Skirt One, Skirt Two

1 JCrew Cheetah Wool ScarfRecently I’ve  noticed some very tempting Ready-to-Wear pieces of animal print labelled ‘Cheetah’, such as this ferociously expensive scarf from JCrew.  I assumed Cheetah was a just a fashionable way of saying Leopard and wondered if this faux fur I bought could be called Cheetah too.  faux leopard

But there’s an obvious difference I find, very scientifically explained here.  Cheetah fur – which looks slightly dishevelled compared to that of a sleek leopard – has spots of solid dark brown whereas leopard spots are ‘rosettes’ with a paler brown pooled inside.

Purry furry skirtThe interesting thing about my fabric is that it’s imprinted with a wavy texture which takes the nap in different directions.  I can’t help but being reminded of a certain IKEA mirror often present in student houses or in speedy home makeover programmes.  It’s called Krabb.  Oh look!  Like a right opportunist, I’m in IKEA standing next to Krabb and smiling cheesily while wearing my finished skirt!

I once snapped up a mere remnant of this fabric and made a mini as one of my first ever blogging tutorials.  It wasn’t my favourite garment but it was tactile, cute, the colours were warm and pleasantly glowing and I wore it till the lining shredded and the zip went.  This time, there was a whole bolt of the stuff in a shop on the Tesco side of Goldhawk Road.  I could have gone all-animal and made a long, curly wurly coat (and maybe I should) but instead, I bought a 1.5m and went A-line.

And there was enough to make a gathered skirt with a waistband for my daughter too.  Like the Krabb product, this was cheap, cheerful and in a pair.  But best not to be seen side by side!Leopard girl

1 cheetah hil

You want to get some meatballs now

Bloghopping

Pleated gotas de amor fabric, Alexander HenryOr to give it its original title – “Writing Process Blog Hop“. My turn at a blog circular of distant and unknown origin (I could Google it I suppose).  This asks nominees just four simple question which the writer then passes on to others.  The invitation came from the energetic and ever-vibrant Ruth. Ruth’s answers and some of the others I’ve seen make an interesting read.  A common reason given as to why we write is we feel that after years of helping ourselves from the Internet (Life’s Eternal College), it’s time to give something back. But if you want more, here goes:


Why do I write what I do?

I’m filling time by developing new skills.  After going on a pattern-cutting course three years ago, I designed and made a skirt for a friend (she was about to go on holiday, didn’t know what to wear, didn’t have time to shop).  I got high on the uncertainty of “will this work or not” followed by the relief of a job well done and decided to maybe become a dressmaker for others.  Sew2pro is a record of the projects in my transition from amateur to pro.


What am I working on now?

Oh at least four things :roll:

River Island Lace Collar dress1.  A close-fitting version of this velvet swing dress from River Island.  I do love it but the colour of the original is too close to my skin tone so that from the distance I’d appear nude.

Plus, the style of the collar is a bit “Jacobean gentleman”.

My version will be in lilac/grey.

The lace collar from Etsy has arrived…

1 Lace collar from Etsy

1 gotas de amor fabric

2. There are a few parties coming up, beginning with one on 1st November: the Day of the Dead, when I want to wear a skirt made out of this Gotas De Amor fabric.  Possibly a pencil skirt (with a long, turquoise-blue satin-lined kick pleat at the back) but please feel free to suggest other kinds!

3. I’ve pinned the fabric into pleats (casual, rather than measured) onto the dummy here as I’m experimenting with creating my own version of the outfit worn very gorgeously by the Guardian’s Jess Cartner-Morley below (click on picture for link to the original article).  It’s a kind of Dior look which I’m not sure I’m slight enough to pull off or if I can get away with it considering my (lack of) height.  Jess Cartner-Morley Powerdressing Guardian 17 October 2014

My version will be dark, between red and black, but equally glossy.  I’ve got the chunky watch already, the perfect shirt and – despite Jess’ advice – I will wear pearls.  Or mother-of!  Wish me luck with fabric shopping.

4. I’ve yet to write about the two skirts I made recently.  Tomorrow promises to be sunny so it’s photoshoot time.


How does my work differ from others in the genre?

