If you read last week’s post on grading a pattern up and understood the concepts behind it, then let me tell you: grading a pattern down in size is really, really easy! Once you have grading up under your belt, down is literally just the opposite procedure! Begin by tracing the pattern pieces as before, being sure to include that horizontal line for matching purposes.

You’ll follow the same dividing line principles as I outlined in the previous post. But instead of cutting apart and spreading the pieces, you’ll be overlapping them to reduce the width of the piece (thus, grading down). How do we do this?

Once you have marked those dividing lines on your pattern pieces, draw lines parallel to indicate how much the sections need to overlap. The math we did last week still works for grading down, and so we’ll stick with our example grade (4″ overall) for continuity. The red lines on the diagram above indicate the dividing lines, and the blue shows were the sections will overlap.

Now the next step just depends on your own preference: you can either fold the pattern piece or cut and overlap the pieces. I tend to do the latter, especially on larger pieces. Once you’ve either folded or cut and overlapped your pieces, you’re done grading down!

To overlap, begin folding along one line (in this case, the red one), creasing that edge. Fold it back up and over, creasing the second line (blue) so it is under the original fold. This subtracts the total amount (3/8″ for our example) from the pattern. Continue with the remaining lines.

For the slash and overlap method, begin by cutting along one of the lines (red). Overlap that cut edge over the other, to meet the second line (blue) to take up the grading amount (3/8″ for the example). Make sure the horizontal match line is even and secure in place with a bit of tape.

Again, you will need to true the edges and smooth out the cut edges as well as any darts that were disrupted during grading.

Wasn’t that easy? The “rules” for grading in general apply to both grading up and down, so once you’ve understood the one you can easily do the other. I’ve included a couple more dividing diagrams below for other pattern styles. { click here to continue reading this post }

June 29, 2012 · 19 lovely thoughts
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Welcome to part two of this series! In this post I’ll be covering the basics of grading up–or enlarging a pattern. This is perhaps the most often requested, since a lot of vintage patterns in smaller sizes survive. But if you need to grade down, then never fear–that is the next installment!

One thing I want to say before I get started is that this is my own method for pattern grading and this is by no means comprehensive. If you want to learn more indepth methods to grading, there are a lot of textbooks available that I’m sure get into more nitty gritty details and techniques than I have time to cover. But for grading up a few sizes, this is a good option for the home sewist.

That brings me to another thing I want to point out: this is a method that is best suited to grading up a few sizes at a time. Any more than 3 sizes, and you risk distorting the pattern edges. If you need to go from say a vintage size 10 (30″ bust) to a vintage size 20 (40″ bust), I’d suggest grading first up to a size 14 (34″ bust) and then to a size 20. Trust me: the larger the gaps between the pieces, the greater the risk you accidentally loose the edge integrity and throw off placement for things like darts. (Don’t forget you’ll also need to lengthen the pieces during the grading process, which I’ve touched on at the end.)

Final point (and then we’ll get started, I promise!): As I said in my previous post, grading does not negate the need for a fitting muslin. Grading is simply enlarging (or reducing) the pattern. It does not magically make it fit your body perfectly (unless, of course, you are one of those lucky people who can fit a pattern straight out of the envelope–how I envy you! hehe!). So grade, make a muslin, and fit. ‘Nuff said.

Begin by tracing your pattern–I never cut my original pattern to grade (especially vintage patterns), as I want to keep the original intact. I went over what I use in the previous post for tracing my patterns. Essentially, I lay the piece on my cardboard cutting mat (I usually iron it gently and on the lowest, non-steam setting first), and the transparent paper over top. I trace all the edges, markings and grainlines. Be sure to label each piece too! Cut them out once they’re traced.

For the example pattern, I’m going to say that we’re grading from a 32″ bust/24″ waist/34″ hip to a 36″ bust–a 4″ difference. We’re going to be doing an even grade (I’ll go over some of the basics of uneven grading later on in the series), so the overall grade will be 4″ resulting in a 36″ bust/28″ waist/38″ hip. Here’s where you’ll need to do a little math!

