Sunday 30 January 2011

Making a Toile

Eventually the lovely notebook
found a good use
Apart from being a rather complex decorating pattern on cloth, a toile is a test garment used to create a cut pattern to suit a person's shape. According to Roger, our couture teacher, one doesn't need a dummy if one has a pattern made from a toile, as a dummy is symmetric while people usually aren't. So a cloth tailored to the body will do the trick.

To start us off he had standard size cut patterns in all sizes from which we had to choose ours. That was interesting! Obviously one has to measure hips, waist, and bust to then select the size that is the closest match towards the bigger end - which means size 20 (European 46) for me. How unflattering!

Bravely I copied the massive thing, luckily it comes in four parts so the finals size doesn't instantly become obvious, and then happily made my way home after the first lesson.

For lesson number two some medium calico was required, thus some shopping was in order. The only haberdashery shop I know, however had run out of it except for a tiny piece. Never mind, I got it anyway and invested in a new measuring tape - imperial and metric in one go - and a thimble.

See, that's my fly in the ointment of needlecraft indulgence: I don't have a clue oft the terminology. I learned those things some 40 years back in Germany. I however found that even things like the humble thimble have elaborate Wikipedia pages. What would we do without the Internet?

Moving on: On inspection of my pathetic piece of calico, dear and very patient Roger suggested to do a short skirt... I took it as a reference to the prominent hip area of mine which sort of covers everything that might need measuring below of it.

Second lesson over with the cut pattern transferred to the calico, and having received instructions on how to tack it together, home I went. Today now was the day to take the first needle action. As advised I was as thorough as possible - although it will all be taken apart after having nipped and tucked it to shape - and nevertheless some seams didn't quite line up... oh well. The brain has not become any faster over the years and neither have the fingers. The trouble always starts with remembering which bit goes inwards and what is the difference between left and right.

... a bit frazzled
yet happy

In the end however it sort of looks what it is supposed to look like: A potato sack!

I am utterly keen to see how to make this into the pattern that will make me look gorgeous. Additionally I can't wait to start on my first real piece. Teachers orders are 'a simple pencil skirt'. I look frumpy in pencil skirts. Again, I am keen to see what will be suggested to remedy that. I however need a skirt for my corsets and anything I produce will be better than the stuff that I get from the rail. I guess this is calling for another shopping trip - this time for the perfect fabric.

Will keep you posted!


  1. Hi there,

    I am currently trying to make a toile in the hope that I will be able to develop a dress pattern from it....I wondered how did you get on with yours following your last post? How to you progress from the toile to designing your own pattern? I am struggling to find any help online! Thanks, Emma.

  2. Hi Emma, sorry for the delayed response... Hope you got on well with it in the meantime. Mine actually is sitting there as an almost finished piece. My problem is that as a bodybuilder I change my shape quite a bit and now I have put sowing on the back burner because I have so many other things taking priority.

    However: In my case 3 rounds of amendments were needed.So the initial standard cut pattern was provided, I chose the size that fitted bust and thighs (the widest parts, really) and from that I cut and tacked it, then rather generously the fabric was tucked in, following the fabric's fall as much as possible, but still leaving it rather loose. Then the thing was taken apart, the changes transferred to the paper pattern - which is a bit tricky as the shape that is tucked in somewhere in the middle needs to be exactly measured andhifted to the margins to be cut off or darts got deepened. In some cases the pattern got cut open and glued back together where material got taken out.

    Then the now smaller pattern was used to cut the new toile out of the old one... and so on.

    If a toile is ok then that paper patern is used to create all the following patterns out of it. Usually in the course they would have a picture or an old garement from which they took the shape and then merged it with the own pattern to make it a match. So the paper pattern created from the toile served as tailors dummy in a way.

    Sorry that I can't tell you more... that's how I observed it in the course from the people who had come further than I did.

    Hope you are having a lot of fun and success.