Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Today’s Review: Copying Clothes

Man! I’m exhausted. After having the larger Grandbeasties yesterday for the second time in 3 days, I’m taking it a little easy today. Now I remember why I had small children when I was in my 20’s! I had a lot more stamina then. Or maybe I just had no choice but to hang in there even when I was tired? I didn’t have handy grandparents who would take over anytime I wanted, T-Man was working 50+ hours per week and we didn’t have enough money to hire a babysitter very often. Am I trying to compensate for that and be there for my grandkids the way I’d wished for myself? Don’t get me wrong – I adore the beasties and absolutely enjoy having them. I’m just not up for it every day even with Grampa T-Man’s help. Luckily it usually works out to having them over Just Often Enough. We miss them if we don’t see them at least every couple of weeks.

So of course I haven’t accomplished much of anything else, particularly in the crafty department. I got a partial row knitted on my Black Rock Shawl and got interrupted by a child’s request and there ya go! That was it. I got a little more done on my newest knitting project, mainly because it’s mindless stockinette:


This is my version of the Amiga cardi from Knitty in a doubled slub rayon weaving yarn. It’s much farther on now than this photo from the other day. I’m down a number of inches past the armholes and cruising for the hem – which is just a bind-off row because it’s just plain knit all the way. I plan to make it a little longer than the waist length the pattern shows. Then on to the 3/4 sleeves and a large collar/front piece that is just a long rectangle. Easy-peasy. This is my mindless knitting for the moment since the shawl is halfway through the lace chart and needs more attention. Also I need to dye this sweater in something from the garden, likely either woad or Japanese indigo, and it needs to be completed first before I can do that. The black wool/silk shawl can wait although I haven’t actually stopped working on it entirely. It’s definitely not too warm for wool today!

I think I did promise something more interesting to talk about however. Let’s have a book review, shall we?

Patternmaking Book

Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit: Using the Rub-Off Technique to Re-Create and Redesign Your Favorite Fashions by Steffani Lincecum (2010, published by Watson-Guptill).

I got this book recently because I have a number of garments in my stash that I would love to re-create. I’ve done this before, pinning and tracing and then truing up the shapes and adding hems and seam allowances. It works pretty well if you can get the piece flat enough. The author describes 2 methods : the paper method and the fabric method. The later is used for more 3-D items that can’t be flattened, in this case a purse, where you drape around the piece. The flat paper method is used for a pencil skirt, a 1960’s sheath dress and a vintage blouse. Then there are descriptions of how to alter the basic pattern “rub-off” to change the fit and/or style options. Interspersed are helpful hints and tips plus some basic sewing instructions to assemble the garments.

What I liked:
This book starts out quite well with a lot of helpful information. This technique is a great way to duplicate a favourite closet item and either make a similar garment, tweaking the fit if necessary, or morphing it into a number of different styles. Anything that gets you away from using the popular pattern companies’ rather boring offerings is all to the better, IMO! The styles shown are cute and quite wearable if you want to copy the ideas – providing you can find a similar garment to start with. Some of the sewing hints are very detailed, such as how to hand-finish a lapped zipper for a couture touch. I particularly liked Steffani’s explanation of the way she handles adding the darts to your tracing which is kind of an important part of the puzzle.

What I didn’t like so much:
As most often happens, for me at least, I feel that some information is overly detailed, some is skimmed too lightly and some is missing altogether. Perhaps the author could have used the available space for more detail on the pattern tracing and alterations and less on the sewing? One could always refer to a good sewing book for those details but the how-to’s for duplication of a garment isn’t something that’s discussed very often. Only featuring three garments and one purse to copy seems like a very small sampling though there are quite a few “refashioned” garments shown for each one. I’d rather see more different garments rubbed off and less restyling, some of which stray rather far from the original which is used more like a basic block than a pattern which is a whole ’nuther subject, aka pattern drafting. Altering for fit is barely skimmed, probably because she expects you to start with a garment that fits pretty well and there are a couple of good fitting books available for that if you need it. I’m also not really happy with the illustrations of pattern pieces and layouts which seem rather vague to me. A lot of space is wasted, for example with not one, but two large drawings of how to link two buttons to make cuff-links just a few pages apart. I’d rather see how the skirt sections of some of the dresses are made instead. The focus is on the bodices only. More detail photos in general would have been very helpful even for the more experienced sewer like me. This book isn’t really for the absolute newbie.

Besides my rather minor complaints, which may have been beyond the author’s control anyway, I have no regrets buying this book. I especially enjoyed the stories about the author’s adventures in making clothing for TV and movies. Plus the tale of finding her great-grandmother’s old newspaper patterns gave me goosebumps. It illustrates that there is nothing new in wanting to make a garment like one you already own, only better! These days it’s not so much about thrift as it is about creativity. I’m inspired to get off the computer now and up to the studio.

BTW there is a more complex garment rub-off tutorial (originally from Threads #92) here. Turns out the authors Blossom Jenab and Kate Rittenhouse are local folks too! Small world.


Evelyn said...

Thanks for the review and the link! Something I have always wanted to try and have a couple of items "saved" for doing just this! But I could also just take them apart seeing as they are worn out anyway?

Heather said...

I wonder why it is called the rub-off method when it seems, at least from the link, it is more of a pin tracing. Now I not surprised it has never worked for me when I try copying a garment by tracing with pencil from the top. Thanks for all the tips.

Louisa said...

Thanks for your comments, my dears! See the next post for answers to your question.