Slopers are renown in sewing circles as tools for achieving great fit. More than once in the past I have tried to use Adele Margolis Design your Own Dress Patterns. Margolis advises using a commercial sloper pattern, fitting it to your figure and then making that your base pattern to alter for the various stylistic options she illustrates.
Margolis’ book is now rightly revered as a sewing classic and a source of creative inspiration. However, there is a gap in the text in that it gives run of the mill fitting advice when sewing your own personal sloper. Often with commercial patterns fixing one problem, created another problem, and fixing that second problem created a third, and so on. I felt like I was essentially redrafting the pattern, making several muslins and still not getting a great result. The labor was intensive and I began to surmise that I was trying to customize a pattern that was originally created for measurements wholly different from my own.
What if I Started Out with a Pattern Cut for My Measurements?
Trial and error mainly resulting in error was a condition especially true for pants. I have never gotten anywhere near a decent fit from a commercial pants pattern. After years of disappointment I came to the conclusion that, though potentially time-intensive, learning to draft my own personal pattern might ultimately save me both time and tears.
Now, where to find such a book since most of the famous sewing classics from mid-twentieth century adroitly choose to ignore the “women in trousers” phenomena by giving little or no advice on sewing or fitting said garments.
So I did some title research on both Amazon and the local library website and came up with Finally it Fits: The no-scare Home Patternmaking System for everyone, every size by Ruth Amiel and Happy Gerhard. That one of the authors was so brightly named worked to quench any lingering trepidation I might have. (As they say – what’s in a name? But so hard to live up to I thought.)
Also the book was published in 1973 so I assumed that the authors would offer at least minimal instructions for drafting pants.
This is a Terrific Pattern Drafting Text
Amiel and Gerhard offer wonderful advice and complete step-by-step illustrations that walk you through the entire process. You do have to take a gazillion measurements. But as a home sewer that shouldn’t scare you. Numerous design options are offered with hundreds of line drawings, the last illustration numbered 521. When you first browse the book you think, “Oh, my word, is this too complex?” But after you begin the process you are thankful for so many illustrations as nothing is left to chance. There is no complex math involved though a small calculator near will help you in quartering some of the measurements.
Working with the Measurement Charts
Reminder – if your calculator gives you a number with .33 or .67, that would be 3/8th or 5/8ths approximately. .5 would be ½ inch, making .2 something near ¼ inch, and .8 about ¾ inch. Unless you are a mathematical wizard you need not fret yourself silly over these tiny measurements. Approximate and any minor adjustments will come out in the fitting.
The other point to know is that you sometimes have to work an earlier sloper in order to have the correct measurements for a later sloper. For example, I had to create a skirt sloper in order to fill in the chart for the pants sloper.
Most authorities glibly advice the home sewer to add so many inches at only one or at most two points in the pattern, say at the bust or waist. But this book has a detailed chart for coat, suit, blouse, cape and kaftan style coat,that offers basic ease for several key points on each pattern. Unfortunately ease for skirts and trousers are not given, which is disappointing since the charts are so complete for the styles cited above. Also an illustration showing ease added to the basic pattern would be informative, but all in all, the authors provide more extensive information than is typical.
Working with the Slopers
The authors warn that the initial fitting sloper will fit like a second skin and they are true to their word. The bodice sloper was rather alarming on first beholding my mirrored image. Thankfully they do provide an ease chart for your final sloper, but advise you to fit the second skins and then add wearing ease. After you have fit your basic bodice, skirt and trouser the text offers various collars, sleeves and skirt lines. Again, these slopers are without designer ease, so you would need to begin your design getting the pattern to fit with wearing ease only, and then adding the currently fashionable design ease and any other stylistic features such as pockets etc.
I really liked the book and used it recently to create a pants sloper with the best fit I have ever had. The muslins did require several fine-tunings but I never experienced the frustration of past attempts using commercial patterns. Given how much I enjoyed the pants drafting experience I am looking forward to drafting a personal bodice, skirt, dress and sleeve sloper. Here is an outline of slopers offered so you can decide for yourself if this book is for you.
- Moving Bust Darts
Basic Unfitted Bodice for Loose Blouse or Jacket
- A-Line Flaried
- A-Line Gathered
- Half Circle
- Full Circle
- Box Pleats
- Double Kick Pleats with Inset
- Wrap Around
- Chemise Straight
- Chemise A-Line
- Center Pleat
- Other Pleats
- Cascade Ruffle
- Square neck
- Funnel (called Stand Up)
- Nehru (called Military)
- Skinny with elbow dart
- Puff Bottom
- Puff Top
- Puff Top and Bottom
Next Post: Thursday, June 17, 2010: Designer Doyenne Harriet Pepin Observes Is it Fair to Compare?