It’s only about stuff I’ve sewn – and often designed.  I rarely ruminate, there are no reviews of the latest Burda Magazine (but do let me know if it ever stops being ‘orrible) and I’ll never just show some stash.  Sometimes I may sneak in some talking cat photos (after all, we all have our weaknesses) or the odd exhibition review, but only if it involves stitching.


How does my writing process work?

I decide what 6-8 points need to be made in a post then I chew them over while I go for a run.  I ask myself how to put them in order.  Back home I write incoherent, incomplete sentences – often while doing several other jobs – then I start tidying up the text.  Typically, one or two points get trashed for the sake brevity and flow, but if I’m lucky a kind of narrative emerges.  If I’m doubly lucky, I might even get an amusing or original title for the post.

Yeah I know, not this time :-)


My nominees

Kate of Fit and Flare.  Kate has infinite knowledge and often reminds me that good presentation is an essential part of wellbeing rather than some vain preoccupation.  Kate, who works like a dynamo, has written her bloghopping post already.

Tialys who somewhere in south France sews, sells and looks after a charming menagerie of rescue animals :-)

I also invite you to view the world of the illustrator and photographer Nicky Linzey who, like Ruth, I’ve come to think of as a good friend these past two years though we’ve never met.  Each of her posts is like a deep breath of the kind of fresh air we don’t get much of in Sarf London!

Sureau II: The Pumpkin

2 mjI know what you’re thinking: “What has she been eating?!?”  But it’s not me, it’s this dress!  In it I feel immediately transformed into a member of a strict religious sect.  Hiding a pregnancy.1 Sureau Pattern Envelope

Deer & Doe Sureau with added collar

1 Sureau placket with self-covered shank buttonsThis version of Deer & Doe’s Sureau is a size smaller than the one I made before: 36 in the bodice and 38 in the skirt.  It fits very well.  To avoid the Maoist simplicity of the original pattern, I once again added cuffs to the sleeves and a collar but this time with pointed tips.  I also reinforced the back of the button placket with another layer so the shank buttons are sewn into proper buttonholes and don’t ‘sag’.  I think this was a good upgrade which adds a bit of couture to a basic design.  For the collar, I’d award myself the mark 3/5 as it doesn’t quite sit flat.  I’d have persevered and cut it again to perfection had I more fabric and if the design was more flattering.  But the only way I’m gonna wear this dress is if all my other clothes and dressing gown get burnt in a fire.

1 batikPart of the problem was that I had so little fabric and this dictated the length of the skirt.  Look how it cuts across the legs with the knees at their thickest.  The fabric is beautiful: a rust-coloured cotton batik with cream-gold and black.  It comes from a collection my mother acquired when living in Indonesia some years back and I’m very grateful that she entrusted me with it.  Earth tones don’t suit me generally but I thought with the remains of a summer tan and some reddish tints in my hair (Sun damage?  Chlorine?  Not sure.) that I might be able to get  away with it.

5 mjAfter these photos were taken, I changed back into my normal colours and felt a genuine sense of relief that I was myself again.  This might however work as a giveaway!  If you know of any pale, over-attractive blondes, redheads or dark-skinned girls with a 28″ waist approx who need to play it down with a bit of pumpkin frock, send them to me!

P.S.  Have you read the Colour Analysis posts on Fit and Flare blog?  Kate is a great help if you’re after some virtual research into what colours may suit you and why.

autumn leaves in Shortlands

A Dress with Teeth…

Galarija Mestrovic… and a back story too.

1t SharkeezMy son turned 4 just after my daughter was born so the preparation for his birthday party in the year 2004 were somewhat bare bones.  Luckily, in the supermarket I found the best birthday cake ever!  It was very blue with the icing made to look like the sea and, swimming in it, a shark!  And dotted around, arms and legs.

The cake was very popular, not just for the torn limbs and the shark.  If you ever find yourself entertaining and want to drive your guests wild*, may I recommend you serve artificially coloured blue food?!  Wanting to repeat this serendipitous success, I’ve looked for Shark Attack Cake many birthdays since but the supermarkets no longer sell it and the shop assistants, when asked, look doubtful that it ever existed.

1 dress with teethHowever, a while back in Goldhawk Road, I found a fabric that immediately made me recall the fabled, gruesome product.  I bought it to make my son a Hawaiian shirt or some Bermudas but after suggesting this a couple of times, I got the impression he was totally indifferent to the idea.   So instead, for her 10th birthday I made my daughter a dress.

