Posted in sewing, sewing patterns, Style

The Battle of the Indie Patterns―Part 2: In which I find two I don’t hate as much as usual

I ended my last post with a brief mention of some of the things I hate about indie patterns. So far, I’ve noted my annoyance with the gargantuan size of the pattern “envelopes” (really just cellophane thingies) and the heavyish paper on which they are printed. I also mentioned that I am generally unimpressed with the companies’ lack of design innovation. Just for fun, I surfed through a couple of the websites of indie pattern companies that are purported to be among the best. Here are some examples of the kind of design I think isn’t worth anyone’s money (unless, perhaps, this is the first time you’ve ever sewn a garment―in that case, these are for you).

See what I mean about the one-size-fits-all, which means little in the way of fit at all. They remind me of the first pattern I designed using Garment Designer software, which makes me wonder if this is how those indie pattern designers do it―just figure out what a computer program can do and do it. (If you want to read more about my foray into using software to create patterns, here’s a blog piece I wrote a couple of years ago.)

And what about those cutesy names? I’ll take a numbering system any day over the Zadie, Adrienne, Kielo and the Yukons and Hinterlands any day. My particular selections are the Renée and the Esme. Geesh! 

Okay, I’ve gotten that rant off my chest. Let’s get on with the battle and see if I have learned to love anything about them.

First, the Jalie pattern—the Renée pants. I’ve been searching for a dupe for Eileen Fisher stretch-crepe pants forever. This pattern was favourably reviewed by a person whose sewing skills I admire (but my one caveat is that our styles are different). They also looked like they might be the right shape: fitted through the hips and thigh and only a slight cigarette shape, fabricated in a stable knit. I chose a ponte with a whisker pattern that I thought was vertical but turned out to be horizontal—one of the downsides to purchasing online these days! Anyway, I made it work and went ahead with the pattern.  

Jalie boasts about including 28 sizes on one pattern. Well, as far as I’m concerned, it’s nothing to brag about―just another element of indie patterns to make me grit my teeth. Just look at that mess of lines. What a nightmare! I had planned to trace it off, but in the end, it was so mesmerizing, I just said the hell with it and cut out my size from the pattern as presented. It’s not like I’ll be using it for anyone else. Oh, and they have their own sizing, so you have to be very careful of what size you cut.

And, what about their instructions? Well, I don’t suppose I really needed instructions to make a pair of elastic-waist pants so, I did it my way. When I make pants (which I rarely do), I do it the way I was taught years ago since it seems to me to be the best way to fit them as you go. This pattern tells you to put each side together, then put one inside the other and sew the crotch. Perhaps they could tell me how I would test the waist and hip fit before completing the crotch? It can’t be done that way. So, I put the two front legs together at the front crotch seam, do the same with the back, try them on, testing the crotch length, waist and hip, then complete the inseams.

Small design detail: an inset at the front hip. I would use a contrasting fabric if I ever do these again.

Then there is the seam allowance. Can I tell you how much I hate narrow seam allowances?  (Add this to the list of things I hate about indie patterns.) I don’t make my own clothes so that they resemble cheap knitwear from a Sri Lankan sweatshop. My preference would be for them to resemble designer knitwear from a Parisian couturier—well, that may be a stretch, but you know what I mean. They have only a 3/8-inch seam allowance, which is insufficient for any adjustments and a serged finish. I realize that this saves fabric (see my comment about cheap sweatshop clothing), but I always buy extra anyway. Before I make this again, I will trace off the pattern with 5/8-inch seam allowances for sure.

I also used 2-inch elastic, which I won’t do the next time. I’ll use the 1½-inch as recommended (it’s what I had on hand). You can see in the photo below that the wide elastic got wavy since I really needed to have it tighter.

And, by the way, I will make these again. They turned out to be a surprisingly good fit, after all! So, that’s something to love about this indie pattern. Are they a dupe for the Eileen Fisher pants? They are close, so I’ll look for her type of fabric and try them again. I don’t love paying $200 for pull-on pants!

