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A Denim Spearmint

Back in October, I was a pattern tester for Lolita Patterns and got to test the pattern for the new Spearmint coat.

I’m not sure I would have originally chosen to make myself a coat in this style, had I only seen the pattern for sale. After all, I already have 4 (store-bought) fancy coats to wear when I’m dressed up and I wasn’t sure I could justify a fifth.

Technical drawings of the Lolita Patterns Spearmint Coat.

But the collar was interesting, and the more I considered it, the more I could see myself finding a way to make it my own. Plus, pattern testing for a designer is always a fun challenge because it forces me to try styles I may have passed over otherwise. (How can you grow if you won’t step outside your comfort zone?)

I’m intrigued by Lolita Patterns for two basic reasons:

One, they are based on the Japanese style of dress called Lolita fashion that is both girly and conservative, meaning you get the cute anime look without the sleazy, Halloween-costume vibe. (Lolita fashion. Now I finally have a term for that style!)

And two, the pattern sizing is based on two separate blocks and has very little design ease. Technically, my measurements were not on the chart, so I was hoping that the “very little ease” part would work in my favor.

Disclaimer: My version of the Spearmint coat is based on the test pattern I was given. The test pattern needed more work than Amity originally anticipated, and the final pattern being sold has been corrected, but I’m not sure exactly how my end results compare to the finalized pattern.

Also keep in mind that this is being labeled as a “top coat” for a “California winter,” or a “transitional coat” for more extreme climates, and some of my alterations were done to allow me the option of wearing thicker layers with mine. (I plan to wear mine most during Spring and Autumn.)

I chose to make the shorter version of the coat, which is actually 6 inches shorter than the final pattern – it’s now drafted to hit more at the knee.

I went digging through my fabric stash and came up with 2 yards of heavy weight 100% cotton blue denim (I bought it 5 or 6 years ago because it was only $2/yard). I also had 2 yards of an amazing dress form print quilting cotton that I thought would make a fun lining.

The pattern called for 3 yards of each, but I am “The Queen of Eking” and I was determined to eke it out of something I had.

Blue denim for the outside and fun print for the lining.

No matter how much I wanted to like the shade of the denim’s blue, I just wasn’t feeling it. It was a bit mom-jean blue or something. It might have worked well if I distressed it after making the coat, but since I couldn’t be sure, I didn’t want to take the chance.

So I pondered my options while I made my two mockups and preshrunk my fabric a total of 3 times (washed in hot and heat dried). I didn’t have any fabric to spare, so there was no room for error.

Ultimately, I deliberately decided to use the wrong-side of the denim as the right-side. It has a slightly heathered grey-blue look from a distance but it’s definitely a twill weave up close.

Is this back-side of the fabric great, or what?! The heathered-looking denim and contrast topstitching would add a casual vibe to the dressy coat design, making it easier to dress up or down, depending on the occasion. I couldn’t find topstitching thread in the coral color I wanted, so I used outdoor polyester thread because it’s thicker and shows better than regular thread.

I simply liked the wrong-side color more, and it even coordinated better with the lining print. And, as you would expect, no two pairs of jeans in my closet are the same shade of blue, so I knew a coat this more neutral color would go with all of them.  Besides, the head-to-toe matching denim look is a total fashion no-no for me anyway. My personal rule of thumb is: make whatever you wear look intentionally styled. If someone has to wonder if you meant to do something, you didn’t make the contrast obvious enough.

As I mentioned before, two mockups were made, and this was so I could be sure my alterations were satisfactory. I only tested the outer layer, and didn’t bother with the pockets for my mockups (Not bothering with things like lining or under collar saves time and muslin too, but I did make corrections to all the paper pattern pieces for the lining as I went.)

The chopped & marked up version of the first mockup. It’s really wrinkled from being carried around in a bag for a few days.

Main changes made to the pattern, based on my first mockup:

  • Reduced the width of the collar – mainly at the shoulder and back – so it wasn’t so overwhelming on my small frame. I anticipated the need for this because I often have to shrink large scale design elements. (Photos of the first mockup show the collar at a stage where I had taken it too far in my experimenting.)
  • Narrowed the center front opening so it wouldn’t try to spread open to the sides of my bust in an unflattering way (the princess seams were in the correct place, but the neckline wanted to shift everything out to the sides).
  • Added just a slight bit of room to the center back.
  • Increased the armseye and sleeve ease so I could comfortably wear layers.

The second mockup turned out to be unnecessary because my alterations were good, but I’m glad I took the time to be sure and didn’t jump right to the real fabric.

