Back in my ignorant youth, I would roundly ignore the ends tables at Fabricland. Why would I bother? I wondered. Clearly the ends table was where they stuck all the crap they hadn’t been able to sell previously, and it would be ugly and awful.
I can’t remember how it happened, but one day I found some really nice wool suiting on the ends table for an unbelievably good price, and I couldn’t remember it ever being for sale in the store generally. And the clerk, when I took it to the table for cutting, confirmed that; it turns out that Fabricland regularly gets ends from other fabric suppliers and they just go straight to deep discounts in the ends sections. I’ve found some really great stuff there over the years for really great prices, but my favourite finds have been the silks.
This one, a bright yellow silk noil, was $8/m. And for the fabric illiterate among you, a generally cheap price for silk is maybe $20/m; a standard price for a decent silk is around $40 or a bit more; and you can find good silks at $100/m or more. So $8/m for silk anything is like a new hardcover book for $2. You don’t think about it or look at it too hard. You just get some and trust that you will find a use for it in good time.
I think this skirt was a pretty good use for it.
The pattern uses about a metre, so including the lining and the zipper, this is probably a $15-$20 silk skirt. And it’s yellow! Making it my third yellow handmade skirt, which is probably excessive, but … yellow … and silk … and a pencil skirt.
Also, while this isn’t a faux-wrap skirt, I think this is close enough to one of the projects in my 2018 Make Nine list that I’m counting it.
The pattern was picked up for the very cool seamlines. And one of the things I found out after I got it that made me like it even more is that the separate lining pieces are basically a standard darted pencil skirt, so if you are missing one of those, you can use the lining pattern for a basic pencil skirt.
The silk isn’t the highest quality (but for $8/m, can you complain?). It’s a bit flannely, it’s very soft, it creases easily. You can see the wear from a day or two of office work in the pictures, and you can also see some weird drag lines on the back that were not at all apparent until I saw the photos. I’m going to blame the camera and lighting because I seriously can’t see them in real life.
For the cost (and the colour!) I’m not going to worry about it too much. I’m just going to love it. Also it gives me the best reason ever to wear the blue floral blouse I made last year. Yes?
At any rate, I loved the pattern so much I got some nicer fabric and made it again.
This was picked up at The Wool House in Toronto, which is lovely, and never ever on a deep discount. My conversation with the shop owner went something like this:
Me: I’d like a yard of this one please.
SO: (Unravelling from the bolt) There are 2 pieces of 1 3/8 yards each left on the bolt.
Me: Oh! I’ll take 1 3/8 yards then.
SO: If you buy both pieces, I’ll give them to you for the price of 2 1/2 yards.
Me: That’s tempting, but I really only need one piece. I’m just making a skirt.
SO: Or I could give them to you for the price of 2 yards.
Me: (Quickly calculating in my head if 2 3/4 yards is enough to make a skirt suit) Sold!
It’s a lovely orangey tweed blend of silk, wool and linen. It feels wonderful, sews beautifully, and will make a gorgeous suit for when I need something more formal in the summer. And it’s perfect for a structured skirt pattern. It also means it wrinkles as soon as I put it on; believe it or not I ironed this before I took the pictures. But I can live with that
Both skirts are lined with bemberg.
I highly recommend reading the instructions through on this one. The first time around I did my usual figure-it-out-as-I-go thing and, while it worked out fine, the front dart would have been a lot easier if I’d done it in the order they recommended (which I did the second time around).
This is a great pencil skirt pattern. Highly recommend it if you’re looking for something classic but with interesting seamlines and construction.
And now I need to dig up a nice summery collarless blazer pattern.
The sizing is consistent with Burda magazine; I should be a size 40/42 and this is a size 38 grading to 40 at the hips, and it fits perfectly.
Preamble to prologue: I owe you all a Miss Bossy post, I know, but April kicked my butt three ways from Sunday and I’m still working on the dress. It is coming, and I will post it. In the meantime, lots of other things are done and ready to share.
Just in case you were wondering: in the case of this pattern, 2-way stretch definitely means it needs to be equally stretchy everywhere, because the pattern pieces put the hip and waist on a different grain.
It’s cute, and the pleats are nice, and the flounce at the bottom is fantastic, and there’s no stretch at the waist because this jersey is definitely only stretchy on the horizontal, not the vertical. I can get it on, barely. But I do mean barely.
