Friday, January 20, 2012

pattern drafting with apportioning scales

A lot of people seem to be intimidated by the pattern diagrams in the Frances Grimble books that use apportioning scales to help you enlarge the patterns.  This technique uses special rulers that allow you to draw out the pattern in your own unique size for a custom fit.  Once you get the gist of how it works, this technique requires almost no math and very little thinking.   I *LOVE* using this type of pattern, and I've had really great results with the dresses that I have tried in the past, so I thought I would make some video tutorials to show you all how easy they really are to use. Please excuse my choppy endings. My video editor refused to work with these files, so they are pretty rough around the edges.

The first video talks about how to select the correct apportioning rulers based on your own personal measurements.

The next video walks you through the process of drawing a pattern piece with your custom rulers.

Important things to note:

1.  The apportioning rulers in the Edwardian Modiste book can also be used for Kristina Harris's books of 1890's dress patterns (links to all below).  Harris doesn't include the apportioning rulers in her books, so this is a huge help if you want to use her patterns!
2. The Grimble and Harris books that use pattern systems from the 1880's and 1890's only use the bust measurement ruler for everything that you draw, including the sleeves.  But the system used in the Edwardian Modiste is slightly different, and there is a somewhat complicated way that you are supposed to measure your arm length.  Finding this sleeve length measurement is probably the most difficult step of the entire pattern drafting process, but there is a description of how to measure your arm length on pages 7-8 of the Edwardian Modiste.  You then use your arm length for the vertical measurements in the sleeve pieces (just like we used the waist length for the bodice), while the bust measurement ruler is still used for the width of the sleeve pieces.  Grimble advises that you can also use the modern technique for measuring your sleeve length (simply measuring from shoulder to wrist), and this will get you close enough.  I haven't tried either of these methods with the Edwardian Modiste patterns, but I'll let you know when I do.
3. As I mentioned in the video, skirts are drafted with a different set of rulers from the bodice.  You use your waist measurement for all the horizontal lines (i.e. the 28" ruler if you have a 28" waist). For the main vertical line, you measure from the waist to the floor to determine the length of your skirt, and then select the ruler with that measurement for the vertical baseline on your pattern (i.e. use the 41" ruler if you want your skirt to be 41" long).
4. For dresses with the bodice and skirt all in one, you will use your waist length ruler for the vertical line on the bodice section, and the skirt length ruler for the vertical line on the skirt.
5.  Be warned that the hips on these patterns will probably be too large for most modern figures, but you can always take them in if you need to on the muslin.
6. Even when seam allowances are not marked on the pattern pieces, they sometimes ARE included on the patterns.  The armscye is a good example of this - you might not need to add selvage to the armscye and sleeve-head on some patterns.  But you won't know for sure if you need the extra fabric or not until you make the pattern up, so it is better to add seam allowances just in case.  You can always cut them back off if you find that you don't need them.
7. The type of corset that you are wearing is very important when selecting the proper rulers.  The waist position on my Edwardian corset is much higher than it is on my Victorian corset.  If I am wearing the wrong corset (or none at all) when I measure my back length from my neck to my waist, it will completely throw off the fit of your garment - especially on these late Edwardian patterns where the waistline is intended to be relatively high.

Well, I hope this was helpful!  Let me know if you have any questions on any of this.  I am actually more familiar with using the apportioning systems in the Fashions of the Gilded Age and the Harris books, but I know that the Edwardian stuff is the most popular right now.  But all of the systems are very similar, so once you get one under your belt, the rest are much easier.  Now go forth and draft fabulous patterns! :)

(P.S. - if you would like to buy one of these books that uses apportioning rulers to draft patterns, feel free to use one of these links and I will get a little bitty contribution to my book fund. Thanks!)


Marion said...

Great videos Jen! I always wondered how those rulers worked, they looked so complicated in the book, but I guess they aren't that hard to use. :)

Nicole said...

Hello! I just ordered the Edwardian Modiste book the other day, and I'm so glad you posted these videos! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Wow, you made that look so easy. I need to get that book next pay day. Thanks for the videos!

Stephanie Lynn said...

Thanks! I have the Edwardian Modiste but haven't been brave enough to try any of the patterns out yet! Can't wait till I get home from work and can try this out.

sew vala said...

I have these books in my 'save for later' basket on Amazon and been pondering this past week weather or not to purchase. Thanks this post was great timimg for me.

ZipZip said...

Dear Jen,

Great videos. I used the apportioning scales a few years ago and like you, found that they worked well. Hope that this means we'll be seeing some of the creations from Edwardian Modiste. There are some honeys in there, especialy among the suits, in my humble opinion. Like the 1908 or so one with the lady standing at a boat rail holding her hat on her head...

Very best,


sew vala said...

I am sorry I cant use your link as I am in England, but hope it creates income towards your book fund. A fantasic review.

Dawniepants said...

A great piece of reviewing, loving these tutorials!


Andrea L said...

Thanks for the great tutorial! You've inspired me to draft the basic bodice pattern from Fashions of the Gilded Age, and it was as simple as you made it out to be! Haven't had a chance to make a mockup yet, but it looks like I just have to add a little ease in the bust and fiddle with the armhole. I'm so excited to use the patterns in both books now!

liliana29 said...

cara Gen sono felicissima di aver scoperto il tuo blog e un po di tempo che frugo in vari siti x capire come si fanno i corsetti, o giĆ  2 cartamodelli e non vedo l'ora di mettermi al lavoro, vorrei chiederti ma quel metro con quale te lavori lo trovi nel libro? scusami ma sono nuova nella corsetteria, quei libri aiutano a fare i cartamodelli? mi interessa sopratutto la corsetteria.mi puoi dare un consiglio?

Kat said...

OOOOOH! Thank you so much! I get it now! *Runs off to draft up the 1909 petticoat pattern*

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for doing these videos... I just made up a combination pattern that I'm pretty sure I would have just thrown out the window if it wasn't for your help!!

By A Lady said...

Great videos! I find the rulers in Fashions of the Gilded Age to be a bit different though. They don't have letters instead numbers between lines. How do you figure out where the dot should go? Beteween the lines on the scale or at one of the lines on the scale?

M'lady said...

ooh, thanks. I've just got Edwardian Modiste and was wondering where to start. In corset my waist/bust is right proportions its just my hips are a bit small compared to the patterns...I wonder if I should just build in some padding in the petticoat?
what would you say is the easiest pattern to start with in the book?

A R Dotson said...

Thanks, Jen! I'm someone who has been too intimidated to try drafting patterns, but your tutorial videos explain the process quite well. I think I will have to give it a try now. :)

nikkablue said...


Thank you so much for the video. I have had these fashions of a gilded age books for years and have never attempted drafting because the instructions were so confusing. I just picked up Bustle Fashions 1885 - 1887 and had a quick question. The Apportioning Scales only go up to a size 44 bust. I am a 46 bust do I just need to do a slash and spread adjustment if I draft to the largest size?

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