Posted in sewing, sewing patterns, Style

Maybe I Should Have Paid Attention to the Pattern Reviews: Sewing Vogue 1663

Can we talk about sewing pattern reviews? Do you use them? Love them? Hate them? Or not even know they exist? As for me, I usually forget they exist.

I am a member of the online pattern review site, cleverly called―you guessed it―Patternreview.com. I have posted exactly one review. This is odd coming from a woman who has a lot of opinions. Yet, I seem unable to make more of a contribution to this site, which, in my view, is doing all of us sewists a great service. All you have to do is plug your pattern brand and number into their search engine, and you’ll see a list of reviews of that exact pattern. They include a wide variety of pattern brands from Vogue through the rest of the major brands and such an extensive list of independent brands that I have to conclude they have most of them covered. That isn’t to say, however, that every single pattern has been reviewed. But I’ve never found one from a major brand that wasn’t there.  With all that to consider, why do I find pattern reviews so problematic? Let me introduce you to Vogue 1663.

This pattern is a Kathryn Brenne design that captured my attention not because of its shawl collar and belted waist but because of its back detail. I loved those tucks, so I decided I’d consider adding this style to my winter wardrobe.

I bought a length of sweatshirt fleece, one of the pattern’s recommendations. If I had paid closer attention to those fabric suggestions, I would have noted that they also suggested boiled wool. And a fabric with a 35% cross-grain stretch factor. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never known a pure, boiled wool to have that much stretch. No single pattern design can be executed equally as easily―and with equally good results―in both those fabrics. Anyway, my fabric did meet the requirements vis-a-vis stretch, but that was just the beginning of my concerns about overlooked issues in this pattern. Let me begin with what others have said about it.

The reviews of this pattern were consistently good. The reviewers liked the design, the sewing and especially the outcome. Well, that was the moment I should have seen the error of my ways in selecting this one. One of the specific questions that reviewers are supposed to answer is this: “Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?” All the reviewers said yes.

Well, when I look at the pattern envelope, I see a sleek yet casually cozy sweater/jacket (a swacket, perhaps?). Then I look at the finished products on the review site, and I see a bathrobe. I should never have been so cocky as to think I could do it better. I thought that if I chose a more appropriate fabric than that selected by several of the reviewers, I could do a better job. Not so much. I mean, once you see it, you can’t unsee it, and that‘s what I saw all through the construction process. *sigh* It’s a bathrobe. Anyway, I began.

First, there were a few funky things about the pattern instructions. Everywhere, it kept telling me to finish the seams with pinking shears. What the―?! Dear god, pinking shears on sweatshirt fleece. It’s just so weird. Of course, I didn’t do that. I used a serger, but you could just as easily use a zig-zag stitch. Just step away from the pinking shears. Then there were other funky things.

There was the funky finishing instruction for the interior of the big facing and a strange instruction to stitch the pockets on with a 5/8-inch top-stitch. First, this would look awful. Second, if you use a 5/8-inch top-stitch, wouldn’t that mean you might not even catch the seam allowance in it?? And how ugly would that be to have the edge flapping? Needless to say, I didn’t do this. A 3/8-inch top stitch did very nicely.

Another thing that seemed to be missing from the instructions was any suggestion that applying reinforcement to the shoulders would be in order. In my view, this is crucial to any kind of success with this pattern. It is designed to be made in a 35% stretch, and it has a lot of fabric in it―I mean a lot. That means that there is considerable weight pulling down on those shoulders. I applied iron-on interfacing to the shoulder seams and to the centre back facing seam. It really helped.

Of course, there’s the inevitable mid-project existential crisis when the half-finished object is hanging on Gloria junior. I am looking at the piece dubiously when my husband walks in and says, “What is that you’re making?” But I know what he really means is, “WTF is that thing you’re making?” WTF, indeed. I have to admit: it did look pretty scary.  N’est ce pas?