I had about 1.5m of this fabric, and it was enough to make the skirt, even with the pleats and the flounce. Construction wasn’t too hard, though it was a bit time consuming and the pleats–all sewn together on one side–do make for a lot of fabric. Something to keep in mind, depending on the capacity of your sewing machine or serger. I ended up cutting away some parts of some pleats so that there wouldn’t be quite so much to put under the presser foot.
That said, I would make it again, if I had something that was very stretchy in all directions and hefty enough to make a skirt without being too hefty. It’s cute and it’s pretty simple.
And I’ve already borrowed the flounce for an upcoming dress project, so you’ll see it again soon.
I should be a size 40/42; in this pattern, I cut out a size 38, 40 in the hips, and it worked out fine. The waist is a bit loose, but I think that’s more to do with how hard it is to get it over my hips, given that the waist ended up being cut in the not-stretchy direction. Woops.
It’s pretty gratifying, because this is the same size combo I use in Burda magazine patterns, so it’s nice to see that it’s consistent and translates over well.
This is made from a polyester charmeuse, which isn’t something I normally go for, but it was so soft and drapey and didn’t feel plastic-y at all. And when I saw the December 2017 Burda blouse, it seemed like the perfect match.
Of course, it took me four months to sew it up. But here it is, finally, and worth it. It’s a really lovely blouse, and if you’re looking for something drapey, but not shapeless, and with some interesting details, this is a good pattern.
A few details are kind of fussy:
The shoulders are meant to sit back from the joint, as you can see; I didn’t adjust the seam because I didn’t want to end up with the shoulder seam too broad and mess up that bit of puffiness, but as it turns out, it really would have benefited from a bit of an extension. It’s just a bit snug.
I did the FBA and ended up with my usual enormous side dart, but didn’t add a waist dart–I kept the blousiness instead. I think it works but your mileage may vary. As per usual I basted the dart and left it unpressed so that I could shift it if I needed to–and I did. The dart point was several inches too low so I ripped it out and moved it up. A lot. It took about five tries to get it right–oy. Mostly this is because the FBA was 2″ per side so things moved around a lot, what with all the cutting and pasting; but I find bust darts on most patterns too low for me.
Burda has general pleat instructions, consisting of the number and size. But the last thing you want is wobbly, crooked, uneven pleats on the collar, so a few suggestions:
Pin each pleat securely.
Baste through the top and bottom of the whole run of pleats
Pin to the collar piece from the top of the pleat piece rather than the bottom
Baste, and be prepared to rip out stitches to pull pleats in or push them out to keep the top of that piece even
I recommend using a zipper or other foot that allows you to get very close to the bulk of the pleats when attaching it to the collar
I made my ruffled collar a bit shorter than they suggested as I don’t like a lot of bulk around my neck.
I used a very lightweight tricot fusible interfacing on this blouse to keep the drapeyness, and it worked; cuffs and collar are finished with handstitching this time to minimize visible stitching. Seams were first sewn with a regular machine and then serged to prevent fraying. A french seam would have worked, but I’m just not putting in the effort for poly, no matter how pretty it is.
I’m not sure it’s the kind of shirt you make more than once. I would recommend it, though. It’s pretty and different and works very well with a very fluid fabric.
Is this pink or red? Can I claim that it’s red so obviously not part of the pink avalanche?
I’d already made an altered Renfrew out of this fabric (which has shown up paired with other things from time to time), a very lightweight drapey poly jersey, with a nice big scrap left over–just enough to test out this top pattern before cutting into a rayon jersey I’d been hoarding for the perfect dress.
It’s not a quick jersey shirt, by any means–there’s lots of pleats and interlocking pieces–but it does work up nicely. My one quibble is that the shirt is very, very long. I have 11″ between my waist and full hips, and even so, I had to hem this by about 3″. If I make this again I’ll shorten the back at the waist. It’s tougher when it’s one piece, so I may just use the dress back pieces and shorten accordingly.
Otherwise it’s a great top. The pleated pieces across the waist mean it can’t really be tucked in, but they do snug the waist in nicely and add a nice detail.
And so of course I cut out the dress version in the rayon jersey which is–happily–Not Pink! And because it took me so long to take pictures, I was able to trace the new pieces, alter them, take a month to hem the dress, and wear it a few times, and I can still put them in the same post. Here it is:
The main difference is that the peplum is replaced by a skirt, however:
Neckband is replaced by a higher neckline with a facing.
