Monday, January 28, 2008

Draping or "...Before You Sew" (part 6)

This entry is about draping garments. This is the sixth in the Things to know series...

My additional information includes: a good form, draping principles, tools and techniques, and why you would/would not want to drape.

Whether sewing for men, women, or children, this information will help you find the help you need to get started draping garments. I emphasize the "getting started" part here, because draping is the most artistic and advanced way to develop a design. If your skills are sculptural, but you are also scientific, and have a reasonable understanding of anatomy, draping can be a satisfying pursuit. Draping will take you from "sewer" to "designer". I warn you, however, that if you start to learn today, you probably won't actually be good at draping for at least another five years. After reading this, you will understand why a good commercial pattern saves you a fortune in time, money, and potential heartache.

Now, I don't say this to discourage you... I say it because it is true. After all, assuming you are still alive and sewing in five years, you will not have wasted your time.

Why you would/would not want to drape...

As an alternative to commercial sewing patterns, and computerized patternmaking programs, draping allows you the freedom to develop your own designs, and determine what pleases your eye as you go. If you love asymmetry, fabric manipulations like twists and knots, bias and other grain line variations, and other unconventional shapes, draping will help you get to what your mind's eye has envisioned much more accurately than any other method.

On the flip side, though... if you aren't really looking to reinvent the wheel, or design for any particularly unusual body type, there are so many pattern companies out there, that what you are imagining has probably already been done, by someone, somewhere...

What draping does require, is a great deal of study, skill, patience, appropriate tools and materials, and... sorry to say... a bit of an investment.

Why study?

When you drape a garment, you will need to understand how grain line affects the drape of the garment, and how to "balance" your seams, and when it may or may not be appropriate to join bias to straight grain. You will need to be able to choose muslin or a muslin substitute that mimics the performance of your fashion fabric. You will need to learn how to account for linings and facings, and construct them in such a way that they do not adversely affect the drape of the garment. You will also need to know some flat patternmaking techniques, for creating things like collars, cuffs, sleeves, linings and facings.

You will need to learn to block your muslin, making sure that you are using an appropriate quality muslin for your project. You will need to learn how to account for stretch, and use the appropriate test fabric for stretch garments as well. You will have to learn about ease and "reach", so that the garment you make can actually accommodate body movement.

On top of all that, your dress form is not likely to match the dimensions of your own body (or the intended wearer), so you will then need to use your fitting knowledge to adjust the pattern for that body.

Why investment?

First off, I strongly recommend that you take a class or get a very high quality book, preferably written by a professor, who can tell you more than just the basics. In addition to just laying fabric prettily over a dress form, you will need to understand the science of what makes a garment work.

You will need a good form, purchased from a reputable vendor, like Ronis Bros, where I purchased my form some ten years ago. They are pricey, yes. They are available in men, children, misses and junior figures (among others). Pads are sold to simulate pregnancy or other figure variations, and there are specialty forms for plus size, petites, etc. Sure, there are cheaper forms, but you need a form that is smooth with no gaps, that you can sink your pins into. Some forms have legs, (for making pants and shorts) and some do not (for dresses, tops, jackets, coats). You will need at least one arm (sold separately). I can't imagine buying a form to sew for men or children, unless I had aspirations of becoming a professional clothing designer, or had professional performers to sew for on a regular basis.

What are the other tools?

Muslin, patternmaking paper (dot or sample paper and possibly oak tag sheets or something fairly sturdy for finished patterns), marking pencils, tracing wheel, notcher, style tape, french curve, hip curve, see-through ruler, fabric scissors, paper scissors, pattern weights (optional) and space to keep all of this!

This post needs no video... mainly because the information is available online for free (see window below). If you can learn this way, great. I would think most people who need a hands-on, in-person experience, though.

Now, of course a person can always try draping experimentally, enjoying the process, and welcoming all happy accidents along the way. It is an artistic experience... lots of fun, possibly frustrating, and certainly not fast!

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