The Lure of “Free” Patterns

Shortly after I started sewing apparel, I got into a “free pattern” kick. That is, FREE PATTERN! DOWNLOAD! DOWNLOAD! DOWNLOAD!

Some have been great (the Deer & Doe plantain shirt and the Maria Denmark kimono T):

Some have been “good for what they are”, such as the Sew So Easy bolero jacket (embellished heavily), the Halloween Hat Pack from Fleece Fun (made for the Womens’ March on Washington in January) and these three chemo caps I sewed for my mother-in-law’s friend from three different patterns found online):

And then there’s the stuff that just doesn’t work. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s the pattern. Maybe it was a full moon and Mercury was rising. Whatever. The latest disappointment was the Noelle racerback bralette from Madalynne:

 

 

I am reluctant to be too critical of a free pattern – getting what I paid for and whatnot. But this is really off. I made it out of stretch lace with a stretch mesh lining and about 4 yards of picot elastic.

For starters, the instructions stink. They’re written out but there are no drawings or photos to help. I had three major construction problems:

  • The instructions never refer to the lining (when and how you’re supposed to put it in). I just basted it on – basically treated it as an underlining.
  • The instructions for how to install the sliders on the straps made no sense. I just figured it out.
  • You sew picot elastic around the whole thing (the top, armholes, under the bust and at the bottom of the band). The instructions say to sew the elastic flat. So basically the elastic doesn’t do its job at all. I stretched as I sewed and it was not enough.

I wanted a bralette for Pilates – something soft and breatheable for exercising. I had made the Colette Florence bralette last year and loved it, so I wanted to try this style next. Unfortunately, this was a waste of time and money. The fit is very off – even stretching the elastic as I sewed, the bottom band is way too big and the underbust area does not remotely offer enough support and I can’t make the straps any shorter. And I’m a mere B cup. Also, the whole thing just looks sloppy and unfinished.

So, downloader beware? What are your favorite free patterns?

Ahoy!

I just finished sewing a classic Breton top in striped cotton jersey.

Not a bad job, if I do say so myself. The pattern is from “Simply Sewing” magazine’s July 2016 issue, #17. The pattern came from the  Great British Sewing Bee book.

The drop shoulders are an essential part of the look, but I needed to re- draft them a tad to keep them from cutting across the thickest part of my dinner-lady arms. I think it came out ok but I might play with it a bit more if I make another.

Betrayal!

I finished making a top from Simplicity 8137. I feel so betrayed. It looked like a quality project, just the kind of thing my work wardrobe needs. I need a dressy lined top in my life – the kind of thing that looks like a jacket but isn’t, to look crisp and cool on hot summer days.

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The love affair started with the fabric. I picked out some really nice rayon crepe at B&J Fabrics in the Garment District in New York. It had just enough drape, just enough texture. It was a daring and flattering shade of cobalt. I picked out excellent Japanese-made Bemberg rayon from my stash.

The love affair progressed at a torrid pace. The pattern was a bit of work to cut out – 11 pattern pieces – but that was fine because I was after a quality experience.

We had our first fight when I realized that Simplicity 8137 is a lined top but there was no lining for the sleeves. Seemed a bit daft to me. A flaw to be sure. But the rest of the experience seemed good. A nice solid match for me. I continued on.

We got along well together. A few tricky bits around the tie belt went smoothly with a bit of guidance. I fashioned crisp pleats, understitched with precision, and rejoiced when all the notches and seams lined up. I even had a great experience with the humungous narrow hem.

But then…

I tried it on.

And I saw this:

IMG_20170716_180801I could hear my grandmother’s advice – “Stand up straight!” So I stood up straight and took another picture. Same deal.

I was mystified. Why did the back slope down on one side? The front wrap section has a bit of drape to it, but that looks cute and flowy. Why is it all going sideways here? And what’s with the drag lines across my back? It fits fine so where are those coming from? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?

As if often the case with torrid affairs, you blame yourself. Surely, I thought, I made a cutting error or a sewing error to end up with such a sucky back line. Surely, this can be fixed, right?

Ever have a lover’s quarrel where you wish you’d been taping the conversation, so you could play your lover’s nasty comment back? Well, when it doubt with sewing, I go back to the pattern as the ultimate version of the truth.

Behold:

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The pattern piece on top is the left front. Under it you can see the right front. Notice how different they are, how the right front tapers way away from the left, two inches at the end? Why would anyone think this is a great idea? It’s not enough of a taper to look like an intentional asymmetric look. Rather, it just looks like a mistake.

Can this relationship be saved? I am tempted to trim off the taper and make the hem even, but then I worry it will look funny in the front. Here’s the front look:

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There are other problems, as you can see. The tie has this pleat to gather a bit, but it just sags and looks sad. So that needs to be fixed too. And those drag lines will still be there in the back.

So, I think we need to break up. Sorry, Simplicity 8137, but it’s not me, it’s you.

