Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pattern Making Walk Through

A few blog posts ago, I talked about some work I did on the legs of the TDK body suit. And while I totally nailed the leg part, from the crotch upwards I kind of forgot about. During the making of the black undersuit, I realized I stil had some work to be done on that part.

I spent some time last night trying to visualize where my pattern went wrong, and what I could do to correct it. I must confess that thinking three dimensionally is rather challenging when it comes to fabric patterns. It's something that is brand new to me, and it's challenging. I cannot seem to wrap my brain around where I need to add extra fabric to make the finished product behave the way I want it. After thinking about it for a while, and drawing on my pattern for a while, I had a great idea. Why not take an existing clothing item that is SIMILAR to what I'm trying to do, and just dissect it?

I found an old pair of jeans that fit very well, and decided to make them the donor item. The cut on these jeans is a tad out of date, so it's not like a giant fashion loss for me or anything.

As I was prepping to develop my pattern, I decided that I would document the steps I go through. Not only for my own reference, but in case there are others out there who are experiencing the same issues.

I start with my donor jeans, and cut them straight down the crotch line. Then I cut it straight down the inseam. This leaves me with two separate leg pieces.

I do all of my patterning using a roll of paper that I got from Home Depot. I believe the intended purpose of this stuff is to cover your carpet if you're painting the walls or something. I don't know. It's cheap, and really great. I like to iron it flat, as it is rolled pretty tight when you get it.

Since I've already worked out my pattern for the leg, I'm really just focused on the lower torso area. My pattern will focus on that. I lay the fabric down on the paper. I have a cutting board underneath it for stability. Ideally, I would do this on a big flat floor. Since I don't have that, the cutting board on my carpet will have to do. I use rolls of tape to put some weight on the fabric to help keep it in place while tracing it.

Here is the outline of the fabric. I learned a lot from this exercise. The waist line is not perpendicular to the inseam line. That was a big surprise to me, and totally explains how you get more fabric on the butt area. That was really the big surprise and lesson learned from this exercise. Very good to know.

As you can see in the above pic, I use a circular cutter on my patterns. I find that it's a bit faster than scissors, and it's also really good at cutting smooth arcs.

In this next pic, I'm lining up the inseam lines on the pattern and copying the cut one over to the uncut one. I learned a while ago that these lines need to match. Another great tip that took me a while to figure out.

Here is the final pattern, with a few tiny tweaks made to it. There are always inconsistencies, but I try to minimize them. In this case, I didn't notice until I had drawn the pattern that the cuts I made on the jeans were not totally straight. Had to correct that.

Now it's time to cut out the fabric. I'm using twill here for a couple of reasons. First, I had it on hand. This is the stuff I ordered in an effort to find the right stuff for my Superman Returns cape. Yes, I know it's orange. It also has almost no stretch to it. That's a good thing, as the mesh has only a LITTLE stretch to it. So the goal is to build a pattern that fits me well, so that when I build the final one out of stretch, it will fit great.

Here I am laying the pattern down on the fabric, and again using the tape as weights. It's funny how much easier it is to work with twill than milliskin. Just a totally different experience.

Here you see the pattern traced out on the fabric.

I again use the circular cutter to get the fabric into the shape I want.

I flip the paper pattern and repeat the process on another piece of fabric. This way I have a right leg and a left leg. I also have a hard time keeping track of which side of the fabric is the "right" side, and which is the "wrong". The Right side is the face of the fabric that will face outward. Wrong side goes inward.

I then pin up the inseams on both legs. I'm again using my technique of putting the pins perpendicular to the seam line. I'm not sure if it's entirely necessary on this fabric, but I find it a good habit to be in.

Then I serge the seams.

Then I pin up the crotch of both legs. The hardest part is making sure the inseams line up right in the center.

Et Voila! The finished product. Surprisingly, these clown shorts fit me REALLY REALLY well. I was sort of stunned. I think when I factor in the fabric that is lost to the seams from the serger (about a quarter inch on each side) they were scaled down a bit and worked really well.

The next steps involve just iterating through minor changes. I put the shorts on, figure out what needs to be changed. I draw on them with sharpie, indicating where they need to be tighter or looser. Then I just repeat the process until I get it right.

I'm sure this process will get a lot easier as I move forward and get more comfortable with how the fabric works, and how the seams work. As for now, it's really a shotgun approach where I just make some random changes and hope they work. It's pretty time consuming, but I enjoy the results.

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