My day job has been making me crazy and stressed, and my upcoming trip to Wisconsin to see the family (we hop in a cab at 3:45 tomorrow morning--ugh) has also been adding to that crazy/stress/insomnia cocktail, so instead of working more overtime or packing or doing anything work- or trip-related over the weekend, I did what any other crafter in my situation would do: I sewed. Sometimes, you just need to stop, step back, and switch to an activity where 1/2" seams are always 1/2" seams and your hands know exactly what to do, you know?
I've had Cal Patch's amazing Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified for months now and finally decided to delve in this weekend. WOW. I thought, when I bought the book, that I'd develop a crush on Cal Patch, but I never expected to fall in love with her and this book! I originally started doing clothes with the "just wing it" method, which then see-sawed into the "follow the pattern exactly and then be disappointed when it doesn't fit" method. My last, tested, workable method is the "follow the pattern to baste together a muslin, try it on, take it apart and make adjustments; repeat, repeat, repeat" method, but it is very time-consuming. With this book I still made muslins and still did some adjusting, which often meant re-drafting my pattern slightly, but I was amazed by one simple fact: Every muslin I made fit, pretty exactly, on the first try.
Which it should, right? Since Cal (we're on a first-name basis at this point) teaches you how to draft your own patterns--from scratch!--using your own measurements. I bought a 36" wide roll of newsprint last week and spent plenty of time on the floor this weekend drawing, erasing, measuring, etc. but it worked really well. The first thing I tried was actually the last project in the book: the Kathy dress. Because it was the last project in the book and the projects build on one another, I actually had to back track to the shirt chapter and draft the shirt and sleeves from there, then move on to a different dress to make modifications, and then modify that pattern to be my Kathy dress.
I am in love. The shoulder/armhole probably could've been gathered and definitely needs to be re-drafted, I accidentally cut the pockets into the back because I was rushing, the sleeves could be pouffier and might need to have the elastic gathered by another inch or so, but at this point, I don't care. I love this dress. The fabric is a Joel Dewberry, from one of the older lines (Deer Valley?), that I bought on a whim. The necklace was made for me by my friend Katie.
After that worked out so well, I made the Phoebe skirt, also at the back of the book. It's just a slash-and-spread version of the standard A-line skirt (for which my muslin turned out beautifully!). I used this really fun village print (Robert Kaufman?) and added the pockets to the FRONT this time. I didn't topstitch the pocket opening or stitch the pocket to the front of the skirt, but they are a little floppy, so I'm thinking about doing some hand-stitching in a thicker thread, á la Anna Maria Horner.
All this to say that I am very very pleased with the Cal Patch book and I fully intend to revise and adapt the patterns in it--I'm seeing a giraffe bubble skirt in the near future. It was so great to make clothes that turned out (despite some small imperfections), especially after I had a craft fail with the Sew Mama Sew! skirt tutorial. Like others I've seen, my skirt came out too small on the waist and too mini on the length. The length is my fault. The waist fits, but without a zipper, I have trouble getting the skirt on and off over my hips--a standard 4" is added to the waistband, but I guess my hips are a bit larger than that. Hmmm. Also, the pockets are too small! BUT I did learn how to shirr with elastic thread, which was super cool. I'm just bummed that I wasted a yard of the lovely AMH voile on this. I guess I'll just chalk that one up to "learning experience" and rely on my handy Cal Patch book for evaluating any new patterns before diving in.