Friday, August 26, 2011

Scary topic--Pattern Grading

Pattern grading is something I've avoided like the plague for years.  It looks complicated.  I've done it once before, but to be frank, it was a mess because I was doing it blind.  I wouldn't have done it now, except Bit did something awful, something terrible--at least when you're making something--she grew.  When you're working with vintage, the sizes you can get are more limited because they were produced as single-size patterns up until the 80s. 

(I've put the other project on hold due to frustration!)  Anyway, I've done the research on the smocking.  Turns out that it's not the run-of-the-mill smocking that you can buy already done in high-end boutiques.  That's English smocking, and it's the most common type.  Apparently, this pattern uses a kind of American smocking known as Honeycomb smocking.  Thanks to the ladies over on the Martha Pullen Forums for helping me figure it out!

More about that later.  Anyway, Gracie has been solidly in size 2 patterns, both vintage and modern for the past year and a half.  That's a 21 inch chest and a 20 inch waist.Occasionally, I've needed to adjust the fit of the shoulders, but for the most part, the commercial patterns have only needed  altered for length.  Until now.  See, when I fell in love with the pattern, it was in a size 2.  At the time, that wasn't a problem, but now Gracie is 21.5 in the chest and 20.5 in the waist.  It's half way in between the sizes.  While it should still fit, it won't for too long, because, frankly, she's in a growth spurt.  So if I want it to fit for more than a few weeks, I need to go up to a size three.  To add to the complications, the original pattern was missing the back bodice piece.  What I ended up doing was borrowing a back bodice from a modern pattern, tracing off the size three, and then adding in ease for the rest of the pattern while I was sizing it up.  I figure it's a good thing, because it'll make it much easier to get on and off!

Here's what I learned: 1) Bit will not only let me work when it's for her, but will try and help... and mostly succeed.  2) Because they go up in 1 inch increments, they're easy to resize.    and 3) Tutorials help.

So, the first thing I did was to trace out the original pattern.  Usually, that's a good idea with a pattern this old, anyway, because the tissue is fragile and usually tattered.  Once that was done, I drew lines where I wanted things to be bigger.  Usually, I was working with 1/4" increments, because I was adding a minimum of an inch into the pattern.  Though I did add more in places for ease and to widen the neckline.  The most complex is the front piece.

Rather than add all the needed length in one piece, I lengthened the bodice so that it would match the modern back bodice.  I used graph paper for ease of measurement--the little squares are 1/4" square, so it makes measuring simple.This one has an attaches skirt to the front bodice.  You're supposed to gather the sides and dart them for the skirt, and everything is gathered because of the smocking, anyway.  :) I'll be cutting out and doing the pleating tomorrow!  I added a 1/2" to the front to help widen the neckline so Bit doesn't feel like she's choking.  I also added 2" to the gathered part of the skirt to preserve the original width and add to the floaty-ness of it.  Remember, this is going to be made out of organza and fully lined.  All the other slashes were spread by 1/4".  So the shoulders, armhole are adding an inch to the dress.  I added more to the back skirt, too.  And repeated the process with the sleeves, adding 1/4" to the middle.  The panties were both widened and lengthened by 1/4, and I redid the stays to match.  Tomorrow, I'll cut out, add the markings and gather for the smocking, and, if I'm really lucky, get the smocking done! 

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