Jan SAL: Customizing your Custom Pattern with New Details

Right, let’s say you’ve done a shirt-body drape or any other sort of fitting and you’re happy with your results. The next step is to take the muslin apart and trace it onto paper so you can create a working basic pattern. NOT yet a FASHION pattern, please note! Here’s a diagram from my Workshop book’s online content which shows the parts of the muslin I’m particularly interested in, the parts I’ve colored and labelled The FIT.

If I’d pinned some curves into my side seams I’d have traced these, too, from the muslin, but since what I came up with had all straight lines for all side seams, I can just recreate these with a ruler. but please feel free to extend my “The FIT” diagram for your purposes as far down as you’d like your own basic pattern from this test to go. My main reason for originally creating that diagram had as much to do with making the fitting points in my previous post as with the topic at hand today, for which we of course need side seams, whether traced or extrapolated.

In this case, I didn’t try the sleeve on, since I’m actually just updating an old pattern and I like the sleeves on the garments I made from it, so I’m just going to use it as is, double-checking the lengths of course. I’ll show you how I adapt it to each new cuff design when we get to that, never fear. So, following the diagram above, I only traced the seam lines of the upper parts of the front and back, plus the yoke, with a serrated tracing wheel, onto my preferred paper, which comes from a big flip chart like these, because this is easier for me to store and handle than a big roll would be. I also transferred the front outlines to heavy card stock to facilitate marking around them, either on more paper or on fabric with a chalk wheel. I’ll eventually do the backs and yoke the same way, too. Already got the sleeve…

So, my next step is one you may not be ready to emulate, but I’ll proceed anyway since it may be of future interest, or helpful if you’re already leaning in this direction…by which I mean: DIGITAL. All I’ll show could of course be done perfecty well on paper in the traditional way, but the more I do with digital tools the more I wonder how I got on without them. The answer is that I used to skip a lot of steps, which you could reasonably interpret as being more efficient, but I’m really enjoying my new processes anyway, so I’m already converted. The improvement in my archives alone is totally conclusive, but the accuracy’s better, too.

I take my tracings to my scanner, which readers of my newest book will recognize as an “office”-sized device, scaled to work with paper sheets call “Ledger” in the US or US B, which is 11×17 inches or exactly twice a US Letter sheet, or about 28x43cm. It also prints on US Super B, or 13×19 inches, or 33×48.3cm, but the key feature is that it scans with a ledger-sized window. If I was stuck with letter-sized scans, I wouldn’t be doing this. But the 3-in-1 printer I use is scarcely more expensive than a typical letter sized one. So I’m in. Here’s what my scans look like:

You’ll note that these already have seam allowances, which is not typical for basic patterns, but it seemed like less work at the moment to leave them, so I did; the main thing is simply to always clearly mark what you’ve got, so you never have to guess if that edge you’re tracing or cutting is a seamline or an allowance.

So, using Photoshop (any capable image editor would do), I cleaned up the scans and oriented their centers vertically, then popped them into Illustrator (apparently the free software Inkscape has almost all the same functions), where I’d already mocked up some design ideas, like so (the ones on grey are earlier ideas):

The file I dropped my scans into was already set up with tiled art-boards matching my 11×17-in paper, with all edges overlapped and outlined to seamlessly link the printable area of the papers, so any work I drop on top will all print out with obvious match points and without gaps. (I’m planning a thorough tutorial on how I use Illustrator and Photoshop sometime later this year, but please ask questions whenever.) Like this:

With the front scans in place for tracing, the file looks like this:

And like this after tracing and extrapolating the side seams:

The vertical line from the neckline is a 30-in.marker to indicate the hem length I want for this project.

Here’s the design drawing scaled up to match that 30-in. length. Since the design wasn’t originally measured in any way (I just eyeballed a reasonable-seeming shape so I could get started with playing around with details on it), I just wanted now to match the visual proportions I’d come up with to the actual length of the project. As you’ll see next, I was quite off on the real width I’d need, but this didn’t bother me, since the drawing was just simulating the garment proportions as worn, not laying flat, though it doesn’t look that way at first; shirts always look weirdly wide when laid flat, I find… Note that I’ve also mapped out the CF panel shapes onto the tracing, including a CF overlap..

Here’s how that happened, using measured marking lines for the finished widths and length:

And here’s the front pockets having been dragged out to match the real width:

Bringing in the backs, I had to deal with the armholes being at different heights before matching the side seams and hems. The underarm is clearly the best place to hide any discrepancies, so that’s where I put this. I’ll redraw the total armhole circumference when I get to the sleeves and have the cap length in front of me to work with.

Here’s the start of the back-pattern transfer. I decided to lower the back hemline a bit, and have yet to exactly work out how I want to do these pockets. But the basic outline is there.

Finally, here’s the front patterns ready for printing. Note how I have only to drag in and out different pattern diagrams over the tiled paper grid to print the complete pattern, rather than having to create new grids for each. The saved pattern parts can be rearranged anytime.

Well, that seems like plenty to digest for today! Questions welcome, of course.

Up next, I’ll get to the back patterns, and to the sleeves and those plackets.



1 Comment

  1. Sue on January 13, 2016 at 11:13 am

    This is an awesome post, David, so full of detail. I feel a bit left out because I don’t have the requisite software and only a regular sized printer, so I am using large sheets of paper and just drawing my pattern. My husband is very conservative, so he’s getting a very traditional shirt.

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