Now, on to the StyleArc Esme “designer” pattern. What in the world makes it a “designer” pattern? The fact that is it resembles any number of other pieces (perhaps a bit like Eileen Fisher, but that’s another story about tent-like fashion I sometimes like!).

Anyway, this one, too, comes in an enormous cellophane bag with an instruction sheet as long as my arm (literally). To their credit, unlike the 28 sizes in one pattern for the Jalie, this one has only eight. I have to admit that I made this one last year for the first time. However, I made it in a scuba fabric (which I never intended to buy) that was mislabeled online at Fabricville, and I could never wear it owing to the way the seams dug into me. This was partly because of those damn 3/8-inch seam allowances. I’ve learned my lesson there. Oh, but the neckline seam allowance is only ¼-inch, so I don’t know how you’re supposed to serge-finish the edges with no fabric there at all. *sigh*

Not as many sizes on this pattern piece!
This instruction/pattern sheet isn’t anywhere close to being fully unfolded!

Since there wasn’t an overwhelming number of size lines in this one (as there were in the Jalie pattern), I did trace it off onto pattern paper and cut it out of an ottoman ribbed bamboo fabric I fell in love with when I last ventured into a real fabric store before all this lock-down stuff.

Once I had it cut out, I had to remind myself how to do the back of the collar. I had to re-read the instructions several times to get it through my head. The instructions are printed on the gargantuan sheet on which the pattern pieces themselves are also printed. This means you have to have a  massive space in which to unfold them. Did I mention I hate this about indie patterns??

As usual for me, the arms are far too wide―even for a dolman-type sleeve. I altered them a bit, but in the end, they were still relatively large.

This top has such a nice neckline―one that particularly appeals to my style. So, I have to say that StyleArc wins the award for the best-design lines I’ve seen in a shapeless, one-size-fits-most kind of top. Will I ever make this one again? Maybe. The next time I’m in lock-down and looking for nothing but comfort in my clothes, which I hope is never again, I’ll revisit this pattern. The Jalie pants fit the way these negative-ease pants should, but they aren’t anything innovative in design, that’s for sure!

The bottom-line for me in this attempt at learning to love indie patterns? My take-away from all this are as follows:

  • If you are a newbie sewist but have already learned a few things about patterns in general, the design lines are simple and that’s a plus. On the downside for new sewers is the fact that you have to be oh-so-careful about things like seam allowances (inconsistent) and cutting the correct size (once you have found it on the damn pattern pieces!). You have to read everything very carefully. You will also want to take the extra step of tracing the pattern out onto more transparent paper so that you have at least a fighting chance of seeing the fabric below (this can be very helpful when doing things like trying to avoid the dreaded target-on-boob faux pas when laying out patterned fabric).
  • If you are an experienced sewist who craves high fashion, you might as well step away right this minute. Apart from Marfy (which I don’t consider indie―I consider them a designer category all on their own). There is nothing of-the-moment or particularly stylish about any of the styles on offer. That being said, StyleArc does have a few terrific designs if you get away from their designs for knits.
  • If you’re looking for athletic-wear patterns, Jalie might be one to try.
  • If you want all your patterns to fit nicely into a pattern box or drawer that accommodates 6 ½ X 8-inch envelopes, you might as well forget about it. To be fair, though, some Vogue patterns these days arrive in larger envelopes than I like. This seems to be a function of which designer it is, but there doesn’t seem to be any functional reason for it.

What are your experiences with indie patterns?

Posted in Couture Sewing, Little Black (French) Jacket

LBJ*: Making a Customized Pattern for the Jacket

[*Little Black Jacket sometimes referred to as the LFJ or Little French Jacket]

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I now have to cut apart the toile that I’ve grown so fond of!