Second mockup. Much better fit.

Side-by-side comparison of fit.
These mockup photos look like fancy lab coats, especially since I was wearing my glasses. Mockups for science!

You can really see how badly the sleeve was pulling on the first version. It was so tight it was hard to bend my arm. The sleeves also look a little short on the first compared to the second because they caught on my sweater underneath. I did not change the length of the pattern pieces.

These are perfect examples of why mockups are necessary! And don’t feel like you have to make a completed item! I didn’t do a lining, pockets, buttonhole, or true hems (I just folded edges once and basted down to check finished length).

So it was finally on to the real fabric!

Sure enough, I managed to eke everything out of the 2 yards of fabric. It helped that I had reduced some of the collar width and that the pattern has only 3/8 inch seam allowance. (Note: you may want to add to the seam allowance if you make a Spearmint with fabric that frays easily.) Astonishingly, I only had to piece two pieces!

I put a seam in the center back of the neck facing, which I then topstitched and mostly covered with a tag.

My tag.

And I creatively pieced one side of the under collar, which no one will ever see unless I lift the back of the collar to show them.

After cutting out all the other pieces, I laid out my fabric scraps until I could fit the collar pattern (being careful to cut the mirror image of the piece I already cut out). I didn’t really bother with making sure all the scraps were on grain – in any case, it was just the under collar. Then I pinned and stitched the scraps before cutting.

For the most part, I followed the written instructions just as they were. I did, however, make a few exceptions based on personal preferences:

  • I did not use the horsehair canvas in the ruffle collar. My denim was plenty thick and I knew the two layers of the collar would be more than stiff enough to hold its shape on its own.
  • Nor did I use necktie lining to ease in the sleeve caps because I didn’t want to add thickness to the denim. (The pattern did fit really well together so there wasn’t much need for ease assistance.)
  • I chose not to turn the coat through the sleeve lining for two reasons. 1. Thick denim. 2. I like to construct collars completely separate before attaching them to a garment. There is more control, thus, the end result looks better. I turned my coat through an opening at the center back hem that was about 8 inches wide and slipstitched the lining to the coat hem to close it by hand.
  • For easier on and off, I used antistatic lining fabric for the sleeve lining instead of the same fabric I used for the rest of the lining.
  • I added tons of decorative topstitching.
  • I added a coat hook loop.

Ruffle collar assembly.
Constructing the collar separately allows for easier pressing of the edge seam (tailor’s ham inserted inside in bottom left photo). I also topstitched around the outside edge before attaching the collar on the coat.

Added coat hook loop at center back where the collar joins the neck facing.
I used the selvage printing dots from my lining fabric. I love how the dots add interest and still coordinate with the lining.

Outside and lining both constructed.
Final try-on before joining the two together. The lining reminds me of a kimono with its combination of fabrics.

After joining the coat to the lining and adding one large button, I had a completed Spearmint!

Finished Spearmint Coat.

And here are a few more photos of some of the details:

The fun print lining!

The pattern’s included instructions for the bound buttonhole are wonderful. I added topstitching around it to match the rest of the coat.

Because I did so much topstitching on my coat, I chose to reinforce the pockets to match. I decided to close my pockets up about 2 more inches after realizing the opening was a lot bigger than I needed it to be – thus, there are two bar tacks on the bottom. This also allows me to carry my phone in a pocket without worrying about it falling out.

Overall, this is a great pattern! The pieces fit together very nicely and I love the separately drafted lining and finishing details. The instructions may be a little brief for a beginner, but with the extra tutorials and sewalongs on the Lolita Patterns blog, most sewists of any level should have no trouble making this lovely coat for themselves.

You can buy the Spearmint coat pattern (#5013) from Lolita Patterns in either paper copy or instant PDF download.

The paged PDF is 64 pages, so if you get the PDF, I highly recommend using the print shop version and having a place like Staples print it on large paper for you. I love having the ability to print off small “fit to page” copies of the large print shop version before I taking it to the printer, and the copies also made handy references to overall pattern while I was working.

As payment for being a pattern tester, I was given one copy of the paper pattern.

Obviously, I do not need another copy since I have already altered and adjusted the test pattern to my liking. So it’s Giveaway time!

If you would like a chance to win a copy of this pattern in its beautiful packaging, just follow these simple rules:

  1. Leave me a comment on this post and be clear that you want to enter. (Any comments are welcome, even if you don’t want to be entered in the drawing, but you have to let me know if you are entering!)
  2. In your comment, include your plans for your version  – fabric, color, etc. How do you intend to make it your own?

