Back in the early days of Beatrice, when we were testing with our Early Supporters, someone purchased one of our forms who’d never used a commercial sewing pattern in her life. I was shocked. Doesn’t everybody learn to sew starting with paper patterns? Nope.
Apparently, she draped all of her handmade clothing on a dress form. I mentioned this to my friend and colleague Sophie, and she told me that’s how she came to making garments too. She draped fabric on a form to generate the style she had in her head. Granted, she went to fashion school, but still, this was how she first thought to make clothing.
Hmmm. I thought draping was an advanced technique not for beginners. Maybe, draping was just another way to explore fabric and its behavior on the body. I wondered what’s more important to understand first: fabric as it translates physically into a style on the body or garment sewing execution?
After spending a lot of time draping on my Beatrice and on half-scale forms in other shapes, I think that both are important and can be learned at the same time. Draping is giving me a deeper understanding of pattern design that I didn’t have before, even after sewing from patterns for most of my adult life. And draping turned out to be so much less intimidating that I imagined. You’re basically playing with fabric – it’s so much fun!
Bring out your inner designer
This eye opening experience inspired me to develop a draping class for home sewists. I turned to Gabby (our technical design consultant) for professional supervision to make sure I didn’t give any misguided advice. Also, I studied draping books (cuz that’s how I roll, I’m old school). I put together a lesson plan and we were off to test with real live students!
In class, we work on half-scale forms, all in the same shape of a real person. This not only makes the class economically feasible, but it makes it easier for students to learn. There’s less material to handle and they can clearly see proportions without stepping back like when working in full scale.
Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to give my test class a go at Fancy Tiger Crafts with their instructors. I learned so much from their feedback – it’s amazing what a skill teaching is. These folks are pros.
Through teaching, I’m discovering that draping is a great exercise even if you don’t own or ever plan to own a dress form. It helps you to understand why patterns are designed the way they are, how grainline and balance work, and gives you a chance to quickly experiment with typical alterations. It’s also a good opportunity to practice pattern trueing when the stakes are basically zero.
I highly recommend trying it out (more to come on this). You’ll walk away with a serious confidence boost!