Pattern drafting with Cal Patch

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Just as March's course on line drawing with Lisa Congdon was wrapping up, Creativebug announced they were going to do another month-long course in April with Cal Patch teaching pattern drafting! I was legitimately gleeful. I'd been wanting to learn pattern drafting for about six months, but I couldn't find any local courses on it available to people who aren't in a fashion design program. And let's be honest, me trying to attend college courses at this point is still pretty unrealistic thanks to my super unreliable wellness levels.

This course couldn't have come at a better time, as I'd recently finally designed my own underwear pattern that actually turned out (third try's a charm) and was eager to learn more. I've also really started to love how accessible online courses are - they let me do the work at my own pace from home, so feeling unwell a lot of the time has virtually no impact on my ability to keep up with the course content. Winning combo!

I was somewhat familiar with Cal Patch's crochet work, but I had no idea what an amazing pattern drafter she is. Turns out she used to work in the fashion industry until she became disillusioned with it - now she teaches people to make their own patterns and garments, and build wardrobes that are full of unique quality pieces.

I absolutely loooooooved learning pattern drafting from Cal - she's so great at explaining things, and turned what was previously a magical mystery into something that made sense and was in reality very methodical. Not to mention that she's an all around sweet, calm, and encouraging person who is impossible not to love. It was a bonus getting a little peek into her life through the "intermissions" in each week's video. Her chickens and studio really had me wondering if I might be more cut out for the country life.

Drafting a dress

The first project that we did after taking all of the necessary measurements was creating a basic pattern to make a top, tunic, or dress. All I did was follow along and write down a series of measurements, and then step by step (with a lot of pausing the video), plot them out and create a basic structure that resembled the shape of my body.


Then, with a little improvisation and guesswork (since I don't have a hip curve ruler that helps to create nice curves), I turned that angular drawing into an actual dress shape with seam allowances and all the details of a typical pattern. It required a lot of patience and a bit of math, but it was all very much within my reach and not at all confusing. I attributed this both to Cal's great explanations, and having sewn several garments over the last year, so I could visualize how the pieces should all go together.


Then we got sewing - I'm a fairly competent beginner sewist at this point, but I picked up a TON of great tips from Cal. She doesn't hold back throwing in all these wonderfully helpful tips and tricks for everything from French seams, to binding, to tricks on how to assemble the pieces... I just tried to absorb as much as I could, but it'd probably be worth rewatching the videos all over again to catch some more of them.

I chose a cotton fabric I had in my stash (leftover from the Wiksten Tank I made - don't quote me, but I think it may be Robert Kaufman Chambray - I got a couple colours of it from Spool of Thread last year, and it's wonderful), and added a blue bias facing into the neck, which accented well with the turquoisey green thread I chose. I had decided to make a "wearable muslin" so that if it worked out I could actually wear the dress, and so wanted to give it a few extra details. (Note my wonderful newish glass headed pins - you can iron right on top of them no problem, but they are crazy sharp!) 




I'm quite pleased with how it turned out overall - it fits like a glove! Had it been any tighter in the waist, I wouldn't be able to get it over my shoulders (it has no closure, just pull over style), but it's just wide enough and looks perfectly sized for me once it's on. 

The only little bits that are slightly off are that the shoulders need a little more slope next time (you can see below that the outer edges of them stand up off my actual shoulders).


And the front gapes out ever so slightly, which it turns out is from me attaching the bias facing a tad too tight. No amount of ironing will make it submit! Luckily, these are the sorts of things that only I will actually notice, and they sure won't deter me from wearing it! Next time I will adjust the pattern and techniques slightly - it's all a big experiment after all.


I also realized this dress will make a great replacement for one of my favourite items of clothing - a linen J. Crew dress that I've had for probably over 15 years now. I wear it all the time in the summer, and though it's held up well, such things have a lifespan and eventually start to fall apart, and I fear that day is coming soon for this one.


So yay - self-drafted dress pattern a huge success! I've been working on a second pattern since then for a summer shirt, but it's not quite done yet and my sewing machine is being serviced so it's been on hold for a week (they weren't supposed to have it this long, but that's another story!). I will post all the details about it once it's finished.

I can't wait to design and sew so many more things - the possibilities are endless, and with everything I learned doing this course, I know that future attempts will go much more smoothly than the couple of unsuccessful past ones, where I was completely winging it. You truly can't underestimate the value of learning the basics.


ps. If you want to do this course minus the live chats, it's still up on the Creativebug site!