Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Industry Standards!!!?? Reflections on the unsatisfactory nature of clothing size standards.

Would you be shocked if I were to admit that I don't especially like making clothes? I enjoy thinking about clothes. I'd like to have slightly intimidating clothes, because that's sometimes necessary. But mostly, I'd like to have clothes that look like they were meant for me. That's me as I am. Not me less a few kilos. Not me with broader shoulders. Not me surgically altered to a more convenient shape.  I'd be perfectly happy to buy them in a shop, where I could see how they looked , without having to construct them first. I'm not hung up on exclusivity, I don't care if a whole lot of other people have the same thing. But the problem is, they don't have clothes that look like they were meant for me in the shops. 

Given that I rarely find ready made clothes, I was delighted to find an indie pattern designer in Melbourne, selling contemporary designs to the world. Stylearc. Have a look, the website is good. There are tutorials on sewing and construction. There is an excellent magazine style newsletter. All good, but, when I check out the size chart, I find the industry standards used for the patterns are the same standards that make commercial dresses and tops so unsuitable. Who ever thought it was consistent with reality to increase the width of the shoulders with every dress size? Apparently the average dress size in Australia is 16. According to Elizabeth Zimmerman, late inspired knitting evangelist, most women have a shoulder width of 14.5 inches. According to the size chart that's a size 8. Maybe the measurement was taken a little differently, but the shoulders are still going to be way too wide on most people using the larger sizes, and the result will be frumpy, unless some skilled alteration takes place.

Check out the Clothing Engineer for some of the Stylearc designs beautifully constructed - and patiently altered to fit.

But what, I hear you ask, does the doll up in the corner have to do with any of this? She is there illustrating my solution to the fitting problems, pending commercially available design that really is sympathetic to actual body shapes. She is wearing a version of my friendly cardigan, with the design features added to a her basic block, referred to in this recent post.
Her skirt is based on a Miyake design,
very easily adapted to any size and shape, and using small safety pins instead of the snap tape in the original design. And her rather odd hairstyle is disguised with a merino and silk headwrap
Rather than try and alter patterns to fit, I find it easier and more satisfactory to work out the real dimensions of the body I want to clothe, then work the design features required into a personalised block (sloper)

Sometimes though, a design is more accepting of a variety of dimensions. You may see a similarity between the jacket in this Miyake pattern, and this jacket ,  discussed in another post. Another example of a paper pattern based knitting project.

Edited to add, I drafted this post over several days, having been moved to disagree with the Stylearc claim that patterns will fit if they are drafted to Industry Standards. Either I was oversensitive to the references to Industry Standards, or the references I recalled had been altered or removed by the time I published the post. I do not mean to disparage Stylearc patterns, the designer is doing a great service for the community making clothes outside the mass market. The size chart gave me the measurements to crystallise exactly what I find unsatisfactory in industry standard sizing 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Adapting paper patterns for knitwear design

Finding, or drafting, a pattern to produce a garment that faithfully embodies your
style and fit decisions can be a huge stumbling block to a contemporary machine knitter.
A dressmaker’s pattern can be a big help. For instance, I have drafted a Knit Radar pattern for a large cardigan using Butterick B5049 by Connie Crawford as a reference
I used this pattern for the armhole and shoulder line. That was all. Almost everything else I changed. Connie Crawford knows that more padding around the middle does not make your shoulders any wider. In this multi size pattern, the width of the shoulder seam is the same for all sizes. The armhole increases in depth and slope with increasing size. If you would like a more complete description of the process of making the big cardigan, and you are a Ravelry user, it is aRavelry project
If you are looking for interesting design lines, you can find guided inspiration in the pattern books. Vogue 1476, a Miyake design that has never been out of the collection since it was published in the early 80s, includes a shirt with an interestingly shaped back that I noticed repeated in a design by popular knitwear designer Sally Melville. There are other great knittable Miyakes, but they out of print. You can get some idea of the shapes from this website showing the envelopes of most of theVogue Miyake designs
Some of the Vogue patterns of Marcy Tilton have shapes that would translate well into knitted garments. They would show off fancy stitch patterns and textures too.
You can also find patterns easily adapted to knitting on the internet, take a look at this take on the wrap with sleeves idea.
Happy to use a paper pattern, except you already have a perfect jumper and no pattern for it?
Here's a technique you can use to make a pattern without cutting up your garment. In the clip, David Coffin copies a shirt, but we can adapt.

There are three ways to approach using a paper pattern to guide your knitting
i. You can knit pieces in the traditional way – make sure you adjust seam allowances and hems.
ii. You can go over to what some would see as the dark side and go the full cut and sew from lengths you have knitted.
iii. Or you can take a middle way, knitting parts of your garment approximately to size, and cutting and sewing things like necklines. This works for me. Probably best not to try it on your Show entry.

Have a browse through your pattern collection – it may open a whole new knitting vista.

This post was originally published in June 2009, in the Moonee Ponds blog, which fell out of use about the same time.