Friday, 16 March 2012

A wheel rediscovered

Last year I found myself in the position of exploring knitted jacket design in public. This was a daunting prospect as I have no design training, and most of the audience had more knitting experience than I have.
But it turned out that most in the audience had not met the technique of using cling wrap to prepare individualised patterns. Searching on the phase,"Saran Wrap Sloper" will give detailed descriptions online. This technique always fascinates, revealing strange and unexpected qualities in cling wrap. And it provides a number free way to generate a basic pattern block, which can be a comfort to those of us who may be sensitive about the disconnect between health and beauty ideals, and the reality of our own bodies.
The cling wrap antics turned out to be the highlight of the series. I wrapped a wide range of figures, the child shaped doll I used for demonstration, and variously shaped and sized women.

Wrapping Elizabeth in cling wrap. Place lengths of plastic without creating tension, otherwise the body will be squashed and your basic pattern block will be distorted. It is possible to buy narrow rolls of cling wrap, handy for the neck and armhole areas. If attempting this at home, use a premium brand of clingfilm, this is no time for trading handling quality for economy.

Marking in seam lines and edges.

Enjoying the mysteriously transformed cling wrap, which has assumed form and memory. The soft plastic shell has been cut off the subject. I wrecked only two singlets before I worked out that making the first cut along the centre back, with a strip of paper left underneath the wrapping, minimises the chances of snipping holes in undershirts.
By the end of the series of workshops, it had become obvious that everyone, including the child shaped doll, is broader across the front of the chest than across the back. For some of the subjects the difference is too significant to be ignored in designing or adapting garments.

A standard two dimensional construction is not going to work for this subject. If the bust measurement is evenly divided between the front and back pieces, the back will be too wide and the front will be distressingly inadequate.
Having made this useful discovery, and started improving my designs by allowing space where it is needed, and eliminating it where it is superfluous, I have gone on to discover that I am reinventing the wheel. My good friend Von opened my eyes to the fact that all the best old drafting references draw bodice fronts wider than bodice backs. A friend quoted her late mother, a professional dressmaker, advising that the front edges of a coat or cardigan should always overlap, even if the garment is to be worn unbuttoned. And it is not as if this design wisdom has been entirely forgotten. There is a Show Studio Design Download of a Martin Migiela basic dress pattern with the bodice front pieces, and the skirt back pieces, drawn with added space for the areas of greater curve.
To see plenty of examples where this principle has not been followed, browse a gold mine of shared knitting experience, the project pages of Ravelry. Then chose or adapt a pattern that respects a 3D body.



  1. such a great idea for making personalized patterns! Thank you!

  2. I'm glad this method has been useful; thriving in the wild. The original posts were called "the saran wrap patternmaking method" (pts 1 & 2).

    I've always used pallet wrap myself but it wasn't readily available at retail so I substituted common kitchen plastic wrap.

    1. Very interesting to see the original source. I think I first became aware of this technique via postings on the Creative machine forum, or maybe via a friend who had read something. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I'm happy to acknowledge your invention.

  3. I'm sure both are true. Originally, I'd written this as an article for my friend Robbie. We also collaborated on her wrap so I think she wrote a follow up in her publication. I still have her wrap hanging on my pattern rack.