26 Jun Sketchbook Chronicles: Ciara
I backed the MyBodyModel Kickstarter because I love drawing clothes, & I love comparing my sketches to my completed garments. I’ve experimented a lot with my sketches over the years. I’ve tried various sketchbooks with pro forma croquis, including some of the newer releases with more “regular person” proportions. But sewing has taught me that my body really is unique, & no mass-produced croquis was ever going to truly reflect it.
I’ve also developed preferences for how I like to dress, based on my particular body proportions. I don’t think a pronounced sleeve head does my narrow, slightly sloped shoulders any favors. I have a short torso & a prominent belly, so I really prefer waistbands to hit at my natural waist—not too high & not too low. I have long legs, which I think are best showcased by skirts hemmed just above the knee. I took photos of myself in a bra & undies, intending to trace my body outline to create my own personalized croquis…but that was three years before the Kickstarter launched & I still hadn’t done it. So why not let MyBodyModel do it for me?
Inputting my measurements & generating my croquis was pretty simple. I did accidentally list my height as -65 inches at first, which flummoxed the program, but once I fixed my dumb typos, I was really impressed with how much my croquis resembled me. I instantly printed out the eight croquis page, because I’m all about rationing paper, & I like to see a selection of outfit ideas side-by-side so I can think creatively about how to combine pieces into different outfits. I cracked open my bullet journal to my master list of planned sewing projects & started sketching.
I do my initial sketches in pencil. I use the line drawings on the pattern envelopes or company websites as a guide to help me see exactly how a neckline is shaped, where the seamlines are, etc. I pay close attention to how the line drawings indicate dimension, meaning gathers, drape, pleats, slits, bindings, etc. Those elements are easily overlooked when you’re trying to transfer a basic garment silhouette on to a croquis, but they’re easy to replicate & really elevate a sketch. The more detail I can include in a sketch, the more easily I can envision my finished garment, & that can really help with the decision-making process, like deciding on color-blocking, hem lengths & curves, sleeve elements, neckline shapes, etc.
When I’m happy with my pencil, I start inking using colored Staedtler Fineliners. I go over outlines, seamlines, & other details using a color slightly darker than the ones I plan to use to fill, so all those elements are still clear & don’t disappear in full color. I use Tombow Dual Brush pens for color. They have a brush tip for filling in big swaths of color & a fine tip for more delicate detail. Regular computer paper will eventually take its toll on the brush tips & cause fraying, but for my purposes, it works fine. Crayola markers would probably work just as well, with less concern that my paper is ruining my expensive premium markers, but…too late!
I don’t do Pinterest, I don’t buy RTW, & I don’t really follow trends. I read a lot of sewing blogs & I go to fabric stores & I check out new pattern releases. I get inspired by patterns & fabric. I generally ignore pattern envelope illustrations, which so often employ colors & prints I’d never wear & go straight to the line drawings. I look at them & I can just see what fabrics I want to use: these pants in black linen, this shirtwaist dress in a gray glen plaid flannel, this top in bright yellow lemon print jersey. I look at fabrics & they tell me what they want to be: this lace-covered denim would make a great jacket, this buttery soft strawberry print double gauze would be perfect as a maxidress.
I generally don’t buy a pattern or fabric unless I can conjure the fabric or pattern I’d pair it with, so my fabric stash, while large, is very intentional. I do change my plans sometimes, but mostly I can sketch a garment & pull the corresponding fabric from my stash, snip a little swatch, & tape it to my drawing for reference.
Maybe my favorite thing about the eight croquis layout is that it’s a great size for a spread in my bullet journal. I really look forward to filling multiple pages in my bullet journal with sketches over the course of the year & revisiting them as the garments get made & worn. It’s so satisfying to see my sketches come to life & how accurately I envisioned the finished projects.
Ciara Xyerra is an anarcha-feminist who loves to sew. She made zines for twenty years before she embarked on creating a 100% handmade wardrobe in 2013. She lives in Portland, OR with her partner, their daughter, & a very smart tuxedo cat. When she’s not sewing, she’s generally reading political non-fiction, updating her bullet journal, or feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of plastic dinosaurs littering every surface of her house. She blogs at ciaraxyerra.com & can also be found on Instagram @ciaraxyerra.