Sunday, July 13, 2014

Knocking-Off Marfy, Part 1 (featuring MY FIRST SELF-DRAFTED PATTERN EVER!!!)

If you are not yet acquainted with Marfy, here's the link. Don't worry, my blog will still be here in two hours after you're done browsing ogling.


Some of my favorite Marfy designs. Their dresses (daywear, evening, and even bridal) and jackets are amazing.

Now I have to stop extolling Marfy because otherwise I'm going to run out of room for the actual part where I sew things.

...Ok maybe just one more mouth-watering picture.

I love this design. It's very simple--unlike what attracts me to most other Marfy patterns--but it's arresting and flattering at the same time. I love how it creates curves. And I like how the side panels start under the bust, which creates the impression of a prominent chest (something I need help with for this particular style of dress) and sort of blocks off the shoulders and the chest. Plus I knew immediately what I would make it in :D

But it's so...simple. Here's the thing. Marfy patterns are expensive. A knee-length dress like this one will cost you about $20, plus shipping from Italy. And you have to wait. About 3 weeks. I can justify the purchase if I'm looking at some distinctive, intricate design that I wouldn't even know which two ends to put together and it's for a special occasion. But I'd feel guilty splurging for essentially a (flattering, refined) princess-seam dress. So I told myself I would modify a basic pattern and try and  mimic the same effect.

Then I took this beginners pattern-drafting course at Mood (SUPER FUN, by the way) and my head got all big, and next thing you know, 

I'm armed with a dress block, a French curve, and Google trying to figure out how to make a princess-seamed dress. (Except not really, because this design has princess seams AND darts--double whammy.)

So here we go! I'm going to show you how I went about (clumsily and with a minimal amount of pattern-drafting experience) recreating Marfy 3149! 

(Note: Even though I'm not going into every technique I used in detail, I am hyperlinking to all the tutorials I used copied. )

The task: before and after
Picture courtesy of Simplicity patterns
This project was all about dart manipulation. If you're familiar with princess seams, you'll know that they're a set of curved seams that run over the bust area and across the hips and take the place of darts.

There are several great tutorials online about how to change darts into princess seams. The two that I mainly utilized came from Clothing Patterns 101 and A Fashionable Stitch. (Unfortunately these tutorials, along with almost all the others I found, only cover the bodice, but the skirt is very easy to incorporate and I will go over it below. Basically, in both cases, you move the darts, cut the triangular dart out of the pattern, and then cut the pattern piece in half along a line running through the dart.)

On the Marfy pattern, I was not able to use the traditional method because the panel seams do not run over the apex of the bust, meaning that I could not incorporate the correct darts. In fact, there's a dart coming out of the princess seam.

I decided to use the bust dart to take in the necessary curvature in the chest, and as far as the bodice goes the seams would just be for design purposes.

Time for some dart rotation!!!

First I copied my basic dress block onto some blank pattern paper using the really sophisticated method of drawing over it with Sharpie.

Then I used slash-and-spread to combine the horizontal and vertical darts into a single diagonal dart originating from the bottom right corner.

Note: when I used slash-and-spread, I extended the dart about an inch to the apex. When I drafted the final pattern, I shortened it again  to avoid having a pointy pucker right on the most prominent part of my chest.

The back bodice was a little more tricky. I had two darts, one from the shoulder and one from the waist. I combined them into a single waist dart by rotating the dart (which does pretty much the same thing as slash-and-spread, except it works better when the darts don't join up to a single point). I then had to get rid of that dart somehow (it was too tall to incorporate into a princess seam) so I took out the corresponding width along the side seam.

I removed the dart and cut out the triangle on the right-hand side. Which left me with this ridiculously stilted side seam. 
At this point I made a muslin with the determination that if it looked like something that could conform to the human body I would continue with the project, and otherwise I was throwing in the muslin and buying the darn pattern.

But hey!

I actually had some real muslin fabric this time!

Aside from some crazy gaping bucket sleeves (goodness knows where those came from...)

Which I quickly removed...

It looked pretty good! I did make some minor alterations, such as moving the shoulder seam forward and trimming back the armholes.

I then moved on to the skirt. I had two darts on each pattern piece (that comes out to eight darts total!) and I needed to condense them into one per pattern piece. Fortunately, combining skirt darts is easy. Just draw out a new dart with the same length and the combined width of the two original darts, in the location of your choice.

While fitting, I also tapered in the bottom/ hemline of the skirt a little bit to give it some more curvature.

My new skirt pattern, one dart per pattern piece
Time for a full-body muslin!

Wondering why I look like a character from Alice in Wonderland? I have a very good reason riiiiiiight here.
I'm not sure if you can tell through the kaleidoscopic floral, but the muslin was really really tight on me. That's actually good, because the side panels of my real dress are going to be made out of a stretch fabric which will add some ease, and I want the dress to be really form-fitting.

With all the darts now in place, I was good to go to start combining darts into princess seams and forming the style lines I wanted.

The way I did that was by busting out a Sharpie and literally drawing my desired curves onto the clothes I was wearing.
Best part of making a muslin: being able to poke holes, scribble, or seam rip with reckless, destructive abandon.
Unfortunately I don't have pictures of this step because I subsequently tore up the offending garment into individual pattern pieces to transfer my finished design lines back onto the pattern.

Here are the pieces I came up with!

From there it was pretty simple to line up corresponding panels from the bodice and skirt and transfer them afresh onto pattern paper to eliminate the waist seam.

You know what this means...

The moment of truth...Muslin #3!

I'm going to give you guys the benefit of the doubt and drop the watermarks so you can see what the design actually looks like ;)

This muslin has some serious problems. The basting in the side seams is gathering under its own weight and creating wrinkles; plus the side-panel fabric started stretching like crazy so the dress doesn't fit half as well as it should. But I'm not too worried about either of those things because I plan to actually stitch my final garment together and not use 3-year-old pajama fabric with frogs and butterflies on it.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with the style lines. I think this design is really close to the Marfy pattern I was aiming to create. To be perfectly honest, if had I known how much time and effort this project was going to take upon starting it, I probably would have just bought the dang pattern, but I am super proud of myself for drafting my own dress!!!

You'll probably notice that this lovely mock-up garment has an entire sleeve sewn onto one side! I drafted that as well to give myself a basic framework for my ultimate shoulder/arm design. I will be writing another post in not-too-long about how I'm decorating the sleeves for this dress. Spoiler: they're going to be awesome.

Made this hat at a party one time...this is why I am a seamstress and not a milliner ;)
How about an epic parting photo? Every post needs one ;)

Stay posted (no pun intended) for when I use this pattern to make something actually worth wearing ;)