It’s basically two rectangles, the total width at least double the waist measurement plus seam allowances.  The dress is held up by two sets of rouleau  strips. The top edge is first finished with a rolled hem (I used a zigzag stitch, which looks like little teeth!).

Rouleau strips and zigzag roll hem

 The shirring begins 1.5cm below bodice edge, though with a toddler or a smaller person, you can start at 1.2cm and if making for an adult, then 2cm might be more in proportion, depending on the person.  The rows of shirring here are spaced 1.5cm apart, though once again, you should keep this in proportion if you’re making a dress for an adult.  And there’s no reason why the same ‘pattern’ couldn’t be used for a shirred bodice of a maxi dress.

Shark dress with extra teethYou might want to trim your dress with some teeth like I did.  I used two strips of bias in a silvery grey and bagged them after lots of zigzagging.  It added a few hours to the project which were worth it as this definitely gives the dress an edge!

If you’ve never tried shirring, it’s easy: normal thread on top, shirring elastic wound into the bobbin.  Experiment with scraps to get the right tension then draw your lines onto the right side of fabric and sew.

Tip: to keep the elastic inside bobbin when you begin winding, affix the end of elastic thread to the top of the bobbin case with a tiny sliver of Magic Tape.

Tip: don’t use grandma’s shirring elastic that you inherited with her haberdashery box.  Elastic has a shelf life so buy fresh!

My daughter wore the dress so much all summer that its red has begun to fade!  She wore it on the day of my son’s 14th birthday when we visited the Aquarium in my home town.  And look what happened there!  My dad got eaten by a shark…

Nice to be back!

1 Tata

* Note: in some countries, blue artificial food colouring is illegal!

Sureau I

1 Sureau 31 Sureau sideI’ve been given 2 narrow metres of an interesting Indonesian batik which is virtually vintage (well, from the 1990s anyway).  Before cutting into it to make my Sureau, I’ve  made this muslin to check the sizing and assess if I can get away with a small amount of fabric.

Sureau (which means “elderberry”) is a beginner-friendly pattern from the French indie company Deer & Doe.  It should be a very quick make; however, the addition of a piped collar needed quite a few hours to make it fit after the neckline stretched through not being staystitched :roll:

The original pattern has a collarless neckline.  According to my pattern-cutting guru Adele Margolis, this is “for the young and the beautiful only”.  A collarless neckline, I quote: “calls for a firm chin, a smooth and slender neck, and a good set to the shoulders …  This leaves the majority of us out.  For us, the severity of the collarless neckline needs to be sotftened with a gay scarf [this book was published in 1959], our faithfull pearls [like I said, this was published in .... ], or a pleasing collar“.  Now usually when someone tells me I can’t wear something, I call them “the bleedin’ Taliban” but I have to admit that I find Sureau in its original somehow … raw.  It really is a pattern that requires an experienced sewist to employ some imagination.1 Sureau Pattern Envelope

1 Sureau close upThe original neckline shape is tending toward the V so I ‘scooped’ it by widening from the CF (and before drafting the collar).  The other change I made was to pleat the skirt rather than gather it.  I eyeballed this: I pinned the folds to be more or less symmetrical from the centres but I didn’t measure much.  I also shortened the sleeves to just above the elbow, then added bands. These, like the piping on the collar and the fabric of the covered buttons, are silver, which will hopefully be more dirt-friendly than white.

A word of warning about the sizing.  According to the pattern envelope measurements, I’m a size 40.  Having read some reviews of Sureau, I decided to make size 38 bust, shoulders and sleeves with size 40 waist and hips.  It’s still very roomy!

Black dresses with contrast collars and cuffs are a bit of a fetish of mine (as I’ve explained here.)  They’ve been quite popular in RTW recently; here’s a current cutie from Phase Eight.  What I love about my creation is that it goes perfectly with the ‘fangs’ necklace my son made me at school. The main fabric is fine needlecord from Rashid and perfect for those not-so-warm summer days.  In the autumn, I’ll wear it with tights, boots and a thermal vest.  And a gay scarf.

My OH pulled a face when I first wore this and said it “hangs off”: one of those double-edged comments that manages to wound both the woman and the seamstress in one.  Of course, ever since he made the remark  I’ve been cutting his meals with catfood!

