Everyone has had the experience of making a garment—whether knitted, woven, sewn, crocheted, or a combo—following the directions exactly, measuring twice, and having it still look terrible on your body. This post will give you some tricks and tips to help you make and design garments that will fit your body, using finished patterns and making your own.
Drape is your best friend. No idea what I’m talking about? Keep reading.
Drape is the ability of the fabric to fold and conform to the shape you want. Learning about your fibers (cotton, wool, synthetic) as well as where fibers come from and their properties is the first element of drape.
One way you can do this is to learn to spin. Yes! I’m not saying you have to spin all your yarn or thread, just understand with head and hands how yarn and thread are constructed. The spinning of the fiber is the second element of drape. Spinning is a social activity and can get you in touch with other fiber artists!
It’s also important to know your fabric structure: the more intersections, or times the yarn crosses itself, the stiffer the fabric is and the less drape it has. Woven Fabric has a plain weave, lots of intersections, and results in a stiffer fabric. Twill Weave has fewer intersections, which means more drape. With knitted fabric, the stitch you use can have an effect on the structure. For example, garter stitch uses continuous thread and lots of intersections, and it therefore has more drape than woven fabric. Stockinette stitch, on the other hand, has fewer intersections and even more drape.
You’re getting the idea! Moving on…
Samples, or swatches, are important! You wouldn’t run a marathon without training and warming up. Sampling or swatching is your fiber warm-up. Knit, crochet, or weave a sample of your fabric and put it through some paces. Will it shrink? Stretch? Hold a seam?
It’s also important to measure. One size fits no one. The terms “small,” “medium,” and “large” are meaningless. Have a friend take your body measurements and carefully construct your garment to match the measurements.
Finally, try it on! When making a new design for the first time, see if you can try on a similarly styled garment to decide if the style is flattering on you. Use a dummy or try on pattern pieces as you go. This can save a lot of ripping out!
Do your finishing at the end! Sewists know this, needlers not so much. Begin your knitting by casting on with waste yarn and knit for a while (COWWYAKA). If the body or sleeves of the garment need a length adjustment, you will have live stitches to work from—no ripping—and then you can add your finishing, ribbing, or hem.
That’s enough to get you started on your next project that you will wear with comfort and pride!