Steve is away, the house is a tip, the bathrooms need cleaning, I need to go food shopping and yet I have not got the energy to move beyond this, not particularly comfortable, office chair. I am totally shattered. This week I have been learning something new. I have been learning the basics of Pattern Cutting at Bath College.

sunshine at the bus stopDashing out of the house when the children are still getting ready for school, returning in time for tea and a run down of their days (thank you to Daddy and Grandad for filling the Mummy shaped gap when needed). Using my brain in a way that I haven’t used it for a number of years and commuting to Bath every day has been surprisingly exhausting. It has, however, been totally excellent. I had forgotten how satisfying it was to learn something new and how wonderful it is to be in a room with a diverse mix of people with a shared interest. I also hadn’t realised how liberating it was to walk out of the family home on a sunny morning and have something else to think about for the day, knowing that the children were of age where I have no guilt about not being there every second of their home life, that they could survive physically and emotionally without me. The only guilt to be found is in the fact that this week, for one week only, I have done something entirely for myself.

Mum undertook this course with me, it is never too late to learn something new after all. My Mum is the reason I know how to sew in the first place. In a satisfying nod to heritage she learnt her sewing skills from her mother and I have no doubt that her mother taught her in the Neopolitan backstreets during the 1930s. I am currently in the process of passing my own limited knowledge to my daughter (and my son too, if he shows any interest) and it was this desire to continue the sewing legacy into the next generation that prompted me to enrol on this Pattern Cutting course.

Pattern cutting isn’t actually cutting out patterns, if you have images of people sitting around with scissors and a pre-printed paper pattern in front of them then think again. Pattern cutting is all about the creation of patterns. It is creating the building blocks of every garment you will ever wear, the architectural blueprint; just as the London Shard wouldn’t have been constructed without an architectural pattern, so Dior’s New Look wouldn’t have come into being without a dress pattern. Pattern cutting is getting into the bones of garment creation and understanding how the features on a finished garment get there and the effect they have on the materials from which they are being cut. Before the seamstress can wave the magic wand (or needle) to create that favourite wear anywhere item, the pattern drafter has to provide them with the spell to follow. There is so much that goes into creating a pattern for dressmaking. This week has been totally fascinating and at times totally confusing.

Halfway through and we had covered darts, the creation and manipulation of them. Darts are the folds in a garment that give it fit and structure, so you will get darts at the bust to give fullness and darts to cinch in the waist. You can also use darts for adding style features, for example in colour blocking or ruching. When you create a dart on a pattern you have to remember that you are adding in the extra fabric needed which then means that your pattern starts taking on weird and often irregular shapes. By the end we had packed in sleeves (leg o’ mutton and fitted), skirts (flared and straight), facings, zips, buttons and collars.

The logic and brainpower needed to create patterns has left Mum and I feeling somewhat drained. It has also made us approach the making of a garment in a totally different way, instead of thinking about the finished shape when all the excess fabric has been cut out we have had to think about how we get there from a rectangular block of plain paper. Measuring accurately, drawing accurately, mapping and plotting every curve and straight line because every millimetre and angle affects the finished item. Pattern cutting is truly a very precise art, sewing it all together is the easy part!