Recently I watched a couple of Peggy Sagers’ pattern drafting DVDs (via Smartflix). In the ‘Success From the Start’ DVD she spends most of the time talking about the French curve, and how you can use it to duplicate measurements and features of garments you love, as well as check fit and proportions of a pattern piece before making a muslin. I didn’t even know that there was a particular ‘French curve’ – my French-curve-like-thing is from an art store, intended for drawing, I think, and certainly doesn’t have the numbers on it that Peggy’s did. The DVD also explained for me what the heck the notches on an armhole are (where you have to flip the French curve over to finish drawing the bottom of the armhole). I followed her reasoning the whole way through, but I’m still unconvinced about the translation between the French curve and the human body. OK, use the French curve for drafting, but why would it automatically fit the body? It’s not as if god sent us all down with a French curve to use for further duplication. 😉
One of the things she used the French curve for (good lord, how many times have I typed French curve already? Ok, from now on it’s FC) was to duplicate your particular hip curve/shape. This, then, you compare to skirt and pant patterns to make sure everything is kosher. This seems like a wonderful idea, rather than trying to adjust to match measurements or cutting out and then adjusting the seam.
I’m particularly intrigued because so far I haven’t been able to get any non-elastic-waist bottoms to fit me well. Before I started sewing, I thought I was short-waisted, because the term was being used incorrectly, and now I know I’m long-waisted (length between back of neck and back waist) but short-hipped (length between waist and hip). Apparently the ‘default’ distance between the waist and hip is 7″. My waist to crotch-line measurement isn’t even 7″! If you define the hip as where the pelvic bone sticks out (aka hands on hips location), then the distance between my waist and hip is about 2″, 1 1/2″ if you’re not feeling generous. No wonder I’ve been having trouble with getting bottoms to fit. (I have a larger hip measurement lower down, just below crotch level, but that’s really a thigh thing, not a hip thing.)
I have no idea how I’d adjust a commercial pattern to get that to turn out right, and I’ve been wondering whether I’d have better luck making a sloper from measurements and a hip curve. Pepin’s Modern Pattern Design has a chapter on making a pants sloper, and Leena’s also has a great page on drafting pants. I also found this excellent guide to adjusting and fitting pants from New Mexico State.
Since I don’t have a ‘real’ FC, I wondered if I could use something else to duplicate the hip curve. I’ve seen others use aluminum foil to reproduce their crotch curve, so I think I’ll try something similar for the hip curve, and keep you posted.