The House of Tatterdemalion

Unfashionable, unskilled, inexpensive--but still sewing.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Contact Me

You can now contact me through email at tatterdemalionshouse at

I've wanted to get an email address up here for some time, because I'm often more comfortable emailing someone rather than making a public comment for all the world to see. So if you're shy like me, here you go!

(And I know the address is way too long. It's absurd. Who in their right mind would start an email account with the name tatterdemalion? I don't know, but whoever it is beat me to it. Gmail offered me names like tatterdemalioniester, and tatterdemalionator, and tatterdemalionneccasary, but I declined. tatterdemalionshouse it is.)

Chapter IV

This one I just finished. I used McCall's 4695, sans pemplum. "What?" you say. "Isn't that kind of pointy part in the front a pemplum?" No; if you look at the pattern, the main bodice part (can you call it a bodice when it's men's clothing? Or are you supposed to call it something else?) is pointed. Here's what happened:

The pattern runs from chest sizes 34 to 46. This dude's chest measurement is 32". I thought that, seeing as it was sized for men, a 34 would be slightly loose and a bit too long. Loose I was okay with, but I cleverly straightened the front to make it shorter. A test fitting on a similarly sized brother (this was a birthday present again, so didn't want to give it away), showed that this made it much too short! So I added on the part I had cut off, hence, the seam. Unless you want a skin tight garment, always go up one size when using this pattern. And even if your subject has not yet started growing up too much, don't trim any off the bottom. On the test fitting (the testee had the same chest measurement but was taller), I don't think I could even get away with leaving the pemplum off. He certainly needed the length, and I only just got away with leaving it off as it is. I doubt this doublet will fit him for more than six months, tops.

As you can see, the doublet was made to go with his cape (which is a royal purple, not a "girl-y" purple, thank you very much!) When I made this cape, it swept the ground. Not it's only a little more than knee-length. It won't be long before he's taller than I am!

I try to use fabric leftover from making the cape, but in this case, I only had scraps. And I mean scraps. I had one really long piece of selvedge (which had no sequins on it), and one small, irregularly shaped scrap with sequins. I squeezed out the collar and cap sleeves with the scrap, and cut the selvedge piece in half (it was about 2 inches wide) and made the stripes out of that. (And it was a nightmare trying to get them to line up.)

I had to actually buy the base fabric for the doublet, a plain navy poly/cotton broadcloth. The reversible cape (the other side also had a nice deep hood for hiding one's face in) used navy poly felt. Never again. Not only does it pill terribly, but I was accused several times of trying to cook them alive--it's like wearing a blanket. (Their accusations never stopped them from wearing the capes, of course.) Needless to say, making the lined doublet out of the same felt was totally out of the question. I was afraid the colors wouldn't match, but they seem to go together quite well.

There are only three buttons, again, from my Great-grandmother's button collection. However, in this case, they are very cool buttons.

The original pattern used frog closures, not buttons, but I thought these added a more medieval flair. Besides, I didn't have any frog closures on hand!

Yet another reason to begin at the beginning. . .

I've kind of been doing birthday presents in a theme or series. . .but I didn't start posting pictures at the beginning, which has been driving me nuts. This is the first one, which I did before I started my blog, I think. I was on a really short deadline, and just threw it together. It's basically just two pieces of tissue lame sewn together, with a bound neckline and some bobbin embroidery and sequins. (It goes with his cape, which is red felt and green tissue lame. The whole thing is terribly gaudy, but the younger the kid, the more they like gaudy stuff. He loves it.) It used to also have a belt--a length of pre-made sequin trim in the matching colors--but I think it's either lost or destroyed now.

I used different designs on the center back for each side.

Here you can see the decoration in better detail. The green is the "inside" right now, but when he wears it so that the red is the "inside", the center back motif you see right now will be on the outside. (Did that make any sense?) Quick and dirty, but it serves it's purpose. He'll probably be needing a new one soon enough anyway, seeing as they're all growing so much.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


I recently discovered that a 'bunad' is the Norwegian traditional costume. In particular, I've been looking at them at this site. It's an incredible treasure trove of details, rich in embroidery, unique constructions and proportions, headscarves, wedding crowns, purses, silver fastenings, sashes, simple but elegant shirts, capes, aprons, men's costumes and women's. It's hard to choose favorites, but I was struck by the Rogaland's men's bunad, for it's combination of simplicity and opulence. It has a distinct look of non-fussiness, while at the same time being ready to rise to any occasion, no matter how momentous. It also doesn't look as uncomfortable as some of the very cropped coats in men's bunads.

It's even harder for me to choose a favorite women's bunad, as I like the way many of them look, and I think I'd want to combine details from many of them. I love the way the bodice back is cut in the Lofot bunad. I love the Telemark bunad, especially the very, very full skirt. I like the down-to-earth look of the Old Ringerike. The Voss apron and shirt might be my favorite shirt and apron, though it's hard to pick. And the Voss bridal costume is breath-taking. You should look at all the details in the beaded embroidery. I kind of get the feeling that the people from Voss were pretty well to do, as they have quite a bit of silver in their costumes. The Oppland bunads have an incredible amount of embroidery in intricate detail. It's all very inspiring.