As I examined the half-finished monstrosity, I realized that it was long―far too long. And, contrary to what the pattern reviewers said, the finished product wouldn’t look anything like what it looked like on the pattern envelope. How tall was that model?? I am five-feet-seven (okay, maybe I’ve lost half an inch over the course of my later life) and wear a thirty-one-inch inseam. This length looked godawful on me. So, I chopped off two inches. (Of course, that made pocket placement a bit fraught, but that’s another story).

Were there any things I liked about this pattern? Yes. I really liked the design and construction of the belt. That may sound silly, but the idea of making the seam down the middle of the belt rather than at the edge really worked in this fabric. It also meant that the top-stitching was done on only two layers rather than on two layers on one side and four on the other, giving it a more consistent look.

So, I finally finished it. It’s marginally less ugly than it had promised to be mid-project. But will I wear it? I predict it will either languish in my closet, only to be picked out on the odd occasion, or become my go-to, at-home warm-up on those cold winter nights. What do you think?

Website for the Sewing Pattern review site: https://sewing.patternreview.com/

Posted in Fashion, sewing, sewing patterns, Style

How Many Coats Does a Girl Need? I sewed myself another one anyway!

No, really…how many pieces of fall and winter outerwear does a girl really need? Well, of course, it depends. It depends on several things. I suppose if someone pushed me into a corner and said, “Name the most important factor in answering this question,” I’d probably have to say the weather. I mean, if you live in Barbados (with all those heavenly palm trees and trade wind breezes), then I suppose the question is moot on any level. But, since I live in Canada―Toronto, to be specific―weather, which is based on our climate in this part of the world, dictates wardrobe to a greater degree than in many places. And it seems to me that since we have widely varying temperatures through the fall and winter seasons, I’d have to say that a girl needs many pieces of outerwear.

I read on a couple of style blogs that we need two to three winter coats/jackets. I think I snorted coffee out of my nose when I read that. Who are they kidding, and where do they live? That is not nearly enough.

One blogger suggested five coats every woman should own: a parka (okay, yes, and I already have one), a leather jacket (yes, but that doesn’t count as winter attire where I live), a rain jacket (ditto―not winter wear, but autumn, yes), a wool coat (yes, I’ll buy that, but they are truly not that warm, so they hardly count as January attire), and a puffer jacket (another autumn selection for me). This last one is interesting because a puffer jacket is a good choice, and I have one. I own a Mackage puffer that is packable and oh-so-light. It does have warmth, but those little jackets aren’t long enough to cover your butt, and that’s important. Anyway, there is so much more to the outerwear thing.

I’m not sure that this year’s runway offerings are geared toward real life, but I did find some inspiration for the variety one needs…

First, there is the very early autumn weather. The sun shines for days at a time, and the temperatures are just beginning to fall. A girl needs a light jacket and a light coat (there will be dressing up once in a while, n’est ce pas?). Maybe she needs more than one of each. Then the weather gets a bit colder, and another jacket is required. Okay, you could begin to layer, but at a certain point, you start to look like the Michelin man. That might be a good look for some people, but I have enough Michelin man moments in the dead of winter in a down-filled parka to satisfy that particular sartorial requirement. Let’s just say that a girl needs a variety of weights and styles of outerwear. Did I really need a new one this year? I suppose not, but that fabric I found was so lovely, and the Vogue pattern (9133) I liked went so well with it. So, sue me. I made another jacket. The fact that I haven’t gotten much wear out of the tailored jacket I made last year is entirely beside the point. I love looking at it in my closet. *bats eyes*

So, I decided to make a new early-autumn coat. The fabric came from Canada’s online fabric store, Fabricville. That’s because, lately, they’ve been asking me to contribute to their blog twice a year. I had no idea when I initially said yes, that they would provide the fabric, but they do, and I always look for something interesting and usually an appealing colour. I wear mostly black in the winter because that’s the Toronto uniform (I’ve mentioned before that there comes a day in early fall when there is a dramatic switch on the streets to black and continuing to wear white jeans and pastels―if that’s your thing―makes you stick out and not in a good way). This plum colour will fit right in and brighten up my blacks. This coating fabric is heavier than most I usually work with, and I loved learning to manipulate it. The only problem I found with it is that since it’s not pure wool, it has limited moulding ability, but it did have some. For example, when creating the shoulder for the set-in sleeves, I did have to work hard to get the shape I wanted.

