Finish What You…Ugh! Patterns!

Jen’s Reader ReFash
Is it Spring Yet?

One of my resolutions for 2014 is to finish everything I

Wanna know what bugs me?  Sewing Patterns.  I hate them.  You’ve probably noticed that I rarely use them.  There are a few reasons for this.  First off, they start too big.  I’m somewhere between a size 0 and a 2.  Every sewing pattern I find starts about 2 sizes bigger.  Since I rarely sew using a pattern, I’m not good enough at it to be able to alter a pattern to a size that will actually fit me.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Also, I don’t like rules.  Patterns are nothing but rules.  Do this…then do this…cut this exactly like this…blahblahblahblahblah.  Where’s the creativity in that?  And having to iron out tissue paper that inevitably gets caught up in a breeze, falls to the floor, and then gets mangled by Douglas doesn’t thrill me either.

The last time I sewed something using a pattern was in August 2012.  Now.  Even though I hate the whole process, I feel like there’s something to be learned about garment construction from it.  That’s why I pulled out this guy:

This one.  Right here!

This one. Right here!

I was going to make that dress right there on the right.  I would use one dress for the body, then another dress to make the raglan sleeves.  What could possibly go wrong?

I started off with this simple linen number.

A perfect blank canvas!

A perfect blank canvas!

I decided that blue was just a bit too bright, so I tossed it into a dye bath.

This should muddy it up nicely!

This should muddy it up nicely!

 

Sloshy sloshy!

Sloshy sloshy!

After my starter dress was rinsed and dried, I got to cutting!

Don't do it this way.  Actually pin the thing.  I'm being extremely lazy here.

Don’t do it this way. Actually pin the thing. I’m being extremely lazy here.

The pattern called for a zipper, so I hand basted one on…

First I pinned...

First I pinned…

 

...then I stitched!

…then I stitched!

I replaced the foot on my machine with a zipper foot…

This little guy right here.

This little guy right here.

…and stitched it down!

Whirrr!

Whirrr!

By this time, I was curious to see how my dress was going to look, so I pinned those two sides together on my dress form.

It looks like a feed sack.  :(

It looks like a feed sack. :(

What the hell, Pattern?  Why do you list measurements on your package that are clearly a big freakin’ LIE????  What would I bother making a too-big dress that I’ll end up having to refashion?  Why would I want to waste my time like that?

This dress sat on my dress form for almost a month.

I hated it.  It wasn’t going to look nice.  The sleeves were going to look awful with it, and I’d end up having to redo the entire damn thing.  Every time I walked into my sewing area, I was reminded of this disappointment.

I was about to just scrap the whole thing.

But I had to finish what I

I just wanted a cute dress.  That’s all!  So, I tossed that pattern aside, and started getting creative.  I went ahead and sewed the pieces of the too-big dress together, except for the neck part.  Then, I closed up those raw armholes.

Pin & Stitch!

Pin & Stitch!

I had a problem.  Unless I could shrink my head to the size of my fist, it wasn’t going to fit through my new dress.  :/

Say hello to Mr. Hand!

Say hello to Mr. Hand!

Not to worry!  I had a plan!  I also had a spool of grosgrain ribbon!

Hey buddy!

Hey buddy!

I took two strips of said ribbon and pinned them to my new dress on my dress form.

See where we're going here?

See where we’re going here?

I stitched them down…

Don't worry!  I trimmed off that extra ribbon when I was done!

Don’t worry! I trimmed off that extra ribbon when I was done!

…and after a press, my new dress was ready for a lovely night of theatre!  :)

Ello!

Ello!

I’m pretty pleased with this one.  I especially like the back!

The zipper isn't crooked.  I'm just standing weird!

The zipper isn’t crooked. I’m just standing weird!

I think my new dress has a sort of 1920′s vibe to it, and I’m totally fine with my decision to give up on the original pattern and just wing it on my own.  :)

Closeup of the front!

Closeup of the front!

After a very long week, I must say I deeply enjoyed USC Theatre’s production of The 39 Steps!  I hate to give spoilers of my upcoming review for Jasper Magazine, but this show is just fantastic, and you need to go see it if you can!  :)

You must see this!!!

You must see this!!!