Here's another interesting one, and it also sheds a glimpse into reality, as they note "On hot days during haymaking, they wore only the light everyday shift." Yeah, I'll bet! This one has a more unusual shirt for a bunad (most have white work embroidery), as well as more interesting information. This bunad has an interesting detail--the back of the bodice is fluted. If you go looking (I can't seem to re-find it) you may find the picture that shows the invisible lacing placket in the bodices of many bunads. (As a note that may help you when looking around the site, they sometimes use the word "skirt" as we would the word "jumper". Their "skirt" covers the entire torso, and fits like a loose fitting, sleeveless dress. I can't tell if that's always the way they use the word, though.)

I love looking at traditional costumes, and I've always found it mildly disappointing that the U.S. doesn't have any traditional costume. (How come everyone else gets to have all the fun?) It's only to be expected, of course, since the U.S. largely a country of immigrants. People in Norway trace themselves back to a particular part of Norway, but the people in the U.S. usually find their ancestors in other countries. I suppose that means I ought to go looking for the traditional costumes of Sicily, Ireland, and I think Germany (all places where my ancestors have come from).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Judging books by their covers (or people by appearances)

There was recently a discussion on a message board (which is now ten pages long, and you have to register in order to read more than the first page) on the topic of judging people by appearances. The lady who started the discussion asked this question:

"Is it really true that you can't judge a book by its cover or a person by his/her clothes? Is it true that you shouldn't?"
Or, as she phrased it again later on in the discussion (page 6):

"1) Do people make judgments about others' dress styles? and
2) Is it OK to do so? (Because the presumed answer to #1 is "Yes.")"
On page 4, she comments:

"1. It is in the nature of man to judge. I mean "judge" in both of its definitions given in the post above. Whether the judgments are good or bad/right or wrong is a separate issue.

2. Not only is it in our nature, but it is a part of what comprises intelligence. When we are in kindegarten our teachers teach us to see/classify/categorize CONCEPTS (shapes, colores, sizes). Distinguish the squres from the circles, the blues from the reds, the big objects from the small objects. When our children can make these distinctions, they are said to be progressing well academically."
My first thought here is that she seems to be blurring the lines between "judge" (decide whether good or bad) and "classify".

As an example, say you see a dog and a cat walking down the street. Now, you have already decided, far before you saw these two particular animals, that all cats are fiends from the underworld, and all dogs are man's best friend. So when you see these two animals, and you are disgusted by seeing the cat and delighted to see the dog, is that because of how they look? Or is it simply because, upon appearance, you classify the cat as a cat and the dog as a dog? You have already judged both of these categories (cat = bad, dog = good), far before you even saw these particular animals. You perceive the cat to be part of a group which you have already judged. Seeing the cat doesn't cause you to judge it--you've already judged it before you saw it, and seeing it only allowed you to classify it as part of a known, judged group.

So it is, I think, very often with people. It isn't the clothes themselves that cause people to "judge" someone (decide the person is good or bad), as much as it is their clothes allow people to classify them with a group they already know (and have passed judgment upon, either in their favor or against it).

It also seems to me that people are more likely to change their perceptions (classifications) than their judgments. As an example, a totally pretend Joe Blow says:

"Gee, when I first saw you, I thought you were just poor white trailer trash, but now I see that you're really much smarter and more polite."

Our straw-man Joe doesn't repent of his judgment (he still judges that people who live in trailer parks are dumb and rude), but does repent of his perception (he thought, based on your appearance, that you were someone who lived in a trailer park, but now he thinks you must not). Of course, things might become very uncomfortable for Joe if he discovers you actually do live in a trailer park, but nonetheless, his first instinct is not to reverse judgment, but to think he misunderstood something. He believes that as long as he knows all the facts in the case, he will make the right judgment. If his judgment appeared to be wrong, that was simply because he didn't have all the facts.

So, before I could answer the question the lady asked, I would first have to get her to better define what she means by "judge". Is it really true you can't judge a person by appearance? Judge what? Judge whether the person is good or bad? Or judge that the shirt they are wearing is indeed orange? Do people make judgments about other peoples' dress styles? How do you mean? Certainly I judge whether or not it's a style I like or would wear; does that "judgment" effect how I treat them?

As I stated above, I think it is most common that people will judge first (before even seeing a person), and then look for clues to classify people in to their ready-made judgments. Will they use clothing as a clue to how to classify them? Of course. People begin to classify upon the first contact; more often than not, they see (a person's appearance) far before they hear (what they say, what they believe, how they act). If they discover later that the person's appearance didn't give them all the facts, they will re-classify a person as suits them. Very rarely will someone actually reverse a judgment they have passed upon a group of people.

Is it true that you shouldn't? Is it okay to do so? Again, the question is "judge" in what sense of the word. If you mean "judge" in the manner of right vs. wrong, good vs. bad, well, now you've opened up a religious question. All moral questions come back to a person's religious beliefs (or anti-religious beliefs).

If you mean classify, then I would say that anyone who is classifying would be wise not to limit themselves to only one criteria. If someone means to classify, I would think that appearance (clothing) would be a perfectly reasonably place to start, especially since that's usually the first data one gets. Of course, if one first comes in contact with a person over the phone, they will start out by classifying your voice, your speech mannerisms, your personality, and goodness knows what else. (Who, besides me, imagines the person on the other end of the line, and most particularly when you don't know who it is on the other line? Your mind tries to fill in the rest of the missing information. So it is when you see someone first. Your mind sees the appearance, and tries to fill in the rest of the missing data.)

