The Brownies aren't what they used to be. I'm sure you all remember the little brown dress with its tie, badges and pins - well, now it's navy sweat pants ("track suit bottoms" for all you Brits out there who cringe at the words "sweat pants") and orange t-shirts. The badges go right on a sash and there's still a tie, although there isn't any kind of penalty for forgetting uniform items at a meeting. (I'll do a rant on the shoddiness of the modern Girl Guides another day.)
There are a few optional pieces, such as a handy little fleece vest, which I love. However, I couldn't afford the extra $35 or whatever, last time I was near a Guide Store, so I borrowed one from a friend and copied it.
Copied it, you say?
Yes and you, too, can copy a finished garment without disassembling it. I know you're all scrambling to find a notebook and a pen, and worry not - I'll share all my secrets. It's pretty simple. (Puts Sewing Geek hat on)
First, you establish the grainline of each separate piece of the garment. You hand baste the grainline with a contrasting thread, at least 2/3 of the length of the piece from top to bottom. On a fleece vest you can't see the weave of the fabric to thread-trace it, but there are a few clues for checking the grain. The back, if symmetrical and not bias, is almost always cut on the centre fold, which will be on the straight grain. The front zip will most likely be on the straight grain as well, or close to it, if there is any stretch at all in the fabric.
Second, lay out the pieces. Start with the largest piece laid on top of a sheet of paper large enough to accommodate the garment piece plus seam and hem allowances. It's helpful to do this on a cardboard surface, for better pinning. Align the garment grainline with the straight edge of the paper, measuring with a straight ruler to make sure both the top and the bottom of the grainline marking are the same distance from the straight edge. If the piece is cut doubled - for example on a symmetrical back - you fold the garment in half and either hand baste or pin it along the seams, to make sure the seamlines will be aligned.
Third, mark the seamlines. Jab pins through the garment and into the paper, at half-inch intervals along every seamline or foldline. Start with the longest and move to the shortest. Smooth the fabric out carefully as you go, being careful not to stretch. The other pieces of the garment (because it is still seamed together) will sometimes move the piece you're working on if you push them out of the way carelessly.
What you're trying to do here is to end up with a sequence of pinholes in the paper beneath, marking the exact shape of the garment piece and (eventually) providing you with a flat pattern.
Fourth, true up the lines and curves. Lift the garment off the paper. Using a French curve and a sharp pencil, connect all the pinholes, evening out any inconsistencies as you go. You are now drawing the seamlines of the pattern piece, so you want it to be as smooth as possible.
Fifth, add seam and hem allowances. Measure your preferred seam allowance, 5/8" or 1/2", outside of all the seamlines and draw a broken line. Make it as smooth as possible, again, as this will be your cutting line. Measure the depth of the hem on the finished garment, and add that measurement to the hem edge of your pattern piece.
Sixth, add pattern markings. It might seem like overstating the obvious, but here you want to write things like "Brownie Vest - Back - size 7-8 yrs" as well as adding marks to show the placement of any zippers or pockets. Dates are optional but I find them enormously helpful when I am referring to the pattern two years from now.
Repeat for all garment pieces.
I should note that occasionally a pattern piece, when still assembled, can't lie flat due to the seams. In this case, you would pin out one section of it at a time, then remove some of the pins and let the piece curl up in order to give you slack to pin out the remaining section. I have had to do this for the back piece:
Couldn't get the whole thing to lie flat at once. Note the top edge is not pinned. I pinned the fold/grainline first, and from the middle of the armscye to the hem.
Here I've removed the pins from the lower half, leaving as many as possible in place, and pinned out the upper half. You can see that the garment won't lie flat - it wants to pull upwards when the top half is pinned.
Once you've made all your pattern pieces, take a good look at the garment and make notes on how it must have been put together. In this case, my assembly notes were something like this.
a) sew blue side gores to fronts. Serge.
b) sew fronts and back together at shoulders. Serge.
c) sew collar together at top edge. Serge. Serge lower edge of inner collar.
d) sew outer collar to garment neck edge. Serge.
e) insert separable zipper from hem to collar top edge.
f) turn sides and lower edge of inner collar down along zipper and neck edge. Topstitch along zipper from hem to top edge, around top edge, and around garment neck edge.
g) serge armhole edges. Apply stretch binding at 1/2". Turn and topstitch.
h) sew side seams. Serge.
i) turn up hem. Topstitch at 1/4" and 1".
And, le voila......which is mine and which is theirs?
(Mine is the one with the better-inserted zipper. Obviously.)