Giveaway is open to all locations. Winner will be chosen at random.

Deadline for entry is closed at 11:59pm on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 United States Central Time (GMT -6). I’ll announce the winner in a post on the following day. Winner announced in this post.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

And now if you’ll excuse me, Wensley sees that I am wearing a coat and thinks we’re going for a walk…

How ‘bout Them App-…er…Mittens!

I’ve been super busy bouncing from job to job in the last couple of months (where did November go??). I can’t believe that today is my blog’s 3rd birthday!

(Sadly, the detailed posts about the Wonder Woman cape and boots will not be happening exactly as I’d planned because my cell phone was stolen & I lost all the detailed process shots I was going to use. I’ll still be doing a post about the construction, but not nearly as detailed as I was hoping to write.)

In my time off from work, I’ve been doing some “secret sewing” (aka pattern-testing) and I can finally share one of those hush-hush projects with you now – the Disparate Disciplines Honeycrisp Mittens!

Honeycrisp Mittens

I had just enough of some chartreuse polar fleece in my stash to eke out a pair of the wrist-length mittens.

Because of the puffy nature of the fleece, I found it easiest to trace the pattern onto the fleece with a Sharpie and then pin the two fabric layers together before cutting.

I really love the longer, elbow-length version of the pattern because it has really interesting seams, but since I didn’t have enough fabric, I decided to appliqué my own interesting details with contrasting polar fleece.

Apple appliqué detail.

Yeah, so I went a little literal with it and put apples on my mittens. I blame the name of the pattern because all I wanted was a Honeycrisp apple every time I thought about them.

I had to piece one cuff in order to eke out matching cuffs.

The pattern is a really quick and easy make (especially if you don’t have to plan for eking like I did) and only took me about an hour, even with my self-inflicted complications. It would be a great beginner project, but sewists of all experience levels can have fun with it.

I used the same stretch stitch for the mittens that I used for the Avocado Hoodies.

This pattern was good at reminding me of my freakishly large hands. Everything about me is usually a small or even extra-small, except my hands. (I have skinny fingers, but BIG hands.)

I cut the main mitten body at a size medium and the thumb in XL! No wonder I have trouble finding gloves with long enough fingers!

I used the lightbox that comes free with every building to trace the larger thumb onto the correctly sized mitten palm. (I forgot I wasn’t the small when I took the picture and retraced it onto the medium.)

So anyway, here are a bunch of photos of the finished mittens. With a Honeycrisp apple prop, of course!

Wensley wanted a bite of apple so badly! He kept circling my hands while we took photos trying to figure out how to get some without getting in trouble. *Lick*

The best part of the pattern was a feature I couldn’t even test. There is the option to make the fingertips conductive! Meaning, you can use your smart phone or any touch screen without having to take them off!

As payment for being a pattern tester, Mari is sending me some conductive fabric made with real silver in it. I look forward to trying it and plan to make an elbow-length conductive pair for myself.

If you are interested in buying your own copy of the pattern, here’s the link to the PDF pattern in the Disparate Disciplines shop. (Also available as a limited-time paper pattern.)

And you can even buy the conductive fabric in heathered grey or black directly from Mari! No need to go searching everywhere for the special fabric (and just in time for Christmas).

As it is, my non-conductive wrist-length pair of Honeycrisp Mittens is perfect for walking the dog. =)

Thanks, Mari, for another fun & practical pattern!

See some other people’s Honeycrisp Mittens:

A Dandelion Skant

(Warning: Major geekery ahead.)

Personal log, Stardate: 67158.4

Captain Mari Miller of the USS Disparate Disciplines contacted me via subspace with a request to test another one of her new sewing patterns. (See my last test for her Avocado Hoodie in this post.)

I’m honored for my blog to be the last stop in her Blog Hop for the Dandelion Dress & Top.

The previous stops have been as follows:

When I first saw the technical drawings for this pattern, I immediately thought Starfleet uniform TNG skant. And the lines of the shirt reminded me of the seamlines of TOS uniforms.

I couldn’t help coloring in the outlines with a pencil.

I started with a mockup of the sweetheart neckline top to check the basic fit. I’m pretty close to being an exact size 0 according to the pattern’s measurement chart, so I cut everything at that size.

Meh. Not bad right out of the envelope, but the dart at the point of the side panel wasn’t quite right for me.

The main alteration I needed to make was dropping the underarm seam just a bit because it felt a little high to me. (I’m picky about my armseye fit, and I will avoid wearing something if I feel like it gives me an underarm wedgey.)