A lot of people get irked by being "classified", particularly on the basis of appearance. Some people feel they shouldn't be judged by what they look like, but only what they act like (note: isn't how you dress is part of how you act?). Some people think that it is very judgmental to judge people. Some people think they are too unique to be "classified". Some people don't mind being classified, as long as they're classified correctly. And some people really couldn't care less what other people think of them.

My advice to people who don't like being classified is to be weird. I don't mean "weird" as in "shocking", or weird as in "weird just like everyone else". Weird people are people who don't fit into most of the standard categories. Weird people are strange simply because people don't understand them. Weird people do get classified; they get classified into the "weird" category. This is like that bulging "Miscellaneous" file in your cabinet. Everyone who is classified as "weird" goes together simply because they don't go with anyone else. This means that you get into that happy gray zone where the person has classified you ("Weird, man, really weird."), but still has no clue what you are like.

I am weird.

And you probably figured that out without ever needing to see me.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Pattern Addiction

Krystin Baker estimates she has about 3000 patterns. She's trying to get them all scanned in and up on the 'net for all to see. (Just the front covers, not the actual pattern pieces.) It's a cool place to look for inspiration. She's also accepting "donations"--if you have patterns (particularly old ones, since they are harder to get a hold of), you can scan in the front covers and email them to her. They get added to the collection as well.

I've sent her a couple dozen so far. My favorite right now is this on this page, the wedding dress in the right hand corner (number 9677). The reason it's my favorite is because it has the most family history. It's the pattern my grandmother picked out for her wedding; my great-grandmother sewed it for her. Grandma was had an hourglass figure, including a teeny tiny waist. When my Mom wore it for her wedding, they had to let out the waist. My mom has always had this funny notion that she was 'fat' when she was young. Apparently this started with not matching the measurement chart on the back of patterns--her waist was "too large" compared to her bust, and thus, she was fat. I think the much more obvious thing is that she had a small bust compared to her waist. Besides, she clearly remembers being only 110 lbs. when she got married (I think I weighed 110 lbs. when I was 12!).

Needless to say, should I ever get married, I will not be wearing the same wedding dress. Besides the most obvious fact that won't fit (not hardly), it has also been aging. In the picture of my grandmother wearing it, the dress was snow white. When my mom wore it, it had turned cream, or ivory. When I saw it last year as we moved my grandparents to a new residence, it was now beginning to have a distinctive yellowish cast to it. But I am still very pleased to have the pattern, and the accompanying family history.

Another pattern of mine that makes me smile every time I see it is one on this page, also in the lower right hand corner, number 3249. The girls on the front cover are wearing white gloves! This cracks me up to no end. Anyone who has ever seen 3 year-old-girls knows that how long those gloves will stay white: for just as long as the girl isn't wearing them.

The most distinctive feature of that pattern, however, is that there are also darts. Darts on a 3 year-old's dress are just about as hysterical as white gloves. I think the darts are little more than glorified pin-tucks. I've always thought of darts as much as design lines as a means of providing shaping, but it still amuses me to see them dresses for toddlers. The darts are there simply to give it the "style" of a fitted dress, even though the darts don't provide any fitting themselves. (If you look at most 3 year-olds, their little tummies are sticking out. There is certainly no inward slant from chest to waist!)

There's one on this page that I think is particularly ugly, and as many things ugly, unique. It's 6405, the designer sack dress. It's white, with a green border, and apparently it's been designed to make the wearer look as shapeless as possible. The funny thing is that they actually went through a good deal of trouble to make sure that the dress did actually have shaping. It doesn't seem apparent from the front cover, but if you look at the back of the pattern(which is right beside it, I scanned that in, too), you can see that the front actually has darts. Why they should go through the trouble of putting darts in a dress designed to look like I sack, I don't know. I suppose they wanted the look of an un-wrinkled sack, which of course is just so much more sophisticated than a wrinkled sack.

Another one, on this page, that does have unique shaping without being ugly. In the lower right hand corner, there is a long evening gown, 6094. I don't believe I've ever seen such an unusual empire waisted dress. The dart turns smoothly into the waistline. It looks a bit peculiar, but I wish I could see it made up, how the seaming comes out in real life.

If you have patterns of interest, please consider uploading them so the rest of us can see, too!

Friday, May 12, 2006

In Response to Kathleen Fasanella

Kathleen Fasanella has a blog called "Fashion-Incubator", which I sometimes read. Yesterday, I saw a post that made the wheels in my head grind a bit. Since I couldn't figure out how to interact with her post without using sketches, I'm interacting with it here, instead of the comment section of her blog. If you want to have the slightest idea what this post is about, you should go read hers first. Her post is about curving the center front and center back lines, as opposed to leaving them straight, but that's a simplification, so you really should read the post first.

First, my disclaimer. I'm a hobbyist only, at this point, and I've never been professionally trained in pattern drafting. So maybe I'm all washed up; but here's my two cents anyway. Read at your own risk. ;) Oh, and also that I am no where near an artist, so if my drawings look like they've been done by two year-olds, I'll hire my six-year old brother to draw anything else I need drawn in the future!

