Tag Archives: Vogue patterns

How to Sew Something that Fits: AKA, Why I Always Include Those Sizing Notes Now

Putting the Conclusion at the Beginning

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:

  1. Reassure beginning sewers that it’s not their fault that projects don’t fit the way they’re supposed to.
  2. 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.

Ready?

Hydrated? Caffeinated? Recently snacked?

Ok:

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.

finished garment measurements
From a butterick pattern I recently bought. Good thing it was only $2

This doesn’t help me decide which size to get.

2. Double check those measurements by measuring the pattern tissue.

Because sometimes they’ve done the math wrong, and it’s better to find out before you’ve cut the fabric. Or they haven’t included the measurements at all.

3. If I’m between sizes, I size up.

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.

  1. 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!

Nope.

ease chart
From the butterick website. You may be surprised to learn that a “fitted” shirt can have 4″ of ease around the bust. Also note their use of language: “exactly what to anticipate when it comes to fitting.” Also note that they have a column for “bust area” ease that includes skirts, which have no bust component, and a “hip area” ease that includes shirts, even though they have no hip component.

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)

Let’s pause and share a moment of silence for the sheer amount of work it took to put this chart together. Also: the knits are highlighted green to make them easy to find and compare.

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!

Nope.

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.

burda sizes

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.

V8685: Go To Work

I don’t seem able to go to Queen W without coming home with some fabric; when I was last there, introducing a local sewing friend to the joy that is the textile district, this fuschia ponte knit told me it really wanted to become a long-sleeved dress.

Well, who am I to stand between a bolt of ponte and the deepest desires of its knit heart?

And after working out the fit issues with V8685 with the red bamboo jersey dress, it seemed that it would be a fairly quick and rewarding project. Which was true. And because I could alter the tissue in advance rather than trying to alter the fabric pieces after they were cut, some of the difficulties with the red one were solved nicely (like the shoulders).

The Front.

Alterations:

1. Removed 1″ from the armscye, front and back.
2. Cut a 12 everywhere, except grading to 14 at the hips
3. Did an FBA on the front, rotating the darts into the tucks
4. Took out 1″ from the centre back length
5. Took out 1″ from the sleeve cap, and then another 2″ in the sleeve itself. Which turned out to be about 1/2″ too much, but I can live with it
6. And took out about 1 1/2″ in width from the sleeves, which at first were baggy as hell. Even now they are pretty loose

The Back, with draglines I can’t see in real life, but there they are.

Because the ponte has a decent amount of structure, and because the fitted skirt on this version doesn’t have the weight of the full skirt on the last one, I didn’t have to interface the bands or yokes and I didn’t need to make it quite so tight. I replaced the neckline facing with a strip of bias tape cut from a matching cotton satin, to prevent the neckline from stretching or sagging out over time and reduce bulk. The dress holds it shape nicely and is super comfortable. And I got to wear it for the first time presenting a talk on my community climate change impact adaptation planning project as part of a panel on community engagement strategies.

The Side. Imagine those sleeves if I hadn’t slimmed them down.

(“Community Climate Change Impact Adaptation Planning project” is, to be fair, half the talk, since the project title is so bloody long.)

It was a nice little confidence booster, and I’m betting I’ll be getting a lot of wear out of this one over the winter.

Sizing Note

According to the BMV size chart, I am a size 16/18. This dress was cut in a size 12 with an FBA on the front bodice pieces, grading to a 14 at the hips. As you can see it is still not too tight. I love this pattern, but be warned: size down.

Vogue 1353/2: An Abbreviated Version

Somehow or other this beautiful linen jumped into my shopping bag when I went fabric shopping with a friend. It was insistent on being turned into a big skirt, but all of my skirt patterns–even the pleated ones–have curved hems. A curved hem would not have looked right with this lovely poppy print, so I used the skirt part of the V1353 dress pattern, with wonderfully flat hems perfect for border and linear prints, and added a narrow waistband.

bloggish-116

And then added a narrow band of matching bright pink cotton voile to the hem to finish it off. Just something a bit different. I cut two 2 1/2″-wide strips of the voile, sewed them together, matched the width of the skirt hem, folded it in half, and sewed it to the bottom edge of the skirt.

bloggish-68
The Side. You can’t really tell that the pattern is askew from front to back.