Redrawn underarm seam.

The unusual style lines make this pattern perfect for color blocking, and I wanted to make sure I showed them off.

I decided to make two versions – a solid color sweetheart top (B2) and a color-blocked sweetheart dress (B1).

The pattern recommends using a woven fabric (aka non-stretch) but I wanted to see how it would work with a thicker t-shirt fabric (I was hoping the darts would fit me a bit better in something with some stretch), so I cut up a men’s 4X tee.

I eliminated the pattern’s center back seam and cut the back on a fold since the fabric had stretch. I also added a few inches to the length of the top.

The end result was a TOS inspired shirt with a black rib-knit edged neck. Unfortunately, the darts were still too pointy and not quite right on me.

I’m going to make this version over again because I have an outfit planned, so better photos will come in a future post. For now, just these crummy mirror selfies.

Then I made the dress – TNG style, because Leila inspired me with her skant from a few months ago.

I made my dress out of a drapey polyester suiting fabric that came in both red and black. (Yes, I know, expendable crewman. I’ll just avoid any away missions while wearing it.)

I stitched the triangular side panels in as I do when sewing inset points and completely left out the darts.

After everything was assembled, I discovered that I needed to alter the back neck a little because it was gapping. (One of the disadvantages of fitting yourself – it’s hard to catch those back issues in the first mockup or two when you can’t really see your back!) So I reshaped the seam connecting to the back sleeve.

Back neck alteration and corrected pattern piece.

I fussed and tweaked for a long time with the front bust. Ultimately, I decided I needed the tiniest of darts, and put one in that was less than half the width printed on the pattern. (I could probably eliminate them altogether if I messed with the pattern some more.)

Dart as printed on pattern traced on the mockup and actual (smaller) width of dart I put in my dress.

Finished dart on dress.

I had fun taking photos in my new Dandelion skant. And now I actually have a Halloween costume this year because of my Star Trek inspired dress!

Do not mess with me. I have a phaser.

Wensley considers the tribble his prey. He goes into stalker-mode every time he sees it.
No, you cannot kill it!

Some amusing outtakes.
I’m so “at ease” I look like I’m sleeping on my feet in the photo on the right, hehe.

I kind of want to make this dress in a less geeky color-blocked version, but I haven’t found the right fabrics yet. (I’m thinking bright green & grey, or orange & grey.)

To show that it can be styled a little less Trek-like, I paired it with some pointed pumps and a necklace. Behold the power of photo editing software (even in my amateur hands):

Now I wish I could find some bright violet fabric for real!

In conclusion, I think the silhouette and style lines of this pattern are wonderfully interesting, and once the fit is perfected, it’s magic. Both the dress and the top are super comfortable.

I enjoyed sewing this because the pieces were so different from normal. The instructions were easy to follow and because of its unusual construction, I would be sewing along, and suddenly, I would be finished! It was sort of strange not being able to anticipate the end.

The only real difficulty lies in the fact that it can’t be altered in the standard simple ways if it doesn’t fit exactly right – there is no side-seam to take in, etc.

Everyone who wants a fun and different construction challenge should definitely give this pattern a try!

Buy your own copy – here’s the link!

And make it so sew!

Hmm… I guess tribbles really are born pregnant!

=/\=  Personal log, supplemental: My husband loves my new light-duty uniform and says I could pass for a secretary on a starbase.

Pattern Sizing Experiment: Part 2 – Testing Three Mockups

So I left all you readers with math swirling around in your heads. I hope Part 1 wasn’t too technical or too much of a cliffhanger!

Now I bet you’re eager to see how my experiment worked when I applied the math. =)

First, I copied my pattern in the bust 34 size at 91% on my printer and taped the pieces together. (As always, photos enlarge when clicked.)

I just cut through some of the easy-to-match parts of a page in order to line it up and tape it to the corresponding part on the next page.
No need for straight lines.

I used some of my favorite pattern tracing paper to trace the other two copies of my pattern at the same size they came in – one bust 34 and one bust 31 size.

Because my traced patterns were on such sheer paper, I could do a good comparison of the shrunken 34 under the actual 31 to see the minor differences.

I lined the two patterns up along the center front neck edge.

The differences were subtle but interesting. Here are a few closeups:

Pencil-marked pattern on top is the true 31 bust size.

To me, the most fascinating part of the pattern comparison was the keyhole detail at the neck. When patterns are graded by the manufacturer, many of the details are not proportionally scaled, meaning that some details remain the same size no matter what size a pattern is drafted to be.

