Project: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

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It’s time to report on the wrap up of our Literature, History, & Fashion unit on Jules Verne and Steampunk. Rebecca had been working on reading Jules Verne and learning more about Steampunk origins and fashion. In the first post I shared the content of our unit and the beginning of the dress making process. Today, I’m following up on that post with the conclusion to the project- at least this time period for the ongoing history & fashion project.

Jules Verne Project Review

The main elements of the project included:

  • Reading Jules Verne books
  • Learning about the life of Jules Verne
  • Writing an author profile & some analysis essays on Jules Verne and his work (these came from Excellence in Literature)
  • Steampunk Fashion– learning about what it is and where it came from
  • Fashion Design– Steampunk style

You can see the original post by clicking on the link above or the picture below. There are more details on the books and assignments there.

Blog, She Wrote: Jules Verne Literature, History, & Fashion

I interviewed Rebecca to find out what she thought of this project and if she had any tips or advise for you all. In the first post, you can see how the pieces of the pattern came together in the bodice and below you can see the first fitting.

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

What Is Your Favorite Part about Drafting Patterns?

  • Drawing the designs
  • Choosing fabrics best suited for the fashion
  • Drafting the patterns from my sketches

By far her favorite is the drafting which is curious considering it requires effort and math! Rebecca is always up for a crafty math challenge. What better way to apply skills?

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Why Do You Prefer to Draft Your Own Patterns?

Rebecca has always preferred to make her own patterns rather than follow store bought ones. What makes pattern drafting so appealing? She has some very specific opinions on this:

  • Makes you more familiar with the pattern
  • I will know how all the pieces fit together
  • I know how the garment deconstructs in my mind.
  • Gives me independence– I don’t have to stick with the pattern I’m given. It can be my pattern, my way.
  • Shows me why something needs to be done in a certain order
Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

What Would You do Differently?

She learned a few important things from this project. Even mistakes lead to better understanding and she did have to take the garment apart at least once during the process.

  • Make sure the sleeves have the proper seam allowance and make sure they do not taper but stay straight. Dolls cannot cup a hand to squeeze an arm into a sleeve! You can see how she chose to modify the design so she would not have to recut and sew the fabric.
  • Whatever you do to the front of the dress, you must do to the back. In this case she had four or more pattern pieces that made up the bodice and she had to make sure they lined up well once they were put together.
  • Make the lining from the same fabric or a similar color so that if the fabric peeks out from the seam it is less noticeable! Rebecca made a fabulous lining to the bodice, but it easy to see when it’s out of place.
Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Tools for Drafting Patterns

Here are some basic items to have on hand for pattern making:

  • ruler
  • pencil
  • bendable ruler- helpful for tracing curves for the armscye (armhole in the sleeve) and necklines
  • large pieces of paper (larger than printer paper)
  • doll (or a person if you are sewing for people)
  • tape measure
  • pins- for fittings
  • fabric marking pencil or pen
  • dress form
Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Some Helpful Drafting Tutorial Sites

Rebecca has learned a lot from books and websites on how to draft her own patterns. Here are a few of her favorite sites.

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

How Do You Go from Sewing Tidbits to Drafting Patterns and Putting Together Garments?

Rebecca has been sewing since she was 8 years old. At three months shy of 14, she’s been sewing for 6 years and I’ve watched a lot of growth in that time. My sewing skills are fairly basic, so how did she go from sewing simple projects to drafting her own designs from sketches and successfully sewing a garment that is tailored? I know what I’ve done to mentor her and she had some ideas to share as well.

  • Build up endurance for longer projects! How? Sew a lot and get better at it. It doesn’t matter if they are small projects at first just as long as you keep at it.
  • Try new techniques– once you have the hang of the basics, challenge yourself to keep trying new skills. Build your skills slowly and steadily.
  • Use a visually pleasing tutorial– so it’s easy to understand and use the books and tutorials to tackle the drafting. Rebecca’s Kindle Fire has proven to be very helpful in following the tutorials right where she is working. I can’t recommend this homeschool tool enough! See all the ways we use this economical tablet in our homeschool, 10 Reasons to Use a Kindle Part 2- Kindle Fire
  • Provide materials for the work– make sure your sewing student has the tools of the trade that allow her to learn the new skills.
  • Provide space for the work– I can’t emphasize enough how much this helps the learning process. Rebecca would not get nearly the work in that she does if she had to make a big deal about getting started every time she wanted to work.
  • Give them the time– Time to work is a huge part of the success of Rebecca’s skill acquisition. She is given long blocks of uninterrupted time to work out the drafting process and fix mistakes without distractions.
Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Costume Design

This project area has spurred a lot of interest in costume design. The dress that Rebecca put together is all her own idea based on some steampunk influences including a dress that was made for me and the Steampunk Pinterest Board I created for her.

She adored the process of envisioning a dress and making it come alive. The last piece to the puzzle was in all the details of this dress. We scoured the craft stores for the hardware to add to the steampunk design. We found the perfect accessories and doodads! Steampunk is all about late 1800s style with futuristic capabilities all made from steam power and gears that do work.

She is already thinking about how this work could be a part of her future.

This history and fashion project for the year has been very successful. Rebecca is building quite a portfolio with the next step being the county fair. She has read books on period clothing and learned a great deal about culture at the same time – whether it’s the steampunk genre or life in the middle ages.

She is about to take her skills to the next level by constructing her own gown for this year’s Civil War Ball. I can hardly wait to see the finished product.

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Applying to Art & Design School

This was was written when our daughter was 13 yrs old. Fast forward over 7 years and she is now in her last semester of a small design program at an Ivy League school.

She used this design and another from when she was 13 in her portfolio for application.

We learned a lot along the way in building the portfolio.

You can learn from us!

paint brushes in a jar on a studio table

Homeschooling High School by Design Membership

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Membership allows you to meet with me up to three times a month to hear about homeschooling out of the box teens, to have a community full of supportive moms, and to get the tools you need to create a transcript for your unique homeschool high school experiences.

There is also a lesson in our membership library that goes into more detail on how to put together a portfolio.

Working with creative teens is an exciting adventure!

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  1. this is seriously amazing. love seeing the entire process. so much skill AND design!!! good luck with your gown!

    1. Thanks Lori! She has a knack that is for sure. I can hardly wait to see how her portfolio grows as she enters high school.

  2. There’s a blog she NEEDS to be reading called something like the Dreamstress. It’s all about historical sewing, anything pre-WW2. I’ve been drooling over the outfits and dresses lately, and it’s given me quite the sewing itch.

    She did a really great job, and that was a brilliant and accurate to the aesthetic adaptation to the sleeve she made. Before my daughter was born I sewed a bunch of outfits for an American Girl doll only to discover as your daughter did those hands just won’t close up to get sleeves over them.

    Oh, and if you’re not watching Under the Gunn last Thursday’s episode was all about Steam Punk, it was quite cool to see, though most of the designers didn’t quite understand the aesthetic behind the movement.

    1. Ticia, my husband and I are big Warehouse 13 fans. Have you ever watched it? The warehouse is steampunk all over!

      I will take a look at that blog. She adores costume making. I can’t wait to see what she tackles next.

  3. That is truly amazing work. I’ve never thought about learning about sewing through sewing doll’s clothes – let alone all the other things she’s learned. Congratulations.

    1. Cara sewing clothes for dolls is a little tricky because it’s on a small scale, but the advantage is being able to try just about anything with very little fabric and getting good at it. Thanks for stopping by to comment!

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