No, just an offbeat way to get good measurements! I’m almost ready to start the detailed-sketch phase of Ithilien Brocade pattern making. Of course, I could get out the measuring tape and start writing down the numbers. And most of the time, that works okay. But I’ve found that it always seems that there’s something I missed, or a number that just doesn’t seem right, and since I’m a pretty visual person, I decided to fall back on this technique.
I don’t remember where I first heard of it, but used it several years ago when designing a prom dress for my younger daughter. Here’s how it works: get an old t-shirt, some duct tape (not the cheap stuff!), a Sharpie and some help. It is not possible to do this by yourself! Put on the t-shirt – the thinner the better – and if it’s a v-neck, get some fabric to fill in the neckline. Or, as I did this time, buy some cotton knit fabric from the sale table. Since this design is intended as an outer garment, I put it on over my clothes, but if you use it for something fitted and next-to-the-skin, you’ll probably want to do it over your underwear.
Next, start tearing off strips of duct tape and start taping over the t-shirt to cover it. You generally don’t need to do sleeves, but do go clear to the normal line of the armholes. This effort turned out a bit lumpy, but that’s okay. Remember when you were a kid and did the papier-mache over a balloon project? This is the same kind of thing, but is much less messy!
Here we are part way through the process.
Once you have the t-shirt covered, as far down as you need it, get out your fine-tipped marker. Now, have your helper draw lines on the duct tape for all the measurements you think you might need. Mark all of the ‘seamlines’, even if the item is going to be knitted in the round: side seams, center front and center back, and shoulder seams. Then mark around your waistline, bust, base of neck, and armholes. For this pattern, we also measured 5” below the waist for a bottom hemline, and 1” above the neckline for a stand-up collar (we added extra fabric and tape for that one).
By this time it was starting to feel like armor, and the next step was to cut me out! My daughter (the one who had been the recipient of this treatment once: payback!) cut straight up the back through both the duct tape and the taped-up fabric, taking care to avoid cutting me or my good clothes. Ahhh!
Once I got home with it, I trimmed the edges and flappy untaped bits of fabric on the inside. At this point, I could have taped it back together and stuffed it with wadded-up paper or something to keep as a dress form.
But what I will do is cut it apart to make ‘pattern pieces’, even though I will be knitting Ithilien in the round. The flat pieces are easier to measure, and help me see exactly where to place the shaping elements.
This procedure can be a great way to plan ahead for short-row bust shaping, too! Hip/waist shaping is easy enough to figure out, but bust shaping can be a little trickier to get just right. To plan that, simply decide where you want the short-row shaping to fall; usually as for a sewn dart, straight in from the side seam. Make a straight cut along that line to the point of the bust on both sides, and flatten out the piece. Look at the shape that’s left, and knit (bottom up in this example) to the point where you started the cut at the side. Start doing matching short-rows on both sides, following the line of the cut, until you get to the point of the bust. Then start ‘long-rowing’ back to the sides, and voila! You have custom bust shaping!
You could also use this for princess-seam type shaping; draw the line you want the shaping to follow, then cut and plan matching decreases and increases on either side of that line.
As you will already have figured out, you will need to add appropriate ease for the garment you are designing, but starting from a shape that echoes your own body’s shape helps to ensure the fit of the final product.