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Pleating Hell and other tales

2012 April 4
by elizabeth_admin


I was so inspired by my ikat fabric on Monday night that I pretreated and started experimenting with pleats as soon as I got home from work.  The squares of color are about 2 inches wide and the white space inbetween them is about 1 inch wide.  I played with the width of the pleats from wide to skinny, to covering an entire square, partially or not at all.  The wider the pleat, the less pleats I could have, which, when draped on me, looked skimpy.  The skinnier the pleat, the more I could have, but that still yielded a skimpy effect.  The more I played with the pleats, the more I became frustrated.  Because the squares are so even and distributed so evenly, the perfectionist in me couldn’t do anything asymmetrical or uneven.  Then I started thinking about whether having a ton of pleats falling from my hips would be unflattering.  And since I was “drafting” this skirt myself without a skirt pattern, I didn’t know if I should add side seams in addition to the CB seam for shaping or not and how would that interrupt the pleat pattern.  Would I have enough fabric if I did that?  At 11pm, I finally called it quits to think about another day. 

That other day is tonight.  I think I am going to paw through my skirt patterns to see if I have any pleated skirts in there.  I like designing in my head, but drafting might not be something in which I am particularly interested.  I bet you’re wondering what the difference is.  My thinking is that design is the vision of how something will look and feel with no actual idea of how to bring the design to life in fabric.  Drafting is taking the idea/design from mind to fabric.  –Making it three-dimensional.  The endless decisions that need to be made and/or the math that may or may not be involved become mind-numbing to me and most certainly endanger my mojo. 

I’ve noticed lately that there are two different kinds of sewers out there on the interwebs (ok there are tons of different kinds, but for the purposes of this post, let’s assume just two), pattern sewers and drafters. 

  • Pattern sewers are people who like having the design and drafting of a garment already calculated for them so that they can concentrate on fabric choice or little design detail choices and of course the sewing itself.  They are capable of or working towards the capability of fitting the patterns to their body.
  • Drafters are people who love coming up with the pattern themselves, using a sloper, their own measurements and the inkling of a design in their heads.  They relish the work involved in cutting up their sloper or figuring out how to make up an entirely new pattern from scratch. 

I have discovered with my colorblock B5147 dresses (here and here) and this currently imaginary pleated skirt that looks so great in my head, that I am a pattern sewer at heart.  But I do also acknowledge that I aspire to one day be a drafter as well. 

Which are you?  Pattern sewer or Drafter?


In non-sewing news:

  • Last night I saw an amazing production of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire“.  The actress who played Blanche was phenomenal, her performance uncanny.  I felt like she was a real life Blanche.   If you have a chance to see this production, do!
  • Over the weekend I picked up these notecards* at the Art Institute in Chicago.  Aren’t they just perfect for a dress obsessed person like me?

Image by Janeen Koconis of Koco New York


Happy sewing everyone!


* Edited to add: Kate at Kate Perri Designs rightly pointed out that I did not give credit to the designer of the notecard image above.  Thanks Kate.  That was very remiss of me.  I did a little sleuthing and the designer is the author/artist Janeen Koconis of Koco New York.  Check out her other artwork and books.  Very cool artist.  I love her multi-medium works.  I usually do credit photos taken from the interwebs, but didn’t think to do so since I took the photo of the card myself.  Anyway thanks for the important reminder to always credit artists!

12 Responses leave one →
  1. April 4, 2012

    I am firmly in the pattern-user camp, with the occasional self-drafted pattern thrown in often enough to realize what a pain it is to draft all your own patterns.

    I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother.

    Also, love that floral dress–the print is so cute and perfect for this Spring.

  2. elizabeth_admin permalink*
    April 4, 2012

    OMG, I just realized how similar the skirt of the dress in the notecards is to my imaginary pleated skirt. Except they are circles instead of squares. See how cute that looks?!??! I wonder if these notecards gave me the idea to begin with. Hmmm… unconscious sewing inspiration obviously at work!

  3. April 4, 2012

    Of course I’m going to be difficult and say that I’m squarely between the two camps. I’m not fully a pattern sewist since my TNT patterns are too often my starting point…and I’m not a pattern drafter because even though I cut my TNTs up to pieces, I have NO as in ZERO desire to start from scratch with a pattern…

    Find a pattern and start from there, I think you will end up with the skirt you “see” in your head that way!

  4. April 4, 2012

    I think I lean towards “drafter”, at least in my head—that’s the most fun, in my opinion. I kinda freak out when faced with new patterns due to the whole “fit” issue. That being said, I’m no kind of trained drafter, and in practice I sew many more patterns than self-drafted (or self-hacked) pieces.

    I have a feeling the best strategy for this print, though, might be draping—find a pattern for a skirt waistband/yoke that you like, and then start pleating. The pleated skirt can be just a rectangle, pleated to the right length to match the yoke. I feel like the intensity of the squares isn’t going to lend itself well to a pattern that isn’t designed for it, so you would probably be better off pleating it in a way that’s natural (half squares, overlapping, whatever you like) to the print of the fabric.

    For myself, I would want a wider yoke, so that the pleating started down at my hips rather than adding bulk at my waist—but you know your own figure and what you’re comfortable with. A flat, unpleated area (say at the CF, like on a kilt) could be nice, too.

  5. kate permalink
    April 4, 2012

    wouldn’t it have been nice if you had given some credit to who ever
    designed those notecards?

  6. April 4, 2012

    cute notecards!! And that ikat fabric is really cool, I love it.
    I would be a pattern sewer if I could.
    Altering a pattern to fit me has taught me more than I ever expected to learn about pattern drafting.
    Now I really like exploring, but I do realize I am just an amateur.
    That is the fun part; knowing I can keep exploring design & drafting and keep getting better.

  7. April 4, 2012

    Definitely a drafter. I think sooner or later all sewers become drafters 🙂

  8. April 5, 2012

    I’m a pattern user. I like the instant gratification…well, slightly less delayed gratification anyway.

  9. Burke permalink
    April 5, 2012

    I have to be both – patterns don’t fit me out of the envelope so I feel the need to draft, yet my creative center isn’t strong enough to envision designs yet without the help of a pattern. But, I like simple styles best, so slopers may be my best bet overall. Interesting post!

  10. April 5, 2012

    Well, I’m a pattern user – regardless of the nightmares called fitting issues – but in this instance I would agree with Tanit – you’d probably get what you want through draping better than anything else.

  11. April 7, 2012

    Definintely a pattern sewer though I do tend towards liking the idea of picking up someone else’s drafting instructions (e.g. Winifred Aldrich). I like the idea of going to drafting classes though probably because that would help a lot with how to alter existing patterns to fit. Or at least I think that’s why. Dunno. Ask again in a few years!

    The fabric is fab and I’m with Tanit-Isis in that I would start any pleating at the hips rather than waist, even though I have no waist really.

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