They want you to put in a zipper; I ignored that. Having ignored it, I turned the back skirt piece into a single piece.
The back piece is split and has a waistband seam for the dress version.
The sleeves are shorter.
I really like this dress pattern. It’s too bad, given how cold and snowy it’s been this year, that I haven’t had more chances to wear it; but it’s rayon so I should be able to continue wearing it until short sleeves become necessary.
You can see there’s a lot less bunching and dragging in the dress version, which is really just because it has seams. If you normally do a swayback or short back adjustment on top patterns, you may want to use the back pieces for the dress on the top to make that easier.
I should be a 40/44 in a Burda shirt, but as usual I traced up a size 38 for most of it, grading to a 42 in the hips, and doing an FBA across the bust. In this case, with all the pleat action, I cheated a bit: I traced a 38 for the neckline and shoulder height, extended the shoulder to a 44, traced the 44 armscye down to the bust, then graded from a 44 at the top to a 38 at the waist, making it quite a dart–but it worked out perfectly. I measured the tissue and it gave me just a smidge of negative ease across the bust, and thank goodness because this was much easier than the usual cut-pivot-and-tape of a standard FBA. In the back I also extended the shoulder to the 44 line, and then graded back to a 38 at the bottom of the armscye. I also straightened the curve between the waist and the back neckline because I always find a curved seam there gives me a lot of floof between the shoulder blades that I end up removing anyway.
It’s not that everything I’ve made since the beginning of December is pink. It’s just that everything I’ve made which isn’t a repeat pattern since the beginning of December is pink. (There’s a pair of chocolate brown Style Arc Katherine pants, and a bright yellow version of this Burda shirt, for example.) Except for this absolutely fantastic turquoise bamboo jersey shirt.
Which, to be fair, I made up for the first time in pink.
It was leftover pink panne velvet I knew it would look fantastic in this pattern; but also, I knew that it would be a good way to test out the fit and alterations because if it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t be crushed, since I already have that fabric in a dress.
As it turned out, the alterations did not work out. It was too snug across the shoulders and the bust, and the biceps were too tight. This velvet was much less stretchy than the jersey recommended, and the photo does show negative ease in the sleeve, so it’s not like it was a surprise. But I still can’t wear it. Luckily for the fabric, I have a good friend close by who is very similar to me in measurements, except a bit smaller everywhere, and I will finish this shirt for her.
And then I altered the pattern to broaden the shoulders and give a bit more space across the bust, and cut it out in bamboo jersey, and sewed it up, and fell in love with it, because it is a gorgeous pattern.
It is fussy.
There’s no denying that putting the yoke and ties together, and neatening the seams up under the facings, is more time consuming that your standard basic knit t-shirt. But the faced front drapes beautifully, the ties are gorgeous, and the fit (once adjusted) is that perfect happy medium where it isn’t too snug to be work appropriate but also isn’t baggy. Everything matches up beautifully: the back neck band is just the right size, and if it’s installed per directions, the back shoulders are exactly the same width as the front shoulders. It’s comfortable and pretty and work-appropriate. Highly recommended.
One construction note: I used fusible knit interfacing tape on the seams of the ties to make sure the bamboo jersey wasn’t stretched out or pulled into the bobbin case (which sometimes happens), and it did help make a smooth seam and a pair of nice, flat ties.
Hang in there: There’s lots of pink still to come.
Standard Burda: Should be a 40/44; this is a 38 with an FBA. Idiosyncratic alterations also included broadening each shoulder by 3/4″; because the sleeve is snug, you’ll want to make sure the shoulders aren’t also tight or you won’t be able to move your arms.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it here, but I take bellydance classes. This has led to any number of awkward and cringe-inducing conversations with men on dates, but despite their belief that the only reason for a woman to take bellydance lessons is to learn to seduce men with all that sexxxy jiggling, actually it’s because:
1. It’s really really hard. It’s a completely different, fundamentally different kind of dancing than western styles I know. All of the ones I’ve ever learned–jazz, tap, ballet, salsa, bachata, merengue, waltz, your standard dance club freestyle–are 95% about where you put your feet and 5% about style, or how you put your feet there. Bellydance is about 2% where you put your feet. The rest of it is how you move the rest of you.