I was so very very happy to run into my mentor from my overworked college (Seriously…I put myself through college working 2-3 jobs and Stage Managing All The Things) days, K Dale!  :)

I shouldn't play favorites, but he's my favorite.  :)

I shouldn’t play favorites, but he’s my favorite. :)

After a quick burger stop, my evening was complete.  :)

Hi Erin!

Hi Erin!

 

Cheers!

ba22214

Jen’s Reader ReFash
Is it Spring Yet?

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46 Comments on Finish What You…Ugh! Patterns!

  1. omyn77
    February 22, 2014 at 9:00 am (6 months ago)

    Stunning dress! patterns.. hmm.. I rip them up and use them as bases for my paintings :D

    I don’t think I have the sewing skills required to translate one of those things yet :)

    Reply
  2. JosieLCPC
    February 22, 2014 at 9:05 am (6 months ago)

    Jillian, that shift dress pattern from the 60s made me smile! My mom probably made that for herself in that era. As someone who has sewn from patterns for many years, I can affirm your statement that there is something to be learned about sewing construction and techniques from them. And there is plenty of room for creativity too. I consider them “road maps.” My guess is that the reason you were disappointed with the fit of this particular pattern is that the dress was a looser-fitting style, not body-hugging. The short description on the pattern envelope (in small print on the back or flap) should say something about the fit (terms to look for: close fitting, semi-fitted, loose, etc.) If that pattern did not give this info, shame on them! Thanks for your creativity inspiration! Hope this helps.

    Reply
  3. Anna
    February 22, 2014 at 9:06 am (6 months ago)

    Love the dress, the dye bath was a good idea!! Now I don’t want to sound nit-picky, but your grosgrain ribbon isn’t lined up on the left side in the back. It’s sewn a good inch lower than the ribbon on the right. Maybe this was intentional? I’m a wee bit OCD and stuff like that bugs me lol!

    Reply
    • ReFashionista
      February 22, 2014 at 9:22 am (6 months ago)

      I’m actually just sort of slouching on one side. As my Grandma would say, “Stand up Straight!” I measured everything and it’s symmetrical.

      Reply
      • ReFashionista
        February 22, 2014 at 9:23 am (6 months ago)

        Oh wait! I see what you’re talking about. It is a bit off. :/

        Reply
  4. dae
    February 22, 2014 at 9:16 am (6 months ago)

    super cute dress madam. I like the idea of basting the zipper first. I’ve had a few fights with zippers and I’d rather do button holes. I will definitely try that. I love your revisions. And I feel yah on the pattern sizing verses finished garment measurements! Very frustrating! Take care, doll!

    Dani e

    Reply
  5. diaryofamadmama
    February 22, 2014 at 9:20 am (6 months ago)

    I hate sewing with patterns too! For all the same reasons (except the being a size zero thing, can’t relate with you on that one!) ;)
    Great dress! Although I was hoping to see the sleeves you were talking about. Still, super cute without them! :)
    ~Jen
    http://diaryofamadmama.wordpress.com

    Reply
  6. Julie Prescesky
    February 22, 2014 at 9:37 am (6 months ago)

    Haha, yes, and sizing on vintage patterns is different than modern sizing. Vintage patterns run bigger. I’ve read that a vintage size 14 is a modern 7 and and vintage 10 is a modern 5, and so on. So that’s something to consider.

    ~ http://www.designinkarnation.com

    Reply
  7. Marie
    February 22, 2014 at 9:59 am (6 months ago)

    Cute dress. I have no waist so if a pattern fits me in waist it is too big in the thighs, but, etc… Also I have a little difficulty understanding some of the directions in patterns and wish you could access a you tube video for demonstration of all patterns. I really like the way your dress turned out….you are an inspiration!

    Reply
  8. Melody
    February 22, 2014 at 10:26 am (6 months ago)

    Ewwwww… I despise patterns too. You are right on the money…TOO MANY RULES!!! I like your creation much more anyway!

    Reply
  9. Jody Fine
    February 22, 2014 at 11:24 am (6 months ago)

    Ah yes the problems that truly creative people face- find it hard to follow directions and we suck at math! But we sure are great at making really cool things out of cast-offs! Love the dress it is adorable :) Keep marching to the beat of your own drummer girl!