I’ve made this as a dress three times before:

Test

Rainbow

Birds

And I have nothing new to say about the construction or sizing on this one. This is a mid-weight linen, and I used a white cotton voile to line it. The seam allowances were serged before sewing them together; the hem on the lining is just serged, to keep it light and floaty; the hem on the linen skirt was serged to the hem band. That seam was then edge-stitched to keep it from flipping down after wear.

bloggish-98
The Back.

The pattern repeat wasn’t quite tall enough, and I didn’t have quite enough of the fabric, to line up the pattern perfectly between the front and back. Thus everything is about 2 1/2 inches higher on the back. But I don’t think it’s visible to a casual observer.

The zipper goes right through the waistband. There are no other closures.

bloggish-132
I Need A Nap

It just so happens that it perfectly matches that coral voile blouse and a pink t-shirt I already have, plus the pink voile that I was planned on making into a top–fate, right?

Vogue 1389: Inherent Fitting Issues vs. Idiosyncractic Fitting Issues, Particularly If You’re Struggling With the Neck Band

 

I made this one before in grey, and you might want to go back and reread that post, because it’s been revised. If not, charge ahead, and be warned that you might be somewhat confused.

The fabric is leftover bamboo jersey from the first dancing dress of the year. I thought I might have just enough to make another one of these tops, which I did. But first, I had to redraw chunks of the pattern, some to do with inherent fitting issues created by improper sizing and ease, and some because of my weirdly short upper body.

The grey shirt, as snug as it felt in places, was oddly loose in others, particularly the back. The neck wasn’t as wide as shown in the pattern photo, and in the back, it tried to crawl up my neck whenever I wore the shirt. Also, there was a lot of excess fabric in the centre back. The sleeves were longer than they should be and didn’t stay in place. The fit was ok, but it wasn’t great.

For try #2, I made a lot of what are for me standard pattern fixes:

1. Shortened the armscye front and back by an inch each; in the front, tapered to nothing in centre; in the back and sleeve, took out that inch straight across.
2. Took out another 1 1/2″ or so lengthwise in the centre back and redrew the back seams to true them. This made for a narrower waist, which of course carried through to the front, as well as a shorter back.
3. Shortened the sleeve by two inches in addition to the 1″ taken out at the armscye.

The Back

Funny, right? My main comment for the first try when it was first done was that it was so tight; but all the fitting problems when wearing turned out to be from it being too *loose* in certain places.

I thought about adding extra ease across the bust but was concerned that would have ruined the line of the wrap-around side seam, so I didn’t.

Wrap-around side seam

This brings me to the inherent fitting issues, which are just …

Look at that picture.

Do you see any excess fabric *anywhere* in it?

OK. So tell me then why Vogue, in its infinite wisdom, has two inches of positive ease at the waist in that pattern.

Two inches! of positive ease!

That is delivering a product that does not in any way match what people are promised by the advertising. It’s dishonest.

Moreover, a purchaser can’t easily correct for this, because the finished garment measurements are nowhere printed on the pattern tissue for the shirt.

You can get the waist finished measurements, more or less, on the skirt pattern that accompanies it–assuming they’re the same, which is a big assumption.

But really, you have to fucking measure the tissue to figure out how big it’s going to be when done. (Fortunately the waistline is at least marked; the bust and hip points aren’t even marked so finished measurements for those, even measuring on the tissue, are not easy to determine. I was able to determine that there is indeed positive ease throughout the garment, but whether it’s 1/2″ or 1″ I can’t say.)

Repeating myself: I am a size 16/18 based on the size charts. I cut a size 12 for this; that’s how far down I had to go to get any negative ease. That grey shirt was the size 12. And it was TOO BIG to make this design work.

The Side. Yes, there are pull lines and wrinkles, But I normally wear it tucked in, which smooths it all out.

Worse:

Pattern reviews for this shirt almost universally report difficulties with getting the neck band to lie flat.

The neck band is fine as drafted. It fits in to the neck seam just fine, so long as you stretch as you would for any knit neck band.

