From cling film to pattern: making a bodice block directly from the body

Following our recent adventures with plastic food wrap I wanted to test the outcome.

My fitting buddy Pia suggested I draw round the pattern, including the darts, and then make a fabric toile. She also advised a CF zip so it was easy to put on.

Making a body double
Pia shows me how to create darts and flatten the cling film body mould

The moulding process produces a full pattern – in other words there is a left and right front, and a left and right back. This really allows you to create a perfect fit for your own asymmetric body. But after I traced them off I decided I wanted to look symmetrical, so I chose my better half. Funnily enough this was my left front and right back (that is the same side of my body – my non-dominant side. It is also the one without the shoulder injury. The differences were fairly slight but evident.

I used my pattern cutting tools – set square, neck and hip curves, to create a nice clean line. I added 1cm seam allowances at the shoulder and side seam.

I then cut the pattern on the fold, stitched up and pressed the darts, inserted a separating zip at the CF and sewed the front to the back. It’s early in the morning, and I have my Jammies on. But you can tell I am pleased with the result. Very pleased actually. It is so exciting. It fits massively better than flat pattern drafting and with no additional stages of iteration – back and forth – between paper and fabric. It fitted perfectly first time. I owe most of the success to Pia who knew what she was doing, but this is amazing. The shoulder and the armhole – areas that troubled me with the flat pattern cutting, have come out close to perfect. The waist line, and bust point, are exactly where they should be.

Let’s see how the back came out. Pretty neat, eh? Obviously the whole thing is tight as there is no ease in the block. But I can move and breathe. Overall I am delighted at the outcome. Pia suggested grading the toile up one size before using it to draft patterns. I am not sure what I am going to do next with it. I am tempted to make some T shirts with this skinny little pattern using fabric that stretches.

Two questions I know you will have – firstly how does it compare with the traditionally drafted bodice? As  you can see the “close fitting” bodice from Winifred Aldrich is considerably larger than the wrapped bodice block. Obviously the dart positions are not quite the same – the card block has the bust dart coming from the neckline, whereas the draped block has it at the side seam. With both the front and back the armhole depth is lower in the wrapped bodice, and the waist line much more shaped (coming up more at the CF). The neckline is very similar. What this goes to show I think is that the draped bodice is a better and more realistic fit as it doesn’t depend on convention or measurements at all.

And secondly – could you use this technique for making a trouser block?

When we started the process I asked Pia if she had used this technique before. “Only on my head to make a hood” she replied. So if Pia can drape her head I am pretty sure it is possible to use the cling film method to wrap any body part you choose. Two readers have asked if you can use it to drape your lower half, in the hope that it will lead to the perfect pair of trousers. I am sure it will although it will produce something like a legging pattern I guess. You would have to create the trousers from here. But it would produce good pants (in the English sense of the word).

I would like to give the arms (sleeve) and legs a try. If some London sewists want to give it a go let me know below.

32 Responses

  1. That is a really good fit, no wonder you are pleased. I will be interested to see how you go with the sleeves and trousers.

  2. that looks great, really quite different from the traditional method.

  3. Amazing fit. Can you now use this block to make design changes?

    • Effectively yes, although it needs some ease first. And creative designing really needs a torso block and a sleeve block I would say.

  4. Yes I’d definitely love to give it a go. Let me know where and when!

    Your bodice is a beautiful fit

  5. Would also love to know how you are going to grade it up. I’m never sure where additional ease needs to be added.

  6. Barbarags

    I am definitely interested. In fact I have been thinking of taking up an offer of free room hire in August at a local pub one weekend daytime so that a number of people could join in from our sewing club, especially after speaking to Megan and hearing how pleased she was with the bodice that she made up. I have been sourcing the narrow cling wrap to buy and wondered how much wrap is used per person roughly, I know it depends on size but it would be helpful to have some idea of the number of rolls per person.
    Pia’s head wrapping idea is brillant. RTW hats don’t fit me and I was wanting to make some in a cloche style.

    • I think combination of normal kitchen wrap & narrow wrap might be useful. I find the wrap by itself too easy to come undone & get squashed even with multiple layers. A layer of clear packing tape is worth more than many layers of wrap – but of course you don’t want to tape directly on your skin, so a layer or two of wrap first, then tape may make the process quicker, less uncomfortable, & more accurate. The purpose of the wrap would then be to protect your skin (like the plastic bag one use for duct-tape or paper-tape double). So larger kitchen wrap cut into manageable size might get more area covered more quickly & be useful for hard to wrap neck-shoulder-chest-arescue area.

