Lazy pattern making

I’d received an email from someone wanting to know where ease -joining two disparate lengths together- is permissible. I thought to write of it today due to yesterday’s post regarding the front princess line because that seam is an area that is often eased -in school and home sewing- but not in factories. The purported need to ease this seam is yet another pet peeve of mine (yet one more of many!). I realize that many people don’t know this because all of the pattern making books always tell you to do it. Unfortunately -in real life- if the total seam length of the side front panel is longer than the seam of the center front panel seam, this is considered to be lazy pattern making. Many new pattern makers cut the side front princess panel longer because that’s what all the books tell you to do. ~sigh~

There’s two major reasons why ease over the fullest part of the bust is inappropriate. First, ease is only appropriate if the pattern piece containing the longer seam covers a body section of greater area. An example of this is the back shoulder line. It is not uncommon for the back shoulder line to be eased into the front shoulder line because the back shoulder covers a body area larger than the front shoulder. However, this is not appropriate on the front princess seam because the the front side panel is becoming smaller (going into the side seam) rather than larger.


The second reason this is inappropriate is that adding ease over the fullest part of the bust is the absolute worst possible place -that of the curviest portion of the bust. I mean, is there a better way to make this seam even harder to sew? Accordingly, on the job this can be perceived as laziness on the part of the pattern maker because the pattern books are leaving out a big step. This omitted step amounts to extra work for the pattern maker but it’s better that one person does extra work than a bunch of people in the sewing line to do the extra work. There’s more of them than there are of you so it costs plenty.

In a nutshell, once you’ve made that side panel piece, you need to recut the center front panel because it needs to be longer to follow the lines of the curve on the side panel. To illustrate the process, I’ve copied these sketches from Armstrong (1995), pg 135. And by the way, I’m not using Armstrong out of any implied criticism because it seems that all the pattern books advise this practice. I’m using Armstrong because most people seem to have that book versus any other. Anyway, here is the way that the books tell you to do the process:

Above, you’re instructed to close the side dart which -in pattern books- falls shy of the seam line. You’re then instructed to ease the remainder into the seam blending the difference and what not. In real life, it doesn’t work like that because for one thing, this practice contributes to over fitting and depending on material weight, you can get a bubble on that side of the seam. It’s not particularly attractive. Rather, you have two options. The first option is illustrated below and I recommend this one over the second one that I’ll also show you.

Above you close the dart as normally instructed. However, you lengthen the front panel piece to match the side panel. Adding length to the front piece will give you a much nicer line and better fitting than the traditional method shown in books.

Another way you can do this -depending on material weight and snugness of the fit- is shown below. Basically you’d extend the end of the dart to reach into the seam allowance.

If the garment is a vest or coat or you’re using a heavier weight material, the above method can be just dandy. You can tell if this isn’t working, if at the hem line, the seam seems to be hiking or pulling up. If it’s hiking, you need the extra length and will have to go through the additional work of lengthening the front panel.

In the Armstrong book (again pg 135), it shows one final frame on how to add additional ease into the side panel and frankly, just looking at it just make me cringe so don’t do that. Unless of course you’re not getting a nice line that follows the body neatly. In that case, by all means add the additional length to the side panel but be sure to also lengthen the front panel commensurately or it will only subvert your intention. If the piece is not fitting well after this, it is more likely that the side panel is not deep enough (a rather common occurrence). In this case, you’ll need to add more depth across the fullest part of the bust on the side panel side but again, be sure to add length to the front panel to compensate for any additional length.

I’ll be out of the office today; spousal unit has the day off so we’re going on a short NM road trip. Have a great weekend!

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