All three keyhole cutouts compared within the actual bust 34 sized neck-facing piece.

This means that on a smaller version of the dress, the keyholes are relatively larger. Likewise they are smaller on the larger versions. This does not always make for the most aesthetically pleasing details on the far ends of the grade.

After all, a pattern designer designs a pattern to have the correct detail proportions for that prototype size. I think it is somewhat lazy for the pattern companies to then grade without changing all the proportions accordingly.

My shrinking/enlarging method using a ratio solves this grading proportion problem.

Okay, so are you ready to see how the mockup experiment works on a real person?

Here they are on me:

Side-by-side mockup comparison – actual 31, shrunken 34, and actual 34.

Obviously, the actual bust 34 size is too big for me:

Definitely too big.

When you zoom in to look at dart placement and where the armhole hits at the shoulder joint, you can really see which fits best.

31 (left) – dart too high, shoulder good.
Shrunken 34 (middle) – dart in the proper spot, shoulder good.
34 (right) – dart too low, shoulder too long (overhanging body).

All three had necklines that were a little too high for comfort. And both the 31 and the shrunken 34 had armholes that were a bit small (typical on vintage patterns). In the above photo, I have cut directly on the stitchline for all the armholes, but I have reshaped and cut on the corrected underarm curve for the shrunken 34.

Obviously, you can see that I have chosen to fit the shrunken 34 because of all the safety pins and drawn lines on the mockup. It had the least amount of alterations needed.

Shrunken size 34 pinned to fit.

I took in the side seams slightly, and pinned a test hem. I decided it needed a little more flare for the A-line skirt, which I added to the paper pattern when I transferred my pin markings to the pattern.

(Here’s an example of how I transferred fitting marks from another mockup to the paper pattern.)

Pattern altered based on mockup fitting. Probably too much flare added, but that is easier to remove than add in the end.

So what are your thoughts and ideas about my pattern scaling method? I would love to know if this works for others too! Please comment or send me photos or links if you try your own version of my experiment!

And in case you’re curious, here’s the geeky fabric I plan to use to make the real version of my dress.

Look! Batgirl! Oh, and Wonder Woman and Supergirl. But I’m mostly excited about Batgirl! =)

A Couple of Avocados

And now for something completely different.

(Well, maybe not completely – it is still about sewing.)

I recently had the pleasure of being a pattern tester for Mari of Disparate Disciplines as she launches her first sewing pattern for her new independent pattern business – the Avocado Hoodie, in versions for both men & women.

This is my brief review of both patterns.

She needed testers to be a variety of sizes and I just happened to be the small end size most others could not test for her. And since my husband was a size that she also needed to test for the men’s version, I was able to make one for each of us.

Part of what attracted me to this pattern is the unusual back pockets for your Significant Other to use.  I love the details on the hoodie because they are interesting and something I wouldn’t want to take the time to pattern & test myself. For me, it’s always about the style lines and interesting details when I choose to buy & make a pattern.

(The Avocado Hoodie even has a sweet backstory that can be read here.)

The pattern is a downloadable pdf file that you print from your home printer and then tape together. The printing instructions are easy to follow and I had no trouble taping all the pages together and cutting out the appropriate sizes.

I cut mine at the pattern’s size 0 and cut my husband’s in his suit size.

Pattern pieces taped and cut out.

(Tip: If you are cutting a size that is not the smallest or largest, use a highlighter to mark your cut lines because it can be a little tricky to follow the one you want through the nested pieces.)

I chose a dark grey microfleece with 40-50% crossgrain stretch (10″ stretched to about 18″) for our hoodies because the standard sweatshirt fleece options at my local fabric store did not have ANY stretch. (What’s up with that?? I still can’t figure out what you would want sweatshirt fleece without stretch for.)

I had fun playing with a new-to-me stretch stitch. I chose to use it for all my seams and the topstitching because it is like a straight stitch & serge all-in-one (at the moment, I really need to have my serger serviced) and it looks sort of like a coverstitch as topstitching.

Samples on scrap fabric of the stretch stitch I chose.

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may remember that I asked for opinions about topstitching color on my hoodie. And you sewcialists were no help – it was a perfect 3-way tie, lol!

Lime, Orange, or Hot Pink?

My jersey options were limited (and boring!) at the fabric store, so I resorted to buying the biggest men’s t-shirts I could find (and they were only $4 at Walmart!).

A men’s 4X t-shirt is perfect for cutting up when you need nice jersey fabric!

