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The starting point of designing a dressmaking pattern.

Last week I launched my second dressmaking pattern – a girls dungaree pinafore dress. Part of my plan for my dressmaking pattern range is to include patterns for all the family. I started with kids patterns as I have a good selection that I designed for classes and have been using since the beginning of Bobbins and Buttons, they have been well tried and tested in classes and still look current. Many of the kids styles that I plan to publish are quick and easy makes perfect for the busy mum who wants to factor in some individuality to their children’s wardrobe with choice of colours and fabrics. I am also hoping to create a range that has possibilities for new versions and adaptations. I am busy writing up some of my ideas for adaptations as tutorials here on my blog, I am sure you will have loads more ideas to. I think the design process is one of the most exciting things about making your own or your kids clothes. The thrill of selecting fabrics, mixing patterns, adding trims, looking for buttons and creating an outfit.

The first ladies wear patterns won’t be published until later in the year. I already have three in mind, again these are styles that have been tried and tested by me and in classes. Styles that will stay up to date for some time by fabric choices and the way they are worn. I am planning two jersey patterns and two woven patterns to start the ladieswear range. All apart from one pattern these are already developed. The missing pattern is for a jersey dress, which works as a layering item for an apron dress as well as a dress in its own right. To give me plenty of time to work on this and develop it I drafted this first version.

I thought I would share some of my process of developing a pattern in this post. I am keen to test and wear new designs as much as possible before they get considered for the pattern range. Even after years of experience things sometimes seem different after wearing an item a few times than how you first envisage.  The difference between my own small business and working in the trade is you can have more time to get a style right, deadlines are a bit more move-able in the quest for the right result. This was a fairly speedy draft and has some of the elements I still want to keep. However there is much tweaking needed. I have already redrafted this pattern and cut the next version. I like to get stuck into a project quickly and make something so I have something I can see and work on.

I have been wearing this dress and though I am not entirely happy with it, it is ridiculously comfy and easy to wear which makes it easier to forgive the faults.  I wanted hidden pockets, however these are definitely set to low. I have extended the seam around the back so it has an easy cropping line for a top version. The pockets also need to be a little bit deeper. I don’t know if I am alone here but I like a pocket to be usable. It wouldn’t work to put too much in a jersey dress pocket for fear of distortion but it’s good to know you can carry a tissue, real of thread, shopping list, child’s small toy etc etc.

The biggest area that needs addressing is the sleeves, always the trickiest bit to sort out, luckily I made this version in a fairly bulky jacquard knit that I found in my stash. It highlighted the sleeve looking bulky and slightly unflattering around the shoulder area. Had I have made it in a lighter weight French terry or similar I might not have noticed. I have completely reshaped this area for my new test piece and plan to test in a couple of different weights of jersey fabric once I am happy with the fit. The neckline is a faced slash neck which looks OK but on wearing seems a little wide and a little low, new neckline now added to the second draft.

I cut separate facings for the sleeves and hem because I like a nice deep hem and like the way the extra weight make the hem sit. I will be trying a version with a grown on hem as well which may be more practical for a sewing pattern. I sometimes find facings easier than turning a hem, especially a deep hem as you already have a sort of ready made guideline to follow. I would love to hear your thoughts on facings versus turned hems, it would help me decide which to go with for the final pattern.

I added vents at the side seams again a finish I think completes the hem on a simple dress like this. Don’t look to closely at my somewhat dodgy pattern matching! I was definitely in to much of a rush to see how this dress was going to turn out! Although it is a wearable toile – well that’s my excuse anyway!

All in all I’m happy with the start of this project, although so far I wouldn’t wear this with the planned counterpart. And so on to the next version….

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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