Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Body Block: Part One

So, first let me apologize for my lack of posting. With the holidays there comes long hours of me at the cheese counter, which means not much time for doing anything else. But now that I am free from the Turkey holiday, I will have more time. Well, at least until the next big holiday.

On to the body block/sloper!

My sewing buddy helped in the first stage of the body block. We had taken our measurements the day prior so that was complete. We weren't really happy with the results, but who ever is? We then took two strips of muslin. For the width we took the measurement of my hips divided by four, plus four inches. For the length we took the measurement of my neck to below the largest muscle in the body, the gluteus maximus (which seems even more maximus since Roma!) plus four inches. With the other measurements we had (distance of shoulder to center bust, center bust to center bust halved), we drew in a horizontal line and a vertical line that intersected at the center bust.

I put on the t-shirt that had the center front line and center back line drawn in and we were off. Then Laurel, the ever-patient-sewing-gal, began fitting the front of the block to my body. We clipped in the neckline, and then shoulders. She pinned in the shoulder dart and the bust to waist dart.

Then it was time for the back. The back muslin had the two lines intersect at my shoulder blade point. She put in the shoulder dart (which was smaller than the book looked, I assume because of forward shoulders or big blades?) and then the back waist dart, which is always a place of trouble for me when fitting. She connected the side seams and the shoulder seams, which matched up!

She then traced all the pinned darts and side seams onto the muslin. We drew in my waist line, my hip line and then a leveled off the bottom. I carefully got out of the muslin and then we started cutting the darts and seams that had been drawn in. And then Viola! I had four pieces: center front, side front, center back and side back. It was me, but in pattern form! It was like magic!! We compared to a Vogue pattern she had laying around and realized the difference in my waist and bust dart compared to the commercial pattern. No wonder we have such a hard time fitting ourselves!

If you are going to try this yourself, I have a few tips for you:
  • No joke about the patient sewing buddy. Laurel sews, so she understands the shape of darts and the importance of things being level and fabric not pulling. It also took us about three hours just to do this first part. So patience is key. 
  • It says you should only be in your foundation garments and a t-shirt. We found that yoga pants (that aren't too tight) will help with pinning fabric to your hip and side seams. Otherwise it is just flesh, and that hurts :)
  • Try to do it during the day or with plenty of light. We started at six pm and finished at nine. With the lighting it was sometimes hard to see lines on the muslin, so keep that in mind.
  • Read all the instructions first! And don't let the person being pinned try to read them...it makes the fabric all bunchy and the possibility of being pinned is much greater. Ask me how I know ;)
  • If you are following Simon Henry's book, there are a few typos and misdirection—our favorite was "take measurement blow the buttocks." Heh. More importantly (and less childishly), he fails to mention that the back measurement of blade point to blade point should be halved (that word is crucial). This is to achieve your horizontal line, as we did in the front with the bust. 
  • Measure more than once. I know this should be a common sewing practice, but seriously do it. The more accurate you are with the first shell, the rest should go smoothly.
Other than the few typos, Simon Henry's directions for fitting the block are well written and understandable. I will see if the rest of it falls in place as easily, but this part, which I imagine is the hardest, went pretty smoothly.

So now that phase one is done, what happens next is I take the block pieces, add seam allowance to all, cut all pieces (center front on fold), sew together and try it on as a complete shell. Do any final tweaking there, and then recut with any changes intact. Then done! I can move on the the first dress, which is a sheath.  Oh wait, I still need to do a sleeve sloper. It looks a little daunting, but I will need it for the wrap dress. I will let you all know how that goes. I will also post the phase two and its process. Sorry there weren't more photos of the first phase, but it is hard to shoot when you are pinned into muslin!

As a final note: I am so annoyed I took this long to do this. I think this will help tremendously with my sewing and pattern manipulation. And it will clearly help me draft my own patterns, which is exciting and scary all at the same time!!


  1. I second the note about not letting the one who is being pinned read the book!!!! I have never said "stop moving, stand up straight!" more times in my life ;P I had to start deliberately stabbing her with the pins to keep her still!! The other note I'd add is that the last stage of pinning the side seams was the hardest part. You not only have to pin the seam straight, but you have to keep the "side center line" of the body in mind or your side seam will be too far forward or too far back. So I had to re-pin that one a few times. I can't WAIT to see this all done. It was totally like MAGIC. :)

  2. Oh Maggie, I'm so impressed - you've done it!! Your tips and explanations are excellent and a value to us all, as we embark on our own Block adventure - I'll be asking my sewing friend to do the same as you did - she's more patient than me. I have recently made a black top -Vogue pattern, but I've had to alter the size (using my dressform) - it was too big in some places which is annoying and seemed pointless using the pattern. I seriously need a body block/sloper. Thanks to you - that is going to me my next project! Ps. Tessuti.com.au does ship o/s. Thanks again!!