    Reply
  10. Willow
    February 22, 2014 at 11:27 am (6 months ago)

    Oh my gosh!It’s like you’ve read my mind lol I’m a pattern rebel too (with other people’s patterns that is)….though I’m a little scared of zipper installation. I’ve never used one – eek!
    I’m pretty sure modern day patterns – those really pricey ones have size 2, but who wants to go through the drudgery of following those directions and dealing with that silly, too-thin paper? Not me!!
    I make my own for everything, from clothes to toys, out of packing paper – $9 at Walmart in the office supply section. I made one of those Thai fisherman skirts this way. I’d bought one Etsy and promptly stained it, so I looked at the way it was done, measured myself then made my own pattern, doggone it.
    I *hate* store bought patterns, but like my own. We have an understanding ; )

    Reply
  11. vjstracener
    February 22, 2014 at 12:26 pm (6 months ago)

    Yes, patterns are the devil. I love what you did with this dress!

    Reply
  12. Gia
    February 22, 2014 at 12:30 pm (6 months ago)

    Patten sizes are not “off the rack” sizes. You have to base your selection on the measurements on the back of the envelope. You also need to consider the intended silhouette for the design. This one looks like it was intended to be loose during and not close fitting. I’m a pattern rebel as well in that I rarely follow the directions. I prefer better interior seam finishes than most patterns would provide. I also like to draft my own patterns when I can. Patterns do have their place and can be very helpful though. It is merely a matter of learning the language and learning to read them properly. I remember when I first started in my fashion program WAY back, the teacher intentionally let us pick the wrong size pattern as a lesson to not take short cuts. You actually have to read the pattern and know what it was meant to look like. The pictures are usually a lie! Especially those that are drawn instead of actual photos ;-)

    Reply
  13. Kathrine Gluvna
    February 22, 2014 at 12:40 pm (6 months ago)

    I’m the opposite. I depend way too much on patterns and not enough on m own creativity.

    Reply
  14. Eve
    February 22, 2014 at 1:15 pm (6 months ago)

    Love it!

    Reply
  15. Linda
    February 22, 2014 at 2:18 pm (6 months ago)

    Glad you are back. I miss all the creativity. You make my day and inspire me. Thanks for the blog.

    Reply
  16. Liz H.
    February 22, 2014 at 2:24 pm (6 months ago)

    Patterns are the reason I stopped sewing for a long time. They were more likely to tear or be the wrong size than actually make something you want to wear.
    I even took a costuming class, thinking maybe it was operator error. Nope, I then learned how to make something wearable by resizing patterns and essentially throwing out the directions.
    Now I am more likely to make a pattern from an existing piece of clothing.
    Thank you for your great blog! It gives me lots of inspiration.

    Reply
  17. Kelly
    February 22, 2014 at 3:20 pm (6 months ago)

    You should try Silhouette Patterns (www.silhouettepatterns.com). They’re based on the measurements of a garment you own that fits you well. Basing a pattern on body measurements makes no sense because it does not take into account wearing ease preference. Anyway, if you want to try a pattern again, that’s my suggestion. Good job on your refash!

    Reply
  18. Denise
    February 22, 2014 at 3:52 pm (6 months ago)

    Love the detail of the button

    Reply
  19. bretoner
    February 22, 2014 at 4:06 pm (6 months ago)

    WELCOME BACK JILLIAN & DOUGLAS….you were missed….

    Reply
  20. Nicole
    February 22, 2014 at 4:44 pm (6 months ago)

    I’ve used patterns with the size it says I am, measure everything right, double check sizes and end up with a finished product that’s just too big. I usually do what you did, start off with parts of a pattern and give it a twist. This turned out so cute.

    Reply
  21. Opal
    February 22, 2014 at 4:47 pm (6 months ago)

    You do great work! I always look forward to seeing your creations. If you ever wanted to try patterns again here’s a thought, Lakala Sewing Patterns makes patterns based upon the measurements you provide then emails them to you. You print them on regular paper. They have some free ones and some for $2.50.

    Reply
    • ReFashionista
      February 22, 2014 at 7:41 pm (6 months ago)

      That’s awesome! Thanks for the tip!