Then again, having looked at these photos, I suspect I could possibly cut a size 36 bodice.  Time for making Version II.

1 Sureau

We Don’t Know the Maker’s Name

Imagine what the high street looked like several hundred years ago?  Each of the shops would have had some kind of a sign but the levels of literacy were low so instead of writing, a statue at the front often indicated what kind of business could be found within.  Some dozen such decorative statues greet the arrivals to the British Folk Art exhibition at Tate Britain, displayed opposite the entrance on a mustard-coloured wall, like enormous Monopoly tokens.  An ornate key indicating a locksmith; a roll of tobacco; a cobbler’s giant boot.  But what kind of business would have been advertised by a bear (the statue is wombat-sized but nevertheless a beast with bared teeth)?  The answer: a barber’s, because bear fat was sold as a pomade to shine hair.

1 Crimean Quilt, Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art GalleryI wouldn’t write about an art gallery exhibition on a sewing blog were it not for the fact that  some glorious quilts share the space with the paintings and the corn dollies, pub signs and ship figureheads.  The Crimean Quilt (right) is as colourful as a Turkish rug but rather than woven, it was patchworked by recuperating soldiers who used some ten thousand pieces of felted wool, mostly salvaged from uniforms (facings n’ all) and pieced using the “inlay method” so that the stitching is invisible.  It’s believed that these hours of careful craft helped soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress and served as a diversion from gambling and drink.  Kind of why I sew too :-)

One of my favourites exhibits is the Bellamy Quilt on loan from Carrow House Museum, Norwich.  On a background of shimmery velvet, it is appliqued and embroidered with dozens of motifs such as of a Norfolk seal and a spotted, blue-eyed cat that must have been of some significance to its two makers.  In this case, we do know the makers’ names.  They were Herbert Bellamy and Charlotte Springall.  A year after the quilt was made (1891), they married.  It’s a story I’d love to know more of.

There’s a lot here that is interesting, but beware: much of it won’t be the sort of thing you’d exactly covet.  I mean, a picture made of hair?!  I walked away from that one pretty quickly.

Though thinking back, it was probably baby hair, not… you know…

Another sewing-related discovery was the term “cabbage”.  This describes the small leftover fabric pieces which a tailor was entitled to keep after his job’s done.  George Smart used cabbage to make little cloth statues as well as collage pictures such as the one below and this earned him a certain level of fame.

1 Goosewoman by George Smart, paper and fabric collage

James William, Patchwork Bedcover, C19

James William, Patchwork Bedcover, C19

If folk art seems like the inferior cousin of art proper, then its charm is that it’s often approachable and does delight.  I could have done with two more rooms of British Folk Art.  I wonder how many pieces may have been binned for not fitting in with fashions of the present day and market forces.

So it might be worth a look in your lofts or asking the gran: got any pictures made of hair?

The Reveal: Vivienne Westwood Challenge

Button1My apologies for posting the results of the Challenge weeks after I said I would!  Especially to Kate and Ruth who submitted their entries promptly. I was hoping that a few more entries might feed through by now.  If anyone is still working on their VW project, please do email me when you finish and I can update this post with your entry.

Kate embraced the challenge very bravely by making a version of a Vivienne Westwood jacket that she has from a self-drafted pattern.  The original is characterized by soft ‘waterfall’ lapels.  Kate’s own version is a gorgeous splash of blue (is it azure or cyan?!) which shows off the design better, I think, than had she used a busy check.  Kate’s design and construction details are in this post (including a picture Kate wearing the very lovely original jacket).  The finished jacket and pictures of are in this post.  Kate, you’re a mistress of skill and style!  Thanks for taking part.

1 Kate

And here’s the always-amazing Ruth.  Ruth chose to make a dress that incorporated favourite elements of different Vivienne Westwood dresses.  She too drafted her own pattern and used the challenge as an opportunity to learn from Draping: the Complete Course (this book has such good reviews – I reckon I know where my challenge is coming from!)   As if this wasn’t enough, she has made a very versatile dress that can be worn in different ways, including off- shoulder.  Clever and gorgeous, you bet!

1 Ruth

1 Ruth, back

Ruth has written several posts about her project: make sure you read the comments too and you’ll get to find out where to get some dangerously cute shoes :-)

2 RuthThe back story and design experimentation blogged here.

Pictures of the different ways the dress can be worn: here.

