Couture Lunacy

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So Many Choices

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Vogue 1247 Love the Top

Vogue 1247
Love the Top

Since I came back to sewing my own clothes, I’ve been amazed at how many patterns there are – how many new independent pattern companies – and the wealth of possible designs.

When I first started sewing I used Simplicity and See and Sew patterns. They had few pattern pieces and simple instructions. I wasn’t always able to execute the patterns effectively. Most of the time, and for several years, I wasn’t thrilled with my results. I would sew something and then stick it in the back of the closet. I had an urge to sew, but really no skills.

I learned to sew from Home Ec classes and my mother. Mom was a meticulous sewer and everything she made was gorgeous. I wanted to sew like that.

We always cut out our fabric on the floor of the living room. Our home was small and this was the largest space. If I had to do that now nothing would get done. I don’t like being on the floor because I can’t get up off it! I use my sewing table. I have to clean everything off of it – sewing machine, box of notions, sewing machine accessories, etc. The bad thing about this is cleaning it off, which is also the good thing. I can start anew and decide what goes back on that table.

When I first find a pattern I want to make I determine the size. Easy for me because I usually choose the largest unless it’s a Today’s Fit by Sandra Betzina or a Burda Plus pattern. When I’m looking at patterns online I think back to my pre-teen years when a friend of mine and I would go to Robeson’s in Champaign and ask if they had any old pattern catalogs! So much fun because the patterns were current and I could still get them. And it was much easier to look at them at home.

Vogue 8883

Vogue 8883

So back to the sizing. Each company and independent designer doesn’t necessarily use the same sizing. Patterns within one company will vary in the finished measurements. I look at the bust measurement for direction as well as the hip measurement. They don’t usually give you anything but these plus the back length.

I know my bust measurement and I can tell from the technical drawing how much ease I’m going to want. I love knits as the fit is so flexible but still needs to be finely tuned. Some patterns are generous, some are not. If I really love a design I will buy the largest size even though it may be too small. I know I can adjust the size to fit.

I trace my patterns onto pattern paper or material. I use a non-woven pattern material that you can sew together. This helps with fitting. I detest those tissue paper patterns because they rip no matter how careful you are. I don’t want to cut any elements off including optional sizes so I trace. If the pattern is something I’m going to adjust, which it nearly always is, I add an inch to the seam allowances as I trace. This gives me a start on adjusting on the dress form.

I use the traced off pattern to make my full bust adjustment (see post on this) and any other alterations I need for fit. I may need to lengthen a top or shorten a dress pattern to a top or fit the pants to my larger waist and smaller hips. The pattern is just for reference. I like to think of the pattern as a design concept which I can finely tune to be unique.

I find that Vogue Patterns come in smaller sizing whereas McCall Patterns (same company, different name) are more generous. Burda Style through Simplicity Patterns do not offer many patterns. Most of the cute ones are not in my size. I have purchased only one Butterick pattern recently as Katherine Tilton went from Vogue to Butterick with her latest designs.

Some independent pattern designers I like are Hot Patterns, Christine Jonson and Style Arc – Style Arc being in Australia. Being financially embarrassed most of the time – Style Arc patterns are hard to come by as shipping from Australia is ridiculous. The cost for shipping can be more than the patterns.

After tracing off the pattern and doing the FBA, I fit the pattern to my dress form which is adjusted to my size. I get an idea where it needs to come in or out. And I can then pin the mock-up together on the form and see how it will look. I think without this visual aid it is hard to make good-looking clothing. A dress form is around $160 and is so worth the price. It pays for itself with the fabric you don’t throw out because the item you made doesn’t look good on your figure.

After the alterations are made I make sure all markings are transferred to my new pattern. You need these. This aids you in putting the garment together. Then I cut the fabric. If I am not sure about the pattern I will first make it in a fabric that I’m not that nuts about – I have lots of those. – before I cut the good stuff. This way I have a wearable muslin if it turns out and if it doesn’t I don’t have to finish it – I can just either make more adjustments or decide to scrap the pattern. This happens. I no longer have the Pilgrim voice in me that says YOU MUST use this no matter what. No. If it isn’t going to be worn I don’t need to waste my time. I used to finished reading books I didn’t enjoy – now I don’t do anything that I don’t like unless you count cleaning house.

Once I get the wearable muslin fitted and see that it works, I can either stop on it and go to the good fabric or finish it. I have made muslins for clothing patterns that actually I love in the not-so-favorite fabric. This is a bonus. I’ve learned a little about buying fabric which I will share with you in another post.

So here’s where you begin …………… more adventure to come!

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Author: Jennifer

I came from a family who made things. My father was a carpenter with a passion for making furniture. My mother sewed, crocheted, cooked and made a home on a shoestring. My grandmothers both quilted. As a teenager, I found batik through a wonderful art teacher who allowed me the freedom to batik yards of fabric. I then cut them up into a pattern and wore the item I made. I was ecstatic. I painted in my teens and twenties and my parents gracefully supplied me with oil paints and turpentine. When I needed an easel, my father took me to the shop where he worked and made me one. When he found unused and unwanted canvas, he brought it home and stretched it for me with wood from his shop at home. I was indulged at every step of the way. I wasn't ever told that I could not do something or that I should not do something. I was given freedom to chose my path in life. A blessed life I have lived, for sure.

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