Thursday, 22 September 2011

Draping class 1, a simple blouse

Courses are liberating! Sewing-courses in particular seem to be very good for my creativity-levels!

Draping class 1 finished. We draped a basic blouse, with a short sleeve and a collar.

I was increadibly lucky, the original teacher dropped out a couple of weeks before the course was meant to start, it was therefor delayed a week which meant I didn't miss out on the first class after all!

The new teacher is good, and nice, and very knowledgeable. He is the head pattern cutter at the most prestigious theater in Stockholm (Dramaten, where Sweden's most famous film-maker Ingmar Bergman used to direct his plays) and has worked at Dior and Balenciaga. He likes to tell us about quirky details of costumes and historical clothing (very much appreciated by me!).

The class consists of 7 pattern construction teachers from a Design High School, two designers from H&M and three amateurs (I'm one!), out of whom one has taken the course before and showed us some great things she had made then. The other one (who's not a professional designer, I mean) recognized me from Burdastyle. Fun!

And now dear readers, I shall try to forward all that I've learned to you ;-)!

To prepare the toile for draping you need a few lines as a guide (to get the grain straight and make marking the pattern once it's don easier, my guess).

To drape a simple blouse, the toile-fabric needs to be at least the length you want it to be, and long enough to cover the dress form around the shoulder + quite a bit of excess fabric. For me, that means about 70 cm's.

First, you draw a line a line about 4 cm's from and parallel to the edge of the fabric. This will be the center front (marked MF in my sketch).
Then another line about 10cm's from the first one. That is the normal distance between the centre front and breast point for someone of size 38 (considered the "normal" size). When designing for a particular person, measure!

Finally draw a perpendicular line that makes a cross at the breast-point, make sure there's enough fabric above it to cover the shoulders of the dress form!

The back piece is simply marked with a line parallel to the edge, a few centimeters from the edge. That will be the middle back (MB).

Time to drape! First pin along the center of the dress form. Then smooth out the fabric and pin across the breast-point, and on top of the shoulder. The fabric should be smooth but not too stretched.

Shape darts with your hands, and pin (I pinned along the seam-line but you can also fold them and pin them flat onto the dress form).

The darts on the front piece should always point towards the bust point!

Add ease at the side-seam. Make sure the fabric is straight grain along the side seams (the teacher stressed how in couture it's vital that the fabric is always on straight grain in all pattern pieces, ie perpendicular to the floor, unless the garment is cut on the bias).

Once you're happy with the shape and fit it's time to cut off excess fabric, but not all, leave quite a bit along the side and shoulder (for future adjustments).

To make the sleeve, prepare a simple sketched sleeve as a guide, if you like (I did, but ended up not using it).

This diagram is for a size 38, with a calculated width of arm 32 cm's. My arm is 26 cm's but I still used the size 38-diagram for my sleeve, no problem.

12 cm's is a quite low sleeve cap, which will make the blouse comfortable to wear. 

If you want to be more meticulous, measure around your arm, add some ease, and divide the measurement in two for the front- and back of the sleeve. Place a bit more at the back of the sleeve (the back of human shoulders is fuller).

And then you just pin, and drape the sleeve to the toile already on the dress form. Only pin the part of the sleeve that's visible, not the part that's underneath the arm! That part you just make markings to indicate the seam line once the toile is done. Fold along the seam-line and make a fold along the seam-line (as the fabric is in a finished garment, with the seam allowance tucked in).

That was a very brief description of how it's done, the same procedure, step by step and in more detail is available at Cornell university. Read about the bodice here, the sleeve here, and a collar here

Here's my blouse!

I first made only one dart in the front and one in the back, but later separated them, as a design element (it looked too boring before).

The sleeve is pleated along the sleeve cap, and I cut it off to form a flutter-sleeve, it kind of reminds me of 1930's fashion.

I think I would have made this kind of blouse without a collar, but it was part of the exercise to drape a collar (the lady next to me, Stacy, helped me get the grain right, I had no idea how to turn the fabric). And now I quite like it with the collar. I think I may need to work on my use of collars (it basically doesn't exist, I thing it should).

The back.

I deliberately made the darts that are closer to the middle longer than the darts closer to the side seams. I thought it looked better.

Now the bonuses!

Bonus knowledge 1:

On garments from around the 1890/1910's, the shoulder seam was moved quite a bit back on the shoulder, and slanted backwards. This made it possible to put the grain of the fabric on the front piece perpendicular to the seam - which makes the front piece less flexible - and the grain is automatically on the true bias along the shoulder seam on the back piece. That makes the back piece very flexible, and consequently gives the garment a better fit, both in the front, and the back.

I must try it sometime!

Bonus knowledge 2:

In Dior's New Look, the sleeves were very narrow, and the sleeve openings tiny!