Construction details and close-ups: here.

Thanks so much for taking part, Ruth.  You always embrace a challenge with such enthusiasm.

Now, for a little diversion: I found this thesis written by a designer who has worked as an intern for Vivienne Westwood – he describes his experiences in chapter 2.  It’s an enlightening read which might make you feel better if you’ve struggled with your own pattern drafting.  My conclusion is that talent or experience gets you so far but a team of experts, a living model at your disposal and the opportunity to create multiple drafts also play their part in the designers studios.

For my part in the challenge, I slightly changed a Burda Magazine Crossover Blazer pattern (06/2012/#121), aiming for an early 80s Pirate Collection look.  I struggled to find a tartan in the right colour as I cannot bear wearing red (nor orange nor yellow for some reason), whereas blue or green tartan looks great but it also looks like the local girl school kilt… so I ended up with a check, almost identical to Ruth’s, from Unique Fabrics (28 Goldhawk Road).  The inside is of  superfine pincord from Rashid.

Burda Crossover Blazer 06 2012 121 buttoned up 2

Burda Crossover Blazer 06 2012 121  4

This is my first ever jacket, buttonholes n’ all,  which I haven’t been able to wear as result of the freakishly warm weather we’ve been having for weeks :-)  (Honestly, I’ve seen so much sun already this year that almost all the cellulite off my ass has melted away!)  So, you’re the first people to see this, if you don’t count the various kids that pass through the living room space I daren’t call “my studio”.  What do you think?  Personally I think it’s fine, but the collar is … lazy.  I shall post a dedicated pattern review soon though.Burda Crossover Blazer 06 2012 121  Sleeve buttonhole detailThanks so much for reading, for your helpful suggestions and for taking part.  As Ruth said, it was a difficult challenge, but I hope it’s pushed our skills up a notch and inspired us to try more!

And Add Sleeve

1 Sleeve quarter1 Royal crescent curveDo you like this: instead of a sleeve, a cap is formed from three 25cm strips of fabric in a kind of braid-arrangement looping over or under each other?  I wanted something unusual-looking to complete the asymmetrical blouse and the idea came from a cheap jersey top I bought from H&M  – don’t judge me –  probably in 2011 and which had similar sleeves.  It’s a top I kept in a rag drawer long after it wore out with the idea of copying it some day, but guess what?  I decided during a recent clear out that I was never going to find the time to copy it so I chucked it.  Oh, what a plonker!  1 Sleeve plan

Last week I spent hours puzzling over how to size the pieces and how to fit them to resemble the original’s grace and harmony.  This is Draft #1.  It looks fine but takes some adjustment (fiddling) in order to do so.

1 MaybeA tartan diversion: the pictures above were taken by my mum outside the apartment in which we were staying in Edinburgh last week.  We went there for her birthday and for me to run the Edinburgh Marathon.  Check out my pre-race bin bag couture:  no cheap black stuff for me…1 Binbag Couture

Simple Human bin bags are probably more expensive than some of the fabrics that I buy but they were all I could find under the kitchen sink on a wet Sunday morning.  Besides, the drawstring made such a handy waistband for the skirt!

You might find interesting this sample of Tartan I found in Greyfriars with the explanation of why certain colours made it into the weave.  Click to enlarge the text: it’s a good read.  I wonder what my tartan would have.  Black, of course, then green, turquoise and blue of the Dalmatian coast where I’m from.  Shocking pink is nice too!  What would you choose?  I found my recent hunt for tartan rather disappointing with all colours on offer reminding me of school kilts.

1 Greyfriars Tartan

Create Chunky Neckline Pleats

1 Chunky pleatsSo, The Vivienne Westwood Challenge!  I’ve had to postpone the deadline to a more manageable Saturday, 7th June (email  your submissions any time; I stay up late!).  If you’re trying to plump up the courage to make something, you may like this easy drafting project.  The approach is more butchery than couture but it seems to work.  You’ll end up with an asymmetric, sleeveless top (though you can add sleeves, as I will do).  It’s particularly cute if you turn your fabric on the bias.