It's going to take me awhile to get to my main point, so please be patient with me.

The first thing she addresses in her post is the center back seam, so I'll start there, too. (First I must point out a few minor differences. In her "A" picture, she has a back block with a completely vertical center back seam, and a dart in the middle of the shoulder. My drafting book {and there are many ways to draft} instructs a slightly diagonal center back seam, and a dart next to the shoulder, which can then be moved to the center of the shoulder if desired. I drew my sketch accordingly, partly because that's what I'm familiar with, and partly because I think it helps illustrate my point better.)

Now, the center back seam in my final sketch in this series looks similar to the center back line in her "B" picture. What I did was move the darts to the center back line; the dotted lines represent where the center line used to be. What this means is that the final sketch has a curved center back, but no darts. (Due to the unending flexiblity that Blogger offers, some of the following pictures will appear too small, and some too big. You may not be able to see the details of some of them unless you click on them, which opens up a larger version in a new window.)

In Kathleen's "B" sketch, the center back is curved, and there are darts. What I think is happening there is that the extra fabric is being split; some is being taken away by darts, and some by side shaping. Here's a sketch to show what I mean:

The darts are cut in half, and half the dart is taken from the side seams. The first sketch shows the shoulder dart being divided. In the second sketch, the dotted lines show where the center back line used to be, as well as how big the shoulder dart used to be. The waist dart is also divided. In the last sketch, the dotted lines show where the center back used to be, and how big the waist dart used to be. My final sketch (sans dotted lines) looks quite a bit like her "B" sketch. (Except that hers was drawn better.)

Her next set of sketches involve the bodice front. Basically, to paraphrase (but please read her post; I don't want to misrepresent her), she holds that the center front line needs to curved as well, in order to keep the neck-line from gaping. She holds this is particularly important for people with "egg-shaped" chests. (What I call having a "deeper front to back" chest, which I believe I do.)

This is the problem I believe she's trying to address (I may have misunderstood her).

Okay. In my first sketch, I show my best attempt of a typical bodice front. Those of us with rounder ribcages (or egg-shaped, if you prefer) often run into the problem that once we get enough room for our rib-cages, the neck is much too wide. The long arrow in my first sketch represents 1/2 of the front bust measurement--in my case, 9 3/4", which is what I'll use. The curved arrow is the neck measurement of the typical bodice--I'm going to make up a convenient number and call it 4 3/4". Now, if I wanted to get the neckline small enough to match mine--3 3/4"--I could whack a whole inch of the center front (dotted line). However, then the bust line would also loose an inch, leaving it 1 inch much too snug! Bad fix. Very bad fix.

In the second sketch, I represent my understanding of Kathleen's fix--slanting (in essence, a dart) the top part of the center front line. This shortens the neck line down to what I need, and it also leaves the bust measurement intact.

In the final sketch, I show my fix. My fix is to not mess around with altering pre-drafted patterns, but draft one to my own measurements. In this fix, the neckline is only 3 3/4. The extra inch of fabric isn't at the center, but at the side, underneath the arm. So in this fix, the center front line is still straight, and both measurements are in agreement. This is the one part of my post I can stand firmly on my own experience. This is a close up shot of the neckline of the sloper I just cut out last week. I'm not claiming my sloper is perfect, but it does have an absolutely straight center front seam, and it certainly does not gape at the neck. The fit is quite snug.

Kathleen uses several examples of princess lines (and, incidentally, just did a whole post on princess seams). All of her pictures of various methods of princess seams intrigued me, as none of them were the way I understand to make princess seams. (As I mentioned before, there are a lot of different drafting methods.) Here's a sketch to illustrate how I understand princess seams to be made:

In the first sketch, I show what my bodice front looks like before I move any darts. European Cut has you draft two bodice darts, one ending on the waist, and one ending right underneath the armpit. Before you sew up a muslin sample, you are instructed to move combine the two darts. You slash open the waist dart, and close the upper dart, as shown in my second sketch. In the second sketch I also show a dotted line for where we will open up a new dart. If we cut along that dotted line, and move half the width of the waist dart into that cut (by rotating the rest of the bodice side), we get my third sketch. Two mostly vertical darts, meeting at the bust point. The dotted line shows where the old dart used to be. As you can see, this is now basically a princess seam. Both halves need to be gently rounded and trued, but the basic shape is there. This how I understand to get a pattern line that follows the silhouette of the body, as you can see in the fourth sketch. (I don't know how this method of getting a princess seamed pattern measures up to other methods; perhaps there are flaws with it that are unknown to me.)

The point of this example is to show that a princess seamed bodice is just a bodice with invisible darts. Another example of an invisible dart is the shoulder seam; both seams are slanted, even though they look straight when sewn up.
No one thinks of sewing a "dart" into the shoulder seam, but basically that's what it is. If you were cutting the front and back out of the same piece of fabric, the shoulder would have a big dart running from neck to shoulder point in order to get the fabric to lie neatly across the slanted shoulder.