How to Sew Applique Seams on Lace

My project “Miss Fisher’s Lace Fantasy Duster” hit a snag… ba-da-boom! Pun pun pun!

No really, it did. But I figured it out.

The Art Deco-inspired lace I bought has beautiful scalloped eyelash borders on both sides. I wanted to make the most of this design, so I lined up the fronts of the duster along these motifs.

I also lined up the sleeves this way, so that the pretty scalloping would fall at bracelet length along my arms. So far, so good.

But what to do about the hems and the V-neckline? This isn’t the kind of lace where you can just trim around for the motifs – the curves go every which way. I thought about just doing a rolled hem, or using a decorative stitch on my machine to mimic the scalloping, but I really wanted that eyelash and scallop look everywhere.

Threads Magazine to the rescue! An issue from 2006 had a great tutorial on how to sew with lace. Here’s a step by step on how I made it work.

  1. Cut the pattern pieces out of the lace along the seamline as if it’s a normal piece of fabric.

2. On another piece of lace, trim carefully around the motifs, following them where they go. They might go a couple of inches away from the border. That’s fine.

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3. Lay the cut-out motifs on top of the cut edge of the pattern piece, right side of pattern piece to wrong side of lace motif, as you would for an applique. My lace was fairly thick and durable, so I just pinned the bejeezus out of it, but for a more delicate lace you may want to use some temporary fusible whatnot.

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4. Sew with a narrow zigzag along the edges of the lace motif. Follow the cuts and curves where they go, which might be pretty close or fairly far away from the raw edge of the pattern piece, depending on how the motifs lay out. This was pretty easy since I have these black edges all over the place on my lace, but you get the idea. (At least, I hope you do.)

You will end up with a mess that looks like this:

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But fear not!

5. Trim away the excess on the pattern piece from the underside. It was difficult to get a good picture of this, but basically flip the whole thing over to the wrong side and feel along with your fingers for where the motif is sewn on to the pattern piece. Use some small sharp scissors to remove that excess from the raw edge of the pattern piece, leaving only the appliqued motif behind.

It takes time and patience, but in the end you get this:

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Can you see the seams? Didn’t think so! I mean, you can feel the difference but you can’t see it unless you look really closely. And who’s going to do that?

Miss Fisher’s Lace Fantasy

I have never sewn with lace before. I don’t wear lace, actually. I mean, I donned a tiered lace Scarlett O’Hara dress for my junior prom, but that was back in the 80s when I could be forgiven for it.

But lately, I have been craving lace. Miss Fisher is to blame.

Played by Essie Davis, Phryne Fisher is the quintessential 1920s fashionista, swanning around in lace jackets and dusters as she solves crimes, saves the day and gets the men on the TV show “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.” (It’s an Australian show, available on Netflix in the US.)

I bought some Art Deco style lace from Mood Fabrics in New York:

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And I am learning how to sew lace for the first time. The red thread you see running through the center is the center back.  One of the first things you learn is to use running threads and tailor’s tacks to mark the pattern.

The Competitiveness of “Making”

Why is “making” things such a big deal?

I went to a dinner party Saturday night and got all snarky with friends about the glory of “making” vs. “buying.”

I happened to be wearing my tablecloth dress because these friends had shown an interest in the past about my sewing projects. It glams up pretty well with some cream-colored rope-soled wedges, a Kenneth Cole bag in sage green and some gold and jade jewelry inherited from my grandmother.

So when a friend asked if I made the dress, I said “yes.” Actually, I said “Is it that obvious?” She assured me it was not obvious at all, but she knew I sewed and so she always wonders when she sees me if I’m wearing anything me-made.

The guys at this party – my husband and two friends (husbands of the women) – had looks on their faces as if to say, “Please don’t let this mixed-gender conversation turn into a female-only discussion about sewing.” Clearly, most men don’t get it. They understand “making” something they enjoy, like baking a cake or painting a picture, but sewing women’s apparel is beyond them.

What’s a gal to do but to get a bit snarky?

One of these guys happens to have a pretty big garden. “Why grow your own vegetables and flowers? Why don’t you just buy them?” I asked. One guy homebrews beer. “Why do that? Why not just buy beer?” Hmm?

Clearly, I hit a nerve. I didn’t get much of an answer from the guys, beyond “it’s just a hobby” and “I’ve been doing it forever” and “I invested in all this equipment already.” Shortly after this little discussion, the guys decamped to the kitchen to talk, leaving the women in the living room. We shifted our conversation elsewhere.

When dessert was brought out, I could not resist another little dig. I knew darn well that my friend had not baked the peach tart that was put before us, but I couldn’t resist asking: “Did you make that?”

She said “no” and seemed embarrassed about it. Why? It was delicious and beautiful. We ate the whole thing. What difference does it matter if you make or buy? Are some things more worthy of “making” than others? If a man makes it’ does that make it more worthy?

Hey – if you want to make, make. If you want to buy, buy. No judgment.