Despite my favorite colors being green and orange, I ended up choosing the pink for my hoodie for three reasons:

1) I decided to use pink jersey,

2) I recently got a new pair of sneakers that would match,

and 3) I had already decided my husband’s hoodie topstitching would be blue (you know, the whole cliché boy/girl thing).

I followed the pattern & instructions as printed. The only small modifications I made were lining the hoods with the same jersey fabric I used for the pockets, stitching the seams and then trimming the seam allowance close to the stitching as I went, and adding some decorative topstitching.

Pocket assembly.

The pocket was fascinating to me. I didn’t realize it would be all one pocket with 4 holes until I started assembling it. Nice engineering!

Bright jersey lining!

For the decorative topstitching (on both hoodies), I used two spools of thread at the same time through the needle. It made for better topstitching and the slightly different shades of the same color added some visual depth.

Oh, and I did manage to figure out a way to completely clean finish the thumbholes so there is no topstitching or handsewing necessary. I followed the pattern instructions up to the point just before you turn them right side out. Just before I turned them, I made two more stitchlines to attach the edges of both cuff holes to each other.

It is a bit advanced and hard to explain exactly how I did this with still photos, but here are some example pictures. (I might try to do a video if anyone is really interested in seeing how I did this and if the photos are too unclear.)

I tested what I thought would work with safety pins first (so I could turn the cuff right side out). When it worked, I replaced the pins with stitching.

Both hoodies fit very well without any alterations! That’s something that almost never happens for me – most mass produced patterns seem to have ridiculous amount of ease. I can tell that Mari spent a lot of time and attention to the fit of her hoodie patterns. They’re very well planned & drafted and went together like a dream. These patterns are about as close to custom drafted as you can get with something that has been graded.

I liked the snugness of the sleeves on the women’s version; however, I have really skinny arms, so I’m guessing that the average woman might prefer the sleeves a little looser. (I might even cut my next hoodie a little bigger in the sleeves just for ease of wearing with more layers.)

And here’s a series of photos of me and the comic-relief husband wearing our hoodies:

Non-overlapped hood on his. Overlapped hood on mine.

Hoodies from the back.

Men’s Avocado Hoodie

Women’s Avocado Hoodie

His Emperor Palpatine impression.

And my pockets don’t really gap in the back, but no one told me I was pulling forward with my hands in the front pocket. Where’s my costumer when I’m in front of the camera?

Crummy self-mirror shot. See? No gapping pockets.

Hood detail.

Men’s Avocado Hoodie with back pockets.

These shots just make me laugh. =)

My “Vogue Sewing Patterns” pose and a cheesy sitting pose to show the hoodie with my matching shoes.

I love this pattern and plan to make a few more variations of the hoodie for myself, probably with a center front zipper because that’s what I wear the most when I work (the zipper makes it easier to shed when I’m wearing a walkie and other costuming junk around my neck).

If you want to sew your own Avocado Hoodie, you can buy your own downloadable copy of the Disparate Disciplines Pattern. There’s the men’s hoodie, the women’s hoodie, and a discount if you buy both together.

Both versions fit true to measurements and have nice style lines, which keep them from looking sloppy.

I highly recommend these hoodie patterns! Thanks, Mari, for letting me test them! =)

Mock-up Fitting of a Titanic Era Pattern

I have an irksome tendency when I make something – it has to match the picture I’m working from or I will spend forever and a day tweaking the pattern until it does.

Inner Perfectionist: It’s not quite right.

Lazy part of me: But it’s only off by an EIGHTH of an inch.

Perfectionist: Yes, but it’s off and it will drive me crazy!

Lazy: No one else will EVER notice.

Perfectionist: True, but now that I’ve seen it, I can’t un-see it.

Lazy: FINE. I’ll fix it.

I know this makes me better at what I do, but there are times when I wish I could tune the perfectionist out and happily fly through my projects. (When I seriously try to ignore the inner perfectionist, my husband will nicely remind me that “You’d better fix it or it’s gonna bug you!” *sigh* He knows me well.)

So, anyway, you might remember that I chose the Ladies Wrap #0291 for my next assignment for The 1912 Project (honoring the 100th anniversary of the Titanic) because it looked fairly straightforward. However, it turned out to be one of those deceptively complex patterns that poked at the perfectionist in me.

The wrap has four darts, and their purpose is beautifully understated. Two are the shoulder seams, and two meet at the center front creating an almost horizontal line from bust point to bust point (but will be hidden by a collar on the finished garment).

