. I find it's easier to plot in my measurements that way. I use one square to represent one inch.The first decision to make is based on your measurements of your front and back. You may be able to simply divide your total circumference in half and use those numbers or you may need to split the numbers like I do making my back smaller. You can also choose to put more ease on the front than the back. Knitting is stretchy, if you stretch it horizontally there is less stretch left in the vertical direction. That vertical stretch may be enough to avoid needing short rows for the bust line. Test your swatch, when I pull mine horizontally the hem rises. If I pull it vertically I get less stretch but I still get some. Fine tune by checking your measurement from the top of your shoulder over your bust line and down to where your hem should land. A "large" difference as compared to your length measurement means short rows will be required. Large is very hard to define, I've seen it by cup size and by measurements but for your pattern it's something that needs to match up with your measurements and preferences. You can put your test garment on and look at the hem at the front compared to be back. Is it pulling up? If it is by how much? This will give you an idea of how much longer the front needs to be if you do need short rows.You could consider placing those short rows at the hem instead of at the bust line. I wrote about another solution here.  Waist shaping can also improve the fit.

I mark the center of the page for the bottom hem and start plotting in the other width and length points and then I draw in the lines. Use the back schematic I've got at the top of the post as a guide. Did you have a big difference between your cross front and cross back shoulder width? Most people are wider across the back. You need to make a decision here, you could average the two numbers, you could use the larger or the smaller number. You could also assess your swatch for horizontal stretch, I can stretch mine 1/2 inch without noticeable distortion, over the width of my back I could easily get an extra inch and keep my fronts in perfect alignment with my shoulder line. The decision is yours to make.

I've also indicated my waist level and roughly where I'll be putting in some body dart lines. I'll write a little about dart placement in the next post. You could choose to work shaping at the side seams instead, or not at all. As an aside, I think even the smallest amount of waist shaping has a large impact on figure flattery, just the suggestion of a waistline makes everyone look slimmer. Boxy garments make people look boxy.

You may want to start testing and assessing all of these possible choices and potential solutions on future garments to expand your repertoire of skills and determine your best possible customizations on a project by project basis. 

Links to the other posts:

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