Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Crazy-Making Patterns - What was I thinking?

Fact: Not all patterns are created equal from a design perspective.
Fact No 2: Not all patterns instructions are correct.
And Fact No. 3: Tastes and preferences change over time

Some background:  We made a decision a few months ago to focus on Independent Designers. We  had some pricing issues with a couple of the Big 4 pattern makers and it just seemed the right time to let them ease out of our pattern drawers. We continue to support our favorite mainstream designers from the Vogue pattern line, specifically Sandra Betzina and the Tilton designers.

So even though we have been focused on promoting our Indies since January, we had some hanger-oners in the project pile that for whatever reason, Laurel just hadn't got to yet. One garment was this Vogue 9124 Dress, which we picked out last Fall. We chose to make it in a beautiful rayon border print.  So before Laurel had a chance to start the sewing of this garment, the weather turned and it seemed fitting to save it for this Spring. And since she had already cut the pattern out last Fall, there was no going back now.

Skip forward to this week when she actually started sewing on the dress. Vogue patterns are not always suitable for beginners, but if you look at the drawing on the pattern, it looks rather straight forward, especially for an advanced seamstress like Laurel. The pattern features a button fly front, which for someone who has done a lot of plackets should not be that difficult.

Here's where the "Crazy-Making" started. According to Laurel, who always tries to work up our patterns as they are designed, her sewing day went rapidly downhill. "Worst placket directions ever!"

After a sleepless night trying to wrap her brain around their instructions AND scouring the Internet for some pointers, she scrapped the instructions and, as she says, "I did it MY way". She wasn't alone, as others had the very same trouble with these overly complex instructions and bad drawings.  (Not to mention, one whole section is totally out of order!)

So we're thinking that if you do choose this pattern, just go back to the fly-front technique that you already know. On a blouse fly front, the center front on the right side is normally cut about 6" wider and just "folded" to form the placket.  Since she had already cut out the bodice months ago, Laurel cut a section of fabric and just added it to the right front of the bodice, to form the hidden placket.

The placket is then created by folding the fabric in an accordion-like fashion. The inside (hidden) portion of the placket is interfaced - this is the portion that has the buttonholes down the front.

The outside portion of the placket hides the buttonholes down the front of the bodice and is not interfaced. The left side of the bodice is interfaced to add some stability - this is the side for the buttons.

Narrow bias bands like this neckline band can tend to stretch as you are trying attach it to the gathered bodice.  Cool trick: Laurel marked a piece of bias tape with the various pattern markings on the narrow band around the neckline, just to make the gathered bodice a little easier to assemble. The bias tape also made the gathered neckline more stable.

A word of warning - these tiny bands are not easy to master - they're not for the beginner or the faint-hearted. And even though gathering a skirt is something you might learn in your first years of sewing, they can be a pain on lovely silk or rayon like this fabric - they're slippery and they ravel, so serge the edge first before gathering.

I have a spring wedding to attend, so this little spring number might be just the trick. Either that or I might have to find someplace to have afternoon tea...maybe add a big flouncy hat??? Just kidding...if you know me at all :) 

Don't you love the pretty belt Laurel made for me!
We love border prints and all the design options they give us!

My buying team and my pretty new dress!!! 
Given the "issues" inherent with this Vogue pattern, 
I'm thinking I made a great decision to GO INDIE!!

Cheers to Sewing!



  1. Wow! Even though there were problems with the pattern instructions, the dress turned out beautiful! I hope that one day I can be an expert seamstress like Laurel and know how to figure out when the instructions are not correct and can still know how to make them "my way"!

  2. My daughter once made a jumpsuit from a Burda pattern labeled "Easy". She was a fairly new sewer, and brought the dress home to have me figure out where she went wrong. She couldn't get it on! The top was designed to be pulled on, but with the pants bottom, couldn't be. No zipper, placket, buttons -- just a slightly boat-neck opening. And no center seams. Fortunately it was a little big, and we could add a zipper. But didn't anyone read the pattern before it was printed?

  3. Oh my god. I'm struggling with a Rebecca Taylor Vogue "easy" pattern that has the most convoluted binding and yoke! This blog entry speaks to me. I should have gone rogue several steps ago. Beautiful dress & great tips. Thank you!

  4. that dress is so pretty - great use of the fabric. I love border prints and I don't see them often - hope you get some more in. As for the pattern, sounds like the instructions were confusing. I do look for complexity in garments and interesting features - which for the most part the indie patterns haven't tackled yet.

  5. I'm a theatrical costume designer and make my own patterns as often as not--commercial pattern instructions drive me crazy. Very often they explain the simple and leave out the complicated and, most importantly, they almost never say why, so if you have a different method you like to use, you have to hope it's going to work out.

  6. Suzan and Laurel, the dress is beautiful! Perfect spring fabric and I like the print placement. I too had trouble with a new McCall's pattern with a button fly front. The directions were so confusing. I had to do a lot of seam ripping and then finally tried to figure it out on my own. I had never done a technique like this before and it made me not want to again. I agree with Laurel in that doing it the way you think was the best route for this technique! I actually just wrote about my dress and my frustration with this technique on my blog. You can read more about it here: http://blog.fabricmartfabrics.com/2016/05/julies-flamingo-shirtdress.html

  7. I love it when a dress turns out so beautifully, despite the struggles that went into making it. Even though I've sewn for years, there are still techniques that make me stumble. I have been known to throw in the towel on one of Zan's garments...I may finish it, but I'll say "this ones's a gift, Zan", with a wry smile, i.e. "No charge". LOL!