      Reply
  22. jvanderschee
    February 22, 2014 at 7:21 pm (6 months ago)

    so cute!
    Know what I hate about patterns? Well, I’m a 16 in off the shelf clothes, which translates to a gawd awful size 22 in pattern sizes. It’s just a number, I guess…
    Anyway- super cute dress!! I need to find some inspiration at the thrift shop soon! ;)

    Reply
  23. Maureen
    February 22, 2014 at 9:53 pm (6 months ago)

    This turned out really nicely. I think it’s one of your best refashions yet.

    Reply
  24. ferren
    February 22, 2014 at 11:10 pm (6 months ago)

    When i sew with a pattern i always look for the “finished garment” measurements. Depending on how you want it to fit that can give you a better idea of which size to cut out. For example if you measure a size 12 because your bust is 36 inches but the finished garment for a size 12 has a bust measurement of 42 inches then you know it’s gonna be baggy, so if you want a closer fit choose the size with the finished measurement that is closer to your own measurements. How that made sense :) Dont give up on patterns , you are right about the learning experiences they can provide. Beter luck next time :)

    Reply
  25. Myka
    February 23, 2014 at 5:23 am (6 months ago)

    ot a fan of patterns too. glad you were able to make somehing beautiful out of it

    Reply
  26. Susan
    February 23, 2014 at 6:11 am (6 months ago)

    You just made my day! I thought I was the onliest one who hates patterns! I hate them for all the reasons you mention, and I would like to add that the diagrams in the pattern envelopes are so PERFECT. Who can sew like that? Not I! Plus it takes as long to use a pattern as it does to make a whole outfit from my own design.
    Having said that, I have found that if I do need to use a pattern – most notably for making pants – I have found that making the pattern in fabric (old sheets are good for this) makes it a lot more tolerable.
    Thanks for making my day!

    Reply
  27. Flo
    February 23, 2014 at 8:27 am (6 months ago)

    Your “pins” totally cracked me up! Glad to see that you were still able to make something that you liked. I rarely find a clothing pattern that I like, they are either too big or too small, drives me nuts.

    Reply
  28. Becky
    February 23, 2014 at 2:39 pm (6 months ago)

    I really liked the blue better but I do like your finished dress much better than the “pattern”.

    Reply
  29. lizard100
    February 23, 2014 at 3:05 pm (6 months ago)

    It gives me great joy to read that a great sewist like yourself has problems with patterns. It’s reassuring! Thank you

    Reply
  30. Mary
    February 23, 2014 at 4:01 pm (6 months ago)

    I stumbled onto your blog last year and have really enjoyed seeing the garments you create … especially because you don’t rely on patterns. I have to say, I have been intimidated by sewing for YEARS because patterns scare me! You have inspired me to give sewing a try – thank you :) And very cute dress refash, btw.

    Reply
  31. Hannah
    February 24, 2014 at 9:46 pm (6 months ago)

    Patterns are tricky! I prefer to just wing it, like you, but if I buy a pattern, I only buy it if there is an actual person pictured wearing the thing I want to make!

    Reply
  32. Jes
    February 25, 2014 at 11:29 am (6 months ago)

    Patterns are so stupid! I am normally a 0-2 also, i measure myself and the pattern tells me i should make the size 10?!?!?! i decide thats stupid and make the size 6, and then its too big and i have to alter as i go. happens everytime! where are the tiny girl patterns?! End pattern rant. I love your blog, you have inspired me to collect a bunch of old clothes, now i just have to get the courrage to refashion them!

    Reply
  33. Grace H
    February 25, 2014 at 11:15 pm (6 months ago)

    OMG, cans for pattern weights! I’m facepalming myself so hard right now, how did I not think of that!?!?

    Reply
  34. GeeEm
    February 26, 2014 at 12:14 pm (6 months ago)

    A lot of you are getting confused between US industry standard sizing measurements and vanity sizing. I think is was back during WWII, the US finally got around to a wide scale sizing test for women to create a standardized measurement system for the garment industry (Europe had already established one long before and men had one dating back to the Civil War). I think a large number of the test women were part of the military if I remember correctly from my history. Those measurements became the basis for the industry as well as the numbers you see on the back of pattern envelopes. They tend to favor a more hourglass shape, but not as dramatically as earlier attempts at a standardized measurement system. You always want to choose a pattern based on the widest measurement of the bust, hips, or waist and then alter from there.

