My Story

My Story (Part 1)

It took you HOW long?

It took me years to make myself a well-fitting block – or rather a block from which I could consistently make well-fitting clothes.  From my first attempt at making myself a personalized bodice block to the final block I now took  … years.  To be clear on this: the actual creation of the block itself not a problem, but the resultant 2D shape that was created (with my measurements and a set of instructions) did not result in a good flat representation of my 3D figure.  When I took that flat block and made a 3D shape from fabric, it didn’t fit well.

When I say it took me seven years, of course that’s not all I was doing.  I didn’t spend eight hours a day for seven years doing only that. During those seven years I also worked full-time, did some work-related courses, moved house five times, renovated (re-modeled) two houses (though not the actual physical work, but still the process took up a lot of time!), moved interstate once, got engaged and married, did at least one hour of exercise per day (usually more), sang in a choir, was in an out of hospital on a number of occasions (then convalescing) learned to play the guitar, studied web design and graphic design, learned to use Illustrator, InDesign, and many other software programs (did thousands of hours of tutorials on, took sewing classes, made some patterns, made some clothes….. .  Though that list is not in any kind of order.  Oh, and how could I forget?  Attended Patternmaking classes for 3 hours a week for two years.

Although I studied Patternmaking at TAFE, making personalized blocks were not part of the curriculum; we used Standard Industry Blocks which we purchased from the TAFE shop to make our patterns in class.  Most people in the class weren’t interested in making their own personalized blocks, most of them worked in the fashion industry and the patternmaking they did was for that purpose. They therefore used some kind of industry blocks; either ones their fashion house had created, or for those planning on starting their own fashion line, using some standard blocks like the TAFE ones.

My block-making attempts consisted of working on it every so often for a few weeks, then I’d put it aside and come back to it months or even a year later.  In the meantime I did make some clothes with the not-quite-right blocks I had made; and they were good enough, and fit me better and were more comfortable than ready to wear clothing.  But they still weren’t quite right. The overriding problem was that I just couldn’t translate the flat block I was making into a 3D shape in my head to understand what was wrong.  I also had no history of sewing and making alternations, and I had started this all at the age of 40.  I would try in my spare time, for a week or so, then put it aside as I had other things happening that took priority.  I just came back to it every so often – more often I think when I took annual leave.

I struggled also because I had no-one to turn to for help (no friends or family who did any sewing or knew anything about patternmaking), and so I just worked at it (and worked at it, and left it for a couple of months, and came back and worked at it) until I figured it out.  I wouldn’t even want to hazard a guess as to how many times I remade my Bodice Block to get the fit right. (The reason I didn’t attend a sewing class was because I didn’t want to continue making ill-fitting clothes with Commercial Patterns.  If you read my full story I cover that!).

Having said that I had no-one to help, I did try to get help – numerous time; it just didn’t work out too well. (You can read about those attempts in next parts of my story – from Parts 1 to 10).

Although I bought text-book after textbook,  there were things that I just couldn’t get my head around.  It took me a while to understand that most block making instructions have some assumptions built in them, and I could not see those assumptions. 

Why didn’t you just work on your toile?

The presumption is, from the vantage point of the authors block making instructions, is that that you make a block according to their directions, then make a toile.  If the toile doesn’t fit right, you make adjustments to it, then amend your block to reflect those changes.

That’s well and fine, but what if you just don’t understand where and why the toile isn’t fitting right, and/or how to make the necessary adjustments to the toile and then to the block?  There is confusion in that fact that if I made it to my measurements,  why does it feel like it’s choking me, seem to be riding backwards, pulling across the chest, gaping in the armhole and too short in the front? It just didn’t make sense to me.   And since there were so many things wrong –  where do you begin making changes?  I would make one change to fix one thing,  but it would affect something else elsewhere.  I tried and tried again.  The other difficulty is that it’s very hard to fit yourself by yourself.

I tried to figure out one issue at a time, but it often seemed I was going around in circles; I’d solve one problem but create another.

Let me stress something here; many people may not have the problems I had.  The closer you are to the Standard Figure, the easier it is to make a block that fits well without too many issues.  The more ways your figure differs to the standard figure (in my case, for the Bodice Block: square shoulders, rounded upper back, large bust cup (with a resulting low bust), forward sloping shoulders….), the more difficult it may be to make a block that fits well.  You also may not have a problem for other reasons such as; you have good visual-spatial skills and can convert that 2D flat block into a 3D figure in your head, so you can easily see where the problems lay, and how to make the adjustment on the flat 2D pattern.

More than a well-fitting block

As time went by, I wanted more than just a well-fitting block.   I wanted to understand why it was so difficult for me to make a well-fitting block.  I wanted to really understand each of the block-making systems and what, if any,  the assumptions were.  If there were no assumptions, what was going wrong?  I thought at the minimum it must be possible to have instructions that included allowing for a large bust cup, rather than making a block then making the large-bust cup adjustment.

I also thought that there must be others like me, to whom this didn’t come naturally, who could do with some explanations about some of the basic concepts that I struggled with.  I thought that each thing that I learned – each “ah ha” moment, could be written up and so save someone else having to struggle with it.  I thought that if ever I understood it all really well, then I’d make a website and pass on the information.

So now I’ll go back to the VERY BEGINNING.  This was the Intro, and we’ll start at Part 2: Sewing Class.

4 Responses

  1. Dear Ms Maria,
    I am from Vietnam.
    You are saving me in that struggle.
    I am really appreciate your favor work.
    Thank you so much.

  2. Incredible story, Maria. I admire you! Your patience and determination. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Honestly amazing!

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