Now that I’ve created a toile – fitting muslin – for my little black jacket project, I know that it’s time to cut it apart. But I’ve grown quite fond of the ugly white cotton jacket that hangs on my mannequin. I know that the next step toward making that pattern I’ll need for cutting into my actual jacket fabric can only result from me taking scissors to my creation, so I’ll have to do it, and I’m happy to learn to create a patterns since it’s something I’ve never done before. Until   I did some research, I hadn’t considered the history of modern sewing patterns that those of us who are interested in sewing take for granted. According to Joy Emery’s very interesting book A History of the Paper Pattern Industry: The Home Dressmaking Fashion Revolution, the first known work that contained small pattern diagrams drawn to scale was published in the sixteenth century! She says, “The book’s purpose was to instruct tailors on methods of cutting out pattern pieces so as to get the most garment from the least amount of fabric.”[1] It’s funny, isn’t it, that we still try to do that today. Fabric was expensive in the sixteenth century and it is ever thus in the twenty-first century!book cover

 

Anyway, for the next couple of centuries more and more manuals of this sort were published in Europe and eventually in North America. The first companies that produced actual patterns in the US for home sewers appeared in the mid-1800’s and were Demorest and Butterick. (Although to be clear, there were full-sized patterns in Europe long before this according to my research.) But what an invention! Full-sized patterns that home sewers could use and adapt! Ever since that time, we’ve been buying and using commercially-produced patterns, while the more daring among us have simply created their own. In my view, creating a made-to-measure pattern from a commercial one is a bit of an adventure in itself for those of us who have more or less stuck slavishly to the pattern for years. I’m a bit excited about entering into the pattern-making realm!

So I take the toile from the mannequin and begin to cut it apart. I have to cut accurately along the stitching lines that I did in bright blue thread so that they would be visible. I’m very happy that I did this following the advice of my online video instructor Lorna Knight [see the Craftsy class on the Iconic Tweed Jacket].IMG_0973

After each piece is cut out (one front, one back one back side etc. – you get the picture since I’ll be using a double layer of each piece although I’ll be cutting them out single layer – more about that when I get to actually cutting out the fabric – later), I remove any seam allowances, such as around the neckline and down the front, as well as the hems so that what is left is the piece as it will be sized finished. Now I’ll have to make up a IMG_0975paper pattern piece for each one that includes seam allowances and hems.

There is such a thing as proper pattern-making paper, and Lorna Knight uses one called cross-and-dot paper which has printed crosses and dots presumably to assist with straight layouts. Some people buy rolls of paper medical offices use for covering their examining tables, while others use rolls of craft paper. I’m using sheets of packing paper left over from our recent move. I had this in mind when I rolled them up and put them in the back of my closet.

I work with each piece individually and create each pattern piece one at a time. I start by laying the muslin piece on the paper and putting in a couple of pins to hold it down to the paper. Then I have to begin to add the seam allowances and the hems.

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It seems that on couture garments, large seam allowances are de rigeur for purposes of fitting and because in the case of a Chanel-style jacket, the boucle fabric that I’ll be using frays easily and wide seam allowances ensure that you have enough fabric. So, I use a seam guide and mark full 1-inch seam allowances all around and a one-and-a-half-inch hem. My research tells me that deeper hems are also a hallmark of better garments (and the pattern calls for this anyway!).

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I use a pen to make dots all around and then join them. I then get out the original tissue-paper pattern and use it to guide my markings. I’m going to need to mark the straight grain, notches, dots and any other marks that will assist with ensuring accuracy in sewing. Of course I need to write on each piece precisely what it is a piece for: front, back, side front upper sleeve etc. The instructor in the Craftsy course I’m following also recommends writing the date on each piece. After all, I might want to use this again and I’ll presumably be able to remember what size I was when I did this – I hope the same one I’ll be in the future!

spot-cross2
Dot and Cross pattern-making paper — that I didn’t use!

 

All that’s now left of my pattern-making is to cut out each pattern piece. So, now I have a pattern. May I choose my real fashion fabric yet? Next time.

[1] Joy Emery. 2014. The history of the paper pattern industry: The home dressmaking fashion revolution. London, Blomsbury, p. 5.