In essence, I think that she is making a false distinction to say that we must have both a curved center line and darts. You can have both; this is a perfectly valid solution. But you can also have only all darts, or only all curved sides seams. In the end, they're the same thing. A curved side seam is just darts that have been moved to the side. Medieval dresses were often closely fitting and without darts--only a center and sides seams. I imagine a pattern for a bodice front would look like this:
The darts "were" there. They were simply moved to the side and center seams. It's like saying you need to have pleats and gathers. You can have pleats and gathers. You can also have just pleats, or just gathers. They accomplish the same goal (removing fullness) but in different ways.

She says you need to have either a curved front seam or princess seams. I think that a curved front = princess seams = bodice darts, which can be rotated into one dart, bust to waist. If you can make the conversion one way, you can make the reverse conversion.

Not only is having a curved center seam as well as darts acceptable, it may very well be a better solution for, as an example, women with large busts. If all of the fabric take up was gathered into one dart, it would make for one very big dart, which would be hard to sew without it looking very pointy (not a good look). Splitting up the fabric fullness into a dart and the center seam could reduce the dart without reducing the shaping.

So while I agree that Kathleen's solution is valid, I don't think that it is necessary for everyone in order to get a good fit.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Anatomy of a Troll

Several years ago (I don't remember exactly when, maybe it was like a year and a half ago? Two and a half? It feels like forever), when I was first starting out my dreadful fitting saga, I was getting on the computer to post my fitting problems to the on-line sewing community for help. (Which, I'm sorry to say, wasn't very helpful, in my case.) A few brothers asked what I was doing.

"Trying to get help figuring out how to alter this pattern to fit me."

"Oh." Pause. "Why don't you just buy one that fits?"

"I can't find any that fit!"

"Oh, that's easy!"

"Oh, really?"

"Sure, just get on-line and go to the place where they sell dress patterns for trolls."

"There isn't a company that makes dress patterns for trolls!"

"Oh, well, dwarves, then. They have dwarf throwing contests in England, don't they? They must have patterns for dwarves."

"I really don't think they go throwing around dwarves while they're wearing dresses."

(Brother no. 2 speaks up). "I don't understand why you even need a pattern."

"Because I don't know how to---"

"But it's easy. You just get a burlap sack, and you cut three holes in it. Ta-da! See? Easy."

"Yeah, why don't you just do that?"

At this point, they generally lost interest. Seeing that their utterly brilliant logic was once again being wasted, as pearls before swine, they no longer found it agreeable to pursue the issue any further.

Perhaps, if nothing else, you are wondering why I didn't object to the fact I was being described as a troll. Well, one can't over-look their equally amazing powers of perception--it was a rather apt description. At barely 5 foot and 1 inch and 135 pounds, the Body Mass Index puts me at 25.5--over weight, but not yet considered "obese". However, as is a common rant against the Body Mass Index, this has a fair amount to do with the fact that I (insert horrified gasping noise here) lift weights! Short, stocky, more muscular than the average (which isn't saying too much, I'm afraid), hairy, ill-tempered, near-sighted---well, it does rather describe a troll, doesn't it?

Have I solved all fitting problems? Not yet. (I'm keeping the optimistic "yet" in there, thank you very much.) In the process of trying, though, I've discovered a rather lot about my body shape, and the supposed "average" shape, that I never knew before. Hopefully this post will help other women, weight-lifting or otherwise, to discover what it is that differs from the "normal"---after all, finding the problem is the first step to finding the cure, right? Besides, I'll end the post with "Fitting solutions for these problems--coming soon!"--and up-date the post in another, oh, thirty-five years. If you can't swallow any of that, then I will have to put a in a sub-plot, called "Why on earth isn't there a pattern company catering to trolls so I wouldn't have to go through all of this work just to get something that fits me relatively decently?" and we'll call the whole thing a therapeutic rant. Which usually aren't that much good for the one ranting, but can occasionally put the listeners in near hysterical giggles. (But then, I think that is often more because of my facial expressions than my actual choice of words, so perhaps you all are missing out on the best part.)

We shall start with the bodice front. Apparently, most pattern drafters think that the typical women has spent most of her life lying flat on her back with a baby elephant using said average woman's ribcage as a cushion for sitting upon. I can find no other reason to account for the fact that they draft the bodice front as though---well, as though the ribcage has been sat on by a baby elephant for one day too many. Yes, yes, they put darts in, and all that jazz. But the front is drafted to be very wide and shallow, as though one were only two dimensional, and if we all turned sideways no one could see us. The front is wide enough it keeps wanting to slip off the shoulders. At the same time, it doesn't allow enough room at the sides (beneath the arms), causing it too pull and strain at the sides as the rather flat pattern tries to wrap around a rather round rib-cage. This means that the bodice front is simultaneously too large AND too small!!! How utterly brilliant! I don't think I could have dreamed up anything more sadistic if I tried!

And, as further proof of their brilliance, you can't add more to the sides without messing with the armhole, and if you mess with the armhole, you have to mess with the sleeve---The sleeve! That great accursed thing that no one can understand or properly alter! In one breath-taking move, the pattern drafters have got you cornered. I'm pretty sure they have a little check-list:

#1. Is the garment too small? Check.

#2. Is the garment too big? Check.

#3. Will the Cursed Ones---I mean, Consumers--have to alter the sleeve, regardless of what problem they're trying to fix? Check.