2. It’s also really hard not just because it’s so different, but because the way you’re using your muscles is just … challenging. I felt like my hips were on the verge of dislocation when I learned to do a hip shimmy. And after months and months of practice and repetition I’m still trying to get the backward arabesque. Challenge is good; I like it.
3. There are no men.* I mean that. There’s no sticky hands, no gross comments, no weird vibes, no jerks who won’t take no for an answer. You don’t need a partner to dance–you just dance. There’s no anachronistic and ridiculous gendered expectations like “men have to ask and men get to lead, regardless of whether they’re competent or considerate.” You just show up and dance and no one asks or expects you to be smaller, lesser, or other than you are.
It’s endlessly aggravating that something I do in part because of the absence of men and gender dynamics is taken to be, not only at first but often on an ongoing basis, something I must be doing for men; that because men like it and find it appealing, that must be the point.
4. It’s also, from what I’ve seen, extremely accepting. There’s no fat shaming and no pressure to lose weight, at least in my experience. The bellydance performances I’ve seen have spanned the age and size range, styles from classic to folkloric to fusion and modern, and include people of many different gender identities. This is not the case in social dancing, where you have a Man dancing with a Woman and they adhere pretty closely to traditional gender roles, and you have an easier time finding a dance partner if you’re conventionally attractive.
That little bitch session out of the way, another big difference between bellydance lessons and classes in social dancing is that social dancing women largely do in heels (!!!!!), whereas bellydancing is done in bare feet. Your feet need to be flat on the floor and you need to have grip (socks are ok for warm-up but if you keep them on for the actual dancing, you’ll likely slip).
So when I saw this leggings pattern in the January Burda issue:
My immediate thought was that these would be perfect for belly dance class.
They’re cute, they’re full length, and they cover the feet partially while still allowing full contact with the floor. Which you know, in summer when it’s hot bare feet are fine, but in winter in a chilly studio you want every bit of extra coverage you can get.
There was a sale at Fabricland and this polyester spandex jersey was $8/m. I mean, you know I’m not going to make something plain. And fortunately I already had a coordinating workout t-shirt or two.
I love them.
I raised the back rise by 2″, tapering to 0″ at the front, and added 1″ to the back crotch curve–personal fit adjustments I make to all Burda pants patterns. The inseam was 30″, which was plenty long enough for me at 5’8″. I did have to shorten the pieces that go over the feet, but I wear a size 6 shoe, so your mileage may vary. I traced a 38 everywhere except for a 40 at the hips, and this is the fit.
It’s really perfect. Just what I wanted. The waistband (which overlaps at the front, a detail I really like) is snugger than the pants and keeps it from slipping down. It was a super fast sew. I put most of it together in a weekday evening after dinner, with just hemming to do the next day.
Can’t speak to the instructions as I didn’t look at them. It’s leggings with a waistband. The only tricky part is the foot covering. (What I did: hem the back leg before attached it to the front; hem the underfoot piece at the heel before attaching it to the front; then hem the front around-the-foot part to fit.) I can say that the outside notches on the legs did not match. It’s possible that I traced incorrectly, but they were way off for me–2-3″. The actual lengths of the pieces matched up fine, so I ignored the notches and it all worked out.
It’s comfortable and pretty and I’ve worn it to class and it was just perfect. I may make a second pair out of something with a bit more heft, if I can find a good fabric, for the really cold days. In the meantime, this is a huge step up from bike shorts.
By body measurements I should be a size 40/42, and this is a 38/40, so one size down all around.
*In the classes I take. In the larger community and as participants in performances and such, there’s a bunch of men. But it’s still a very different vibe.
I started this dress in the fall of 2016, and then it spent a year getting wrinkled while sitting on my ironing table.
I was petrified of wrecking the fabric by pressing the seams wrong. The combination of synthetic velvet plus lurex made me visualize melted goldish-pink gluck on my ironing board, and I couldn’t find a velvet board, and didn’t want to risk a towel. Eventually I just went ahead and pressed it with my regular pressing things on my regular tailor’s board on about medium heat and it worked beautifully. Go figure.
Technically, this is not a dress pattern for a knit, which I suppose this lurex pale pink stretch velvet is; but I thought the angled seams on the front that worked so well in Burda’s striped version would be a super fun way to play with the velvet’s nap and how the lurex catches the light.
