I made a toile for my friend Lyn. This post explains how I created and altered the paper pattern that Lyn, with some design changes, will be able to use to make herself a sheath dress (and by further alteration) any one piece dress she desires.
If you want to do the same (much easier working in pairs) you need to start with a torso block.
- This can be drafted for individual measurements or a standard size (say a size 12). You can do this on your own at home using a book. Winifred Aldridge is probably the industry standard and the one I used when I was at college. Each book has a slightly different approach and the blocks will have different features. I tried making a Japanese block once and found the proportions very wrong for me – I altered it to fit but would have been better using my own individual block. There are other, quicker and easier ways too.
- All the pattern companies make a dress for fitting. These are inexpensive and a reasonable starting point for fitting. However, as an experiment, I bought one and found the shaping pretty unusual (this was to fit my daughter).
- Use a close fitting dress pattern that you like and more or less fits you, and make the alterations from here. I suggest you choose one with a straightforward bust dart, a back shoulder dart and a high, round neck.
What I did for Lyn was use my own torso pattern as a starting point. This started life as a standard block. It has then had the front shoulder dart taken out and two darts created at under arm and under bust (vertical). I compared Lyn’s measurements with my own and altered my pattern to fit her bust, waist and hip measurements (only an inch or two difference).
Start with is a card or paper pattern that consists of a front and back bodice that finishes below the hip. However if you have not drafted the pattern to your exact measurements and know the bust dart, back length or back shoulder dart are wrong for you alter the pattern first. Lyn’s bust was both higher and fuller than average, and that her shoulders were quite broad and a little bony. I therefore altered Lyn’s pattern by changing the position of the bust dart (raising it one inch) and carried out a FBA.
Next cut out the pattern in calico (adding seam allowances if they are not already included).
Mark the bust dart and the back shoulder dart but you can leave out other shaping as you will put these in when fitting. Stitch the darts, press, put a temporary zip in the CB, then sew the shoulder and side seams. Leaving seam allowance at the neck and arm holes is optional – but if you leave them on mark them, or snip into them for wearing ease.
Try on to toile and make alterations. You are supressing fabric where it is full, and opening it out where it is tight. Obviously it is easier to take out rather than put in so if you think you may need more leave bigger seam allowances.
Once fitted you need to transfer the changes to your paper pattern so you can use it to make garments. I find it essential to mark the waist (which I found on Lyn by using the green string). You can see how I trimmed the side seam too, as the toile was a little bit loose on Lyn. The “wedge at the CF came out too, and I slightly reduced the shoulder. Once all these changes had been transfered to the paper pattern I trued it and then traced off a nice new clean version for Lyn.
The final step was to create facings for the arm holes and neck.
Lyn can now use this pattern to make a sheath dress, a tunic or a shell top.