Monday, August 3, 2009

Seeing Myself

I always wonder if the things I make for myself are really as flattering on me as I think hope they are. I have such a distorted view of myself—as I’m sure lots of people have of themselves—and  so it’s hard to know what really looks good. Even in photography, I’m always wary because, well, I don’t know. It just seems that I will like something, it will seem perfect and then I’ll see a picture of it and be embarrassed that I ever thought to put that particular outfit together, much less on myself. Or, conversely (and much less often), I’ll wear something that I’m not thrilled about but that’s clean and/or available and seeing it in pictures, I’ll realize it actually looks pretty good.

I read an article some time ago in Threads magazine about creating your own croquis, or design template. I had sat it aside, thinking I’d get around to it one day, but never really having the time to and finally just forgetting it existed. Recently, I went through a bunch of my old Threads, looking for a different article that I had read and wanted to look at again when I came across this one. (It’s in the June/July 2006 issue, if you’re interested, pp. 51-55.)

In the mean time (meaning sometime in the past three years), I read Donald H. McCunn’s fabulous book How to Make Sewing Patterns, which had lots of great design options peppered throughout. I also, of course, have been subscribing to Ottobre for several years now, as well. So the time seemed ripe for pulling the info from all of these sources, tying it all together with my passably decent proficiency in Photoshop (which I first learned in college, but have tinkered with in the past 10 years or so with the help of my computer genius husband).

I took a digital photo of myself (actually, hubby did that part...) in exercise clothes with tape at bust point, hips and knees and string tied around my waist. I then used Photoshop to draw on an upper layer, giving myself a line drawing from which to work for later use. Using the Singer Sewing Reference Library's The Perfect Fit, I looked at my proportions and made note of what pattern adjustments and styles I should be using and which ones I should avoid.

croquis - with proportions

Colored lines mean the following:
red = body divided into quarters--where the average figure usually fits
black = where my stuff actually fits
blue = midpoint between underarms and hips--where the waist should lie
green = torso shape


I started playing with hemlines and styles to see what works for me. For reference on the styles, I used McCunn's How To Make Sewing Patterns. Once I had played with that, I went to my Ottobre line drawings and started sketching in their styles. 




Incidentally, you are looking at the backside of the pages. As per Nancy Shriber's suggestion, after sketching in the details in pencil, I went over the lines again with a fine tipped marker and then flipped the page over to see it. This way, I wasn't looking at the body lines along with the clothes--much less confusing. Several of the drawings—bottom right hand corner of the second page and the bottom two in the left hand corner of the third page—are Harrison’s offerings. The first one is a “Marrying Dress,” which he seems to think I need despite the fact that Robert and I just had our 15 year anniversary and we have no intentions of needing “marrying clothes'” ever again. The bottom two were Ottobre designs that Harrison decided to pair. He drew all three outfits in pencil and I went over them in marker. I had to fudge the lines a little when I did my part to make the design more legible. :)

I learned several things about myself through this exercise. First, it’s time to get off my bum and get going losing the baby weight! But until that happens, I know that lower hemlines on shirts work for me (I always suspected I was long waisted—my shirts always ride up in the back!), knee level is good for skirts, but in the grand scheme of things, I think I’m more a pants kind of girl. And, much as I always suspected but never really tried (pregnancy aside), empire waists are not a flattering style on me. Period. Surprisingly, the princess seamed thing I tried looked like poo on a stick. I had always been told that princess seams were good for the busty gal, but seeing it in black and white like this, I’m going to have to pass on those patterns from now on. Sigh.

Of course, when he saw the fun I was having with my drawings, he had to have some of his own. I took a picture of him (in shorts!) and used Photoshop to make his line drawing. I didn't bother with the proportions as I did for myself, obviously--he's a kid!--but I did leave the body pretty bare. I knew he'd be drawing pants and I didn't want him to have to worry about seeing his underwear through the pants.
These are his Ben 10 characters. I know next to nothing about the show and, honestly, he doesn't really know much either, but he got a Ben 10 watch the other day and so now he's obsessed with as much about it as he knows and/or understands. :)


The blue one is my favorite—I think his name is Spider Monkey and Harrison says he has four arms. I also like the green guy with the red/orange hair—apparently, he’s some kind of fire sprite? I don’t know—I just thought it was kind of cool. :)

Oh, P.S. The Sleeping Experiment last night? She had one crying fit around 10:45ish (right as I was about to publish my post for the night). I went in to check on her and realized the room was pitch black. There was no light since we usually get her to sleep before laying her down; she’s usually not laying in a cave of a room, looking around at nothing. So anyway, I went in, turned the little lamp on, went to the crib to comfort her, rubbed her a little, did not pick her up, kissed her head, adjusted her blanket and left the room. I heard her whimper a few minutes and then nothing. In the meantime, I set the timer on my computer and got busy distracting myself from what I was sure was going to be Armageddon. When the timer went off, I realized that she wasn’t making a noise. I crept to her room, peeked in, saw that she was wiggling around a bit but wasn’t crying or freaking out at all, pet her a bit and walked out of the room. Timer set, five minutes later I peeked in the door again. Little wiggle, no fuss. I didn’t go in that time. Five minutes after that, I got up, went in, and she was asleep. Snoring. Slept until about 7:45 or so this morning.

I’m sure she’ll be making lots of difficulties over the next few months when teething begins (and especially because the Karma Fairies love to mess with me), but last night, at least, she was scarily perfect.

Honestly, I’m a little frightened…


  1. wow! I am completely impressed!! I saw your post in the Otto group and had to pop over to see what it was all about - amazing! I wish I had the skill to do this for myself...congratulations...on this and on a good nights sleep :)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. I will have to make one for myself. It looks like it would be a fantastic tool!