Thursday, September 18, 2008

aprons and patternmaking

On with book week! Thanks for all the comments, and keep them coming. Dr. S and I will do a drawing later on, and I'm just sorry I don't have more than one book to give away, with so many worthy recipients!

So today's book isn't available for sale anywhere, unless you can find a copy on ebay. I found this one while rummaging the stacks of the library this summer.


Grandma has been asking me about a particular style of slip-on apron. I keep forgetting to ask her for a sketch of it (she sketches beautifully, and remind me to show you her handwriting sometime, too) so I can find her a pattern. There are so many, many apron patterns available right now, have you noticed?

Anway, when I saw this book I wondered if it might include the apron Grandma wants. So I borrowed it and then never had a chance to show Grandma.


But I'll tell you what really interests me about it, beyond Grandma's apron. Sure, it's got a wide variety of apron styles, but look at the patterns themselves; they're not a separate, full-sized, pull-out pattern page in the back of the book, the way so many books are printed now. Instead, each apron has a mini diagram from which the reader drafts her own pattern. In other words, you need to do a little work before you can start the project itself.

Here's how it's explained in the book:

How to Use a Graph Pattern

"To enlarge a pattern to true size, you will need a piece of paper as long and as wide as the number of inches represented by the graph. The paper should have perfectly square corners. If the outline is simple, as the shape of an apron, mark off and number inches along the edges of the paper just as they are on the graph. Then, to find where design lines begin and end, start at upper corner and count down and across the number of inches represented by squares on the graph pattern. Draw in straight lines with a yardstick. Draw curves by locating several points on each and joining them with a connecting line.

"For more intricate graphs, as an embroidery design, rule your paper off in one-inch squares. Then, forgetting the many squares, draw in just one square at a time, exactly what's shown in the corresponding square on the small drawing of the design you wish to use. Keep the relation of your lines to the side lines of the square the same as those in the small drawing. For instance, if the design in the small drawing crosses the top line of the little square at a point one-third of the way from the right, then it should do the same thing in your large drawing."



For some reason, I just love this. It's so industrious! From what I understand, one didn't use patternmaking paper for a project like this in the 1950's: you used newspaper in a truly economical and practical manner. I just can't understand how anyone could stand to do this with just a yardstick. Personally, I couldn't live without my see-through plastic ruler if I were making this. And perhaps some proper pattern paper on which the inches are already marked, too. Knowing me, I'd get distracted by some article in the newspaper about drilling tunnels through the Swiss Alps and forget which pattern I was drafting. Keep me away from the newsprint. (Plus, I don't like how it feels.)



So what do you think; would you follow a graph pattern like this? I'm doubtful the concept could work for something more involved than an apron, but would you have the patience to make your own pattern, or would you rather pay more for a book and have a full-sized pattern in the back? I'm genuinely curious and would love to hear your thoughts.

More books coming!

24 comments:

  1. I would probably truly enjoy a book and patterns like this. I consider myself a bit of a cheapskate and the only patterns I have ever bought have been when they are on sale for one or two dollars. I like math and I like to try to figure things out. A pattern laid out on a grid seems like it would be more easily customized. I created my own kitchen apron (http://chrisandlorena.blogspot.com/2008/02/my-new-apron.html) based on a shop apron I own. So, yes, I like the graph paper pattern idea.

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  2. What a book!!

    I would do it. But, like you said, probably not for anything more complicated or less forgiving than an apron. My mom has this great textbook from one of her college courses in the early 70s -- I think it's called "Pattern Making by the Flat Pattern Method," and is all about how to make your own patterns. Nifty stuff.

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  3. I have a pattern book like this and I scan and enlarge the pattern. yay for technology. no patience for a pattern I would have to hand draw.

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  4. This seems a lot like the Japanese patterns that I am now fascinated by. There is a pattern sheet, yes, but all of the pattern pieces are overlapped on one page that you trace from, then add seam allowance, plus the instructions are in Japanese! And a lot of other people seem to be doing it too. So, yes, I think there is interest in this sort of thing. I'm not sure why, and hopefully it's not like Yeats' The Fascination of What's Difficult:
    The fascination of what's difficult
    Has dried the sap out of my veins, and rent
    Spontaneous joy and natural content
    Out of my heart.

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  5. You know I grew up with the ideal that if I wanted something I had to make it myself. And when I first started sewing I exercised my little noggin and used some hidden math skills to make my own pattern. I wanted to call my high school geometry teacher and tell him I really did retain information! This past spring I raided my MILs book shelf and found two 1950s sewing books. I used the same type of instructions to complete several home projects. I like the mental exercise. (I suppose that's why I like the Japanese sewing magazines too!)

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  6. I want to make a teddy bear out of some chenille I have but the pattern I have is on a grid like this, and with all of the pieces I'd have to make it's just not getting done.