I can just hear them giggling up their sleeves, even now. Someone must have gotten a big raise when they dreamed up this problem.

I'm trying to side-step the whole "sadistic pattern drafters" issue by drafting my own patterns. The problem is that, as they say, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. To paraphrase, not knowing what you're doing can get you in a lot of trouble.

For instance, the waist. Where, exactly, is your waist? If you had to mark out, in a straight line, where you waist was, where would you put it? Well, the standard advice from great fitting gurus (who might also be laughing up their sleeves; that is of yet undetermined) is that your waist is (a) where ever your side creases when you bend to the side and (b) where there is the greatest amount of indent on the side of your torso. By both of these criteria, the small bit of knowledge I grasp to, my waist is right exactly after where my ribcage ends. This is where I was putting in all of my attempts at drafting, until someone pointed out with crushing logic that, regardless of what the supposed experts say, putting your waistline there looks stupid (agreed), and the whole point of drafting your own is to get it to look right. So either bring it up a few inches and call it "empire waisted" or down a few inches to where it looks right. Well, duh. I should have realized that.

This means that my waist is at the place where my back bends inward the most, running right along the top of my hip bones (not the joint, the ischium). This makes complete sense; that's where I always put my waistbands anyway. I don't supposed I would have ever considered putting it higher, if I hadn't been told that my waist was where I bent at the side, where I was most indented.

This brings me to my second great mystery, moving from the bodice front to the skirt front. Why, why, why do they put darts in skirt fronts? Darts point to a bump. Where is there a bump below my waist? If I put my waistline up high at the end of my rib-cage, then I suppose I get a bit of a rise. But a careful scrutiny of a fitting shell pattern showed that the waistline did indeed fall at the top of the hip bones, not the end of the rib-cage. They showed, and all the gurus claimed, that the "abdomen", the lower torso below the waistline, protrudes. This flabbergasted me.

I mean, yes, my waist does protrude a bit. I think I fall within the healthy range of fat for women--18%-20% (as opposed to the 10%-15% for men), and of that percentage, some of it expectedly falls around my belly button, causing me to have a domed belly--wait, did I say fat? Scratch that. I keep forgetting that the word "fat" is now politically incorrect--it's "feminine fluff". And if there's a bit more than might perhaps seem proper, then it is shortened down to "fluff". Remember that, now. (I'm terrible at being politically correct.)

Anyway, the point was, I don't bulge out below my waist. My waist is my most protruding point. And I couldn't for the life of me figure out why on earth anyone would. I finally found my answer in, of all places, a weight-lifting book. (Frederic Delavier's Women's Strength Training Anatomy.) Page 109: "Ptosis: Inferior displacement of an organ, most often because the structures normally maintaining it have let go. When the abdominal wall lacks tone, it cannot retain the viscera, and the belly collapses and creates a pocket in which the loops of the intestines rest." This weirds me out considerably. I don't like the idea of my guts all falling in a heap. I'd much prefer that they some how all stayed in place, regardless of my muscle condition. Guts just seem like an altogether much too important part of the body to go moving about like that.

I am happy to report that all of my guts are firmly in place. Thank goodness. Does anyone else besides me find it disturbing that this condition is considered the normal? All the fitting shells have these front darts. How on earth can it be considered normal to have your guts falling out? Though I suppose that perhaps in may be a reason why the "normal" also has a smaller waist measurements--if all of your guts have decided to take up a southern vacation home, I suppose that means they've evacuated from the more northern waist, which I suppose means the waist can collapse inward more, causing this supposedly normal person to have a narrower waist.

What happens when you put in front waist darts and you don't need them? This. See how the skirt is all poofy in front, even though it's supposed to be a fitted skirt? The darts create a "pocket" of fabric for something that isn't there. This lady obviously needs the darts. She isn't fat, but she does bulge out a bit below the waist.

So, hypothetically speaking, since I don't have a "protruding abdomen", my skirt should fall straight down from my waist, right? Wrong! Here's where that dratted weight-lifting comes in. Whoever the heck it was that decided the "normal" person was someone with a totally atrophied muscular system certainly never includes this as a "fitting problem". It's called--"protruding quadriceps"! This terrible condition happens when you actually use your muscles, namely the ones on the front of your thighs. (I'm not talking about "saddle bags", or lumps and bumps on the side of the legs, but the muscle groups on the front of the thighs.) My skirt situation is thus:

(a) belly domes out with fat--I mean, fluff.

(b)belly slopes back inward, due to the fact that guts are comfortable where they are, and are not currently considering a move to a more southern-ly retirement home.

(c)quadriceps--on both legs--bulge out from (shockingly!) physical exercise. The front circumference measurement across the quadriceps exceeds the front circumference of the waist!!

This is a scandal!! My thighs are bigger than my waist! And it's not like I have a teeny-tiny waist either! And no one tells you how you're supposed to make a skirt when your legs are sticking out further in the front than your waist does! Do you put in darts, pointing toward the muscles in your legs? That would work, I suppose, but it would look awfully weird. And how are you supposed to deal with the whole fact that there is an indent between waist and thigh? Right where I'm supposed to be taking the abdomen measurement (where my stomach is supposedly sticking out the most), my stomach is sloping inwards. By the time I'm level with my hip joints, there is a definite indent. There is no way to tell what width the skirt should be between waist and protruding quads, so I just have to wing it. (The actual measurement wouldn't help me, because I want the skirt to fall evenly from waist to thighs, without indenting.)

