Sunday, 21 December 2008

Optimistic Christmas Dress Part One, the Pattern

I am calling this the optimistic dress because there are four days till Christmas and I have to work two of them and I am still planning to make a new dress! Last year I was completely broke and made ALL of my Christmas gifts, and I had to wear old clothes on Christmas day. This year I made nothing for others and really, really want something new to wear for myself.
The chosen pattern is BWOF 10-07-105. Luckily I always check Pattern Review before starting a new project and I discovered there are some issues with this dress, specifically in the boobage area. Since I am wearing a D these days, I knew I'd better address this rather than take my usual course of action, namely 'hope for the best'.
First I took my measurements - high bust, full bust, waist, hip, plus the length from my shoulder over the fullest part of the bust to where I wanted the empire seam to sit (I hate it when the seam hits the wrong point and just looks dowdy!). I chose the size(s) to trace from my high bust (38 to the under arm), waist (42) and hip (44) - aargh, these numbers are creeping up and I am not happy! Anyhoo, I traced off the pattern, adding 5cm to the skirt length so it would hit just below my kneecap, and then set about dealing with the bodice pattern.
I decided that I would get rid of the bust dart and convert it to gathers under the bust. When you do an FBA you create extra fullness that you need to get rid of in a dart or similar, and I am not a fan of enormous darts.
The next thing was to measure the side seam of the bodice. At only 9cm, this was not going to be deep enough to hit where I think it should (around the bottom of my bra band) so I added 2cm in length to the whole bodice, front and back. Remember if you do this not to just continue the side seam line down - because it's tapered you'll make the bottom edge shorter which will cause problems later. Measure the bottom edge and make sure it's the same as the original, swing the side seam out a little if you need to.
The first step in an FBA is to find the bust point. When I learned pattern drafting, we were always told to shorten the dart to about an inch away from the bust point, I'm not convinced this always happens in commercial patterns as I see a lot of 'pointy boobs', but that's what should be done. I guesstimated the bust point to be about 2 cm from the end of the bust dart in this particular pattern so I extended the mid line of the dart to this point. Then I joined the shoulder, lower edge and centre front to the same point. I also marked notches 2cm either side of the line from bust point to lower edge. These will be my gathering guides - all the new fullness will end up between these marks and then I'll just gather the area back to 4cm.

I swung the dart closed and allowed the bottom edge to open up. I taped it temporarily as I'll use the dart line again later! Thanks to my fella for providing a finger in need - he is fascinated with how I do this stuff and is always willing to help - bless him.
Next I sliced up to the shoulder and open up the amount needed. My full bust measurement is 4cm bigger than my high bust measurement (which doesn't technically make me a 'D' I know, but it's what I need to wear anyway!). This means I need to add 2cm on each side of the bodice, so I opened up the pattern by 2cm.

Still with me? Okay, good. The next step is to take into account the added length of a full bust (the previous step took care of the width). I measured the pattern from the shoulder, through the bust point to the bottom edge and worked out what I needed to add based on the measurement I took earlier. This was 3.5cm. I opened the dart again and this time opened it up at the bust point instead of the side edge, by 3.5cm.

Oh, I really hope this is helping, I'm starting to feel confused on your behalf! Next I cut through to the centre front and dropped this piece down by the same amount.

Finally, I patched all the gaps and re-drew around the pattern piece. Remember on the bottom edge don't just join the gap with a straight line, you need to measure the cut edges and keep this length consistent in the new section (sorry, that's not really clear but I don't know how to write it). You can see how my bottom edge has a curve in the new section. Try to visualise how that will look in three dimensions and I think you'll see why it needs to be this way.

I would normally re-trace the pattern but I've run out of butter paper so this is my actual pattern piece for the time being. Must remember to get to an art supply shop before Christmas!

I'll cut and sew the lining today as a kind of toille, then if all goes well I'll get cracking on the main dress. Wish me luck!

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