Mar 4, 2007

Modifications: A Designer's First Step

Right after I kicked off the createalong, I realized that before I can play with my design in earnest, I really need to get the current WIPs off my plate. Except for the Marseilles Pullover, they are all gifts and will need to be gifted soon. The Marseilles Pullover itself is best suited to cool weather, and since LA has such a short chilly season, I need to finish it if I am going to get any wear out of it this year. So while I am finishing what I started, I thought I would participate in the CAL by doing some posts on the creative process in general.

This post covers the basic starting point for most designs - modifications - and borrows photos and an example from one of our very talented CALer's, Samantha. Sam started making a version of the Daktari Skirt (Lacy Skirt with Bows) for herself, but quickly realized that a single panel of the skirt could be modified to make a dress for her daughter. The pattern is the same as the original, except that only a single panel is used and there are garter stitch straps added at the top. These are simple modifications, but brilliant - what a lovely transformation.

I was completely taken by Sam's dress idea. When I was Sam's daughter's age my grandmother had a very similar ingenious idea. She took some of her old slips, smocked them at the top to gather the fabric in, and sewed on satin ribbons for ties. I had several of these slip dresses that I wore as nighties and used to play dress-up. I still remember all the details of those little dresses - that is how much I loved them. (I know that my mother, who reads this blog, has a photo of me in one - maybe you'll send me a copy, ma? I don't know if she still has any of the nighties.)

I am sure that many of you have made some sort of modification like this. We all do a little bit of tweaking to change a pattern to suit our needs, even if it is something as seemingly simple as lengthening the sleeves of a sweater or adding short rows to the bust. Don't underestimate the power of these tweaks. They aren't just useful for the project you just finished - they can also be a springboard for the next project.

Having finished her daughter's dress, Sam can now go on to make other dresses using the first one as a template. She has the measurements from the Daktari dress to use as a baseline, so for the next dress she can use the same basic shape and change the patterning. Or she could go one step further and tweak the shape a little, too. What would the dress look like with a fitted bodice? What if she changed the length a little? A completely new and different dress can be designed using what Sam has already figured out here, and with a few little changes she will have stepped from modification to design.

The same is true of little sweater modifications. I try to keep track of little details that I add to commercial patterns, and I also follow which measurements will tend to work best for me in different circumstances. I've learned over time that a bodice twenty inches in length is my "standard," and will fit in such a way to keep my midriff covered (No muffin-top to be seen here people! ). A twenty-two inch bodice will cover the waistband of my trousers and give a nice elongated look to an outfit (which is why I plan for Mishka to be about twenty-two inches in length). Twenty-five inches will give me a tunic or coat length. Knowledge of these measurements gives me a good starting point for design. I am fairly standard-sized, so I can take my measurements and simply add to them proportionally (more on that later) to get the other standardized sizes in a range, but if you aren't standard-sized you can simply figure out how differently your measurements run from the standards proportionally and then make those adjustments across the board for all sizes in a pattern. The opposite approach works as well. If you are working from a commercial pattern and know that you need to take in two inches at the waist as compared to the usual standard size you can work out that modification before you start knitting so that the piece will fit you in a flattering way.

These are just little things to think of as you design. Don't undervalue your experiences as you go along - use them for the next step. Just look at that dress!


mames said...

what a cutie and such a great modification. little girls rock. and muffin-top, haha, perfect name for the interesting habit of placing womanly curves into such sharp relief...i'm with you on the nice hip bone length tops. can't wait to see mishka.

Yarn It said...

I love the modification! And the little girl in the pic is very happy. It was great for me to see how a skirt was modified into a dress for a child. I am not too sure I would have thought of that!