1930s Dress: Drafting

Woah, I have been a busy little kiwi the last few days, sorry to keep you waiting on the 1930s dress progress. What have I been doing? I joined the gym. Have I lost my mind? Probably! 😉

It’s just down the road from my work so I really have no excuse not to go. So far I am really enjoying it and feeling much less slothy, goal one achieved!

On Saturday I got down to the scary and exciting task of drafting my 1930s dress pattern. I had a pretty good idea of what the final pattern pieces would look like but I needed a starting point to draft them from.

Here is my sketch for a reminder:

And here is the plan for my pattern pieces:

Basically I intended to draft up a front and back sloper to the hip using Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Making. Then I would alter these pieces to match my sketch, create a centre diamond section and then cut that out of the top of the skirt. The skirt side-panels come off then get joined together and spread to give more flow to the side of the skirt.


So here is a bit of the drafting process:

The tools…


…adding darts to finish.

I made a big stuff up of the shoulder, look how sharp the angle is!

Whoa, what?!

I have no idea how it happened but I knew as soon as I’d drawn it that it wouldn’t work but I couldn’t work out how I’d gone wrong and put it down to a tape measure error and pushed on anyway.

I also found a HUGE error in the book:

Line 3-4 is from the bust point up to the top of shoulder but the text tells you to use your ‘front shoulder to waist’ measurement, what?! Point 4 would end up 20cm above my ‘0’ starting point. I knew it had to be wrong, but Google didn’t help, it must be just in the 4th edition because there was very little chatter about it online. I found one very old sewing forum where someone was asking if anyone else thought it was an error and no one had replied. So I ignored it and worked my way around it by skipping to line 1-5, then I think the 3-4 measurement is actually used for the line 4-6 and it all lined up ok.

Anyway, so here it is on Scarlett:

I corrected my crazy angled shoulder and the consequently too-tight neck by hand, sketching directly onto the calico.

From these two slopers I drafted the main pattern pieces almost identical to my sketch above. I originally intended to gather under the bust but after seeing how nicely the darts worked out in my Rooibos dress (three under the bust on each side) I decided to take a similar approach and spread the piece for six darts each side with the intention to pleating them instead. There was a bit of light-hearted swearing and lots of cellotape. I like a bit of mathematics every now and again and I’ll get more detail about my drafting method up after this is all over to share how I got to my final pattern. It’s definitely been a huge learning curve but I’ve really enjoyed it.

On Sunday I visited Spotlight where I bought 4 meters of a hideous lilac cotton poplin for my test muslin dress. It’s not really too hideous but it makes me think of cheap bed sheets. I chose lilac because I am thinking about using purple for my final dress, not the same colour as this cotton I promise, it’s actually quite a sophisticated colour and I figured if I am making a muslin I may as well make it in at least a similar colour.

On a side note: /Can you believe the Spotlight lady wouldn’t sign my ‘bring your own bag’ card because she said my handbag didn’t count?! This despite me putting the fabric into my handbag and zipping it up. I’m sorry, and I know this sounds petty, but the point of the card is to encourage you not to need a plastic bag by bringing your own bag when you shop, what part of  ‘handbag’ is not reusable? Sheesh!/end rant

After a few changes to my pattern I set to mutilating the cotton. Hehe, well, it wasn’t that bad, but I discovered a few flaws with my drafting, purely part of the learning process and when I re-compared my new pattern pieces to my original sloper it all made sense.

  • First up I somehow managed to make the back piece waaaay to wide so I pinched out an area of that.
  • The front bodice gapes but this might be due to my lack of stay stitching so I will definitely make sure I do that on my final piece. I pinched it out anyway and then checked it against the paper pattern.
  • You might not be able to see in the pictures but the side seams are straining just above the hips and have ripped a little. I made a mistake when cutting the center part out and instead of curving out for the hip I just went straight, and clearly my hips are not straight down from my waist!
I traced the back cut out directly onto the lilac cotton while it was on Scarlett, then I took it off and cut it out.

It looks good, just like I want it, maybe it could be a bit wider but I don’t want it slipping off my shoulders. Ignore the gapey bit at the bottom on the right, that’s my fault, I think the fabric wasn’t quite folded right when I cut it out so when I transferred it to the paper pattern I used the left-hand side as my line.

The hardest part for me has been the proportions. I really really want to get them right, just as they are in my sketch. If they are too low I’ll look dumpy, too high and they’ll look stupid. Having the waist and hip lines marked on the original sloper has helped a lot with locating the style lines. I think next time I do a sketch I’ll make my own croquis, not one that is half my body size and has legs that go on forever. I think I’ll take a few picture of me posing in my underwear (in heels of course!) and then sketch over them to make my own. If I put a piece of elastic around my waist and hips I think that would help too.

Last night I finished drafting up the skirt and cut it out. I will stitch it up tonight and attach it to the bodice. I spread the side sections just like my sketch but I’m not sure if I spread them enough. As a general rule I tend to over do things (take in the side seams to much,  buy too many meters of fabric/patterns/buttons, drink too much coffee) so perhaps when they are stitched up I might change my mind.

Are you fingers still crossed for me? Good 🙂 I’m going to need all the happy sewing thoughts you can send my way, next weekend the dress has to be sewn up and all finished since the party is the following Friday. That gives me the weekdays in-between to do a little accessory (read: shoes!) shopping at lunchtime.


5 thoughts on “1930s Dress: Drafting

  1. to fix the front line, 3-4. Use the measurement 0-2, and add 0.3cm for each size above a 14, so if you are drafting a standard 18, for example, add 0.6cm to the length. this means that 3-4 will be longer than the back seam, allowing room for the larger bust size. good luck with the dress, sketch looks great!

    • Thanks Anne! I’ve quite enjoyed this whole drafting exercise so I’ll definitely have another go at it and I’ll take your advice, maybe I’ll end up with a more natural looking shoulder

      • No worries. There is definitely a print error in that issue of the book, there should have been an errata notice in the front. With the bodice block, there are some tricks to make it fit the bust (bigger or smaller than standard) better. Winnie isn’t neccessarily the best, although she is the easiest to understand because she doesn’t go into great detail.

    • Thanks, I still haven’t got the skirt attached but I’m not too stressed, it all looks like it’s going to come together ok. “Real” fabric shopping tomorrow and then it’s all on 🙂

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