But this is certainly one reason why I have to wear loose-fitting jeans. My quads usually have to "borrow" fabric from the back of the pant leg, as the "normal" person who wears jeans apparently doesn't put their quads to much use. Or else the jean designers are just as sadistic as the pattern drafters. I'm sure there is a conspiracy in here somewhere.

Moving along, we come to the bodice back. I can't see my back, so it's very hard to make diagnostics. My first clue that something weird was up was that everything seems to strain across my upper back, leading me to wear, um, loose t-shirts. Once the shoulder seams are falling off my shoulders by a few inches, I have enough room to comfortably maneuver without feeling the fabric tighten and constrain across my back. This also means that, in any dressy-type blouses, by the time I get the shirt big enough I'm not in danger of ripping out every back seam the garment has (and perhaps creating a few new ones), the front is as loose as a burlap sack (a large burlap sack), and the sleeves look like they belong on some supposed primitive pre-human whose knuckles drop down below it's knees. What does that make me? An Incredible Hulk? I mean, Hulkess? I think I'll just stick with troll.

A digital picture of my back proved the fact that I have, an, um, back. And, from all appearances, an un-normal back. The whole "normal means disintegrating muscular system" is making more and more sense all the time. Apparently, it's decidedly un-normal to have a healthy, well used body. So sue me! I actually use the muscles on my upper back. This, apparently, is another fitting problem.

I also have a bunch of probably-also-abnormal muscles popping up around the back of my neck, making it awfully hard to figure out where the "shoulder seam" is supposed to fall. It also gives me the added "bonus" of making my already short neck look even shorter.

Next comes the skirt back. My version of the saying "No if's, and's, or but's" is "No hips , and a big butt." I am practically straight-up-and-down at the sides. I pin-fitted some Pattern-Ease (translucent interfacing for the purpose of tracing pattern on to) about my hips; the resulting curve wasn't curvy. If I mark my hip joint as point A, and my waist at point B, and draw a straight line connecting the two, the resulting line is at exactly 98 degrees. I am seriously serious. I went and got my sister's protractor and checked. At the point where my hip curve actually curves out the most, it's 1/4 of an inch away from touching line AB. My hips curve out only 1/4 of inch, how's that for un-normal?

My rear, on the other hand, is either full of enough explosive muscle power to take me to the moon, or else is carrying around enough supplies to get me through a particularly brutal 7 year famine. I choose to believe the former, thank you very much.

This pretty well concludes my rant.

Please don't conclude that I think the entire industry ought to switch to drafting to my exact measurements; my rant is more against the ridiculousness of calling any body shape "normal", when they're so obviously all different. It's not truly against the pattern drafters or clothes manufactures, or any body shape, or lack of shape. No doubt, if you have ever struggled with fitting issues, you're thinking something along the lines of, "That's nothing! You should see what I'm up against!" or else, "Just wait until you get old, then you'll really having fitting problems." Quite true, I'm sure. I'll probably be writing some rant entitled: Why isn't there a pattern company that caters to aging trolls who still haven't figured out how to alter for their fitting problems?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Jack the price up, so it's cheaper! (A minor rant)

Okay, so this morning I was browsing around a bit, and discovered, as I have many times before, people raving about Loes Hinse patterns. In particular, the "love the styles and the lines!". This boggles my mind, to begin with. To my eye, there is little that counts as either style or lines, but rather a lack of both. Simple basics to fall back upon, yes, but nothing that I would call distinctive. Kind of the clothes equivalent of elevator music, or something, soft, muted and a bit bland. But, okay. I am all for everyone choosing what ever strikes their fancy, and I'm not trying to say they shouldn't like it. They're not my thing, but that's not my rant at all. Here's the rubbing point.

For a pattern for a pair of pants with an elastic waistband, and I think all of two, perhaps three, pattern pieces, guess what the price is? $16. Mind-blowing.

Then we go over to Hot Patterns, who everyone says are "expensive patterns" or "not exactly cheap". Here we have a much more complicated pair of pants, complete with many pockets, a separate waist band and a back yoke. Price for the pattern? $15.50.

I pointed this juxtaposition out to my near-by brother. He suggested that I start my own pattern company, and make really simple patterns, so I can charge more. Quite honestly, I can't see what makes a two piece pattern cost $16, except, I suppose, for the fact that she seems to put a good deal more work into her cover photos. So maybe it's $5 for each pattern piece, plus $5 for the cover photo, plus an extra dollar for good luck?

To be fair, most people would universally say that all independents are "expensive". I think what this really means is that "they don't go on sale". Vogue pants? Well, they sell at retail for $25, but Vogue kindly let's you have them for 40% off--$15. Meanwhile, the general public won't buy them unless they're on a $3.99 sale at Jo-Ann's. McCall's pants are supposed to sell for $16.25, but they put them on sale for 40% off, which is $9.75---and sane people won't buy them till they go on sale at Jo-Ann's for either $1.99 or $0.99 each. Butterick has a similar deal.