These darts have perfect placement and are the textbook size for the 32-inch bust that the pattern is labeled as being – and because bust point measurement and shoulder seam measurement vary so slightly from size to size, the simple wrap style (a lapped front & open sides) can easily fit bust sizes ranging from 30 to 42.

Using a left-over piece of a bed-sheet from another project, I cut out a mock-up without any seam allowances. That meant the edges were right where the hem would be and I could check the overall fit & silhouette.

I tried the mock-up on myself, my sister and my mom. (I am smaller than the pattern’s 32” bust and my mom & my sister are both larger.)

Let me show you why the pattern needed tweaking…

Sketch & mock-up comparisons:
Ack! My arm completely disappears when I put my hand on my hip!

I know I’m small but I have long arms – and the sleeves were way long, so it looked like I was wearing someone else’s clothes! The drape of the sleeve couldn’t hang gracefully with the arm raised & bent and didn’t match the design sketch, so of course, it completely BUGGED me.

It’s not terrible when I don’t bend my arms (it kind of reminds me of church-pageant angel sleeves) but I would look silly walking around with my arms out all the time!

Me wearing the mock-up without any adjustments.

So I took a poll on upper arm length. (Thank you soooo much to all of you who took the time to answer my one-question-survey!)

The results were quite interesting and confirmed my suspicions: upper arm length is not all that different from size to size, and I was right there at the average middle – 11 inches from shoulder joint to inside elbow.

I used a marker to draw new hem lines on the mock-up while trying to more closely match the sketch. For demonstration purposes, I only cut off the left sleeve.

You can see my marks in green on the uncut right sleeve.

Mock-up with altered LEFT sleeve on both me (blue wall) and my sister (yellow wall)

I think the new sleeve length looks much better now
and my sister’s arms are a little shorter than mine!

I transferred the alterations to my paper pattern, tweaked the sleeve points, and shortened the body front & back lengths a little. (In order for me to construct the wrap in the special way I have planned, all the alterations needed to be precise before I make the real thing.)

Altered pattern piece with trimmed off scraps (marked with x).

For those who want to know specifics, I cut 2 inches from the sleeve length and adjusted the curve slightly to make the points less square (matching the sketch). I trimmed 1-3/8” off the front hem and a scant quarter-inch off the back hem.

Now that the pattern is fixed (and my inner Perfectionist can find some other project to obsess about), I’m ready to cut the real fabric and have some fun with construction… exactly 100 years to the day that the Titanic sank.

Now see the completed reversible wrap!

Scale Miniature of Titanic Proportions

I have officially started my vintage pattern testing for The 1912 Project that I mentioned previously. We are only required to make a mock-up of one garment a month, but I told myself that I would make a finished garment of the patterns I like… as long as I don’t have to buy many supplies.

I tackled the February Challenge Pattern mainly because I like it but also because I have yet to receive the pattern for my group – I’m in Group 4. 

(Feel free to click pictures to enlarge for detail.)

The instruction sheet for the vintage slip with princess seams had a list of 3 types of lace for a total of 16 yards of trim!

My color coded pattern key.

I had never tried to sew insertion lace so I really wanted to make the real thing (not just a mock-up sans trim like I usually do when testing a pattern), so I printed my pattern in half-scale to fit my miniature dressform with the proportions of a woman with a 36-inch bust. (Making something in half-scale means half the amount of trim – woohoo!)

I went digging through my box of lace. I didn’t really have anything that had the two straight sides that qualifies as insertion lace. However, I did have some pieces of 3½-inch wide lace that was horribly scratchy (good thing no one will ever be wearing this lace!) and would work for all three types of trim I needed – if I cut it apart.

The original strip of lace and how I cut it apart to get what I needed. I used rows 2, 3, & 5 in the picture on right.

In my fabric stash, I found the perfect piece of pale sky-blue cotton voile. It is the thinnest semi-sheer fabric with a soft drape – I knew it would be perfect. (When I can, I like to make my mock-ups in scrap fabric similar to the final garment fabric in hopes that the mock-up itself can be usable – every so often I get lucky, like I did when making my Forties style dress.) I also had enough fabric if I needed to re-cut anything that needed major adjustments.

But the lace was bright white, and I hated it paired with the fabric.

So I tea-dyed the lace. It dyed a lovely light peachy color that was a beautiful compliment to the pale blue. Easy fix. =)

Thin cotton fabric with white lace & tea-dyed lace comparison.

The first thing I did after printing my tiny pattern was cut off all the seam allowances so that I could truly test it.