But it’s very wide, as you can see; both in terms of the actual band and how it’s supposed to sit on the shoulders.

Neckband: wide in both senses of the word. If anything this is still narrower than the pattern photo.

That fit is only going to be achieved with metric shit-tons of negative ease. It needs to be very, very tight across the shoulders, chest and upper back to hold that very wide neck band as flat as it’s supposed to be.

And of course, Vogue delivers a pattern with POSITIVE EASE, then a bunch of people buy it and make it up and wonder what’s wrong with them that they can’t get the neck band to lie flat. It wasn’t the sewers, it wasn’t their skills or fabric choices.

It was Vogue, delivering a pattern to customers that did not match the advertising or product description, and not giving purchasers the information they need on the tissue to correct their issues before making it up. Not a surprise to anyone who’s been sewing with BMV patterns for a while, I suppose, but it irritates me to no end.

If you are making up this shirt and are frustrated to hell with the neck band: you’re making it too big. If you’re going by the size chart, go down at least by two sizes, maybe three. If the neckband isn’t lying flat, you don’t have enough negative ease in the chest, shoulders and back to pull it flat–that’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s not your fault.

V1353: Again, With B‏irds

I could not pass this print up.

Close-up of the print. It almost looks like I matched it along the zipper on purpose. Honestly I can’t remember if that was intentional or not.

It’s a slightly stiff (poplin?) lightweight cotton with a watercolour print of trees, leaves, flowers and birds. I lined it with white cotton voile to keep it very light and wearable for super-hot days in the summer (so here’s hoping we have at least one or two this year). And it is a V1353 again, which makes #3. I made a few minor fitting fidgets but otherwise it is the same as the rainbow linen one.

The Front

One of the fitting fidgets was less successful; the bust darts on the rainbow linen one are quite low, so I raised them about an inch on the pattern paper. When the dress was ready for trying on I realized this was because the rainbow linen one had loosened up over the year and now sits about an inch lower than it did, so now the bird-print version darts are too high. Oops. At this point it’ll either stay high, or loosen up and sink as the rainbow one did, and only time will tell.

The Side

This one was fussy-cut as I didn’t want to decapitate any birds in a pleat or a seamline. That would be grisly. So I laid the pattern pieces out on the fabric on a single layer so I could be sure that the birds remained whole. I also tried to maintain some print continuity between the skirt and bodice but the pleats made that really hard. It’s kind of there. I do like how one branch crawls up a shoulder (that part I do remember doing on purpose). You can’t clearly see any of the birds on a skirt in any of these pictures so please just take my word for it that no bird parts were severed in the making of this dress.

The Back

Does anything make this different from the rainbow linen dress or am I just bragging about the fabric find? (Cheap too! 40% off so like $8/m or so.)

Just the hem stitching.

The instructions tell you to do a saddle stitch by hand to hold the wide hem band in place. I’ve yet to do so.  (A saddle stitch is a kind of double running stitch that looks like a back stitch when done. Why you wouldn’t just do a back stitch, I’m not sure. I mean, in leather or anything with two visible faces, sure; but for something like this there’s really no advantage.) This time I did a 1/4″ running stitch instead, with an even width marked off by a quilting ruler and a chalk wheel, in white perle cotton. It’s a bit chunky but still shiny, and very subtle on the dress background. So subtle, in fact, that you can’t even see it in the pictures.

You can see a smidge of puckering in spots along that line because the hem band and the skirt were not precisely the same size, and that was with a good amount of pulling and yanking on the skirt to stay even. Overall I’m happy with it though.

You can’t even see the hem stitching, can you?

Sizing Note

According to the measurement chart I should be a size 16/18 (you’re all going to get sick of me saying that).

This dress is cut as a size 12/14  and then tweaked for individual fit issues:

1. Removed 1″ from each centre back seam, tapering to 1/4″ at the waist, to stop the zipper from gaping.

2. Took in side seams at the waist over 1″.

3. Took out length in the front armscye around the princess dart to reduce gaping.

4.  Lengthened the bodice front about 1/2″ to eliminate waist tilt.

 

V1462: Shirts Are Hard

Fellow sewers, do you find it weird when people compliment dresses and overlook handmade pants and buttoned shirts?