So yes, I voluntarily chose to make a dress with half a dozen extra seams out of slippery velvet. But.
I do like it, and it is fun. And the way the light reflects off of the different sections is pretty cool.
Honestly I traced and cut this out so long ago I can’t remember anything about the sizing or alterations, and I would have had to size down for the stretch regardless so I don’t know how relevant that info would be. I do know I did an FBA by adding to the seam joins–I can’t remember how much, but I know I did that because, as I was reminded when I finally got around to cutting and installing the facing, it altered the shape of the neckline piece and thus the facing.
It’s supposed to have a zipper, but it’s so stretchy that I basted the back shut to see if I could wear it without, and it worked, so I went zipperless. Obviously this wouldn’t work if you’re using an actual stretch woven.
The facing is a tricot lining for stretch and thinness, in a flesh tone to match the gold of the lurex.
The panel seams I sewed with a walking foot and as much patience as I could muster; side, back and shoulder seams were first basted to check for fit and then serged to minimize bulk and maximize strength.
It’s incredibly comfortable and it did turn out well, and I think the angled seams would work well for any velvet so long as you have the patience for sewing it. I could stand to take this in a bit more but I’m not sure I will. I’ll see how I feel about that after I wear it a few times.
I’ve been making a ton of t-shirts this fall, but don’t plan to post about most of them. They’re largely FBA experiments based on a Renfrew I altered to fit me, with darts rotated into gathers at the shoulder, neckline, or centre front. Mostly I got bored of basic t-shirts and could never find the patterns I wanted, so experimentation it is. It’s worked out fairly well and you’ll see them in posts about skirts or pants.
The pluses are the waist tie, which obviates the need for fitting in the waist seam, and the distinctive seam lines (drop shoulders, triangular waist panel, peplums); the negatives are the d-ring, which I was not sure I would enjoy having attached to a shirt I’m wearing. But it was worth the risk to see if it worked.
It did! Here it is, made up in a plum rayon/bamboo jersey bought at Downtown Fabrics on Queen W.
Alterations on this one were minimal:
FBA, some of which was rotated into the waist above the peplum waist gathers, some of which was eased in, and some of which was removed from the side waist as an impromptu “dart.” Next time I’d do more of this latter and less of the gathering/easing.
Shortened the back by 1″. Sadly I goofed and shortened it also by 1″ at the side, which was way too much and raises the waist all over: not what I wanted.
Otherwise, this is the pattern as drafted, d-rings and all.
Next time I’d lower the neckline in the back a smidge. I might also extend the drop shoulder just a tad. But overall I love it and wear it all the time.
Also: you don’t need the zipper. I put the zipper in, but I don’t use it. I just pull it on and off.
I should be a 40/44 in a Burda shirt; this shirt is a size 38 with an FBA. The upper front is cut on the single layer due to the asymmetrical seam so I did a parallel FBA on both sides of the pattern piece. Side darts were rotated into the waist seam, and then removed during cutting & sewing along the side seams. Remaining excess was eased into the waist seam; particularly under the tie detail.
Everyone who sews knows there are big sizing inconsistencies with the Big 4 pattern companies, and that these companies have no intention of admitting to, let alone fixing, those problems.
So let’s help each other out.
I’ve written a novel here about how unpredictable Big 4 sizing is, and how none of the information available publicly ends up being helpful in deciding what size to purchase. But this isn’t just venting. There are two things I’m hoping to do:
Reassure beginning sewers that it’s not their fault that projects don’t fit the way they’re supposed to.
Encourage those of us who write pattern reviews online to be more detailed about how we ended up sewing the size we did. I’m willing to bet none of you make up the size you’re supposed to be, according to the sizing charts. But in reviews, most sewers only include what size was eventually used, and not how that compares to the size we’re supposed to be according to the charts. Unless someone has been following a particular reviewer for a while and knows what size they are supposed to be, that’s not helpful; a sewer still can’t pick a size for themselves.
If this post can inspire you to always include information about what size you used and what size you are supposed to be in every review, whether on blogs, review sites, instagram, or facebook, we can make this a little less frustrating for each other.
Hydrated? Caffeinated? Recently snacked?
