Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Making a dressmaking croquis


I recently decided to make a dress design croquis, after reading about it several months ago in the The Colette Sewing Handbook. For those who aren't familiar with the term, croquis is French for 'sketch', and in dressmaking terms this refers to a sketch of a woman, onto which you may draw your own garment designs. It helps your designs to retain a sense of proportion and shape. Too often my sketch books were filled with designs like the one below, which, while they captured the essence of what I had in my head, gave no clue as to how it may look on a real person without strangely rounded, hunched shoulders!


For a croquis to be most useful to a home seamstress, then it's ideal to base it on our very own bodies. This will give the most incite into what will and won't work and allows you to plan your designs to flatter your own proportions. While the process can be taken from a photo of yourself wearing knickers and bra, I opted for pulling on some close fitting leggings and a figure hugging vest top instead. I then set up my camera to take a few pictures of myself. It's never the most flattering thing to stand soldier-like for a photograph, but I can see that for a croquis to be usable, it's the best option. Once the photos were taken and printed out, I then pulled the glass on my daughter's desk half-way off, so that it hung in mid-air and I placed her bedside lamp beneath, to allow the light to shine up through the glass, providing an impromptu lightbox through which to trace over my photograph.


Finally, I scanned my traced images into the computer (I took photos from the side, as well as the front), created a page with a repeat of my image going across it and printed out a stack of copies. And then, because I am a geek and my daughter has filled our home with professional stationery supplies, I laminated the front cover I'd designed and bound the pages into a book, which I've rather grandly entitled Dressmaking Design Sketchbook.


Before I embarked on this process, I'd suspected that designing on a croquis may be helpful, but it's actually surpassed my expectations in its usefulness. Having a book of blank body canvases has found me regularly picking up the book to draw off designs from my head at times when I wouldn't otherwise have bothered committing them to paper or dreaming up new things when I've had a spare five minutes.



It's also given me a really clear idea of how to embrace my proportions. Ever since Anne Shirley lusted after a dress with puffed sleeves in Anne of Green Gables I've harboured a love of this sweet gathering at the sleeve cap. But oddly, it's never made me feel fantastic to wear them, no matter how much I love the feature. When I drew a puffed sleeve (right), next to a close fitting sleeve cap (left) on the croquis below, it was really clear that it's because this feature doesn't work with the proportions of my body as a whole.


In my book, I've created croquis that I draw directly onto, but I can see that when designing dresses it may be better to overlay the croquis with another sheet of paper and design over the silhouette of the croquis, to avoid having visible thigh lines on the dress design, as below.


There's something very stark and odd about having an exact replica of your own body, unencumbered by clothing, or even skin tone. It's quite fascinating and the result feels as though you've found yourself unexpectedly modelling in a life-drawing class because what appears on the paper is entirely objective and has little to do with your own subjective idea of how you look.

How do you dream up garments? Do you have a collection of sketches? Do you use a standard croquis or one of your own silhouette? Might you make one yourself?

Florence x

Ps. When I went on my pattern drafting course at the London College of Fashion they suggested we brought very hard HB pencils with us. I felt slightly inadequate as after using one for a day I actually decided that I loathed those pencils: the specified hardness barely showed up and drove me potty. The pencils I use for everything from homework with my children, to drafting patterns, to drawing on my croquis are inexpensive Bic propelling pencils which can be bought in packs of ten in a variety of colours (if you scroll back up you'll see some pictured. I haven't intentionally used one in every colour). They are truly wonderful and all four of us love them. If you want to buy some, we've found them in Sainsburys and WH Smiths - look for Bic Matic 0.7mm HB#2. They have a super rubber on the end of them too.

33 comments:

  1. Ooooo it's kind of weird to see you drawn like that (as it would be to see myself) but also very cool! and definitely helpful for making things fit over pesky curves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I agree - it's really weird! But I'm too geeky about the sewing element to not love it.

      Delete
  2. I've been meaning to make one of these for a little while now...someone else in my feed did one and I said THAT'S WHAT MY TERRIBLE DRAWING SKILLS NEED. It's so frustrating to have all these ideas in my head and not be able to transfer them to paper accurately.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do it - it's a wonderful thing for those of us who aren't natural artists!

      Delete
  3. Wow! This is SUCH a cool idea! Thank you so much for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do post a link if you end up doing it yourself - I'd love to see.

      Delete
  4. What a great idea! I might have to copy you! You could interleave tracing paper with the croquis pages for dress drawing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hurrah! Again, I'd love to see if you do. Wouldn't a Flickr pool of croquis be a super (and extremely strange) thing.

      Delete
    2. Oh Nina! Please don't encourage my ridiculousness. It would be fascinating though, wouldn't it.

      Delete
  5. I use standard croquis, why I've never thought to do this though is beyond me. Thank you for the inspiration. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, when I read about it I couldn't understand how it had never occurred to me either.

      Delete
  6. OMG, you laminated the book! that's so totally something I'd do :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It makes me feel ridiculously pleased that it's laminated and bound.

      Delete
    2. as it should :) seriously, I'd have done the same thing. titled it, laminated it, bound it... fantastic!

      Delete
  7. How lovely! I bet you will use this over and over again! Great idea!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I already have - it's nicer having it a book too as if I'd just printed them out they'd already be looking slightly dog-earred in a drawer.

    ReplyDelete
  9. How very interestng! My (non-sewing) SIL borrowed my Colette handbook a while ago...I must get it back, and look into this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's incredibly sweet of you to lend it out - I have been most non-sharing with my copy! x

      Delete
  10. I have the Colette book and read about this there but somehow your explanation of it (and demonstration) has made it seem far more useful. Oh and I despise HB pencils too and used to take joy in buying 4B (or even 6B I think?) from the newsagent. Can't imagine what the extra-hard, numbered H ones would be useful for!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad that the hard pencils have inspired strong feels in others too!

      Delete
  11. Fantastic, what a great idea! we were given an outline for sketching on my pattern cutting course, but it had unrealistically long legs! Would have been fund to try sketching on my own silhouette.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the whole long legged thing really doesn't work for many of us.

      Delete
  12. Great! I have the book too and even took the dreaded picture, but have not done the croquis yet. I must do it, as I know that it id a great idea.
    I use SOFT drawing pencils to sketch!So there you are...I can see that if you want to draw "proper" technical drawings you want the hard pencils, but there is nothing that entices me to use them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, just the picture very nearly brought proceedings to a halt - it's worth persevering though as that's the worst part.

      Delete
  13. Great idea that is new to me. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Just found your blog... lovely ideas. Will definitiely pop back again.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This is BRILLIANT!

    I love it, thank you so much for sharing...

    I'm now going to take pictures of myself in my underwear (never thought I'd write that online!)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Gosh, how cute is your blog!! I actually saw your blog in COMPANY and came to check you out, and I love what I see :D I have some pre-done croquis's I use when I'm feeling artsy, but I love how you've made your own! I'm your new follower, yay!

    www.iwastakenbysurprise.blogspot.com
    xx

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x