You will need:

  • A bodice block, copied, darts moved to waist (as in this tutorial)
  • 1.5 – 2 metres, depending on your size (and whether or not you’d like sleeves) of lightweight check or plaid fabric.  Mine is a linen/cotton blend at £6 per metre from Rolls and Rems
  • Plenty of paper.  I often draft on packing paper that arrives stuffed into boxes of online shopping which I press with a hot, dry iron.

CHUNKY NECKLINE PLEATS TUTORIAL

3 trace bodice

1. Move bodice front darts to waist and trace

4 Draw neckline

2. Lower neckline by e.g. 10cm. Narrow shoulder seam to e.g. 6cm

6 Cut on double

3. Draw a more shapely side seam to desired length. Pin onto another paper layer and cut

Bodice Front ready to start

4. Join left and right (I know this looks wonky, but it’s the tilt of the camera, I think!)

1 Bodice front slash and spread

5. Draw a grainline (Centre Front). Draw where you want the pleats to appear. Extend to the seam and slash. Note how my pleats extend to the two side seams and the hem. Label pieces.

1 Straight grain to sg

6. Draw grainline on target paper. Pin grainlines together

1 Spread on target paper

7. Pin the remaining pieces in order, making sure that they’re anchored together at seams. I have deliberately made the three gaps in the neckline different measurements. e.g. 8c.m, 10cm and 9cm

1 define

8. Trace all around then remove top layer

1 Fold pleats and pin

9. Pin pleats closed (try to be accurate and press with a dry iron if necessary!)

1 add seam allowances and cut

10. Draw a seam allowance/hem allowance and cut out. Before unpinning pattern, use it to make a pattern for the facing (5cm depth plus seam allowances)


Back Bodice 

You will need to make a pattern for the back too but this is relatively simple.  You will need to:
1. Trace the Bodice Back Block/Sloper
2. Draw an elegant neckline: Firstly, lower the back of the neck by 5cm approx.  Make the shoulder seam the same width as the front of the bodice, e.g. 6cm and join to the centre with a smooth curve.
3. Place the front pattern over the back and trace the side seam and hem so they’re the same at front and back.
4.  If you have a shoulder dart in your back block, it’ll be quite reduced by the time you’ve lowered the neckline.  You can sew gathering stitches here and ease this area instead of sewing a dart in the neckline.
5. Draw seam allowances and make a pattern for the back facing.

Cutting: Remember to place the grainline on bias for a looser, more draped effect.

Ask if you have any questions about sewing the top and good luck.

1t Check linen cotton mix

Slashing

1 Chunky pleatsThis is a demo of the simplest method of dart manipulation which is slash and spread.  If you’re to alter your block by adding design lines like I’ve done to the neckline here, you might first need to move any darts that may be in the way.

Before you begin, make at least one copy of your bodice block/sloper.  Unlike with the ‘pivot method’ (explained here), you’ll be cutting and I don’t want you to destroy your original!

If, on the other hand, you came here because of the filthy-sounding post title or ’cause you’re stalking the Guitar Hero dude, go away!  There’s nothing to see :roll:

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EXAMPLE 1: moving the shoulder dart into the armscye.

Step 1
Trace the bodice front.  Draw a line from the bust point to where you want your new dart to lie on the armhole1t Bodice front move shoulder dart to armscye


Step 2

Cut the new line to bust point.  Cut one of the dart lines (legs) from the shoulder dart to the bust point and ‘close’ the dart by joining the dart legs together (use some tape).  The new dart will swing open.  1t Shoulder dart opens in armhole

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EXAMPLE 2: moving the shoulder dart to the neckline

You can put the dart anywhere between a seam and the bust point.  You can also join the two darts into one big one.  In the second example, we’re moving the dart from the shoulder seam to the neckline.

Step 1 Draw a line from bust point to a point on the neckline

1t Bodice front move shoulder dart to neck

Step 2 Cut the new line to bust point.  Cut one of the dart legs to bust point and tape the dart closed 1t Shoulder dart moved

*

Challenge  Want some homework to see if you’ve got it?  OK, this time, move the shoulder dart into the waist dart.  Your bodice front will end up having a single dart, rather wide, in the waist seam.  In the next post, I’ll show you how to go from here to making a chunky pleated neckline pattern, Vivienne Westwood-style.  It’s not too difficult.  In the meantime, why not experiment a little by doodling where you want the pleats to be?1 Sketching pleat positions