Take that grading measurement–4″–and divide by 2. This measurement (in the example it’s 2″) is what we’ll grade over the entire 1/2 of the pattern. (Meaning that most patterns have a half bodice front, half bodice back, etc.–it’s essentially half a dress!) Since we have a front and back piece for the bodice, we’ll divide this 2″ by 1/2 again to reach 1″. This 1″ is the total grade for the front or back. (So when you have graded your pieces and make a complete bodice, it’ll have been graded 4″ overall.)

We’re almost done with the math! Take that 1″ and divide it by 3. I never divide evenly, since it gets a little cumbersome. Generally I’ll do a 3/8″-1/4″-3/8″ division for a 1″ grade. You’ll see where these measurements go below. Write this down somewhere, since you’ll use this on each front and back piece to reach that overall 4″ grade.

This is the pattern I’ll be using as an example for the instructional portion of this post. It’s fairly simple, and I feel showcases the basic principles of pattern grading the best. Scroll to the bottom for a few more schematics of other pattern types too!

One thing I almost always do on pattern tracings prior to diving them (otherwise referred to as “slash and spread”) is make a horizontal line across the pattern. Your pattern may already have this in the form of a lengthen/shorten line, but if not, it’s a good idea to draw one now as it helps match things up once you’ve cut the pattern apart.

This shows the basic dividing lines for most bodice patterns: from neckline to waist, shoulder to waist, and underarm to waist. Note on the back pattern piece rather than going straight from the armhole down, I angled the line. This is because a straight line would have ended above the waist, which we also want to grade up. Note I also tend to avoid cutting in the middle of a waistline dart. Of course, your pattern will probably vary–but once you know the basics of where to place your lines, you’re set. I have rarely deviated from this configuration in the years I’ve been grading by hand–usually it works for the majority of styles.

To go along with our example grade (4″ increase overall), these bodice pieces have been cut along those dividing lines and spread the appropriate amount we calculated above. I tend to spread less over the shoulder to waist slash. Why? Because adding too much to that area tends to give a pattern “linebacker shoulders”. If you have to do a Full Bust Adjustment, wait to do that until after you’ve graded the pattern–don’t try to “cheat” and add it at this point!

This is how I usually set up my cutting board while I slash and spread the pattern pieces: a piece of paper underneath, and the graded piece (slashed and spread) pinned overtop. I tend to just retrace the entire piece. But you can also tape additional paper underneath if that’s easier. It really just depends on the size of the grade!

The last thing you need to do after you grade the pattern, as you’re tracing (or after you’ve taped in other paper), is to true the edges of the pattern as they’ve probably gotten a bit jagged with all this grading! This just means to connect with a smooth line one point to another as above in red (on the front piece). Cut out your new pattern piece (if you’ve traced, making sure you’ve transferred all darts, grainlines, etc.) and you’re done!

For more grading examples, click the “more” link below. { click here to continue reading this post }

June 22, 2012 · 76 lovely thoughts
posted in sewing,tutorials · tags: , ,

Somehow, some way, I finally finished the 1940s playsuit I’ve been working on for the past three weeks! I think it’s safe to say that the days of knocking out projects quickly are over for me. But in a way, that’s proved useful for me: I’ve had to slow down and become more patient with myself (nothing is more frustrating than to spend a precious hour on sewing, only to have to rip it all out again!) and the process. After tinkering on this set, I am so excited it’s done! Pictures of me modeling the pieces will follow shortly. But until now, the trusty dressform will suffice!

On the topic of 1940s playsuits (also known as sunsuits): I have decided this summer is The Summer of the Playsuit for me. I already have my sailor playsuit, this one, and possibly another in the works! They are just so darn comfortable for the hot days ahead, and I love breaking up the pieces and coming up with new outfits! I thought I’d share some of my favorite vintage playsuit inspiration with y’all!

images: McCall 5650 on Etsy | Ann Rutherford | Simplicity 1710 on VPW | Dorothy Lamour.

images: Simplicity 3380 on VPW | Hollywood 1135 on Etsy | 40s playsuit on Etsy | Ann Sheridan.

images: 40s novelty playsuit on Etsy | Butterick 3756 on VPW | Simplicity 1621 on VPW | Deanna Durbin.

So what is your opinion? Playsuits: yay or nay?