Anyone with half a business brain can see that the major companies will always be able to produce things at less cost than the smaller companies. The funny thing is that usually people complain about the independents being "expensive", and don't stop to think for a moment that the major corporations are majorly, majorly ripping you off. The very fact that Vogue would dare to even pretend to charge you $25 for a single pants pattern is infuriating. The fact that they think we're all stupid enough to feel honored when they pretend to give you a 40% off discount is disgusting; that even with a 40% of discount they're still charging $15 is indecent. It's a package of mass produced tissue paper. And, even yet with all of their major company advantages, they still won't price lower than the independents, who have greater cost!

Next time I hear about how nice the companies are being for ever putting their patterns on sale, I will gag. And if I ever manage to sell two pattern pieces for $16, I will probably also gag, which just goes to show I'm not a very good entrepreneur.

At long last, the fancy dress!

The back view. Hopefully you can see all the details, like the beads on the bow, and the silver fancy top-stitching beside the zipper and at the sleeve hems. I purposely did the rolled hems on the over-skirt in a darker color, because I wanted to highlight the edges. What you hopefully can't see is the fact that I inserted extra fabric by the zipper, and that there is currently a safety-pin (hidden under her hair) cinching up the dress so it doesn't fall off her shoulders.

What gives? Aren't those to contradictory things? Why'd you add the extra fabric, just to make it so big it was falling off her shoulder?

Well, there are three theories to what went wrong the first time.

A. Since I cut the dress out when I was sick, maybe I accidentally chose the wrong (too small) size. I didn't have enough fabric to re-cut.

B. Perhaps I simply forgot that young kids grow in the space of two months, and I actually chose the right size the first time, and she just grew.

C. All of the above.

At any rate, after I got back to working on the dress after a month long hiatus, I started getting this sneaking suspicion that the dress looked too small. Checking her current measurements against the bodice, I found they matched exactly! Imagining a straight-jacket of a dress, I frantically squeezed as much extra space as possible out of the dress. I took apart everything I had already sewn together with 5/8th seam allowances, and re-sewed with 1/4 seam allowanced. The sleeves have three pleats in them, but there was originally also some easing as well. I took out that easing, and added 9/8ths of an inch more fabric at both the shoulder seams. I also added about 3/4 inch wide strips along the zipper.

At this point, I started getting bad vibes that it was probably going to be too big. I squelched those as firmly as possible, because, see reason B above. Kids grow. I want her to be able to wear this thing all summer, and even better if she could wear it next year, too. So I forced myself to make it too big. Which it was. Hence the hidden safety-pin.

The front. D'you like the butterfly insert? It's a kind of crepe-y burn-out fabric, and the threads that remain in the burn-out areas have vague coloring. This piece was overlaid on top of the same fabric as the bodice, giving more complete coloring to the butterfly and flowers. There's more silver top-stitching on the front, too. This is bobbin embroidery. I wind the thick, metallic silver thread (or should I call it fine cord?). Then I use regular thread in the needle. All top stitching is done with the right side of the fabric face down on the machine, which means you can't really see what you're doing too well. A few times I did make mistakes, and had to go back and pick out stitches, and then try to put them back in with the patterns matching.

Can you tell? I messed up the most on the front (doesn't it figure), and had to fiddle with it for a good deal longer than I would have liked.

Everyone thinks this is a "Cinderella" dress, openly stealing from Disney's animated movie. It's not. For one thing, as I told my brother "Cinderella's dress was a lot less fancy!" For the other thing, despite all appearances here, my sister just isn't a handsome-prince-come-rescue-me -Disney type of girl (she just doesn't want to trip on her skirts here, trust me). What she really is, is a give-me-a-sword-and-I'll-whack-the-monster-Tolkien type of girl!

Admittedly, she's still in training. She not yet up to fighting off Nazgul yet--heck, things that go bump in the night are still too much for her (those things are my job, apparently). Right now, she settles for whacking innocent bystanders, or else brothers. (Everyone knows that brothers are never innocent, no matter how they're standing.)

So far, she has done everything I predicted she would do with her dress. With in minutes, it was indeed muddy. She's tried to wrinkle it, but the polyester is strangely resilient to being wrinkled. And, she perfectly accessorized it with her (rather dirty, I'm afraid) chicken hat, and my pair of uber-cool sunglasses. Alas, I unfortunately do not have a picture of this stunning out-fit, because I was busy with other things at the time, such as assembling the castle cake for her.

Everyone always thinks I'm nuts for making such a fancy dress as nothing more than a child's play costume. "But it's so much work for her to ruin it by running through mud-puddles in it!" Nonsense, on all levels. It seems much sillier to me to go through all that work and then have her only wear it once (perhaps twice) to fancy occasions, and then grow out of it. What a waste!

Secondly, I made the dress for her (not me, or anyone else). Kids never care about mud-stains; it wouldn't ruin it for her. Besides which, it would make her very miserable to wear the dress and be scolded every two minutes to keep her dress clean. What's the point of giving her something that she'll be miserable wearing?

I say, I hope she gets a good long time of play out of the dress, and that it becomes a fond childhood memory for her. This, to me, would be a thousand million times more gratifying than to have it pristinely packed away, where she never even remembers she had it, and never got to properly wear it out. Yes, wear it out. That's what it's meant for, not being saved to look at later, and never used.