|Alabama Chanin Corset Dress|
A few years ago a fell down a rabbit hole into a wonderland. I discovered a collection of beautiful handmade clothing from a designer who generously chose to share her techniques and patterns with home sewers.
I have since made several Alabama Chanin garments, mostly skirts because fitting a skirt has always been much easier for me than fitting a garment for my upper body. Up until this year, I knew very little about pattern fitting and even less about pattern making. In the past I have tried to adapt Ms Chanin's patterns for tops and dresses, but was never quite satisfied with the results. Looking back, I realize that I was on the right track, but just didn't have the skills to produce a final piece with which I was happy. Since that time, however, I've learned how to draft my own slopers and patterns and so decided that it was time to work with the patterns from. Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.
Since I was able to get a good fit with my woven princess seam shirt, I decided to start with the Alabama Chanin pattern that uses these same seams: the Camisole/Tank top/tunic/dress from Alabama Studio Style. Since the skirt of this garment is quite flared, I knew it would accommodate my hips with no issues, so I focused my attention on fitting from the waist up.
Since a princess seam draft starts with darts, I traced a copy of my woven bodice sloper, then removed the ease along the side seams to give me a zero ease bodice. I also sliced the shoulder dart off of the back bodice piece at the end of shoulder, since I knew it would not be transferred to the new princess lines. I did not, however, bring in the end of shoulder point, nor the cross front and cross back. I decided to wait on that until I knew how wide I wanted my shoulder straps to be. Also, because I knew that I initially had some armhole gaping in my woven princess seam pattern, I increased the armhole dart by 1/2" (it was a huge dart!) and also drew in a 1/2" dart on the back of the armhole at the level of the cross back. This new dart would be incorporated into the princess seam line where it curves to meet the edge of the armhole.
So now I had what was essentially a darted sloper for knit fabrics. From there, I moved the shoulder and armhole darts and drafted my princess lines following the instructions in Suzy Furrer's Creative Darts and Seamlines class on Craftsy. Then I drafted my neckline, decided how wide I wanted the straps to be, and drew those in as well. This particular pattern has 2 necklines and strap widths; the Camisole version's neckline is lower and wider than the Tank version, which means the camisole straps are narrower. After that, it was rather simple to add the skirt portion to it by tracing the pattern in the book and adding it to my bodice.
|Completed pattern for Alabama Chanin Camisole and Tank Dress/Tunic|
I was pleased to find that I was already close to a good fit. The apex, bottom of armhole, and waist are in their proper places. The neck isn't so wide that the straps fall off of my shoulders-though I think it needs to come in just a bit more. I have already adjusted my pattern by taking 1/4" off the end of shoulder and 1/8" from the cross front and cross back. I also felt that the apex point on the side front pattern piece needs a bit of smoothing; the angles created by my armhole dart as well as the deepened dart under the bust created a bit of a peak there that looks weird, so I used my curve to draw in a softer, less pointed shape there.
The slightly too-wide neck and cross back are more noticeable here, but I think I can get away with wearing this as is-maybe with a bolero. I also decided to scoop about 1/4" from the back armhole where it's hanging up and causing some rippling below. I'm not sure if it's just the way I'm standing or if the skirt got hung up on my jeans (I used a camera with a timer on a tripod and so there was quite a bit of running back and forth during this photo shoot), but it appears that I have some fabric pooling at the lower back and will need to take a bit more waist shaping there to correct it.
Overall, the fit could be a bit snugger, but I decided to leave it as is for two reasons: First, I've been losing weight (again) lately but know that this trend could suddenly reverse itself at any time. Secondly, the appliqued and beaded garments I plan to make won't stretch as much as this unadorned one. This "fit insurance" reduces the odds that I'll labor on an intricate piece only to find it too small. A loose garment can always be taken up with a slightly wider side seam allowance if necessary.
I"m looking forward to making something more intricate with this pattern soon-maybe a dress? I've already used my sloper to draft the Corset top pattern; all it needs is some fine tuning before it's ready to be sewn. Then, on to the Fitted top, which I think will be the most challenging because it has no darts, though I may end up using some anyway. And I definitely want to draft the Bolero as well.
In yesterday's Journal entry, Natalie Chanin wrote that the presale for her next book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, begins on Thursday. I found this brief description of a class that incorporates the book here. Although I might be done fitting the patterns from the first 3 books by then, I'm sure it will be a valuable and inspiring reference. I'm definitely buying a copy. And that class? Sounds like a dream come true. Speaking of dreams, here's my dream dress:
Updated to add: The new Alabama Chanin book will include a coat pattern!!!!! I've already pre-ordered my copy.