Aug 26, 2010

Why things don't always happen on time (or, the tale of the wonky sloper)

On Tuesday, I took my measurements for the Princess Peach bodice sloper, drafted the front and back pieces, cut them out, made a muslin to check the fit, drafted a corset pattern based on the sloper, and with the help of my trusty leftover plastic boning and some hemp cord, I sewed my first corset!


That was what I was kind of hoping would magically happen, but this is what happened instead:

On Tuesday, I took my measurements for making a front bodice sloper. In case you don't know, a "sloper" is a super-basic pattern fitted to your exact measurements; you can use it for all kinds of stuff, including for making other patterns that you know will fit you, which is what I intend(ed?) on doing. In this case, I was measuring myself for the front half of a sloper for my upper body.

Anyway, when I got to the measurements for the back bodice sloper, I realized I would have to be a contortionist with bug eyes to take some of them myself.

My magical special tape measure
My Special Tape Measure does let me, say, measure my own bicep with one hand, but alas, it does not come with sticky bits that would allow me to measure from the back of my neck to the center of the back part of my waist.

So I had to wait until the first mate got home (and he works the late shift, of course! ;)) to take the missing measurements. If I could have double-checked the measurements personally, I would have, but I couldn't even watch him in the mirror as he measured — if I could do that, I would have the "bug-eyed contortionist" thing down and wouldn't have needed his help.

So I had to trust his measurements, and went forward with the drafting of the sloper pattern. (Again, in case you don't know, that just means I was following the directions to draw the sloper pattern.) While doing this, I realized that the theoretical girl in the pattern-drafting example diagrams was definitely not the same shape as I am, and I started to doubt myself: Would my sloper even come out correctly if I couldn't follow the directions properly? Alarmingly, my across-shoulder and across-chest measurements don't work out so that there's a pointy bit where it should be. Here, let me show you.

On my version of this pattern piece, the Line of Wonk does not do what it does on the above example (image ganked for illustrative purposes from Andy Nguyen's pages on tailoring — meaning I do not claim to have created nor do I own this image).

See that line between points 6 and 9? See how it sticks out past the line coming down from point 7 and forms a little point? That little point is the top of the arm-hole (a.k.a. the armscye), which, in a lot of patterns, curves like that because people have cylindrical arms. And the space between points 4 and 7 is determined by measuring across my shoulders, meaning that that line needs to be a certain length in order for the bodice to actually make it across the front of my body.

But using my measurements, point 9 ends up to the left of the line coming down from point 7. That's right — using the appropriate measurements, my armhole wants to start on the inside of my chest width. Which seemed a little wrong (I swear I don't have arms on the front of my body) so I re-checked my body measurements, and had the first mate check, too. And yes, it's true: If I measure a little differently, I can get a different result. I can make the measurement even smaller. Perfect! You know, if by "perfect" I mean not. ;)

Oh, and just to confuse me a little more, the Line of Wonk, in my version of the pattern, angles UP, not down. After an emergency consultation with my costume buddy of Olde Times, I decided to just draw the dang line longer than it should have been and make adjustments in the muslin (meaning the mocked-up test bodice that gets sewn using the sloper as a pattern).

Drafting the front bodice sloper
It's pretty faint in this photo (my pencil lines aren't that dark, since pencil point + too much pressure + newsprint = hole), but if you follow the photo link to Flickr, I've added a note pointing out the Line of Wonk in my sloper.

Tuesday ended with me feeling rather like some kind of genetic mutant, but at least I had a finished front bodice sloper to play with.

On Wednesday, I drafted the back bodice sloper without trouble. Which should really be taken as a sign of trouble in itself. ;) I even found some fabric that would work to make the muslin (that is, a mock-up sewn garment of inexpensive fabric, used to test the fit of the pattern in question), and applied pattern, pins, scissors, more pins, needle and thread to said fabric (in that order), indeed to produce a muslin.

Which fits perfectly from the bust point down, but horrendously from the bust point up. Ha, ha. So the part of the bodice containing the Line of Wonk is, indeed, wonky. I probably should have expected that, considering I knew I was doing something wrong in that part of the pattern. (But part of creating is hope...)

However, I realized late, late Wednesday night (so late you might *cough* even call it Thursday morning) that I don't need properly-fitted shoulders to make a corset, because none of the corset styles I was considering has shouldery bits. WHEW.

So my quest today is browsing my period clothing books and mooshing together what I find there with the information from various online corsetmaking pages.

Then maybe I'll play with other online sloper drafting instructions (like the even more complex sloper instructions at Leena's or the ones on, or maybe I'll raid my own closet for items of clothing with shoulders that DO fit, so I can trace them and magically meld the result with the bottom half of my current sloper pattern, a.k.a. the bit that fits.

Or maybe I'll do BOTH. Dangit. Yeah. So there.

If I do all these things, I will have momentarily channeled the spirit that made me name my blog "Quicksilver Crafter" a few years ago. That would be a miracle, so don't expect it ... but do feel free to send good wishes. ;)
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