I guess dresses look more impressive, but in my experience, pants and buttoned shirts are a thousand times more challenging. More seams, more moving parts, more things to be fitted and it’s more obvious when it’s wrong.

I can whip up a t-shirt in an afternoon, a skirt in a day, a knit dress in a weekend, a woven dress in a week or two–and this shirt took over a year.

Now a lot of that is plain old procrastination, of the “this is going to take forever, I’ll just make a dress instead” kind. But a lot of it is that this is a very very involved project.

The Side

It has a lined yoke, hidden button placket, proper collar and cuffs, hem facing, and a tower sleeve placket.

I left off the pocket. You can see it is shown as loose and drapey–but not *that* loose and drapey.

Plus I also decided to make this my first-ever silk crepe de chine project, so everything is made with french seams–which means, they’re all sewn twice. And sewing marks couldn’t be made with a wheel or chalk so were instead made with tailor tacks.

The Back. You may be wondering if there are more gathers in the sleeve head than there ought to be. You would be right. Not sure what happened there.

I bought the silk, I think, two years ago. I cut out the pattern over a year ago. I spent one weekend making all the tailor tacks. Another weekend sewing together the main shirt pieces. A weekend messing up the collar. A day fixing the collar. Another weekend making and attaching the sleeves, and attaching the hem facing. A day doing the handstitching and fixing the collar (again). And then another evening finishing up the hand-sewing.

The collar still isn’t perfect–the only thing I could think of to interface it with that wouldn’t alter the colour (it’s pretty sheer) is itself, so that’s what I did, and it is a bit wobbly as a result. And the silk was very stretchy, slippery and fussy so some seams are not as neat as they could have been. But overall, I think, it’s pretty. Plus it’s red silk and such a classic style I should be able to wear it forever.

Sizing Notes and Alterations:

–I chose the size based on the bust measurement as it’s meant to be loose and drapey and will be tucked into things with a snug waist. Thus it’s a 14 all over. (Which is two sizes smaller than I’m supposed to be–I went by the finished measurements printed on the paper pattern.) It’s mostly ok. I had to add in another button on the front to keep it closed across the chest because the volume is all elsewhere, which is annoying. I’d have to think about how to fix that if I make it up again.

Still, if you are thinking of making up this pattern, you can probably size down by two and still have a loose, drapey blouse.

–I didn’t shorten the sleeves on this one. Instead, I tapered from a 14 at the shoulder to an 8 at the wrist (small bones), so that the cuff is small enough to keep the sleeve from slipping down my hand. This keeps it in the loose/drapey mold. I probably could have taken an inch off the length, though, and kept the drape.

Other than that, it is as the pattern had it, and it all worked out fine. Fussy, finicky, and forever, but fine.

V8685: Summer Dancing Dress 2017 Part 1 of X

According to Vogue, I am a size 16-18. The website lists only the back length and hem width for this pattern’s finished garment measurements. What’s a sewer to do?

After long experience with Vogue et al’s ridiculous ease issues, I cut a size 14, which was still too big.

I don’t know about all of you but I’m getting really sick of Big 4 fit and ease issues. It wouldn’t be so bad if they listed meaningful finished measurements on the website (and if those measurements were always accurate–but they’re not) so you could pick a size that fits based on published information somewhere. But it’s a shot in the dark every time. The Burda mag has ease issues too, but at least with the pattern in front of me before I trace/cut I can figure out which size is actually going to fit.

Rant aside: I made it work.

The Side

It’s a knit dress with a fitted two-piece yoke, an empire waist, and two-piece raglan sleeves with length options. I made view D.


Standard fixes for me:

1. Took about 3/8″ off the shoulder seam.
2. Took in about 1/4″ on the raglan seams, front and back.
3. Took in about 1 1/2″ on the top of the zipper, and nipped in quite a bit at the waist through the back seam. If I made this one again I’ll distribute it more but after edge stitching the yoke to the top and skirt, I didn’t want to unpick to take in at the sides.
4. Shortened the back yoke at the waist too. I’d rather have taken it out of the seams at the top and the skirt but, again, edgestitching.

