After many, many (many) iterations of trying to retrofit a bodice block from an existing pattern, I’ve decided to step up my game and do the damn thing properly. So I’m drafting one myself.
I bought myself a copy of Winifred Aldrich’s famous book Metric Pattern Cutting. This is a classic – and it isn’t cheap. It’s very much a text book, that teaches you the formulas for drafting patterns. It explains how to draft basic blocks, and then it shows you a whole bunch of different modifications you can make to those blocks – all mathematically. And I love it. I’ve fallen in love with the book. The technical angle works wonderfully for my brain. I’m a software engineer by trade, so I’m very much a precise/logical thinker. This makes so much more sense than guesswork.
I also treated myself to the Pattern Workshop course to learn digital drafting techniques using Adobe Illustrator. This was very much a splurge, and although I learned a huge amount from the course, I must say there are very decent free alternatives out there such as Pattern Lab, which I’m using to supplement my knowledge. At any rate, I’ve finished Pattern Workshop, I’ve watched many hours of Pattern Lab’s videos, and I am newly equipped with these fancy-pants skills that let me draft patterns digitally in Illustrator. VERY exciting.
Also I learned enough about Illustrator to be able to make a li’l logo for my site, so that’s cool:
My First Self-Drafted Digital Bodice Block
Here’s the first bodice block I drafted to my measurements, using the Close Fitting Bodice block from Aldrich.
I then used the tiling template from Pattern Workshop to print it out and tape it together (again, other alternatives are out there, I think Pattern Lab may have one):
Honestly, I was pretty giddy at this point. It felt like a PDF pattern that I’d bought. Obviously it doesn’t look at all professional at this stage, but it seemed surprisingly polished and real.
Here’s the first version sewn together:
I immediately altered the shoulder seam to slope the shoulder, which is why the armscye looks a bit short. Other than that, the fit was fairly decent for a first go. There’s a lot of excess around the back, and it was too long and too tight around the hips (so I folded it up). But not too shabby.
Version 2: Close Waist Shaping
I made a second version:
In addition to some minor tweaks (shoulder slope & dart angle changes), the most notable difference is that I’ve cropped it to waist length and added the close waist shaping from another formula in the book.
The close waist shaping instructions confused me. They stated quite matter-of-factly that the total waist dart intake needs to be 12cm. Surely this depends on the difference between your bust and waist? Yes. Yes it does. That 12cm is derived from the standard measurement chart given in the book, so I needed to follow the formula for my own measurements:
- Width of block at bust line: Half bust plus 5cm ease from close-fitting block = 48cm
- Desired width at waist line: Half waist plus 3cm ease = 39.5cm
- Therefore my dart intake is 8.5cm.
This gives a 3.5cm difference from the total dart intake in Aldrich. Aldrich splits the 12cm over 3 darts (back dart, front dart and effective dart at side seam), so I simply subtracted my 3.5cm evenly across the given measurements for those 3 darts.
And here it is printed out (YEP, it’s still thrilling):
The fit is much better this time, and it’s starting to look like what I want.
Fit thoughts at this stage:
The front of the bodice rises up quite a lot compared to the back.
I thought this was my own body shape (I have a flat back and upright posture so it wouldn’t surprise me) – but a little googling suggests that this is a known issue with the Aldrich instructions, as the front length doesn’t include any compensation for the bust fullness. So I will need to add a little length and curvature to the front. Edit 4/10/22: I just looked closer at the instructions and realised that they do actually tell you to lengthen the bodice at the centre front by 1cm, and I just missed that step. Sorry for doubting you Aldrich!
The length of the front darts is good but they are a bit too far apart. I guess you don’t really take a measurement of where your apex actually is, so it makes sense to have to adjust that.
I think there’s a bit too much ease, to be honest. There’s a good 7cm of ease at the bust and 6cm at the waist. Maybe this is down to taste, but that seems like a lot for what’s called a “close-fitting” bodice block. Although the ease is doing a nice job of concealing my torso asymmetry, so maybe I should roll with it.
And speaking of asymmetry, it looks as though my left shoulder is shorter than my right. I don’t really fancy drafting the two sides differently so I’ll need to compromise that shoulder length by getting the average of the two.
I’d like to do one more iteration to address some of the above issues before I draft a sleeve. There’s a bit of slack around the armscye, but I hear that’s a good thing if you’re planning to stick a sleeve in there, as it gives you greater motion. So I’ll give it a whirl and see how that goes.
Can’t wait to get this block sorted. I’ve got big plans, which I’m eager to get on with!