How To Sew Something That Fits
In theory, one should be able to buy or trace a pattern according to one’s measurements and the published sizing guide and, barring individual body idiosyncrasies, make up a garment that more or less fits. Alas, this is not the case, as you’ve read me bitching about more than once. Over many years now of sewing clothes for myself and my daughter, I’ve developed a way of choosing a size and making it up that will end up with something close enough to a good fit that I can alter it with a few tweaks, so long as its construction is fairly standard. (i.e. basic darted skirts and bodices, pants or shorts with front fly construction, princess seams, etc.)
It’s a total pain in the ass.
1. Choose a size based on the finished garment measurements.
If I can get them. Indie pattern companies are pretty good about putting those measurements on the pattern envelope and/or the website. Big 4? Not so much. With Butterick-Vogue-McCalls, the finished measurements aren’t even necessarily on the pattern tissue. I recently tried to make up a BMV knit pattern where the finished measurements were not on the tissue; it wasn’t worth my time and I threw it away. I just opened the packet for a Vogue knit dress pattern, and the finished garment measurements aren’t on that tissue either.
On the BMV website, the finished garment measurements most often available are back length and hem width.
This doesn’t help me decide which size to get.
2. Double check those measurements by measuring the pattern tissue.
4. Alter in ways that I always have to alter everything because bodies are weird.
For me, this means shortening bodice backs, measuring back widths and ensuring there isn’t too much excess along the zipper, doing an FBA, adding to the rise and crotch length for pants and shorts, checking hem lengths, and usually reducing the armscye (particularly with the Big 4).
4. Cut and sew.
Having done the above in advance, the fit on the first garment will usually be good. No muslin required. Again, that wouldn’t apply to something complicated, but even there starting with this will get me a lot closer than starting with the pattern tissue out of the envelope.
The only part of the fitting process that is, or should be, inevitable is altering for my body’s specifics. No pattern company is going to get that right. But steps 1 and 2 should be unnecessary. It should be possible to choose a size based on body measurements and know that the resulting finished garment will relate to the body’s measurements in a predictable and useful way.
What Doesn’t Work
People have developed a number of work-arounds that they feel quite passionate about, but none of them work for me.
Pick a size based on your high-bust measurement!
The theory is that if you choose your pattern size by comparing your high-bust measurement to the published full-bust charts, you’ll get something that fits in the shoulders, back, armscye, etc., and the rest is easier to fit.
I wish. First of all, there’s still way too much fucking ease. This would only work if the size charts were reliable in the first place. Secondly, this will work only for women whose bust is approximately where the bust point on the pattern is. If your boobs are higher or lower than average, this will increase or decrease your high-bust measurement, making the approach utterly useless.
Speaking for myself, my high-bust measurement is about 36″. This is still a size 14–two sizes bigger than what actually works for me with most (but not all!) BMV patterns.
2. Look at the measurements charts and the ease charts and pick a size based on the measurement plus the ease!
Below, find a handy chart showing the ease and finished waist measurements of what is supposed to be my waist size of my most recent BMV projects. (Click to enlarge)
Of the twelve, a full eight have finished garment measurements that are either below or above the predicted range based on body measurements plus ease. That’s 2/3.
Moreover, they don’t always err in the same direction. While M7351 has 1 1/2″ more ease than it should, V7937 has 3″ less.
The ease charts no longer reflect reality, and a “close-fitting” garment–in jersey! FFS–can have multiple inches of ease, and that ease may or may not be what was predicted in the ease chart.
This chart is only available on the Butterick site. I’ve used the first column of ease because it is a confusing mess of a table (why are skirts in the bust area? What are shirts in the hip area? What about waist ease?) and also because all or almost all of the garments I’ve listed here fall in the first category of garment and/or have a bust measurement.
(One garment, V7937, is a skirt and so could arguably be considered to fall in the last column. But the actual ease in the hip area is still far under the ease chart guidelines, so it would fail no matter which I chose.)
3.Once you know what size works for you with a company’s patterns, just buy that size and then make the same alterations with all of them!
Looking at the same chart, you can see that for Buttericks, Vogue and McCalls–all operating as part of the same company, using the same measurement and ease charts–anywhere from a size 10 to a size 14 will work for me.
There’s no pattern for which size will work based on fit, style, fabric, or anything else. Knit garments (highlighted in green) could be anywhere from a 10 to a 14. Woven garments can also be anywhere from a 10 to a 14. Whether it’s close-fitting, fitted, semi-fitting or loose also results in no predictable sizing. The one thing that is predictable is that whatever size ends up fitting me, it won’t be the size 16+ that is supposed to.
