This is me working hard at a project I mentioned a good while ago, involving a lot of colored pens! I was working on contouring, a patternmaking method where you create patterns that are contoured to the body. While the goal is to make garments that follow the lines of the body closely, the work behind it can be time-consuming and extremely detail oriented. Let’s take a look!

Click to see larger!

Traced straight up from a bodice sloper with two darts, the shape I was going for was a bustier of sorts, or a “corset light”. After deciding on a neck- and hemline shape, I drew in all the seamlines.  Basically, to make the garment fit the body neatly, you remove all the dart excess (plus some pre-determined amounts radiating from the bust apex) by changing the shapes of the patternpieces themselves.

And how exactly do you do that? You cut the pattern apart along the sewing lines you’ve established, and the excess ease is plotted and removed. In the detail picture above, there are lines of different colors visible – I was trying to keep things easy for myself by marking sewing lines, existing darts, ease to be removed, grainlines, and all the other info in different colors. Whenever a patternpiece had dart- or ease-lines going through them, I’d cut along those lines, and tape the pieces together – resulting in a new, smaller shape.

Still following? ;)  I have to say, contouring is often the last thing taught in patternmaking-courses, and it’s not the easiest to wrap one’s brain around – but, the possibilities of interesting seamlines and perfectly fitting garments is kind of exhilarating!

It was a bit of a struggle, but I got there in the end.

Getting to the point above, where all the pieces are cut and pieced together again, felt like such a puzzle. After that though, I still had to retrace all the pieces, and smooth out the jagged outlines that resulted from all the cutting and pasting. This was truly the time-consuming part, as I had to measure and alter the new shapes to make sure that they would match up with all their neighbouring pieces. With 19 parts to the design, that was a whole lot of measuring!

Seeing that my inspiration for the design were the seamlines of old corsets, I thought it fitting to incorporate that into the initial sketch of my design. The bottom sketch is the back view of the bustier, and I used a scrap of my final fabric to collage onto Princess Alexandra.

I topstitched the seams to emphasise the lines they created.

I’ll be the first to admit that this was a tough one. Not only making a garment with lots of oddly shaped pieces that needs to fit together perfectly, but making so many alterations just allows for so many things to go awry. There was headache and heartache, but I think the wavy lines of the seams came out just lovely, and, more importantly – I learned so much.

6 thoughts on “contouring”

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