Saturday 24 October 2009

Inverness Cape - cutting the block

This week I started work on a new Who costume – the Inverness cape worn by the Third Doctor (see below).

I am doing this as part of my college coursework (a tailoring course at West Herts college, in Hemel Hempstead). I picked it for two main reasons: firstly it has a nice, simple design with no tailoring (ie body fitting) so I don’t need to worry about making it fit too perfectly; secondly it has a few key design points I want to brush up on with my tutor, namely collars, back-splits and hemming with a silk lining.
I am already pretty proficient in all of the above by working it out for myself, but I am sure I could be doing many of these things better with the focus and direction the course will take me in.
I also want to learn skills at pattern cutting, as my recent Five Coat suffered from a lack of experience during the early stages.

The Inverness Cape came to my attention after finding a Cutter’s guide for it on the internet (see left) with instructions on how to draw up the design for it.

It is essentially made in three main pattern pieces: a half-back; a front panel; and the cape sleeve, all of which are mirrored to form the cull garment. On top of that I need to design my own collar (with my college tutor) and set a couple of outer welted pockets, which I am adapt at doing now. It then just needs lining.

The early weeks of my course have taught me a methodology to working up a pattern ready for making up.
  1. Firstly draw the pattern up at quarter-scale to ensure your measurements come together correctly and to become familiar with the order of how it is drawn.
  2. Cut and make-up a quarter-scale paper mock-up to start to understand how things work.
  3. Then work it up in full scale, now that you are confident of how to do it. this is done to the finished net size of the pattern, ie without seam allowances.
  4. Trace over the pattern pieces, to separate them out
  5. Add seam allowances using a grading guide to make even adjustments to the pattern ready for making up.
  6. Cut the pattern out and then cut it in calico.
  7. Make a ‘twill’, which is the first test that it fits and comes together correctly. If all is good .....
  8. Make the finished garment using all the knowledge learnt along the way of things to look out.
Today I plan to get a good couple of points into the list.

Stage 1
I have a pad of square ruled paper, which makes it a lot easier to draw up the design.
I follow the instructions, working my way around the pattern and slowly but surely it takes shape (see right). This layout of the pattern is called the block.

There are a number of stages which take me a while to understand what I am supposed to do, as the terminology dates from the 1890s. A bit of concentration get me past these!

What I can’t quite work out at the moment is how the armholes work. All the pattern pieces superimposed onto of one another, but there only appears to be a single sweep for the hole at the front, and nothing at the back, which is a little puzzling.

Stage 2
To understand it fully, I move onto making a paper mock-up of the cape. I only need to do half, and cut it in paper and tape the seams up with sellotape.
The proportions look pretty good (see below left); viewing from the back, it can be seen that the cape only goes as far round as the side seams, which are relatively far round (see below centre); finally you can see how the armholes work (see below right). The back is attached directly to the cape and the front panel arcs between the shoulder and under arm.

Satisfied the pattern works, I can move onto drawing it up full scale.

Stage 3
I am using some special pattern paper, which has a matrix of dots and crosses at one-inch spacing to aid drawing a new pattern such as this (see left).

Because I have drawn up my pattern to quarter-scale, I can measure its width and know exactly where to start my drawing. I don’t want to fall embarrassingly off the paper halfway through.

I know the paper is not wide enough to hold the whole pattern, so I lay it out and allow the corner of the cape (on the right hand side) to hang off a bit (see right). This is not a problem as I will be able to complete the shape when I need to trace it for stage 4.

As drawing this quarter-scale is fresh in my mind, I find it easy to draw it full-scale, despite its cumbersome size. I am glad now I thrashed out some of the tricker instructions while working it at quarter-scale.

Once I am finished I am very satisfied with the result.

Next time I will move onto the next stage, cutting the pattern pieces and adding seam allowance ready to make the calico test.
You can follow my progress by reading The Cutter’s Guide to the Inverness Cape for yourself by downloading it here:
 Cutter’s Guide to The Inverness Cape

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