How I Sew, Part 1

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hey, gang!  I figured I'd let you in on some "trade secrets" regarding how I put together a lot of what I work on.  A lot of my process is influenced by my background in theatrical design and construction.  I learned a particular way of sewing that is kind of an offshoot of the regular kind of home sewing one does with a store-bought commercial pattern (like Vogue or Simplicity or Butterick, for example).

I use a method called "line-to-line" sewing.  In a nutshell, instead of cutting out a pattern with an automatic 5/8ths inch seam allowance, I literally draw each line on the fabric and sew the lines together.  Most costumes shops cut around each of their hand-made patterns with an inch of seam allowance (to allow for fitting adjustments and use on other actors in the future) but end up trimming away what they don't need.  The biggest difference is sewing on a line instead of sewing a certain distance from the edge.

So to develop the pattern for my coat, I used a size 12 "sloper" (available in stores) and adjusted it to what I needed.  A sloper is a basic pattern for a specific set of standardized measurements common to various sized bodies.  I simply traced the commercial pattern along the seam allowances marked onto a piece of kraft paper, then adjusted it to what I needed.

Pattern alteration is an art in itself, and people get paid big bucks to do it in the manufacturing industry.

Knowing that all my fabric was just 8" wide, and that I had very very little to work with, I used each piece that I had to it's maximum potential, and adjusted the pattern to what I needed.  Coat like, curvy pieces for interest, no real shaping involved.  Notching all the pattern pieces for markings on the fabric to line up (so the curves fit accurately) was a time consuming process.  I developed a collar pattern, and adjusted the sleeves for a little more room in the arm.

Reassembling all the pieces after cutting them out, I re-adjusted the pattern so I could cut out the coat's lining pieces, which don't have the curves in them.

And voila!  The beginning of a most unusual coat!

As I move forward on different projects, I'll share more of how I put things together.  Until then, live life with Relish!

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