Auxiliary Reference Information | Test Garment Creation | 2. Introduction

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Coco Chanel


How exciting we now have a draft and probably itching to get out the fashion fabric and make up a little creation. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade but we have to hold off from that for a little while yet. Remember our aim of making the best quality and best fitting clothing that we can well right now our drafts have not been tested for fit so this is what we are going to do next regardless of the stage you are at Base Template, Working Template or Flexible Pattern.


We need to test the draft that has just been drafted by creating a Test Garment and placing it onto the body. Any issues can then be ironed out (see what I did there?).


Usually a garment test is done using a good cotton muslin fabric to give you a good solid result as there is little stretch and it will be strong enough to hold its shape and it has a good Vertical Grainline. It’s also a cheaper option, I use a quilter’s cotton out of cream because we will be writing on it so you will need to see all of the marks that you make.


However if your design is for a stretch fabric then you should really create a test in a similar stretch fabric to the fashion fabric you are going to use to replicate the stretch. Similarly if you want to see how a different fabric drapes then you will need to choose a similar test fabric to the fashion fabric you will use later. Now this may seem like excessive waste but once you have created your flexible pattern it will be used over and over again and so it is worth getting the draft right first time so that your garments don’t inherit all the little mistakes and send you crazy every time you sew one up. Also I always keep my Test Garments it is amazing how often I refer back to them.


I will confess to making and wearing some of my Test Garments too to see how they wear every day and so I buy less clothing and wear all of my mistakes and make it work!


A quick word about Seam Allowances - A seam allowance is the extra fabric that is added onto the pattern piece so that you don’t take up any of the space needed for the garment when you sew it. Seam Allowances can be any size and although there are industry standards that are debatable it is really up to you what you use. I will indicate my preferences when necessary.


The Base Template draft and the Working Template drafts are created with no pre defined Seam Allowances. The lines that have been drawn (not including guidelines or lines where no seams are intended) are the actual sewing lines that are sewn when joining pieces together, therefore they do not incorporate any Seam Allowance. The reason why no Seam Allowances are added at this point is so that there is no confusion between actual measurements and extra allowance for seams and it helps you to focus on the shape that you are creating without worrying about anything extra. This is how patterns used to be made, it is only recently that patterns have Seam Allowances already on for you. By not having a Seam Allowance you can decide how much Seam Allowance you would like to have at a later stage.


You could even test out different seam allowances on different seams to see what effect that has, for example making Armhole and Neck line Seam Allowances smaller to assist with the fit of the curves.


When we make the Test Garment we will decide how big we are going to allow for Seam Allowances and consider things like;

  • Body shape for example a very rounded back may make you place in extra fabric in the Seam Allowance just in case you need it – it is easier to take off than it is to add on.

  • Extra Seam Allowance for closure areas, the Base Template and Working Template will be closed on the body using pins down the Centre Back so if you have a little fabric here to hold on to it will make it easier.

  • During drafting the Base Template you may be a little uncertain with an area of fit for example around the Armhole and Shoulder so you may add in a little extra here just in case.

  • For all Test Garments I would recommend not to be measuring any Seam Allowances when laying out the pattern and cutting out the fabric, and not necessary due to the thread tracing construction technique we will be using with thread tracing which gives us other advantages and a quicker construction in the end.

When creating Test Garments for Flexible Patterns you could be making any shape pattern for any part of the body and the pieces are going to be very unique. However the process for creating a Test Garment is the mostly the same however you will decide which pattern pieces you want to test and only these will be cut and sewn.


A Test Garment is going to give you the best opportunity for fit and really should not be skipped even if you intend to only ever make one garment. Each time you fit a Test Garment you will learn something new.


Test Garments are also going to give you an opportunity to try out lots of design ideas and help you to expand a Flexible Pattern out into more options to give you more choice in the future if you come back to make the garment again. While you have your Test Garment made try out a different pocket or Back closure or Front detail or different sleeve length. Enjoy playing with it, I think you can have more fun with it when you are not under time pressure and can just try things out.



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