I have a dear and highly intelligent friend who is especially knowledgeable about garment fitting and stitching. It was she, who solved my pant fitting issues. So when she suggested I might be interested in the basic blocks drafted and marketed by Connie Crawford, I surfed right over to take a look. I also watched a few Youtubes Conni has posted (also my friend’s recommendation). I was impressed. Not so much with the videos (which are definitely good) so much as with the drafting of her block. I look at her representative figures and think, she might have a clue as to what real women look like. She states that the back must be longer than the front or it will not fit. Most importantly to me was the shape of the shoulder and armscye. For the first time, I see a pattern which doesn’t assume my shoulder grows at the same rate as my waist. I’m excited. Yet, I’ve bought lots of basic patterns. Managed to fit quite a few. So while I like what I see, I’m not quite ready to rub the numbers off my credit card. I purchase only the basic block for wovens, CS1201.
My package includes a catalog as well as the pattern and a 12-page, 8.5 x 5.5″ pamphlet set of instructions. I do like the instruction pamphlet as opposed to the usual humongous sheets. This is manageable! I read carefully the instructions for choosing a size and the order of fitting. I’m surprised at the size. I’m a size 14, cup B (same as my RTW) ; A.N.D. 3 of my 4 measurements are on the lower end of the range. I trace my size.
Re 4th measurement: I count my tummy as a critical measurement. My tummy can be an issue, especially with pants, because it is usually the same size as my hips but of course, 4 inches higher than the expected widest measurement, the hip.
I try to choose a fabric. I know what I want to use. Interestingly enough Conni recommends something similar. I want cotton, with no stretch in a light color and a touch of polyester so it will shed wrinkles and resist shape shifting… er stretching out of shape. My stash is low on these kinds of fabrics, but I do find a mint colored poly cotton I think can be used. I remove it from the stash, refold and press carefully before cutting out my pieces, front, back and sleeves.
I sew in sessions. Even retired, I’d never get anything sewn if I waited for a block of uninterrupted time . The first session was reading the pamphlet carefully from page 1 to 12 . Second session was tracing my size and cutting fabric. Before the 3rd session I’d had time for regret. I had made no changes to Conni’s basic sloper. For years, I’ve made a back waist length adjustment (BWL) and narrow shoulder adjustment(NSA) immediately, without thought. Making these 2 alterations is not a chore. I’ve come to plan on making these alterations as part of my sewing routine when I want clothing to fit. I made no changes because I’m optimistic and really hoped this would be the pattern that fit right out of the envelope. Overnight, I realized my foolishness. I always make a BWL because patterns are drafted for people 2-3 inches taller than me. If I don’t make a BWL, the shaping for waist and hips falls below my own waist (what I have of it) and hips requiring fixing. I had numerous wadders before I learned these fixes can’t always be done after the scissors chew through the yardage . Conni too must assume an average height. An average which I don’t meet by 2-3″ . The NSA however, can be applied later, albeit awkwardly. I already had the fabric cut. I opted to ignore the NSA for now because right or wrong, I wanted to see how Conni’s armscye draft fit on my body. For the BWL, I decided to immediately mark, fold and stitch thereby removing 1″ from the length of the garment above the waist.
I’m going to tell you to start with that I’m even more impressed now than I was when looking at the draft. OK so the first try-on was not exactly beautiful:
After that photo, I made 6 shoulder and side seam adjustments that were all about tweaking the shoulder slope and adjusting circumference. By the 6th attempt, I decided I had taken this muslin on and off, ripped, stitched, starched and ironed one too many times. But it looked pretty good:
I could have stopped at Tweak #4
I’ve worn blouses with more drag lines than Fit #4 and been proud. Because I’m working on a personal sloper (which I hope to use extensively in the near future), I keep tweaking. Quarter inch here; eighth there. I was interested in the minimum ease I feel comfortable wearing. But it is the shoulder-slope changes which correct my drag lines, even those below the bust dart. At Fit #6, the shoulder is sewn with a slope 1-1/8″ deep at the shoulder and 5/8″ deep at the neck. I’ve also offset the front and back 1/4″ (Back gets larger. Front smaller. Not sure whether that means favoring back or favoring front.)
I realized before even starting with the sleeve I’d have issues. My side seam allowances are not an even 1″ on both front and back as Conni drafted. I did a quick pin into place and estimated that I needed to drop the sleeve cap 1.75″.
I want to take a sec to point out the beauty of this sleeve. I know from training and experience that the front and back curve of the sleeves should be different. Our arms and shoulder need different amount of ease and shaping for freedom of movement and comfort. Most sleeves I sew are marked with front and back notches but I could fold them in half lengthwise and they would look the same. Not so with CS1201. There is clearly a back, front and shoulder point. I measured down from the shoulder point 1.75″; aligned my french curve with the original cap curves and then drew a new line between notches and the new shoulder point. Then I tried setting this sucker in. Not easy. I did not trim the cap. I’m concerned that my armscye . It looks too high for a sleeve. Every time I tried on the muslin, I’d think “This would be great in a sleeveless top. But I”m not sure about with sleeve. ” I did not remove the excess cap, but I did stitch on the sewing line I marked 1.75″ below the original.
I look at it and think “Not horrible. Not perfect. Not so ugly I wouldn’t wear it”. The the hem does seem to be lifting (it should follow a horizontal line), which would indicate that a higher cap is needed. Also I see the echo of that front drag line which I’ve been complaining about for a few weeks.
I’m torn about making further changes to sleeve now; or any changes to sleeve at all. Fact is this muslin has been heavily handled. I question the accuracy of what I’m seeing. When I transfer bodice changes (not including the sleeve) I wonder how that will affect the sleeve. I’m not going to slice off the top of the shoulder. I will use a wedge like alteration below the shoulder stitching line which will leave the original sleeve length intact. Why? Because I was astounded by the shoulder length and slope at the first try-on. Outside of a tank top, I’ve never had a shoulder fit me straight out of the envelope. I’ve always needed the NSA because pattern drafters assume shoulder length grows at a similar rate as waist. (Hey guys, it’s the tummy that increases in circumference. The shoulder bone doesn’t get longer AND gets very little extra padding. )
What’s next? I’m transferring some changes from muslin to pattern and choosing a nicer fabric to make a blouse. Oh and I’m buying a few more patterns, from Conni.