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Saturday, 28 July 2018

Learn From Mistakes- MINE!

I thought that I would do a series of  posts on making clothes using pdf patterns available for free on the Internet.  My aim is to try to find less well known ones- most sewists know about the Sorbetto top by Colette or the Orla dress by French Navy or  the Plantain tee by Deer and Doe  so I searched for patterns that I had not seen before with the criteria that the pattern had to be something I wanted in my wardrobe, that I could make using fabric that I had in my stash already and that I thought might appeal to other dressmakers.

I came across French blogger Sophie Blossom and was attracted by her free pattern for the Laurel Blouse.  
 I was looking for a top with sleeves in a style suitable for the currently hot weather.  I liked the small Mao collar, V neck and over sized sleeve openings fastened by a cuff that extended into ties to be knotted into a large bow.  If you stay true to the original version there are no zippers or other such fastenings and all you need is fabric and thread. It seemed to have the potential to be worn over skirt or trousers or tucked in, to be simply casual or more dressy with a statement necklace in that V neck.  My version, shown below, deviates slightly from the original as you will learn if you read on.

Here is Sophie modelling her pattern.  I wish I looked that chic.

The blog is in French and my standard of French is that of someone who learnt it a very long time ago at school and has not used it much since.  Fortunately Sophie has produced a video, showing the simple construction of this blouse, that I believe could be followed by non-French speaking sewists.

So far, so good - BUT
This pattern comes in a large size range, listed as 34 to 52.  But what did these French sizes mean?  I searched the Internet for the equivalence between French and British sizes, there was a variation in answers but the majority seemed to say that size 38 was equivalent to a size 10 (the size 10 used by the commercial dress pattern companies) and this is the size that I used.  This was my first mistake.  I should have explored Sophie's blog further and then would found the menu option "FAQ Patrons" before I printed out the pattern and cut out size 38.  The FAQ told me exactly what the size measurements were and this meant I had cut out too large a size.  It also informed me about variations, according to the printer used, in printing out and assembling the pattern.  It told me why there was a gap in the pattern at the edge of the individual sheets and knowing this would have saved me much time and head scratching trying to work out how the pattern should be pasted together.  The reason was that the printer I was using would not print without margins and to remedy that I found that I needed to connect the small gap in the pattern lines, simply by connecting with a pencil line, once I had abutted the A4 sheets up against each other.
Of course I was cross with myself for not taking greater care to make sure I had read all the instructions (who hasn't been there?) but I decided to carry on with size 38, hoping to adjust it if necessary and thinking that a loose top would be no bad thing in the present heat.

I displayed another example of not thinking ahead and did not change the printer from "Print in Black"- the different pattern sizes are indicated by differing colours of line. Luckily I had only printed out the first 2 pages before realising this and changing to "Print in Colour".  However I forgot to check the levels of the colour cartridges and had printed out all the pages before realising that some colours were not printing at all and I had lines that were completely missing or very hard to distinguish. Thus I had to print it all again!**!- after changing the cartridges.

I had noticed that, as a coda to her blog on this pattern, Sophie had indicated that the back shoulder should be extended by 1 cm and the front shoulder reduced by the same amount- at least, this is how I translated it.  I proceeded to do this on the body pattern pieces.

I failed to register that I would need to adjust the front and back facing pieces as well.  Mostly I followed the order of construction demonstrated by Sophie in her video but I deviated from this by attaching the facings before I sewed up the side seams as I think it easier to sew the facings on while the garment can be laid out flat.  This is the point at which I realised my error in not making an adjustment to the facings.  I could have cut another set of facings but I confess to bodging it so the inside to the garment is less than beautiful- but it worked.  You should be aware, if you decide to tackle this blouse, that the notch on the sleeve head to match up with the shoulder seam also may need adjusting  but I found this was not a problem.  At first I was puzzled that there were no notches on the sleeve head to indicate front and back of the sleeve head but I then perceived that there was no difference between the front and back.

Sophie uses the flat sleeve method of inserting a sleeve.  In the video she demonstrates gathering the sleeve head before inserting but I found this was not necessary and and I could ease the sleeve into the armsyce with a little manipulation over my fingers and a small quantity of pins.  After the debacle of the facings all went smoothly.
I did make changes to the design.  I loved the over sized openings to the cuff  but I was not so enamoured of the dramatic bows to tie the cuffs, chiefly because I am clumsy, and get things like that entangled in the wires of supermarket shopping baskets or caught on door handles, and also because they would be a faff to tie without someone on hand to help.  So I came up with my own version.  I made some traditional cuffs, closed with a snap fastener. 

I used fusible interfacing on the inner cuff as I was not finishing the sleeve with ties.
I then made some faux bows out of rectangles of fabric sewn into a circle, folded in half and top stitched plus a strip sewn right sides together and then pulled right side out.
Above is an example of the circle of folded and top stitched fabric, the same pressed flat and the strip. The flattened circle is gathered in the centre.
And a piece of the strip cut off and wrapped around the gather and stitched to secure.
The intention was to stitch this bow to the top cuff thus-

However, when I did this, I did not really like it and, if I make this again, I would make smaller bows to attach or revert to Sophie's design of having ties but make them smaller, just long enough to tie into a knot and not a full bow.  At the beginning of this post I have shown the blouse with the bows I made pinned on the cuffs.  As I was not keen on this I did play about with the bows and I quite like the look achieved by attachng one bow at the bottom of the neck.
Unfortunately the dark navy colour of the background and the busy floral motifs of the material make details hard to discern.

Here is the neckline without the bow.  What do you think?

was thinking that I could adjust the pattern as I went along.  In the photographs I have displayed it on a dressform adjusted to the measurements of the size that I made up.  I have narrow, misshapen shoulders  and cutting a size too large was not a good move.  I tried to reduce the width of the shoulders slightly by putting a small amount of gathering in the centre of the shoulders.  This is not noticeable due to the pattern of the material  and the minuscule amount of gathering but it did reduce the width very slightly but not enough to prevent the shoulder seam drooping down my arms.  The bust point was far too low and the depth of the V neck dangerously near to exposing my bra.  The sleeves were too long for me - this is a frequent problem for me with sewing patterns.  So, for me, this blouse gets classified as an unwearable toile  and it will end up in a charity shop unless I can find someone to whom I can give it.  This is a shame because I like the pattern and will be attempting another version  but making sure I thoroughly check out the following first by measuring the pattern- actual finished bust size, bust apex, shoulder width, sleeve length, neckline depth.

was my choice of fabric, which was left over from a make in July 2016.  This is a cotton, not as light as a lawn but finer than a standard dress weight cotton.  Sophie advises not to use a stiff fabric, her original choice of a red cotton sateen was too firm.  She also warned that you may need to put fusible interfacing on the collar if you make it from a fabric with a lot of drape.  You need to strike a balance between too stiff and too floppy.

1. Read all the instructions- and then make sure you have read them all.
2. Pick the right size.  If not making a toile and you don't have the finished garment measurements then make sure that you measure the essential parts of the pattern and compare them with your body measurements to see the sort of fit the pattern will give.
3. If a pattern needs an alteration at one point then make sure that this does not have consequences for some other section/s of the pattern, which may need altering as a result.
4.  When printing out a PDF pattern make sure that your printer will deliver what you want and you have it at the correct settings for the task.