Creative pattern cutting can be an adventure in itself. Even when I think that I am bored of pattern cutting, I suddenly find myself immersed in the activity again when experimenting with new or different ways of cutting (or even just thinking about it).
So what is creative pattern cutting?
If you have found my blog, I assume that you know what pattern cutting is, but for the layman pattern cutting is the process which transforms a flat design into a three dimensional product (usually a garment). The processes are usually quite straightforward and involve various techniques such as flat pattern cutting (i.e. from a block), draping or modelling. Each method has its own merit and usually a pattern cutter will have a favourite.
Creative pattern cutting is different in a way that it can inform the design instead. You may drape or play around with pattern cutting to achieve a particular detail and when pieced together with other parts of the patterns, feeds the concept back to the flat design. In essence, it is the mixture of different pattern cutting techniques in an experimental way to achieve the flat design. The key word is ‘experimentation’. It is a trial and error process that allows you to explore different techniques in realising a design.
Creative pattern cutters are of a different breed because the flexibility allows them to tackle complicated designs in demanding situations, especially in high end fashion or haute couture.
So why are there not a lot of creative pattern cutters? Well, aside from education and high end brands, there really is no need for one as most shops churns out the basic patterns to make a profit. Complicated designs are expensive, time consuming and for the average fashion shop, not worth the effort. They are also very difficult to grade, which makes it complicated to produce a design in different sizes.
However, that’s when this hidden world of creative pattern cutting can be so exciting. The possibilities are endless and with some curiosity and the willingness to experiment (and sometimes fail), creative pattern cutting can create new techniques that can eventually add value to more traditional methods. After all, with creative pattern cutting, there is no right way or wrong way. That said, the methods may be loose but the pattern must still be precise. Just remember this.
“If the pattern looks wrong but the end result is right, then the pattern is right. If the pattern looks right but the end result is wrong, then the pattern is wrong”.
Creative pattern cutting can also be sustainable, especially if all you have to work with is a specific measured piece of fabric and have to ensure the least amount of wastage.
So is it always complicated? No. It can be as complicated or as straightforward as you want it to be. I advocate ‘KISS – Keep it simple stupid!’
Let me (loosely) demonstrate. I recently have been seeing a lot of trendy people wearing an oversized coat with an oversized scarf draped over their neck. For me, this is a interesting look and from the view of a pattern cutter, wouldn’t it be easier if both items were merged together?
For some strange reason, I also have a tradition of making a new coat every winter or at least making an excuse to wear a new coat every winter.
For this project, I chose a bonded wool fabric with black on one side and a grey tartan print on the other (to be honest, this piece of fabric has been sitting in the box for nearly 3 years, so I am glad that it has finally been able to make an appearance!).
Although I wanted to emulate this ‘oversized jacket with scarf’ look, I don’t want to spend my Sunday afternoon drafting endless patterns, so I decided to use the basics of a Kimono as the patterns. The only measurements I took was of the circumference around my shoulders, length of sleeve, length of armhole and wrist hole, length of the coat and the width of the scarf ‘bit’. The result was a ‘Tetris block’ style pattern with the only curve on the neckline.
I have never made this type of coat before so it’s all a bit experimental. It did help that I made some working sketches showing how this idea would work. As they say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.
I also added a pleat at the back for more volume. The pleat also gives it a polished look instead of the ‘I threw a blanket on’ look.
This was a very quick project and it took me an afternoon (and a bit of an evening) to make this garment. It doesn’t even have any lining although it does have pockets. To ensure that it is also reversible, I bound the edges. Binding edges to conceal seam is my favourite thing as it becomes a design detail itself.
As for the edges, I decided to use a fray stop glue. I’ve heard about this and always wanted to try it out so this was the perfect time to do so. The results was not bad although applying it can be a bit fiddly and messy (imagine walking on a tight rope).
I took this coat out for a spin yesterday and was quite impressed at the anamorphic properties. See for yourself!
Apologies for modelling as I am not very photogenic but you get the idea of what I could do with it. The best thing was this coat kept me nice and warm, akin to a large blanket.
So in a simplified way, this is my interpretation of creative pattern cutting, although I only used the basics of flat pattern cutting to demonstrate. It does help to understand how patterns work around the body but if you keep your mind open and challenge the convention of traditional pattern cutting, new techniques can end up simplifying pattern cutting to bring more interesting silhouette to the masses.
I don’t have any formal pattern making training but I draft about 50% of the clothes I make through trial, error, and knowing exactly what I want to wear. Somehow making a pattern out of the picture in my brain has always made sense – I see what I want to wear and sketch the flat pattern on fabric, cut it, baste it, and make small alterations. I guess I use a very unscientific combination of draping, flat pattern making, and referencing clothes I already own (I can never remember, for example, which way women’s shirts are supposed to button so I have to pull a shirt out of my closet to look). Do you have any reading or tutorial suggestions for lay-people who will never make the jump to professional pattern making but might be interested in upping their hobby-level pattern making?
It can be quite difficult to recommend pattern cutting books because each author has their own way of drafting patterns that may not resonate with the reader. I have tonnes of pattern cutting books but they are gathering dust on the shelf, purely because I find them restrictive and too specific. Pattern cutting should also be about self expression and how you approached it is the proof of that. However, if you are pattern cutting to create garments for yourself, I would recommend getting books that concentrate on the basics of flat pattern cutting (Designing Patterns by Hilary Campbell was my first pattern cutting book) and provides good instruction to draft a block based on your measurements. This pattern will be something that you go back to again and again so it’s good to have it on card. Another interesting book once you have an understood flat pattern cutting is Pattern Magic. It shows a more experimental way of cutting patterns. Following from that, I can only suggest that you follow your heart and experiment as you have done. Pattern cutting was a hobby for me too before I took it seriously but I can still remember the first time I bought a vogue suit pattern. The end product didn’t fall apart but wasn’t great! I was still very proud of it though. Buying ready made pattern gave me so much information in garment construction that eventually feeds back to pattern cutting. I used to manipulate these ready made patterns before drafting my own. Eventually I started experimenting with them and now I approach pattern cutting as an unique problem solving game with garments to wear as the prize. Continue doing what you have done and I’m sure you will build a happier relationship with pattern cutting. Good Luck!