Tuesday, December 3, 2013

In my mind's eye...

I had a call from a former co-worker the other day, and it set me to thinking about drafting and how we want to follow the instructions given, plug the numbers into an equation and presto, at the end of the day you will have a pattern for that garment you see in your minds eye.

Well it just doesn't work that way, does it?

Anyway, my friend was making costumes for a community theatre group and had to make a frock coat for a gentleman with a 58 inch chest and a 64 inch waist. Yes, a challenging figure to draft and fit for. So, he picked up his trusty photocopy of the MTOC, (that he hadn't used in years)  and started to draft a body coat for this gent, plugging in his numbers and diligently following the instructions. Then he got to the point of knowing that it didn't look right and he called for help.

After dinner, over to my house he came with his draft, and his book and his frustration with it all.
What can you do in a situation like this?
So we sat down, and I tried to help him, without referring back to the original draft, because I knew it was trouble. Did he have a full set of measurements, no. Balance measures, no.  Photos, no. OK, so we are just winging it here, so I started drawing on his paper  correcting where I thought it was wrong, and offering encouragement where I could, without completely overwhelming him with information.

The point to all this rambling is that I wished I could help him visualize the shape of the person and relate it to the pattern lines on the paper. This is where photos are so helpful because they can indicate things that you may miss in person, or at least sometimes give you a bit more of an objective viewpoint- a bit of distance in a way.

The numbers are just numbers and they don't always indicate where the shape is. One of the most difficult shapes being the very large- because people don't gain weight in a proportional manner.
The drafts for these sizes often apply the extra sizing in one area- the centre front.
As you can see by my drawings, in profile, adding to the CF  looks like it would work, but when you see the shape straight on, you realize that the body is more complex. In this case, the pattern needs manipulation at the sides as well. In reality there are many pattern manipulations that could be done for this body shape, I am just simplifying to make a point. I will point out again and again, that it is so much easier, to have fabric to pin away rather than have to rip open and repin or guess how much more is needed. I don't advocate making a huge shapeless garment but don't be too skimpy either.

Is there a one size fits all solution? No, sorry.  Since each body is different, I do think that visualizing the body shape in three dimensions helps to understand how the fabric will go over it. I guess it is more like sculpture in a way. If you can see the shapes in your minds eye or drawn out on paper, you may have a better chance of success when applying the numbers, or feel freer in deviating from the formula, when things are not working.

In other news, I am making progress on my instructional booklet project, I think I have much better quality now in the photos and like any teaching project, I too have learned a few things along the way!


  1. What did you do with the sides?
    Be thankfull you had not much trouble with his back - if your pic is the reality. I would very much like to see the pattern

    1. My picture is not the person in question, it is just to illustrate the issue. I would have liked to make the pattern for him or attend the fitting but I had other commitments- It would be a good exercise for practice, and a good advanced teaching project!

  2. I'd love to see an entry where we can follow you step by step through a draft from MOTC and see how you walk through them from a set of measurements, Terri.

    1. Yes, well that sounds like quite a task! I will put it on my list. I can certaily see the value of a step by step illustration of the process, similar to what I did with a trouser draft, because it can be daunting to figure out. Not sure if I have a timeline for it though, since I am heavily into the illustration of trouser construction right now.