The past few days saw me camped out on the den floor, stretching and leaning and murmuring "ooph, ow!" as I drafted the Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung Roehrenfalten-Rock (a four yard godet skirt) pattern to full size. In case you want to use it, let me guide you through drafting it, for there are some spots that confused me and a pitfall that it's really, really easy to fall into.
In case you missed any posts in this petticoat series, you can find them on the 1890s: Costumes, Research, and Documentation page.
Understanding the Draft
If you look at the original draft above, from left to right the skirt pattern includes four pieces:
- "a", the front piece;
- "b", the side-front piece;
- "c", the side-back piece;
- "d", the back piece.
The grainline is vertical, but none of edges of any gore fall on the straight of grain, so that "c" in particular, appears tipped. Cut them exactly as shown or the skirt will not work out as it's supposed to. Many 1890s skirt patterns tend to be cut such that one edge of a gore is on the straight of grain while the other is on the bias; this makes for a seam that's less likely to stretch or bag. This skirt is pretty much all bias seams.: I am a little worried about it but authors of the period say that keeping the fabric on a flat surface as much as possible while cutting and sewing it, and binding each seam with seam tape, are two ways to prevent problems.
The pattern pieces are marked in centimeters, and each number marks an important spot in the pattern. To draft up the pattern, you replicate the drawing, measuring out with a rule marked in centimeters.
I found out what the measurements work out to in American/Imperial inches. The skirt front measures about 40", while the back measures 44". This back length is NOT a train; the length is needed to create those wonderful godets that stand out at the back and brush the floor at the same level as the rest of the skirt. The skirt measures 145" around, or about 4 yards. There some room in the waistline; before darts and the essential godet pleats in the back are taken, we have a total of 44" to work with.
It's easy to simply draft up the pattern in centimeters, rather than fuss with converting the measures. This is especially so because some of the measurements are of less than an inch, and it would be a royal pain to squint at the 16th marks on your rule when you can simply use nice round centimeters.
Note: if you should need to resize the pattern, see the Sense and Sensibility site's page called How to Resize a Pattern. She covers resizing a gored skirt, or you could use the slash and spread method. Just know that you will affect the circumference of the lower edge of the skirt.
Let's Start Drafting
I don't know why the patterns start at 1 cm rather than 0. Perhaps it's because wooden or tape rulers easily wear at their ends and the markings get a little off. Perhaps it's convention. If anyone wants to enlighten me, that would be so nice.
Here's how I drafted the first piece, so you get the idea. Again, you're just replicating the original draft in the magazine, but at full size.
Each pattern piece is set inside a rectangle. Draw that out first:
- starting from the top left, at the 1cm mark on your rule, draw a line out to the right to 26cm.
- starting again from the top left, at the 1cm mark on your rule, draw a line down to 103cm.
- starting at the top right, at the 26cm mark, drawn a line down to 103cm.
- starting at the bottom right, draw a line to the left from 26cm to the 1cm mark.
Now you can draw in the pattern piece itself. Here's how I did it; I labeled each step from A to I:
- A to B: From the 1cm point on the left side of your pencilled rectangle, measure down to the 2cm point and draw a point. This is where the center of the front waistline is.
- B to C: draw down the left side of the pencilled rectangle from 2 cm to 103 cm. This forms the center front of the skirt. Mark it darkly in a dotted line so that you remember to cut your fabric, which you have folded in half lengthwise, on the fold.
- D to E: draw a straight line at the bottom of your pencilled box outwards from the 1cm mark to 9cm.
- E to F: at the bottom right of your pencilled rectangle, measure up the right side from 103cm to 100cm. Now, from the 9cm mark on the bottom of your rectangle, draw a gentle curve up to that 100cm point. You've formed the bottom edge of the skirt piece.
- G to H: at the top of your pencilled rectangle, measure from the 1cm mark to 9cm and make a point there. Now draw a very gentle, almost imperceptible curve from the 2cm point on the left edge to the 9cm point you made along the top. This is your waistline curve.
- H to I: Draw an angled line from the 9cm mark on the top line down to the 100cm mark on the right edge. This is the outer edge of the front piece.
- Draw in the darts lightly in the approximate place the original draft has them; you will set the darts to best fit your body when fitting the skirt to you.
Now you have your first pattern piece!
The picture below my first pattern piece drawn on some newsprint my husband had stashed for some 30 years. It's getting age spots :}
If you look carefully you can see that none of my pattern lines are closer to the edge of the paper than 2cm; I wanted room to mark everything carefully.
If you really squint you can see that I drew a dotted line 2cm outside the waistline and the right edge of the front piece. These are seam allowances. I didn't drawn an extra seam allowance for the skirt bottom because we are going to shorten it to petticoat length later.
I made sure to label the piece with the name of the skirt, which piece it is, and the grainline. As I drew my lines, I wrote down the cm measures just as they appear on the original draft. Obviously you don't have to do that, but I like knowing what everything measures.
I drew out each skirt piece in the same way, and only found the markings on the "c", side-back piece to be confusing. Here is the original draft -- we're looking at the large pattern piece on the left side.
- Look at the little "6" and the "3" drawn inside the top left of the pattern. Well, the little "3", which sits on its side, reminds us that the waistline of the skirt starts vertically at the 3cm mark, where 1cm is the starting point. That part I understand. However, I cannot believe that the little "6" marks the spot where the top of the skirt gore begins horizontally. When I drew the line for the left side of the the skirt pattern piece from 6cm, boy! The angle sure didn't match that on the original drawing; it was too wide. So, I decided to start at 3cm.
- Then too, I don't know what the 9cm mark is along the top of the rectangle that outlines the skirt pattern piece. Surely it isn't the spot where the first "X" on the pattern is placed...when I set it there, it was far to the left of where the pattern has it.
- Finally, I don't know what the "90cm" mark is for that sits at the far right of the top. The bottom of the skirt flares out to 99cm wide, not 90cm. I can't help but think that's a typo.
For those of you wondering what those star shapes are that appear on the side-back and back pieces? That's where you are going to attach the elastic band that holds the godet plaits into position. Once the skirt seams are sewn, you will see that the three star marks fall in a line. Be sure to include them on your pattern pieces!
The "X" marks and dots on these two back pattern pieces, I believe, show you where to set the box pleats, I believe, but haven't verified it as yet.
Here is the "c", the side-back piece, as I have drafted it.
That ends drafting the skirt. The next step is to cut out the pieces and make sure they match up, and then compare them to my actual fashion skirt. I will want to copy the pieces and then trim the bottom parts a bit so that the petticoat doesn't show beneath the skirt. Two inches or 5cm should do it.
May You Be as Snug as Nutmeg Kitty
These are trying days, but they have their light moments. Nutmeg kitty has been very, very relaxed with the onset of cool weather. Look at those part-colored paws! Then, a few days ago I was folding laundry prior to drafting out the pattern. She decided to interrupt the folding so that I could focus on the drafting. Good kitty...she gave me almost 2 hours of free time :}
Next time, we will look at the pattern all cut out and set onto the fashion skirt so that we can see
- how much should be trimmed off the bottom so that it's petticoat length
- what I might need to do to the fashion skirt (!), if anything, to deal with the fact the petticoat is cut for godets while the skirt is definitely not.*