Monday, August 2, 2010

Up Next

So I went to the library yesterday, and whilst browsing the shelves I spotted the famous Vionnet book by Betty Kirke. I've wanted this book ever since I knew it existed, but as is always the way, cost is prohibitive. So to see it sitting on my library shelves seriously made my heart start to flutter! Sadly it had a "Not For Issue" sticker on the front cover, but it did not have a "Do Not Pick Three Garment Schematics To Photocopy" sticker, so I raced away to the photocopier and cleared out the change in my wallet, grateful that (most unusually) I had change in my wallet! I photocopied the sketch and pattern schematics for three designs, with plans to go back and have a proper look at the book when I don't have Georgia downstairs picking her own books and wondering what Mum's doing upstairs for so long!

I seem to be suffering a serious case of winter blahs this year and I've decided that a Vionnet dress is the perfect antidote. Even recreating the pattern presents all sorts of challenges. Just what my brain needs.

I remembered a post on Kathleen Fassanella's blog, Fashion Incubator, about the Kirke book and a Japanese companion book which is better for reproducing the patterns. So I knew before I even saw the Kirke book that there are likely to be some challenges turning the pattern schematics into patterns. For my own entertainment I'm going to blog this process, and maybe I'll learn something of use to others who want to do the same thing!

I'm going to start with this dress, pattern #14. Isn't it beautiful? I'll shorten the skirt and I'd like to make it from something I can wear as an every day summer dress, but I'll see where the pattern leads me.

First problem - there is no scale indicated to enlarge the pattterns. Crap. (I did know this beforehand) There are no landmarks such as "waist" helpfully marked to help gauge scale. I made a fairly educated guess that it was 1-10 scale, based on estimating where the waist would fall on the pattern, and working out that the back neck to waist measurement was about 4cm, and the measurement on a person is about 40cm. Very dodgy estimation, but I would guess that it would be a round number scale - not 1-12.34 for example. After I'd decided this I found a message board thread (which I didn't mark, annoyingly, so I can't find it again!) in which someone mentioned using a 1-10 scale for these patterns. She didn't say it hadn't worked, so I'm going to stick with it.

So now I needed to scale up with no grid. It was actually quite easy to transfer the schematics to a grid - I just traced them onto a 5mm grid torn from an old maths book. Then I took a large sheet of paper and folded it into a 5cm grid to get my 1-10 scale. I folded rather than drew because it was less prone to errors (as a pencil blunts the lead gets thicker, and further from the ruler etc etc). Also I then have my grid visible on both sides of the paper and I can rub things out without losing the grid.

Not my favourite method to reproduce something, but with great care and careful measuring (I think I used every measuring tool I own) I could recreate the pattern pieces.

Traced onto plain paper and with 2.5cm seam allowances added, here's the result of about 2 hours work today.

At this point I ground to a halt because my dummy and the fabric I'm going to try first are in the bedroom where the twins are napping. For my first toile I'm going to use lining because it's lightweight and I have a lot of it. I know it's not nearly drapey enough, but it should give me an idea of how it's going size wise. Tomorrow.....


  1. This looks like fun, and a great learning experience! Is the half circle piece slashed part way down the CB?

  2. Yum! The lines of this dress are fabulous. I can't wait to see you pull it off!

  3. Could this be the thread that you're referring to?

  4. Can't wait to see the final result. I would have let the copy shop do the scaling for me, so lazy... lol