June 18, 2012 · 54 lovely thoughts
posted in sewing,vintage inspiration · tags: , ,

While I was planning on posting the updated Vintage Pattern Primer today, the revamped piece has become a bit of a monster (in a totally good way!), which means I’d like a bit more time to refine things and write up my thoughts. So stay tuned for that next week. Instead I’d like to show you something I made awhile ago. Have I ever shown you the dress variation I made for the BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook? I don’t think so!

I was approached by BurdaStyle a couple years ago as the book plan was being hatched, along with many other talented sewers from around the globe. The premise was to create a garment variation based off of one of the “base patterns” in the book. After a submission process, my dress variation was chosen to be included as a full-length tutorial in the book. Which meant I not only had to make the dress, but document all the steps as well as I modified the original pattern to fit my design. Anyone who has ever written sewing instructions may know that it is not an easy task to document a more complicated project and explain it in a way that will be understood when read. The project was a challenge, but one I enjoyed immensely!

Funnily enough, when I sent the dress off to New York to be photographed for the book and go on tour to sewing expos around the country, I didn’t like the dress at all. To me, the red and white looked like a soup can (you know which one!); I was very over the design. A year later when I saw the dress again, having gone to New York to film some videos for the digital version of the book, I wondered why I hadn’t liked the dress! I was completely smitten with it, and had plans to make another version for myself since the original wouldn’t be returned to be for many months.

In the meantime though, life happened and the second version didn’t get made. Eventually the original one was returned and I have been wearing it a lot now that the weather has warmed up! It’s charmingly classic color scheme and button details always make me smile. It’s the perfect summer dress!

  • Pattern: Dress Variation (by me!) as seen in the BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook.
  • Fabric: Lightweight  red and white /cotton twill. (And yes, I seem to be smitten with that color scheme!)
  • Alterations: The original pattern this was based on was heavily modified and is outlined in the BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook.
  • Techniques: This is fairly straight up sewing–not a lot of “new” techniques for sewers that have a couple garments under their belt!
  • Make Again? Maybe. One is enough for my wardrobe at the moment! I also would probably do a few things differently with another version–two years later and I have modified a few sewing processes to streamline things!

So what do you think? Too much like a soup can? hehe! I always feel so odd about posting so much of me on the blog between yesterday’s outfit post and today’s… But I hope no one minds! They’ll be more serious content next week!

Note: 40s reproduction Rita pump from Remix Vintage Shoes | estate sale belt | Target earrings.

June 15, 2012 · 64 lovely thoughts
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If you follow me on Facebook, you probably saw my little note about Gina’s post last week. If not, let me give some background on this sewing swap and project we’re working on in tandem. Several weeks ago I emailed Gina about some vintage patterns, and we ended up sending each other a few both to keep and borrow. I love doing these sorts of swaps with my fellow sewing friends; it’s just as neat to put together a package for someone whose blog I read as it is to get one! Gina was kind enough to lend me the cheongsam-inspired blouse pattern I’ve admired for so long (still trying to decide on fabric for this one–but I need to make it!), and send me a couple others in exchange as well. Aren’t they lovely?

But this little swap doesn’t end with patterns! We both decided we were going to make up one of the patterns we sent each other as a little joint “sew-along” of sorts. It was a hard decision, but I ended up going with the McCalls #7248 because it reminds me a bit of my wedding dress (which is vintage and dates to around the same time as the pattern). I loved wearing that dress on my wedding day, and have often thought I’d like a daywear version. So here’s my chance! Only instead of white linen as my wedding gown was, I’m opting for a fun, tropical print linen I have in my stash. (Yes, I realize half my summer sewing incorporates tropical prints–I blame living in Florida for three years where they were so plentiful!) I have some gorgeous red buttons that Jen gave me, and I think it’s going to make a fun, summer frock!

I’m hoping to share a few bits and pieces as I go along! So stay tuned for those snippets as well as the big reveal in about a month! In the meantime though, I’ve been finishing up my 1940s playsuit project, and hope to share the results of that with you soon! It’s so nice to spend some quality time with my machine again… hehe!

Thank you again, Gina, for sending me these! If you haven’t already, be sure to drop by her delightful blog!

June 11, 2012 · 20 lovely thoughts
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