Next time I’d also broaden the shoulders at the sleeves and widen the bodice front a bit. I’ve got those pleats stretched out pretty far and it’s not meant to be like that.

The Back. Those lovely lines on the yoke are from the interfacing unattaching after washing. Hopefully they’ll go away when I iron them again.

I used knit interfacing on the yoke pieces and sewed them up with a regular stitch rather than stretch or serge. The last thing I wanted was for the yoke/waist to bag out and that skirt is pretty heavy. So the waist is, so far as I can make it, not stretchy. That’s making what looks like pull lines–it’s not; it’s the interfacing letting go of the fabric after washing. I ironed it back on and it was fine. There’s also clear elastic all over the place. You can see it a bit at the shoulder seams, which I’m not 100% thrilled with, but anything that keeps it from becoming a bright red garbage bag through wear gets a thumbs up from me.

I think it’s going to be a perfect summer dancing dress.


There’s been a discussion on the McCalls FB group–several, actually–about BMV sizing and ease. So a slight rant extension:

Sizing charts put me at a 16-18, as stated.

This pattern is described as close-fitting.

According to the BMV ease charts, that means 0-3″ of ease at bust and hips.

That’s the manufacturer’s sample photo, which certainly shows very minimal ease.

Only with the narrow skirt.

Knit garments often have negative ease and rely on stretch for fit.

The pattern has 1 1/2″ of ease at the waist according to the pattern tissue, which should have meant a 29 1/2″ waist on a size 14.

But when you measure the tissue and subtract the seam allowances, it’s actually 30″. So that’s 2″ of ease at the waist on a close-fitting knit dress.

This pattern has the perfect confusion storm of wearing ease, design ease, and inaccurate finished measurements combining to create a pattern where it is impossible to know from any published information which size is going to fit.

With a dress like this, 2″ of ease at the waist is going to completely destroy the fit. There shouldn’t be any ease. In order to support the pleats in the top of the garment, the yoke pieces need to sit securely on the hips. In order to hold the weight of the skirt (particularly the flared one) the waist also needs to fit snugly, or the whole thing would just stretch out into a potato sack. A ponte might–might–be able to hold the structure with 2″ of wearing ease at the waist, on one of the sheath versions. But the lightweight jerseys recommended on the pattern? Or for the flared skirts? No. The only way they would hold the shape of the dress is if the yoke and waistband pieces are snug enough to rest the structure of the dress on the hips, and not just hang from the shoulders.

If I had cut the size 16 that I am supposed to be and sewn it up, it would have been a waste of my time and the fabric.

BMV, fix your damned issues, and stop gaslighting your customers. You have  a sizing/ease problem. The only people who don’t see it have somehow convinced themselves that making a muslin first for every freaking pattern is a necessary state of affairs. God help me if I always started with the size you told me I’m supposed to be; nothing would ever fit.

Winter Dancing Dress: At The Ball

I might go on at length here–this dress was complicated and challenging but it worked out really well. She said humbly.

I was not sure I wanted to go to this particular dance party, as I’d heard Idiot Harasser might be there. There is little that is less enjoyable than buying a ticket, spending weekends making a dress, and devoting an evening to being harassed by an asshole who won’t take no for an answer.  I ended up going with someone else though, and spent most of the night well across the room; so it was a fun evening. And here, months later, is the dress.

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The sequins were bought as practice sequins. I actually meant to make a velvet dress for this occasion, and bought that fabric at the same time, but then I was flipping through a magazine when I came across this Dolce & Gabbana dress:

Except for the collar. Let's just pretend it's not there.
Except for the collar. Let’s just pretend it’s not there.

Which apparently retails for something close to five thousand pounds.

I liked the combination of the very ladylike sleeves and flounce with the sequins, and I thought … why don’t I try to knock it off? I mean, what is this? A sheath dress with puffed sleeves and a flounce. How hard can it be?

I had no intention of making this the masquerade dress, but I didn’t fully understand how time consuming this would be, and didn’t have the time to muslin and sew up another dress pattern, so the practice dress became The Dress.