It’s unlined, but I had some lining fabric left over from a Little French Jacket project from a couple of years ago (does keeping it make me a fabric stasher? I hope not!), so I decided to line the sleeves. My arms get colder than the rest of me, and lined sleeves make sliding the coat on over a sweater so much nicer. I decided to set in the lining by hand, and I like how it turned out. I also opted to finish the sleeve hems by hand for a more polished look. I love how they turned out.

I also wanted to do a bound buttonhole because it’s been ages since I’ve done one. Of course, I had to find myself a good YouTube video to help. I landed on the Threads magazine video “Teach Yourself to Sew: Bound Buttonholes” and found it the most useful for a review.

When I did the sample bound buttonhole, I concluded that the fabric was too bulky for a nice finish. I cut a piece of that lining fabric interfaced it and voila! Reasonably good bound buttonholes! (The top one is the bulky one; the bottom photo shows the one I used.)

The piece is a kind of elongated blazer with interesting lapels (at least, I think they’re interesting), which can be dressed down as I’ve done for the “photo shoot” my wonderful husband allowed himself to be roped into, where I’m wearing my favourite Paige jeans and sneakers. He just told me he made a reservation for lunch on Sunday at a lovely chi-chi restaurant I love a twelve-minute walk away. I’ll be wearing it a bit more dressed up for that outing!

I hope you’re keeping warm as we move toward winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and if you live down under or anywhere in the tropics, I’m not speaking to you until the spring! (Just joking! 😊)

PS: If you want to read about the specifics of working with this heavy fabric, you can read about it in the blog post I wrote for Fabricville HERE.

Posted in Fashion, sewing, Style

Fall Wardrobe Planning Take 2: A Mood Board & Some Fabrics

Fall is upon us―at least according to the calendar. But if I were to judge it from our weather, I’d have to say that summer is hanging gon. All the better to give me more time to complete planning and produce some additions to my fall and winter wardrobe.

Since I last wrote, I’ve been in the throes of preparation for launching my new book, so I have not had as much time as I’d like to contemplate sewing. But that’s getting “sewn up” so I can get back to wardrobe issues.

I’ve given a lot of thought to the planning and have developed a mood board (as I mentioned I might do) based on the ideas I mentioned in my last post.

I’m inspired by Olivia’s at-home wardrobe in Scandal, as I mentioned in my last post. This style plays so well into that high-end comfort I’m going for. I’ve made two fabric purchases so far: one for the Simplicity 8601 top that I made before in rayon for summer wear. I also bought the French terry you see on the mood board for the Vogue top. It’s a simple top, but it has an interesting zipper detail. I’ve purchased a duvet zipper that I’ll have to shorten to make it work for this one.

I’ve also been enjoying the live Instagram feed that Freda’s here in Toronto does twice a week, showcasing their wide-ranging selection of medium to high-end wardrobe pieces. I think I’ll buy the rayon blouse instead of making it.

My current issue is that I have yet to choose fabrics for the pieces I want to make. But I think I may have that covered.

Today, my husband and I travel to Montréal, where I will be combing the fabric district on St. Hubert street to see what I can find. I’ve never shopped for fabrics in Montreal before, but I know they still have some semblance of a garment district (nothing like it used to be, sadly), and I’ve done a bit of research. I’ll report back!

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to our first long-distance post-COVID travel (if five hours on the train can be considered long-distance. We usually drive, but have decided on a new adventure since we haven’t been on a train for over a decade!).

Next post: what I find in Montreal!

Montreal, here I come!