I pencil-traced the stitch-lines directly onto the fabric.

Next, I cut out my pieces, adding an unmeasured seam allowance around all the lines.

Then I pinned directly through my lines (ignoring all the uneven seam allowances), matching points and the notch marks I made for myself, and stitched right on the line.

There was only one major alteration needed for this pattern: the princess seams were majorly far apart. According to a standard measurement chart in one of my books, the bust point to bust point measurement for a 36-inch bust is 7½ inches, and the pattern was measuring at the equivalent of a 42½-inch bust. I just lined the seams up to the proper spot on my little dressform (like I would do for any garment I was fitting on the person I was making it for) and put a seam down the center front. I took out the equivalent of 2 inches from the pattern.

Luckily, I knew a center front seam would disappear once I added the trim. I made some minor tweaks to the rest of the pattern, but nothing out of the ordinary required for a custom fit.

I did a lot of pin fitting to test the mock-up.

When I was convinced that the pattern lines were good, I decided to trim out the mock-up and make a finished miniature model.

I tried a sample finish for the inset lace with my thin cotton voile fabric. I straight-stitched the edges of the lace to the right side of the fabric, zig-zagged over the previous stitch, and trimmed the fabric under the lace trim close to the stitching.

Insertion lace test.

On a full-scale slip-dress, I would hand-sew a tiny rolled-hem instead of trimming next to the stitching, but my half-scale seam allowance was a bit small & awkward to roll (and besides, it isn’t going to get the wear-and-tear that a real dress would).

I planned the order of my lace application and joined the shoulder seams so that I could trim the neckline all at once.

When I was finished sewing all the insertion lace, my little dress was happily just as pretty on the inside. =) I enjoyed trying my hand at insertion lace.

Then it was time for fun with pleats! I had the fortunate idea to use sizing on my fabric before I started pleating it – if only I had thought of using it sooner! (It would have really given the rest of the dress a more polished look.) I knew sizing would keep the drapey fabric from shifting too much when I was folding straight lines for pleats.

I ironed the sizing into the fabric before cutting it for pleats.

Sizing gives fabric a little bit of body but isn’t stiff like starch. I can find it at any of my local grocery stores but you can also find sizing on amazon if you need to order some.

Comparison of my fabric without (left) and with (right) sizing.

I cut my strip of fabric for pleats then pre-hemmed one long edge and added a stripe of inset lace. Then I machine basted (longest stitch with no backstitching) all my pleats. I did a TON of math to make sure I had enough lace required to make the adequate amount of pleats and cheated my pleats accordingly. (I barely eked out the lace I needed – I had to piece it with scraps in two places.)

I basted one pleat, then measured to the crest of the next one and basted the size of that pleat. I repeated until whole strip of fabric was pleated.

Once I had a row of pleats, I ironed them all in one direction (the direction that best hid the couple of fabric flaws I couldn’t cut around) and serged the top edge. Then I attached one edge of the insertion lace that joins the pleated flounce to the bottom of the slip-dress.  I made the strip of pleating as long as possible so that I could cut off the extra couple inches after matching the pleats at the center back seam. (The basting stays in until the dress is finished, which keeps the pleats from shifting during construction.)

Row of basted pleats with lace edge that attaches to slip-dress.

I test-pinned my pleats to the dress and adjusted for a level hem. I had a bigger seam allowance because I attached the lace to the seams separately, so I was able to hand-stitch a rolled-hem like a true vintage slip-dress would be finished behind all the insertion lace.

Inside of slip-dress where pleated flounce is joined.

After the flounce of pleats was attached and a little ruffle of lace was hand-sewn around the neck & armholes, I had fun removing all the pleat basting.

I haven’t yet decided on the details of the center back row of buttons. I have some small standard buttons but I may want shank buttons that close with loops.

And now for the (nearly) finished dress! Aside from the pins down the center back, everything else is complete.

Front detail with ribbon threaded through eyelet lace.

Can’t you just imagine one of the Crawley girls of Downton Abbey wearing something like this?

Slip back neck detail. (Let’s just pretend the pins are buttons.)

I think I may sew myself a camisole top by making an adaption of this pattern – without buttons all the way down the back.

Side, Front, and Back views

The pattern would make a sweet retro wedding dress with a plain under-slip for a lining. It would even be a fun modern dress with maybe appliqué trim instead of inset lace – I have some thin cotton shirting in a bright floral print that that would be perfect for summer.

Oh, the ideas inspired by a vintage pattern from the Titanic era!

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