28 Jan 2012

How to work with Marfy patterns - part 1.

I thought it might be interesting to write down in detail how I am going to tackle the 'Marfy-challenge'! I wrote about the issues with the patterns of this Italian company here. Let's say, there are some challenges there. But: the pattern illustrations look just beautiful and I think I have enough experience in sewing to be able to figure out how a dress goes together.
So today I write about the start of the process:
- inspiration
- interpreting the illustrations
- adding seam allowances
- estimating the amount of fabric needed

Let's start with the inspiration. Sometimes it is a special fabric, but it can be a certain silhouette of a garment as well. I pulled out one of my fav. inspirational pictures: the Jenny Packham S/S 2011 dress which Kate Middleton wore in yellow on the Canada tour. There is also an original forties dress drawing which I like. The features I really love are the shoulder yokes and gathers, the fitted bodice with the buttons and the flared skirt. I think this the kind of silhouette might be flattering on most body types.

right picture borrowed from glamourdaze.blogspot.com

The pattern illustrations:
I recently discovered the Marfy patterns. They have a lot of pretty, vintage style dresses. The pattern I choose is the Marfy 2440 dress pattern. It has pretty much every feature I want. (The neckline is different from the inspirational pictures, but I think the v-neck is flattering and can easily be adjusted if needed. I'm hoping to have a great basic pattern which I can use over and over again.)

The Marfy patterns does have a description (some of them more detailed than others), but no line drawings (sometimes not even a back view) so you have to rely on the drawing as reference. I still think it is kinda weird that they don't publishing pictures of the finished designs, though their website emphasizes that "each patten is tested, studied and perfected on fabric". I would even be happy with colorless muslins on a real body... Still, while browsing on sewing blogs I noticed that the bloggers finished pieces look exactly like the catalog drawings.
Well, if you look at the drawing the model seems to be tall, blessed with endless legs and a tiny head (both are everything but me). I put a picture next to the drawing for comparison:

If you take a look at the illustration next to my dress you see that the skirt should be shorter. Although it is not clear how long it exactly is. Proportional: it seems longer than mine, though both the illustration  and my blue dress fall just on the knees, exactly the same length as the Peckham dress. The only way to know it for sure is by measuring the pattern pieces.
After checking the measurements which are of course (again) between two sizes I decided to order the smaller size. I prefer fitted dresses anyway, so figured it would be better to start with a smaller size to adjust. Since I always make a muslin so making adjustments can't really be an issue.

EDIT: If you are handy with Photoshop you can play with different designs on your own frame like here Of course, you also can use paper and pencils to recreate a design. It can be especially handy when working with vintage patterns or when you have a different body shape than the models on the pattern envelopes. (Who doesn't?...)

Lay-out of the pattern:
For me, the pattern pieces go together in a logical way. The facing for the front and the undercollar pieces are included too. There are markings at the sleeves - a few letters at the joining points, but overall I find mostly notches. Here are the pieces spread out on the floor:

Seam allowances and tracing:
Since I discovered how easy it is to sew with patterns with seam allowances included I simply add the seam allowances when I trace other European patterns (like Burdastyle, Burda magazine, Knipmode magazine). Though it takes some extra time and tracing is not my favorite part of the whole sewing process I think it is definitely worth it! At the end of the day it works so much easier for me. Back in my teenage days I just used to cut up fabric with different seamallowances all the way. Then puzzeld with matching the contour lines of the pattern pieces and it took me so much more time! When you use patterns with seam allowances included you can go on with sewing without worrying about mistakes. The moment you have to be precise is when you are cutting your fashion fabric. Concerning tracing the patterns: I believe that tracing saves your pricey originals and allows you to use them over and over again.

EDIT: Everyone who has followed the 'bombshell course' on Craftsy has seen that Gertie marked the seamlines by stitching along the lines first and then assembled the pieces by matching those lines. For me that's a kind of couture solution and certainly can come handy when working with small pieces. But usually I don't have that much of time when sewing so when I work with European patterns I just simply add the seam allowances after tracing. For me it works much quicker when stitching the pieces together. (I just use a plastic card or sometimes even a firmer paper card on which I mark the 1,5cm (5/8") width. Then I go along the pattern lines and mark them every 5/8" or so before cutting.

How to estimate the amount of fabric:
Since Marfy patterns don't have a lot of instructions you kinda have to figure it all out by yourself. There is an approximate measurement of the fabric yardage you need, but that might be less or more.
For example, somehow I have the habit of cutting single layers. I like to puzzle with the pattern pieces on the fabric... That way I can cut more precisely and use less fabric too.
My advise would be either to take the pattern pieces to the fabric store and try out the layout on the fabric itself (considering the seam allowances, of course) Another idea is to take fabric from your stash with the same width and try to figure out the layout at home. (this is what I'm going to do) It is important to examine the grainlines indicated on the pattern pieces, for example the skirt pieces of this dress must be cut on the bias, so generally requires more fabric.
In the meantime I received my 2012/13 catalog. At first I thought there were just a few interesting designs, but looking closely there are a lot of pretty patterns there! Everything looks very tailored and the designs have a lot of interesting details.

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