For the past week or so I have immersed myself in sewing from independent pattern companies. You know that I adore Vogue – take it out of the envelope, cut a 14, nip and tuck at the waist and lengthen by 3″ – job’s a good’un. Wear. But I was singularly unimpressed with the new season’s patterns and searched elsewhere – a change is a good as a rest and all that. Added to which I might stretch my sewing skills and learn some new techniques.
By Hand, London – Anna dress
Thread Theory Design – Newcastle cardigan
Centre for Pattern Design – Four Square dress
Too much for one post, so I’ll split them into three – bit of a personal review and then the finished article. I’d like to point out now that this is my personal experience with these patterns and therefore may not tally with anyone else’s.
Let’s start with the Newcastle cardigan, a men’s fleece/jacket. This is a downloadable PDF, therefore, instant. There are no reviews on PR so I was on my own with this one. I don’t usually sew for men, the cardigan was intended for teenage son, who is now standing at 6’5″ and I was feeling just a wee bit guilty at not sewing anything for him, considering his cousins got so much. He’s not that bothered in reality, so this was really to assuage my guilt.
Now there are a lot of things that can go wrong with PDFs, not least the printing. The 3″ test square was actually 2 3/4″ on my sheets which adds up to a total of 1 1/2″ missing from the width. This, of course, was only noticed after the tiling and cutting out of the fabric!
Teenage son joined in and tiled the 33 A4s, most of which fitted fine, but one or two were way out and required mucking about with when cutting out the fabric. I didn’t trace off the pattern from the tiled sheets but cut directly through the Sellotape and pages. If you take one piece of advice from this, for all print at home PDFs – TRACE. Keep the tiled sheet as your master and trace the required size onto tissue, it’s so much easier to pin to fabric and to cut through. I dread to think what I’ve done to blunt my precious Kai scissors. Thread Theory do however, include a print shop version of the PDF that can be printed out in one at a suitable printers. 10/10 for this as you could take this single sheet and lay it directly onto your fabric – all the pieces on the fold are along one side and the straight of grain is the same for all pieces – considered and practical pattern piece positioning
So, fault lies mostly with me on this one on the printing out and you can probably guess by now that the end result was not a super success.
I used a polar fleece and made version 1 with the contrasting shoulder patches and small collar. the jacket is navy blue with burgundy patches; I also made the under collar in burgundy too. Teenage son wanted a zip, not buttons and wanted inside pockets. He loves secret pockets. There are no pockets in this jacket, which seems a bit lacking, considering most men don’t carry a handbag and rely on pockets for bits of string, empty sweetie wrappers, dead batteries, £20 in loose change and the like.
The instructions are good, with photos and chapter headings. But I did become at bit confused with the notches especially on the sleeves (front and back) – maybe I’m just used to Vogue’s markings. There’s nothing too complicated about this cardigan – no darts, no sew-and-pivot at the collar – my biggest problem was getting 5 layers of polar fleece through my machine! Joining the collar and the facing to the jacket with the shoulder patches requires all this to pass though the machine in one go and mine measured a staggering 2″ before being squashed down. There is a warning on the instructions that you should check if your sewing machine can handle this, but by that stage it’s all cut out and waiting to be sewn. This sandwich of jacket/collar/facing is a neat and quick method of attaching them all together but mine required A LOT of snipping and trimming to lie flat afterwards.
Now it could be down to the printing, or the tiling or my sewing, or the fabric choice, but the pieces didn’t quite fit together perfectly. There was a lot of stretching and easing and pulling involved to try and match the notches and get some sort of symmetry at the front points of the collar. Added to which I was inserting a zip and not making button holes. I made it up as I went along to add this zip and it is inserted deliberately off centre so that there is a flap inside the jacket to stop the wind blowing through the zip’s teeth.
End result: Bear in mind that his is being modelled by Doris, who has a bust – teenage son does not!
Too small for teenage son. Tight around the chest and I added a band with a button at the bottom to lengthen it too.
Bulky and thick at the join of collar and jacket, even after the severe clipping and trimming.
Too low at the neckline – more like ladies wear than a man’s jacket. Could be because of the zip instead of buttons but I thought the plackets are relatively short in comparison to the jacket fronts.
No pockets. I added a secret patch pocket on the inside between the side seam and the the facing, sewing the bottom of it into the hemline.
On closer inspection, the pattern photo has wrinkles at the collar edges and the top of the plackets. I don’t know if this is a design feature but it looks like something isn’t quite fitting correctly.
Thread Theory Designs are unique in that they are making patterns for men and that is an area that is sorely lacking in the pattern world. There are great reviews of the Jebbidiah pants on PR – singing their praise in fact. On Thread Theory’s blog are photos of real people wearing real Newcastle cardigans, all made by loving partners or mothers and they look fine. Some have the too low neckline that I ended up with and some do look a little tight. I suppose no one is going to publish photos of crap versions though.
Kay the Sewing Lawyer reckons that independent designers design for their own body shape and if you aren’t the same then the designs won’t look good on you. I can relate to that as a lot of the indie women’s wear are for 20 something girls, not curvy middle aged women like me. And while I can admire their designs on the screen they won’t be gracing my body.
Thread Theory designs primarily for her husband (the model) and he is tall and lanky, whereas teenage son is tall but broad, however, she also made a Newcastle cardigan for her dad (who is not tall and lanky!). I feel bad about this not working out first time, but then on reflection, how many patterns do? I mean, if I was to take a Vogue, cut and sew, it wouldn’t fit me – I just know what alterations to do now after years of using their patterns. The same must be true with the indies. I don’t know why I ever thought a pattern straight from the box is an automatic fit. I supposed I assumed that the indies take more time, more testing and produce an artisan item rather than a mass produced-fit-all pattern.
I like to encourage and support independent designers – I think many of their designs are unique and fill a niche that the big 4 do not. My version of the Newcastle cardigan is good enough in that the sewing and execution is fine and I finished all the inside seams on the overlocker (whey hey!) – it just doesn’t fit the intended wearer. So I’m on the look out for a man who is 6’5″ with a 34″ chest: is that physically possible?