Monday, 23 March 2009

Chasing my Tail (and other body parts)

One day I might be a perfect woman. I will be able to tidy and clean the house (thoroughly), cook tea in time for dinner, bake a cake, paint my toenails, do the gardening, make a dress and put a ribbon in my hair all in one day. But for the moment I am struggling, hence the scarcity of posts over the last week or so. It must be something to do with spring and the beautiful weather, but now that the equinox has happened, there might be more time (daylight) to perfect my perfect plan...

This picture is of Jimmy and I in Cuba a few years ago. I am wearing a dress that I made myself. It wasn't until our second trip to Cuba that I realised why the locals kept giving me strange looks. Between my black hair, brown eyes, Mediterranean blood, and handmade dress, they thought I was one of them "fraternising" with foreigners. I wondered why they kept speaking to me in Spanish and Mr M in German!! I still have this dress pattern, and have decided to make another, because it is my favourite summer dress and is extremely comfortable. Infact, the pattern envelope contains another, similar style, so I made that one first. Here it is:

It took alorra lorra concentration and consternation to finally realise that the reason it didn't fit up top at first was because the 'bust points' were in the wrong place. Once I figured that out and sorted the darts, it fitted like a dream. Hurrah!

Not only have I been busy in the sewing room/garden/allotment, having nearly killed ALL of my tomato seedlings by leaving them out in the greenhouse by accident, I have been busy learning how to be a fashion designer - which is how I figured out the bust point conundrum..

I have been on a Pattern Cutting course as previously mentioned and have been absolutely rivetted to my notes and the the techniques and tips gained from them and our lovely teacher June. It's been such fun! Did you know that the average body is 7 heads tall? And the average model is an '8 header', whereas fashion drawings depict bodies of 9 heads. In science, this is called "anthropometrics" where the human head is a modular factor of size. Fascinating isn't it? Here are some more:

The Arm is 3 heads long
Arm to shoulder is 3.5 heads
The hand is the same length as the distance from hairline to chin and half the width of the face.


The study of Anthropometrics came from the Renaissance where such questioning of human proportions was born. By the end of the 18th century the concept of clothes pattern systems became established, based on this system. It was the Guild of Military Tailors, in the laborious mass production of uniforms, who discovered that bodies of a certain height and weight have similar measurements. And so we have industry 'standards' which are used in fashion design and bulk manufacture. These standards have changed through the ages, as we have changed shape over the ages, and there are lots of basic standard measurements which go through several sizes, like distance from waist to upper hip is 20cm and radius of bust area from bust point is 8cm.

And so I have been making more blocks, and I now have a complete set for myself. I also have a set of quarter blocks. It's amazing how small these are - not much bigger than a Barbie!! These blocks help no end with altering commercial patterns to my shape, and drafting simple patterns of my own. Like this corset pattern - drawn from scratch, it's not yet perfect (or even remotely tight!) but there's nothing like making mistakes for learning.


But i don't think Vivienne Westwood need worry yet ...

19 comments:

Helen said...

Looks like you're getting on really well with the pattern drafting. I would love to learn to do this properly and to have clothes that fit rather than using commercial patterns which never quite deliver what I had hoped! I love your 'Cuban' dress - such a lovely shape. Like you I am rarely identified as British abroad - husband and I tend to get French/Italian/Greek - best trick for foxing restaurant touts that I've found it to reply in Welsh :D

Billie Jane said...

I have also been itching to get into the workshop and do some sewing... have a large piece of material calling to me that it wants to be a skirt... just havent had the time to fulfil its wishes!

Mummy Boo Bear said...

Your dresses are lovely! And you are so clever, I dont think I would ever be brave enough to make clothes. Well not since I was 17 anyway with very scary results!

You must get quite a creative buzz from it.

Kitty said...

I can't remember the last time I made something for me to wear. I used to make some lovely dresses for No.1 when she was little, but not me. You are a clever thing, and I admire your industry enormously! x

Indigo Blue said...

ey, the past 19 years has just flashed before my eyes! I still have my quarter blocks, mine are in green card. Love the dress. This summer I think I will see what blocks I have stuffed up in the attic storage cupboards and make something to wear. Sophie has already put in a dress order.

Joleo said...

That course looks to have been invaluable. I'll be tempted to do something like that myself if I can find it.

I was mistaken many times as Turkish in the part of North London I lived in, which is how I know the Turkish for dimples - gamze :)

Jo Power said...

Wow you have been busy love the summer dress. I have never made myself a dress as not good at sewing but I did knit a jumper once that was so big it could have been a dress although the neck line was somewhere near my navel. LOL. Good luck with the corset

fabricandbags said...

Love the dress and very summery too. You've obviously really enjoyed the pattern cutting course - it all sounds a bit complicated to me! What a difference it makes to clothes "fitting" properly though, which I always struggle with!
Cheers
Anne

Primrose Corner said...

Fascinating - you're obviously really enjoying your course.

Love the dress. My son is often mistaken for being German (when on holiday and folk don't know us )... and that's lead to some interesting conversations...

dottycookie said...

Pattern drafting would be such a useful skill - good for you for tackling it!

Emma said...

I'm seriously impressed with BOTH of your dresses - such a pretty neckline. The pattern cutting though - wow - they look very professional. WHat a great skill to master. Emma x

Sandi said...

Interesting info on the proportions. Since I am so short I think I am only five heads. Perhaps if I had five heads then I would have lots of hands and could be the perfect woman and get all those things done.........like the gardening because I also often kill green things because I forget to water them or bring them in from the cold. I love the sundress. I had a favorite pattern I used to make of a sundress but that was in my younger days. Ah, memories. :-)

Tracy said...

Seriously impressed with your pattern skills, Julia! And those dresses are wonderful...So funny with your dress-wearing adventures in Cuba! ;o) But the pattern history was very interesting--did not know all that before. I can't recall the last time I sewed something for myself. I am working on a pair of summer outfits for our young niece from patterns my mum sent me from the US...slow work as I've not had much sewing time of late. So I sympathize with your super-woman dreams! Happy Days to you all :o) ((HUGS))

jennyflower said...

We did all that heads into body stuff in life drawing for 'A' level art. Never really appreciated it's use for dressmaking before-cool! Never get mistaken fr anything exotic-do you think it's the Kagoul?

Gina said...

That is fascinating. I would love to do a pattern cutting course like that. Your Cuban dress is great.

Debbies-English-Treasures said...

Love your hand-made dresses!
And wow!
Being a fashion designer, was one of my dreams... but gave it up while on college, as I found the maths quite "complicated" and I don`t even know how to sew! Lol
So, no chance at all!!
Debbie Moss

jellybelly*jellybrain said...

I've sent you an email - let me know when you get it :o)

The Coffee Lady said...

you're doing far too much. Stop it. You're making me look bad.

Limecat said...

I love the neckline on that dress. It's gorgeous.