"Without a solid Foundation you will have trouble creating anything of value."
If ever there was a quote that you could equate with almost anything it would definitely be the quote for today! I mean truly think about it! Anything you want to accomplish in life will require that you do some foundational work. Be it build a strong marriage, cook a great meal, lose some weight or even have a baby it will all require some sort of foundational work (if you know what I mean). LOLL But seriously loves you get the point! Before jumping into anything if you want to create something of value that will stand the test of time you have to do some sort of preparation. Your preparation is the beginning of building the foundation of your concept to ensure that no matter what you create be it food or clothing it will be awesome.
When I attended design school some.........ummhnmmm (clears throat) years ago I remember being fascinated with Draping garments from scratch. I often sat in amazement as I watched our teachers and fellow advanced classmates bring ideas to life right before our eyes with a dressform some muslin and a few other tools. To see Tucks and darts formed, whereby cinching waistlines and drapes falling into deep "V" necks is something that has always captured my attention. Of course when I walked away from the industry for approximately 20 years so did much of the technical knowledge I had acquired. I guess in my case the old saying "use it or lose it" really did apply. The great thing about draping is once you get back in the game by studying the craft, what you thought you lost can and most often will come back to you. The great thing about draping and what probably keeps me fascinated with the craft are the immediate results, it's like fashion art in 3D! There's just something about seeing your vision form in front of you that is so AWESOME! Not only are you able to see what you have envisioned but draping also gives you the immediate opportunity to change, alter, fit and add elements to your design.
One thing I've noticed about many in the sewing community is that while interested in the craft most think learning how to drape is to difficult and completely out of the realm of what they can do. Well I'm here to tell you nothing is further from the truth! You can learn how to build a great foundational garment without laying your clothes on the floor and tracing them out. Learning how to drape the basic blocks can open up a world of design possibilities without you having to piece together four to five commercial patterns. Now don't get me wrong there's nothing wrong with creating a McGuyver pattern every now and then (yes I've been known to create a few myself) but wouldn't it be cool if you could create the visions in your head without spending $85.00 for a vintage pattern you saw on etsy. While I'm no professor and I wouldn't even pretend to be I can share what I do know and offer some insight into the wonderful world of draping. So what I've decided to do is post some helpful information and a few tutorials (over the next several weeks) on how to drape a few of the basics. I hope you tune in as I sprinkle a little draping love around here at My Daily Threadz.
Okay so the first thing you need to know before you even think of draping are the parts and lines of the Dress Form! You will note that in all online courses, and really good tutorials they will go over this foundational information first. It would be impossible for you to keep up with a course/tutorial if you don't understand the dressform.
Once you understand the parts and lines of the dress form something else you will find helpful is marking the critical measurement points and style lines on the form with Draping Tape. This tape is created specifically for your dressform and can be ordered online via several retailers including Wawak Sewing here http://www.wawak.com/Draping-Tape-for-Dress-Forms. I find that when I mark my dressform with this tape it's easy to jot down measurements and it helps me identify exactly where I am on the dressform during the process. Have I always done this in the past you ask? NO I haven't (just being lazy) but I've turned over a new leaf and have vowed to do thing properly from here on out! LOL Being able to identify various points on the dress form is not only key to the draping process but could also affect how the garment fits and looks (darts in the right place, shoulder and side seams lined up correctly etc).
Now let's talk a little bit about Muslin which is most commonly used to drape patterns. Of course you could drape with your fabric if you choose but just know this can be an expensive option especially if you're a beginner. I mean after all who wants to mark all over their garment fabric! Using muslin allows you to make mistakes cross out markings and redraw lines with very little expense in comparison to draping in your garment fabric. It is important to use the muslin that is best suited to your skill level and mimics the type of garment you will be creating.
Muslin is basically a plain woven cotton fabric created from both bleached and unbleached yarns in various weights including:
Coarse Weave ( Muslin #1)-
- Most often used for test fitting finished garments. It is unbleached, the weaving is loose and you can easily see the grains. The cross grain in coarse weave or Muslin #1 as it's referred to in Design schools has a slight stretch to it while the length grain has almost none at all. Instructors will almost always recommend using this muslin if you are a new student/beginner as it is perfect for draping initial lessons such as the basic blocks.
Lightweight Weave (Muslin #2) -
- This Muslin is used most often when you want to create soft flowing garments. You will notice that the grain lines aren't as pronounced as they are with the coarse weave/muslin #1.
Heavyweight (Tailoring Canvas/Muslin)
- This muslin is firmly woven and used for draping garments such as tailored garments including coats and suits. Tailoring muslin as called in the industry is harder to handle which is why it's typically used for draping jackets, coats and other structured designs.
Blocking the Muslin
What is blocking you ask? Well in order to ensure that your cross grain and your length grain are set at right angles to one another after cutting your pieces you will need to block the muslin. During this process you will manipulate the muslin by laying your "L" square flatly on the square piece of muslin you cut and checking to see of both grain lines align with the "L" square. If they don't you will gently tug diagonally on the opposite corner that doesn't align and work your way all the way down the muslin piece. Once you do that lay your "L" square back on the piece to check for the proper alignment (repeat process until you have the muslin blocked).
Ironing the Muslin
It is important to note that not all Muslin has been preshrunk thus it is important to iron the pieces you CUT before you start draping. Remember iron your muslin after you cut and block it (if blocking is necessary). It is best to iron your muslin in the direction of the length grain. NEVER iron your muslin diagonally as it may cause the muslin to stretch putting you back at square one (blocking the muslin) again.
Grain Lines explained
Knowing your Grain lines is essential to the draping process. When you don't know the direction of the grain you can sometimes end up with an ill fitted poorly shaped pattern and garment. You will find that instructors who teach draping are sticklers when it comes to grain line markings and its use when draping and cutting. I will admit that I never paid attention to this in class and learned the hard way when my garments didn't fit properly (twisting, hanging incorrectly etc). So Whatever you decide to drape remember your grain lines must be aligned properly, to ensure that your designs fit well and are well balanced.
So what is the grain line? Well the grain is the actual direction that the fabric fibers are woven:
- The Cross grain - This is the yarn that is woven from selvage to selvage edge across the fabric.
- Lengthwise grain - The yarn that runs parallel to the selvage. This yarn is twisted more tightly and is stronger than the crosswise grain yarns. You will notice that most pants are cut on the length grain because there is no stretch to it and it allows the pants to hang better.
- Bias Line - Now the Bias is a line or angle that runs diagonally across the weave of the fabric. So if you cut or sew on the bias it is running across the weave.
- True Bias - So what is the difference between the bias and the true bias? Well the TRUE Bias is a diagonal line that will intersect with the lengthwise and the crosswise grains at a 45 degree angle. The great thing about the True Bias is that it offers maximum give and stretch when draping. This makes it easy to conform to the dressform (ultimately your body) and is best used when draping cowls, flares and other garments that require maximum give ensuring that the garment falls on the body properly.
The image below shows how the grain runs when you lay your pattern pieces on the fabric a certain way.