Without a bit of fiddling, this would make it almost impossible to move the arms. The trick Dior used to make the sleeves/bodice more flexible was to add ease in the bodice, right next to the sleeves.

I just looked at some pictures of the New Look jackets, and it's quite obvious, easy to see, now that I know about it.

And bonus knowledge number 3:

Whaley's (UK) is a great source of muslin/toile for draping (also organic, and loads of other fabrics needed for couture and finer sewing). According to our teacher the cheapest place. And the muslin should be unbleached... not white and striped like mine (but i like it)!

I love insider secrets....!

Next week we'll drape jersey, can't wait!


  1. Wow - you've done a fantastic job. Thank you for putting in the time to show us and explain how it's done. Will definitely try this out soon - need to alter a pattern, but I think I'll try and drape the design first and see how I go - very inspirational - thank you!

  2. I wish there were classes like this around here.

  3. Woot for getting a free lesson in draping! I wish I had a class like that around here.

    It looks like you've learned a lot in your first class and the insider info is always so interesting and makes you feel like a pro, doesn't it? I must try this draping too, it looks fun.

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  4. Oooh, this is exciting stuff! I can't take a class at the moment, so going to live vicariously through yours! Thanks!

  5. What a fantastic class!! I wish so much I could join you!! But thank you so much for posting here your work, it is fabulous to share your class like this!

  6. Oh, I love your insider secrets too! That's why I love taking classes, all the little snippets of information you pick up... I'd love to try the little bias/straight grain shoulder seam tip!

    Looks like you're having great fun!

  7. Wow! I'm sooo jealous, would love to join you in this class. I just booked a class on fashion drawing but had to cancel it because it clashed with my teaching schedule in work (Sigh!) and I cannot find a single draping class offered in the whole of Vienna. Love your little insider tips. And please, please give us all the juicy insights into how to drape jersey!!!! I really want to know :)

  8. I envy you! Looks like you had a lot of fun and learned a bunch of useful tricks. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

  9. Your draping class sounds wonderful. I had observed the cut of shoulders in the late 1890's and early 1900 from my old copies of The Delineator fashion magazine but never knew why it was done that way. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Well, it looks very impressing for just one lesson!!! I love the little bits of historical information too. What's up next?

  11. great job, all that on a first class...I am stunned.
    Thanks for the tip on buying calico...I am always on the lookout for nice and cheap fabric shops

  12. Looks beautiful. Thanks for the tutorial- my first draping class!

  13. Wow - that is very cool! Thank you so much for showing us! :)

  14. Thanks for sharing what you've learnt - very interesting to read and see (I'd like to try this myself) - and the bonus knowledge items too!

  15. Wow! Great tutorial! I'm going to try it. I've wanted to learn to drape for years, but it's always seemed intimidating. Looking forward to the jersey class!

  16. Hey, I just saw your awesome jacket in the BurdaStyle book. Looks great!

  17. Hej! Jag hittade afternoon tea top eller vad den hette på burdas hemsida och jag är totalförälskad. Det gick tyvärr inte att ladda ner den dock fast det stod att den var gratis, jag vet inte varför. Går den att få tag på på något annat sätt? Jag skulle så gärna vilja sy en sån. Kram Jenny

  18. Hello, I'm a french seamstress without a blog but I like to wander a bit to see other's work until I find the courage to show mine. However, I went throught the whole history of your blog, such fabulous things!!!Congratulations, I will subscribe to the newsletter at once!

  19. Hi! Please email me, I have a question for you :)


  20. Hey I hope you are well. Miss reading your stuff. I read the earlier posts to keep me happy.

  21. Hi Karin, just a note to let you know that I've nominated you for a Leibster Blog award :) How is the course going? Hope you are well and looking forward to seeing some more draping.

  22. Hej! Och nu missade jag din kommentar. :) Letar febrilt efter din mailadress utan framgång. Min är om du vill skicka mönstret dit. Jo jag mår bättre tack, fick en depression i höstas på grund av ganska svår järnbrist vilken fick mig att må i princip som i inlägget jag skrev då. Hur menar du, att du har samma känsla fast omvänt? Jag hoppas det är bra med dig också.

  23. I'm discovering your great blog! Thanks a lot for this very interesting post! I'm.sure you enjoyed your course a lot. I hope I'll be able to do so soon (find a modeling course first...)

  24. I thought the wole purpose of using striped fabric was to easily observe the grain while draping. BTW when are you comig back? I miss your posts!

  25. Great blog, so many wonderful ideas!

  26. oh my gosh.... of only i have the patient and the talent you have....
    ouffff.... great job!
    IG @gracenjio

  27. Thanks for sharing some tips. I'm totally newb at draping but I'll like to learn how to do that. I just found your blog, but definitely will visit more often :)


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