Dressmaking, Pattern Cutting, Sewing, Workshop

Making a Bodice Block with Ministry of Crafts

I signed up for Bodice Fitting Class with the Ministry of Craft because I wanted to know more about how to fit the clothes I was making beyond some haphazard pattern hashing that I’d done up until now.  The beauty of making your own clothes is that you don’t have to wear off the peg, but my knowledge restricted me to make clothes out of the pattern packet instead, which defeats the point.

The day long workshop ran on a Sunday from 11.15-16.45 at Fred Aldous in Manchester in the basement workshop. Everyone got their own double desk, sewing machine and tools, and the studio was surrounded by peg boards with neatly organised tools of the trade… A makers dream.

We were guided by the tutor Janette who made everyone feel at ease. There were eight of us in the class covering a range of ages and levels of experience, and that really is part of the appeal of taking an in-person workshop, meeting like minded people. I haven’t found much of a sewing community up North yet, so it was great to find The Ministry of Crafts

To start with, we found a bodice block closest to our high bust measurements, that’s basically from under your armpits and across your chest. You can build your block from scratch, but with just a day to get everyone through the process it’s simpler to use one, or a combination of the industry standard blocks as a starting point, where some of the hard work has already been done for you. 

From here, you find the block that is closest to your waist and chest measurement, this is a common point where you need to grade between sizes and do a full, half or small bust adjustment on your chest. We were guided through this process and although this doesn’t apply to me at present, we all know that body’s morph with time, so it was a really useful skill to learn. I had the preconception that a FBA, as a full bust adjustment is commonly abbreviated to, was a daunting process, but actually it was relatively straight forward. However the process is a little time consuming if you have to repeat this process on every pattern, which is exactly why constructing your bodice block is so useful.

From here we cut out our pattern out of calico and made up the initial bodice before the fitting. I found this the most interesting part of the day, because it’s so hard to fit something on yourself when you don’t know what you’re looking for. I know I have a long body and broad back, but I didn’t know what adjustments to make to counteract this, which I really noticed when making the Etta Dress.  I tried the bodice on and Janette made adjustments to the placement and size of the darts, and even when it was pinned in I could see the difference. It took another round of fitting to get the perfect fit, but to my surprise the bodice started to follow my form completly.

Using the adjusted bodice in calico, the next step is to cut your bodice in half down the centre front, and unpick the darts and seams, and trace around the front and back bodice onto card. You then sharpen the line with a metric French curve, copy any pattern marks and cut it out along with a corresponding sleeve, and your bodice block is done. 


By this point, it was nearly the end of the workshop. Though what I really liked about the workshop was learning to make the bodice block was just the beginning of the process.  Janette talked us through steps of how to turn these blocks into our own patterns, the combinations are endless and I’m sure I’ll never look at a piece of clothing again without trying to work out the construction. We received a handout with step-by-step instructions to repeat the process at home, which saves you from trying to scribble everything down inbetween watching demonstrations, and some recomendations of books to read.

I had already bought The Metric Pattern Cutting for Woman’s Wear over the summer, once I had the idea of making my own patterns, but the textbook is very dry and if I’m honest I took one look at it, scratched my head and it stayed on the book shelf. This class however brought the book to life, it began to make sense and now I’m really looking forward to drafting my own pattern from my block. To start with, I think I’m going to make a long sleeved fitted jumper similair to the Seamwork Astoria jumper but with a longer bodice to fit my proportions.

This class gave me the confidence to try pattern cutting, but it also gave me confidence in fitting things to my body. It reminded me how high street shops employ vanity sizing to make us feel smaller and how working out your measurements in cm’s carries much less conotations than inches, so you can focus less on the number and more on how to get the perfect fit. In the new year I hope to attend the trouser fitting class and hopefully my collection of patterns bespoke to my measurements will begin to grow.

All for now.




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