    As the decades passed, garments manufacturers noticed they could sell more dresses than the competitor by simply assigning a slightly lower “vanity size” number to the sizing tag in the piece of clothing. It started out simply enough by making a size 10 a size 8 on the garment tag. Other garment manufacturers followed suit and it became a race to the bottom with vanity sizing. Today a size 0-2 is about the same as the standardized 10-12 sizing. The standardized measurements have NOT changed. Vanity sizing is what has changed (Marilyn Monroe and her famous measurements was a size 12!).

    You must also take into consideration the intended fit of the garment when it was drafted. Garments contain wearing ease (just enough room between your actual measurements and what it takes to get it on the body) and design ease (how the garment is meant to hang on the body). If you get a pattern with a lot of design ease, but you intend it to hang closer to the body, then your alterations are removing the design ease (NOT the wearing ease). It is a weird concept, but you have to learn to ignore the number on the tag of your off the rack clothes. If I bought a simple dress off the rack and made the same dress from a pattern, I should be able to take a tape measure and see the exact same measurements at key points on the body despite very different sizing numbers. So, if you’re using that size 10 pattern and then making the size 6 in that pattern to make it “fit” better, then you are actually having your body take up design ease space in the finished garment.

    You have to look at not only the standardized sizing on a pattern envelope, but the paragraph that explains the silhouette and also the finished garment measurements. If you subtract the size measurements from the finished garment measurements, you will get a VERY good idea of what the design ease was meant to be as well. Patterns are a tool. The tool can be EXTREMELY frustrating if you don’t know the proper way to use it. I teach sewing and teaching the young girls how to read a pattern can be one of the trickiest and hardest things to do :-( It makes no sense to blame an inanimate tool that is not being used in it’s intended manner.

    All that being said, I rarely follow patterns as they are written and I often alter them before projects. The standards are meant to be an overall guide to proportion. I understand the changes I’m making and how they will alter the finished silhouette though. If I’m working with a figure that differs significantly from the standardized measurements in proportion, I will always just draft my own pattern from the individual measurements of the person or I will drape the body directly.

    Reply
    • ReFashionista
      February 26, 2014 at 1:40 pm (6 months ago)

      Thanks for the useful info! :)

      Reply
    • JosieLCPC
      February 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm (6 months ago)

      GeeEm,

      Exactly!!!! You just said it much more clearly and in much greater detail than I did! I appreciate your explanation. Thanks. :-)

      Reply
  35. Edith
    February 27, 2014 at 7:51 am (6 months ago)

    Hi there!
    Maybe you want to try European patterns. The only time I used an American company (exactly as described, not retail size but with my exact meassurements) it turned out ridiculously huge…Not a fan.
    I have sewn quite a lot of Burda stuff, and they run small. Like really small. That’s why they have so much plus sized stuff, there normal stuff is tiny :) I am fit and toned, although with a wide bone frame and I need the second largest size of the normal range, just to give you an impression ;) Maybe you want to give it a try in the future, you might be doing just fine with their smallest size.
    Love your blog by the way. And absolutely hating the cold, too!
    Greetings from Germany :)

    Reply
  36. Jenn V
    February 27, 2014 at 1:28 pm (6 months ago)

    I have to echo what Edith said about Burda patterns. The smallest size almost fit my 10 year old (who wears a size 10 kids). I think I took the skirt in about an inch.
    Her name is Jillian too. :)
    I love Burda, but Burda does not love me.

    Reply
  37. Susan
    March 6, 2014 at 10:45 pm (6 months ago)

    Those big pattern companies need to get a clue. The measurements always lie! I have the same problem you do and everything swims on me, only I’m not so good at winging it and pulling off the cool funky dresses -Midwestern mid thirties SAHM here, though with an extensive background in music and artsy fartsy stuff :)
    I’ve been learning lately that the smaller indie designers do a better job with fit and instructions, so I’m leaving the big name pattern companies alone now!

    Reply
  38. nenamatahari
    July 9, 2014 at 4:56 pm (2 months ago)

    Patterns ARE really tricky. The sizing is also wonky. I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets frustrated with patterns!

    Reply

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