I was thrilled watching everyone vote for their favourite designs for this, the Duelling Designs inaugural design challenge. I checked back numerous times a day eager to see which of the two designs I would be making. Design 1 won the challenge. I was not entirely certain I was going to like the finished garment as I still was not sure that the cape was going to be able to carry a button with so much character.
The day after the vote I pulled out my patternmaking books and chose a block manipulation to start with. At Massey University, one of the required textbooks was Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong. It is an excellent book for beginners and a useful reference when needed for everyone else. I chose the A-line cape foundation in this book over the other books I had as the other cape patterns were flared and that did not match the look I wanted for the garment.
I had a bit of a rocky start when I could not find my set square. When you have moved back and forth between countries you tend to misplace a few things along the way but why oh why was it my set square! After an initial panic, all was found and the patternmaking could start.
MOMENTS OF DOUBT
I altered the tunic blocks as suggested in the book and added a seam from the front neckline down to the hem, dividing the front into two pattern pieces.
When I constructed the first toile, the shoulders and upper arm area were a disaster. It was like there was an enormous sink hole along the shoulder seam. I was not sure if my toiling fabric was too light for the design; the front seam was too close to the shoulder or rounded. Or maybe it was because my shoulders were just plain freakish? Even the shoulder pads wouldn’t help.
I moved the seam between the two front pieces towards the center front. Thank goodness as in the initial toile I looked like a gigantic red M&M.
TRY, TRY, AGAIN
I went back to the patternmaking table and took some of the curve off the shoulder seam. I also moved the front seam closer to the front and away from the shoulder area. I changed the line to be less curved as well. I also added a back slit to ensure there was enough room to move in the cape. The neckline was lowered slightly and the small amount was taken off the center back seam as it gaped a little.
These changes lessened the amount the shoulder area caved in but did not resolve the issue. The design line looked much closer to my original design sketch and improved the look of the garment. I made a note to shave a little more off this area on the final pattern. I then started to tackle the patternmaking and construction sequence for the double layered front lapel. I wanted to make sure the patternmaking was perfect in this area as it is the primary focus of the garment. I would not typically include facings on an initial toile but felt like it was important to the process. I was happy with the final toile and was ready to begin cutting fusing and constructing the final garment.
Sewing the cape went fairly smoothly thanks to the preplanning I had done with my two previous toile. I had to take care with the fabric as it was a loose weave and prone to fraying. I overlocked all edges of the fabric and took extra care with its fusing. I bound the arm slits in the cape and turn the allowance under and top stitched it. I ended up having to topstitch all seams as the fabric did not press well and it gave the design an unfinished look without it.
I added a good sized snap inside the garment to ensure the inside front edge would stay closed and another one at the breakpoint on the lapel. This ensured the top layer folded nicely while the bottom layer remained fastened.
The caved in shoulder problem from earlier was nowhere to be seen on the final garment. Whew! The changes made to the front seam line, shaving off the excess on the shoulder and the nature of the fabric had eliminated the last of the problem.
I am very pleased with the final garment, but there are a few things I would do differently. I would use a thicker fuse on the facings and fuse the whole front piece with a slightly lighter fuse as the fabric’s loose weave made it look too relaxed in some places. Right after the photoshoot I will add a piece of fabric on the underside of the inside top snap to ensure it does not warp the fabric.
I cannot wait to start working on next month’s garment!