      Another suggestion would be to mark all the guidelines before you start wrapping. You can then take your time to get this right without wrapee discomfort from sweating in the wrap. It also means you know where to wrap to at neckline & armsyces. wrapped & taped you can just trace the guidelines onto the wrap before cutting wrapee out. Guidelines ideally shouldn’t move, so maybe the narrow tape Sew2Pro brought along, or masking tape with guidelines drawn on, or maybe even eyeliner? 🙂

      For those wrapped who easily overheats the above should help. Also consider wrapping top & bottom separately, even if you’re aiming for a dress length result. That’ll give you time to recover between each portion! Just make sure the boundaries stay the same – ie waistline, armsyce (for separate sleeve wrapping).

      I’m tempted to do pants/leg wraps. The tricky bit would be figuring out how to wrap between the legs & the crotch line! 😉

      • Stephanie

        Pia this is amazingly helpful. Thanks.

      • Thank you again Pia for your amazing willingness to share you knowledge, advice and expertise.

      • Barbarags

        Thanks, Pia, you are so good with the intricate details of how to achieve something. Hope your wedding sewing is going to plan, it sounds amazing.

    • Barbarags – can you let me know what you are thinking about and maybe I can help organise it. In terms of narrow cling film Marianna bought two rolls and that was enough for four of us.

      • Barbarags

        I was only thinking about getting a bodice done. From what Pia has written it seems that a combination of different sizes of cling film and clear tape is the best bet. I hope to get the room for 6 hours so, depending on the success of the initial bodice, people may go on to try another part of the body. Also it will be combined with doing some sewing for a charity so the whole time will not be spent wrapping each other in film! I’ll be watching out for any further posts on this and any comments by people who have tried it. The fit of your bodice was awesome.

  7. fantastic fit – really brilliant and a great idea how you all did it together. I made a new jeans block last year and made up the toile, It was an okay fit, but then I had my partner pin excess fabric at the back and I then machine stitched the pinning, fitted again and it was perfect. when I undid the toile to retrace pattern it gave a slight curve in the line of the thigh, I have used the pattern twice and both times its been perfect.

  8. A fantastic fit: it would looks great with a pleated or circle skirt. Pia’s suggestions how to adapt it to a pattern are useful too.

  9. The fit looks perfect! This method does have a lot of advantages. I’ve found the most difficult part of drafting a fitting block is getting accurate measurements. No measuring with this technique. To produce a working block which fits close to the body yet isn’t skin tight I would lower the underarm about 1 cm, add 1 cm to the side seams, extend the shoulder 0.5 cm. The neckline looks good as is. The dart can be moved to any location or divided into multiple darts. It sounds like you will be hosting a pant/sleeve session.

  10. Stephanie

    Ok now I am envious. I might have to figure out how to teach someone to do this for me!

  11. WOW, I am definitely impressed with this fit!!

  12. This is quite impressive!

  13. Really impressive Kate, I wondered how to add ease without distorting the balance Mary’s advice seems to address this. It would be well worth making this shell pattern on oak tag, you’re unlikely to find a better fitting commercial one. I do think one needs to have some fitting knowledge for this method to be successful, you were a good team with a lot of experience between you, Pia was a hero. You’re also inspiring others to have a go.

  14. As for trousers, I would wrap one leg and go from from crotch to encircle hips and waist then cut down c/f and c/b then repeat for the other leg, I think that might work?

  15. Joyce Latham

    Very impressive indeed!
    Joyce

  16. Hi Kate! Giorgia here from the class 🙂 I’ve been following the blog, hoping to see more about this cling wrap magic and I haven’t been disappointed! I would love to join next session and help organise. I think I’ve seen something advertised on the sewing meet-up? It would be my first meet up as well so what a way to get started!

  17. Great result. I would love to travel to London and join in.

  18. Barbarags

    Having a session of cling filming on 28 August. We have been lent a function room very about 3 minutes from Balham tube and rail station from 11 am to 5 pm. We are going to be combining doing some sewing for a charity and other sewing, fitting, etc with those who want to do so trying for a bodice, and/or sleeve and one person is going to attempt a hip and leg wrap. Anybody interested. If so, I will send more information.

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