And it’s often not possible to get size 10, 12 and 14 in the same envelope, so I have to guess. I often guess wrong, which is what all of those “14 but quite big”s are about: 14 was the smallest size in the envelope and it was still too big.
I don’t like guessing, so I rarely buy BMV patterns these days.
(Simplicity is no longer available in Canada, so I have no Simplicity results to share. I’d be happy to include/link to yours, though.)
Why The Hell The Big 4 Pattern Companies Suck at This
Decades ago, clothing retailers cast off the shackles of standard sizing for women’s clothing and we entered a brave new era of vanity sizing.
What is a pattern company to do? Keep the sizing and ask women who wear a size 8 in a store to sew up a size 16? Or change their sizing to keep pace with changes in the manufacturing industry?
While they won’t admit to it publicly, they bravely opted to do … both.
They kept the sizing charts the same, so that nominally a woman who buys a size 8 in a store will need to sew up a size 16. But they (appear to) design for RTW sizing, more or less, so that if a woman in a size 8 buys a size 8 pattern and sews it up, it will often (but not always!) fit.
This is often described in short hand as “too much ease,” but it’s not really an ease thing. If it were, if I made up a 16, the basics (shoulders, back, armscye) would be essentially correct; it would just be loose or baggy. But the shoulders and backs are often too big, the armscyes too deep; it’s clear that the size 16 is designed for a woman much larger than I am, even though that size 16 reflects my smallest measurement.
This worst-of-both-worlds solution created a system so confusing for the average beginning sewer that it remains, to this day, the single number one most common and controversial issue among home sewers. The pattern companies don’t admit it, of course, but it is blatantly obvious to anyone who’s been sewing for long enough to have experienced this (unless they are brick stupid, and have managed to convince themselves that sewing is supposed to be so hard that sewing up a muslin for every new t-shirt or blouse pattern forever makes some kind of immutable and inevitable sense). (I mean–you know all of your storebought clothes were made by third-world teenagers who likely don’t have a high school education and have never received formal training in fit or alterations, right? Please someone explain to me why what is so simple that companies on the one hand justify paying poor girls pennies an hour to produce them, on the other hand is so complex that different companies state we should have to make multiple versions of a simple t-shirt before we get one that fits reasonably well.)
End result is that the sizing charts are garbage. They provide no valuable information for the purchaser. The information that the purchaser now needs is the finished measurements for bust, waist and hips, so that they can select a size based on how big the piece of clothing is going to be. But this information isn’t available, for most of their patterns, until after you’ve bought a size; and even then, sometimes it’s not printed on the pattern tissue. And when it is provided, it may not be accurate.
One might think that this enormously disrespectful manner of dealing with one’s customers would result in a complete absence of customer loyalty. I mean, if you were trying to buy a pair of shoes, and you weren’t allowed to try the shoes on or open the box first, and there was a published size chart measuring the width and length of feet but that, you found after purchasing a few pairs of shoes, had no relation to how big the shoes were so they were constantly falling off your feet, and you tried to find out how much room they added to those measurements so you could use this a guide to picking a size but the company acted like this was a fucking state secret, and then when you found the information it too was completely inaccurate–would you ever buy a pair of shoes there again?
No. And indeed customers have switched. Indie companies have sprung up in the wake of this (they have their own sizing issues, idiosyncratic to each company, but the dissatisfaction with sizing in the Big 4 has created a market niche that has been amply exploited) and many home sewers have abandoned the Big 4 pretty well outright by moving to pattern magazines or self-drafting, purchasing Big 4 patterns only when they are deeply deeply discounted and resigning themselves to a certain amount of guesswork in size selection.
It would be one thing if the Big 4 would say something like, “We know we’ve made sizing choices historically that have resulted in a confusing mess for customers. We’re not sure how to best fix it yet but we are committed to doing so by [date].” But no. Customers hear instead, “Choose a size based on your measurements and the ease guidelines that we no longer will share with you! You can always pick a size based on the finished measurements that we keep in the envelope and won’t let you see until after you’ve bought it! If we even bothered to put it on the tissue! And then you can’t return it when it’s not the size you need! Just sew a bunch of muslins for every garment you make! It’s normal to have to make the pattern half a dozen times before you can get it to fit! Obviously you don’t REALLY want to sew, do you?”
