Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Skirt Muslin

Dressmaking, aka garment sewing, has my interest these days. I added some new books to my sewing library to focus on learning techniques and drafting patterns. A few new blogs have been added to my google reader and I registered for the classes that came with my new sewing machine.
Design it Yourself Clothes by Cal Patch is teaching me how to draft patterns. Cal walks step-by-step through pattern drafting with instructions to make skirt, pants, woven top, t-shirt and dress patterns. I started with the skirt and have been working on my pattern and muslin for the past few weeks. I've also been hanging out at KitschyKoo's sewalong over at her blog and on flickr.

The pattern drafting process is interesting. I love the idea of drafting custom patterns based on your personal measurements. As someone whose chest and waist measurements correspond to a "small" pattern size and hip measurement to "large", making custom fit clothing, especially skirts and pants, is an attractive concept. The drafting process takes patience and willingness to try and try again. At this point, I have adjusted my pattern eight or ten times.

After completing a first draft of my pattern, I realized that I forgot to include ease. Oops...I'm not going for skintight! So I erased my lines and redrew adding in an inch of ease to each measurement as the book suggests. After the pattern draft was revised, I cut out my fabric for the first trial run, aka my muslin. My muslin is not made of muslin at all, but of a lightweight embroidered black corduroy from my stash.

I then sewed up the side seams using a long basting stitch, leaving one side seam open about 8 inches at the top. Then I did a quick try-on and realized that my hand-drawn hip curve was unlike any natural hip shape in this world....with pointy bits sticking out from my hip area like some stylized couture piece...but not in a good way. (Note to self: purchase a hip curve soon.) I also found that the "sweep" (circumference of the bottom edge of the skirt) was too large, making this A-line skirt a seriously exaggerated A. So I went back to the pattern, redrew the hip curve and reduced the sweep. I ended up smoothing out the hip curve quite a bit, almost an inch inside the original hip point line I drew. My ending sweep measurement is only about six inches larger than the hip measurement. This made for a less exagerated A, but still flattering for my body shape.

Now is where I begin to sound like shampoo bottle instructions: wash, rinse, repeat...or in this case, redraw pattern, baste side seams, try on, rip out side seams, repeat. I went through this process five or six times, which is the exact reason to sew a muslin first (with basting stitches simple to rip out). The muslin allows you to achieve just the right fit and perfect the pattern through trial and error.

Once I had what I thought was a good fit, I wanted to take the skirt on a trial run. My goal was to ensure that the fit was nice and comfortable while sitting, walking, driving, etc. before I went to the trouble of finishing the waistband and attempting my first invisible zipper. So, I restitched the side seams (both all the way up) using a standard stitch length and handsewed the hem. In this condition, still with an unfinished waist, I slipped the skirt on over my head (yes, really!) and wore it work. My conclusion was that the fit was right, although the fabric stretched out a bit by the end of the day. I received a few compliments from co-workers, and thought to myself "if they only knew how unfinished this garment is."

The pictures in the post were taken after work (in diminishing natural light), so the skirt is a little stretched out but still well-fitting. Those black tights look so shiny with the flash and are doing nothing for me in these pictures :) I may go shorter on the length. This fabric could easily look dowdy at longer lengths. So now, I'll properly finish this skirt with lining, zipper and waistband...then try out the pattern in another fabric.