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  7. Oh, how I love this! When my Sweet Husband returned from Iraq (the second time), we went out to eat at a little hole-in-the-wall in Nashville that was floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and I found the greatest 1951 book about how to dress oneself. It was awesome, and we tried desperately to buy it, but the owner didn't sell any of the collection. I wrote down the ISBN, but then baby ate it--no lie. Books like this make me marvel and the assumed skill of women sewers Back in the Day, and envy them the time they must've spent with Those With Skill to learn so much! I would totally devote, like, a weekend to figuring out how to do this--I like the scan-and-print idea, or just eyeballing it to "scale."

    Ah, I'm committing the sin of covetousness right now, just looking at this volume... Great find!

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  8. FYI--you have something valuable there--I just checked ABE and they had 2 copies of this book--one for $134.95 and the other $150--WOW!!

    Longtime disdressed reader here, first time to comment. I've been meaning to tell you that you started my obsession with the Janome 6600, and ended up costing me way more than this book would!! But I love, love, love it and would enjoy hearing about how you are using yours:)
    Mary

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  9. I think I would spend more for a book with patterns. I usually have to spend a lot of time tracing off the different sizes (mostly for C.'s stuff), and an added step would be frustrating. I would be most likely to just eyeball everything.

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  10. These are the types of patterns I used all the time as kid in the 70's. I think it helps with the understanding of how a pattern goes together.

    a. - I have that book from college as well. It was one of my favorite classes!

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  11. I think there's a reason they started including full-sized patterns at the end of books. It's still a really cute book though! If I saw an apron from it that I wanted to make, I would probably just freehand the pattern and wing it.

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  12. I love mathematics and so this intrigues me. Plus I can't help thinking that it would allow me to stash away more patterns since they wouldn't take up as much space. However, I do understand that many people do not like mathematics.

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  13. I, too, made many things from patterns like this in the 70's and even the 80's. I especially remember making some cat shaped embroidered pillows for gifts that I enlarged from a graph like this (using a yardstick). It's a great sense of accomplishment.

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  14. I love the concept, but, with a 1 yr old running around, I don't have the time to devote to it. I find that I copy best in one sitting, but a complicated pattern would probably take more than one nap.

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  15. I don't know that I would actually ever do it, but I don't sew that much now. But I would still love to have it!!

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  16. the graft method is one of the ways I was taught to draft costumes in college. The hard part is drawing the grid on kraft paper. It's very easy if you buy the grided paper.

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  17. I once made a 16th century dress (overskirt with bodice, corset, bum roll, and chemise) using the first method you described. It was from a book called "Patterns for Theatrical Costumes" by Katherine Strand Holkeboer and its really great. Granted, for costume fit is not so important, and I did have to do a bit of adjusting to the final piece, but it worked! It was a little like magic!

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  18. Well, I've done a similar concept only as recently as May, when I made myself a skirt from the 'Sew What! Skirts' book. It turned out "mostly" fine, but I didn't need as much ease as the book suggested, so I had to take it in quite a bit. I think if making an 'adult' garment of any kind, one needs to have a dressform, whether from a self-drafted pattern or a pre-printed purchased pattern. I think because I have not had mine set up perfectly yet, I have not finished tackling that job.

    As far as aprons go, though... I agree with you in that it is simple enough and 'one-size-fits-most' that it could be made from a book probably just fine... provided the instructions for self-drafting allowed for 'perfect' seaming. (wink wink!)

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  19. What a fantastic book I love those grid patterns. The are useful for adapting patterns.

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  20. Hi! Long time reader, first comment, tho :) I love to use grid patterns from old books- But I have a very large cutting mat...maybe 44x60 or so. That makes it much easer to recreate the patterns, I usually use freezer paper.

    And I'm ga-ga over that apron book, I too, looked it up hoping to pick up a copy and it's just waaaaaay out of my budget. Any additional pictures you can scan would be GREATLY appreciated! I love that gardening apron with kneeling pad- going to make one for my mom!

    Thanks for sharing with us!

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  21. Sometimes I've found myself actually wishing that the patterns in the back of current books were printed on a grid so that you could enlarge by hand if needed. You have probably seen patterns in the back of current books that call for enlarging something 200% or 400%....sometimes the enlarged piece will far exceed the limitations of regular copier size paper (or even the larger copier paper) and you have to patch the pieces together. Having the pattern printed on grid paper in those cases is a great help. The old craft books used to be full of patterns including intricate puppets and stuffies that required enlarging by the grid paper method. Tedious but time-honored and effective

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  22. I just found a sewing book for infants and it contains the grid method! I think its great, you can make it any size you want that way, and you get all these great patterns in one place! Wish I could find more like this!

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  23. This really works! In junior high art class, we enlarged cartoon characters using this same method. I have used it a couple of times in the years since, but not for anything very complicated. I would definitely gravitate toward the less expensive book and making my own pattern. Butcher paper makes a good paper substitute--a little firmer feel and no distracting articles!

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  24. I am absolutely lazy and would have to have the full size pattern in the back of the book. Scanning the pattern, like someone mentioned would be okay, but even that is more work than I think I want to put in. That being said, I adore this book, and would love to own something like it...although I would never make anything from it - ha (see above comment about being lazy).

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