I based the pattern off of this basic Vogue pattern:

Using the sheath dress variation.

It’s meant to be cut on the bias, but as the sequins were sewn to a stretchy (and transparent) mesh, I cut it out on the straight grain and converted the front pieces to a single piece. I adjusted the pieces to have negative ease, drafted a basic pattern piece for the puffed sleeves, and altered the neckline to a V after I’d sewn it together and tried it on. (I am not a fan of high neck anything.)

The Back
The Back

I then added a lining out of bamboo jersey from the stash, to add some opacity and comfort to the inside. (Sequins=scratchy) Same pattern pieces as the dress, with the shoulders extended slightly to cover the shoulder seams. The dress was then pegged quite a bit and the hem shortened to account for the addition of the flounce, and two flounce pieces drafted and added–complete with sparkly tulle. The original doesn’t look like there was a whole lot of gathering so I went with a 1.5 ratio and it seemed to work.

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I used bias strips of silk charmeuse scraps on the seamlines to prevent the dress from stretching or bagging out, and also used elastic at the top of the flounce to support the weight and keep it gathered in.

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And added clear elastic at the waist on the lining, between it and the dress, to keep the waist from stretch or bagging out from dancing. You know how knits are.

The Side.
The Side.

On this fabric, the sequins were small and thin enough that I just sewed right through them. It cost me three needles but saved me hours of time, so that’s a win in my books.

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I’m not under any illusions that this is as nice as the D&G original, but as a knock-off put together for under $100, it’s not bad.

V1389: Accidentally Underdressed Part II

Revised August 1 2017


It took me so long to make up the shirt from this set that not only is this pattern out of print, it’s not even listed on the website anymore. Oops. Also this means that if any of you like and want to make this … you’re out of luck. Sorry.

I actually originally bought the set for the skirt, which has some very cool seam lines on it, but this winter I found myself in need of long-sleeved shirts. Now, if you are like me, the word “need” comes to have a very ambiguous definition for sewing projects. Like: “I ‘need’ to find a jacket pattern to make up the felted black wool I picked up downtown on a whim,” or “I ‘need’ to find a lightweight jersey with a bit of body so I can try that jersey dress from this month’s Burda.” Or, more recently, “I ‘need’ to find some brightly coloured wool crepes so I can make up some skirts like Mia wore in La La Land.” None of these would pass the global-issues sniff test, and I wince a little every time I catch myself thinking anything like them.

However.

All of my previous year’s long-sleeved shirts were loose and drapey. And then last year went and did it’s I’m-2016-I’m-going-to-make-you-cry-uncle that we’ve all enjoyed so much. And I lost my appetite and a bit of weight. So last year’s “drapey” and “loose” became “looks like a five-year-old dressing up in mom’s clothes.” (Along with a few of last year’s pairs of pants, necessitating a new pair of Style Arc Jasmine‘s, but you don’t want to see another one of those, do you? Suffice it to say that it’s grey and it fits.) On a “need” scale this isn’t “I haven’t eaten in three days” but at least in a first world context it is somewhat legitimate.

So, after my recent sequin adventures and a black skirt that is in the blogging queue, and a long-sleeved shirt for my daughter who also has an unaccountable need to put on clothing that fits and is appropriate for school every day, it was time to do something about this. Shirt #1 was Yet Another Renfrew, and again, you don’t need to see another one of those. It is a purpley blue, long-sleeved, and I’ve finally altered the front pattern piece so that it fits properly, which just goes to show that buying a pattern from a company that specializes in patterns for pear shapes is not the smartest thing to do when you are not a pear shape, no matter how nice the pattern is.

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It’s pure coincidence that the colour matches the pattern envelope.

This is basically a raglan-sleeve t-shirt with a very wide neck band and a wide neckline. In terms of construction it is completely uninteresting, except for the neckband which has to be stretched out to its fullest extent while attaching to the shirt in order to lie (mostly) flat when worn. I made this a bit easier on myself by first basting and then serging.

When on the hanger, there are gathers along that seam that largely smooth out when it is stretched out on the body. However I do find that that neckband really wants to contract and it won’t stay as wide as it is supposed to according to the pattern drawing. I also find that some of the gathers remain on the back of the neck, but I don’t much care as that’s covered by hair anyway.