Pattern Magazines Suck a Lot Less
BurdaStyle does have ease issues, but considerably less so. Their charts put me in a 40/44, and I typically cut a 38/42, with the ever-present FBA. Still, that’s only off by about an inch.
Also, because there are no seam allowances in the patterns, measuring to confirm the finished garment size is a piece of cake. There are no ease charts to mess with. You pick a size based on your body measurements, and then adjust as needed. So here’s the chart for my last five Burda projects.
Look at all those lovely n/a’s! I don’t have to worry about the predicted ease. I don’t have to worry about finished garment measurements. It doesn’t matter if it’s a knit or a woven, a coat or a swimsuit. While it’s off by one size, it’s a predictable one size; I can trace out the 38/40/42 (or its tall/petite equivalent), measure the key points to ensure it’s the amount of ease I want, do my standard alterations, cut and sew. And at the end, it will either fit or be close enough to fitting that I can adjust it.
Moreover, I’ve so far found this to be true across european sewing magazine patterns, comparing between Burda, Knipmode, La Mia Boutique and Patrones. If I used my body measurements to pick a size, it will either fit or be off by one size. (So far. If longer experience shows I need to take that back, I will.) I’m making a pair of pants from a recent Patrones magazine; I traced off a size 44 based on my actual measurements compared to their size chart; and the only sizing issues I am having are for my own idiosyncratic adjustments (crotch length, inseam, etc). Otherwise, IT FIT.
Let that sink in for a moment.
I have an easier time getting a pair of pants that fit out of a sewing pattern when I start with a magazine published in SPANISH, where I can’t even read the damned instructions.
Indie Pattern Companies are Variable
There are a few indie companies that are much more reliable with sizing and fit. Grainline, for instance, tends to be baggy in everything. She puts the finished measurements on the website so you can check before you buy; they’re consistent and accurate, in my experience, if you like that aesthetic. How To Do Fashion is, so far for me, pretty much bang on. I can pick a size based on body measurements and it will fit really well, even through the shoulders and armscye, so that all I have to do is an FBA and shortening the back etc. (I’ve made one blouse muslin so far, and another pattern was almost done but it’s for summer so I may not finish it before next summer. Posts will come eventually.)
Once you know how big the garment is going to be, compare: to things you already own and like, or have tried on in a store, and to your own actual measurements. Find the size that is most likely to fit the way you like. Start there.
It shouldn’t be this hard. But it is.
In the Meantime
When you write a review of the pattern, help your fellow sewers out.
Include the size you made.
Include the size the measurement charts would put you in.
Maybe discuss how much ease there actually is, how many sizes down (or up? Does that ever happen?) you had to go to get it to fit. Compare to the ease indicated in the pattern description. Did it say it was close-fitting but then you had to go down three sizes and it was still big? Did it say it was loose and then you made it up and it was not so loose after all?
If a pattern company consistently produces patterns that fit you well based on body measurements, please tell us! They deserve our business.
Make it so that a beginning sewer, finding your review from google, not knowing anything about you or your size except for what you put in that one review, can make an informed decision about what size they should purchase for themselves.
I’m planning on making a page sometime soon to summarize all this and keep it in one handy place. If anyone else would like to contribute with your own sizing/fit adventures, let me know.
Technically this is a petite pattern, which at 5’8″ I am not; but believe it or not, I still had to shorten the armscye by 1/2″ front and back, and the bust dart was still about an inch too low, necessitating much weird sewing to avoid weird pointy bits.
I also did an FBA, which introduced a fisheye waist dart in the front. I tried it with and without the dart, and with is better IMO.
For construction, I serged any exposed seam allowances and used the sewing machines for the seams. It’s very tidy.
The pattern works. It all goes together properly. The sizing is as portrayed in the description and photos. It’s a cute idea. And yet … I don’t love it. That old bugbear: I don’t like blouses without closures on me. If it were a really drapey fabric it might be ok, but this is not drapey enough to make up for the lack of shaping inherent in a pullover woven top. Even with the waist dart. It’s just very boxy. I think it can work with a fitted skirt or pants with a good snug waist, but otherwise probably not.
The fabric is a cotton voile bought years ago and just sitting around waiting for the right blouse pattern. At the time of purchase I thought the right blouse pattern was going to be much bigger, so I have some left over. And I’ll be using it on something with closures.