Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic
Tag Archives: pattern testing
November 30, 2013Posted by on
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!
I had just enough of some chartreuse polar fleece in my stash to eke out a pair of the wrist-length mittens.
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.
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.
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.
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!
So anyway, here are a bunch of photos of the finished mittens. With a Honeycrisp apple prop, of course!
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.)
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:
September 10, 2013Posted by on
(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:
- Rhonda of Rhonda’s Creative Life
- Wanett of Sown Brooklyn
- Winnie of Scruffy Badger Time
- Velosewer of How Good is That?
- Lizzie of Sew Busy Lizzie
- Joyatee of Joy and Smiles
- Lisa of Idle Hands- the Ms-Fits’ Workshop
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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):
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!
=/\= Personal log, supplemental: My husband loves my new light-duty uniform and says I could pass for a secretary on a starbase.
July 10, 2013Posted by on
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 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.
The differences were subtle but interesting. Here are a few closeups:
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.
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:
Obviously, the actual bust 34 size is too big for me:
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.
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.
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.)
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.
May 10, 2013Posted by on
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.
(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.
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!).
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.
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!
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.)
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:
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! =)
April 15, 2012Posted by on
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…
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!
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.
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.)
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.
February 13, 2012Posted by on
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!
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.
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. =)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
Can’t you just imagine one of the Crawley girls of Downton Abbey wearing something like this?
I think I may sew myself a camisole top by making an adaption of this pattern – without buttons all the way down the back.
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!