The Back. Gathers not visible, but everything else is.
The Back. Gathers not visible, but everything else is.

Overall it’s a fun pattern with some interesting details that make it a bit different–I mean, check out that side seam:

What looks like a seam on the back is actually the side seam
What looks like a seam on the back is actually the side seam

Such a small thing but a nice touch.

Dear god.
Dear god.

But I somehow doubt people are going to be paying much attention to the side seam because holy hell is it snug. There is nothing left to the imagination. This was supposed to be a shirt for work–and it probably still can be, if worn with a roomy skirt and a cardigan or blazer. Or I could go for broke and wear it with that front-split burda skirt I made in the summer and get myself sent down to HR.

It is a cool pattern, though. I’ll probably make it again, and maybe give myself just a smidge more ease.


After wearing it a bunch in the winter and spring, an update:

The neckband on this version does not stay flat. I am constantly pulling at the shoulders and sleeves to get it back to where it’s supposed to be. Particularly at the back of the neck, it is always riding up and needs to be tugged back down.

Which means that, despite how snug it is, it is actually not snug enough for that wide flat neckband. Version number two solves a lot of these issues, and you can read about it in this August post.

Be warned that this is a shirt pattern that does not work without a *lot* of negative ease, so if you aren’t a fan of tight knit t-shirts, this is not a pattern for you.

V1353 Encore: The Three Pounds Dress

I altered the pattern tissue after my first attempt so I wouldn’t have to worry about remembering what needed to be changed, and on the August long weekend here in Ontario, I finally cut out that fabulous rainbow linen, and sewed it up on the Monday holiday.

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And here it is almost November and I’m finally blogging it.

Am I the only sewer out there who persistently underestimates how long it’s going to take to actually sew something up? I had this idea Sunday night: “I’ll spend tomorrow sewing and then I’ll have a dress for Tuesday and salsa dancing!” And this was, technically, almost true, if one extends Monday by 45 minutes or so into Tuesday morning. I started after waking, and barring food and bathroom breaks, kept sewing all day, all through the evening, and into the wee hours of the next day.

The Back, plus a cookie.
The Back, plus a cookie.

But except for the interior tacking stitches of the bodice lining to the bodice, it is done. And I wore it to work on Tuesday and will wear it out salsa dancing.

Every alteration made to the tissue but one was exactly what I needed. The shoulders are just where I want them; the arms don’t gape or bubble anymore; the waistline doesn’t tilt and it sits just above my natural waist.

The Side, with a cake.
The Side, with a cake.

But I shaved off a little more from the waist itself than I should have. There’s lots of seams so it wasn’t hard to do.

Dear Readers, this dress is perfect, so long as I have no plans to breathe or eat.*

Unfortunately, I always have plans to both breathe and eat. Breathing and eating are always high on my list of priorities. I like oxygen, and I like food. So.

I’m calling it the Three Pounds Dress after Regina George in Mean Girls, because this dress would fit just perfectly if I lost three pounds.

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Or so I assume. Given my aforementioned love of food, this 3-lb weight loss seems very unlikely.* Still, in theory, if it were to happen, the waistline of this dress would no longer be painful after consuming a meal. Anyway:

The Front. Pleats hard to see with the print but they are there
The Front. Pleats hard to see with the print but they are there

I LOVE IT.

Unintentionally constricting waist and all. I love the colours, I love the pleats, I love how it swishes when I walk (you’ll have to imagine that part; I have no video footage). It is just the dress I pictured when I bought the linen, which is a very gratifying feeling and makes up for the loss of sensation in my feet. (I kid.) As a kind-of-bonus, the waistline goof does make for a more interesting silhouette.

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I am definitely going to risk losing consciousness and wear it out salsa dancing. If I do faint I have faith that some kind soul will pick me off the dance floor before I am trampled, and in the meantime, it’s going to be fun to twirl in.


*I ended up having a fairly stressful August/September and lost the 3 lbs despite myself, so now I get to breathe even when it is fully done up. Huzzah!