Tuesday, March 18, 2008

in which i find out i'm not so smart after all

Once you've been in the online sewing world for a little while, you start to realize that many home sewers (or sewists, as some call themselves) pooh-pooh the "Big 4" pattern companies (Simplicity, McCall's, Butterick, and ? what's the fourth?) and instead create garments from European patterns.

These patterns seem to be more tailored to actual human bodies and come in lots more modern, hip designs. We're talking about Burda, for example. In many cases you are required to do things like add the seam allowances (where the American pattern companies print the seam allowances right on the pattern pieces), and while this seems like a pain in the booty, it's actually good in cases where you need to do alterations (or so I've read...I've never once attempted a pattern alteration).

One such European company is Ottobre Design. They make patterns for women and children, but it's the designs for children that blew me away. LOTS of home sewing mamas use this source, so I decided to give it a try. I figured I've been sewing long enough and made enough different patterns that I could certainly figure out these Euro patterns.

First of all, this gorgeous book of patterns is hiding an ugly secret:

This is what one of the 6 pattern sheets looks like. Is that not enough to make you want to poke your eyes out? You have to get out your pattern ease and a marker, sit in a very well-lit room, and carefully seek out and trace the correct pattern pieces in the correct size. By color. Oh my peas. It is ridiculous. But I did it, because dang it, I was going to make my Daughter some adorable Euro clothes!

I went to Joann's on Sunday for a shot of inspiration. There, I ran into my first roadblock. The entire book is in metric. I mean, duh, of course, it is European. I should have done a little prep work at home to determine how much yardage I would need for the designs I was planning to make.

I got through it, and came away with a plan:

Fabric for 3 pairs of cropped summer pants and linen for a dress.

The pants:

Two cuts of embroidered twill, and one of denim weaver's cloth.

The dress:

Linen in the prettiest blue I've ever seen. Daughter has blue eyes, so I like to make blue clothing to set them off.

Well, I got the patterns traced and cut out, as you can see in the photo above. Then I went to bed because after all that tracing and marking I was losing my mind. And my eyesight, I think.

Yesterday I began sewing, starting with the pants. Next roadblock: these patterns come with approximately 10 lines of directions. The gist is this: "sew garment together."

So I did:

I did ok, until I got to the outside leg seams. The pattern pieces include a mock vent piece that extends out from the leg. I wish I'd taken a photo if it before sewing. I had NO IDEA what to do. I can sew a real vent. But how to you sew a mock vent? The instructions were so very, very vague that I spent a full half-hour flipping back and forth from the instructions to the picture of the finished pants, trying to get a clue. I searched my sewing reference books. I looked on the internet. Nothing.

I finally quit, and I swear I laid in bed thinking about it for hours. I just have no idea what they wanted me to do. I still don't. I faked it.

I sewed the entire side seam, then folded the seam allowance and vent extensions forward (inside the leg) and topstitched over them. They still need two buttons sewn on to complete the vent illusion. That horizontal topstitched seam is supposed to be there - you cut the pattern piece off, make a separate bottom panel, and sew it back on for design interest. That part was no problem. But that damn mock vent...I hope I can figure it out because I want to make more of these! Oh, and the hem is straight. Through the magic of photography, it looks wonky. I assure you, it's fine.

For the pockets, rather than turning under the seam allowances I chose to line each with batiste and turn them, because the bottoms are curved. I knew I'd make a giant mess of it if I tried to turn those under. Plus a lined pocket should be stronger, right? Daughter likes to pick up all kinds of sticks and rocks and crap outside, and all that will probably end up in these pockets.

Part of what screwed me up on these pants (besides hubris) was the fact that I chose not to add seam allowances to my pieces. I took the advice of others I've read about on the 'net and simply cut a larger size, then sewed with a regular 5/8" seam allowance. This worked for the most part, especially because Daughter is so petite and thin. However, it seems to have messed me up in the waistband area. The directions call for wide elastic, and the picture shows a wide waistband. I ended up with a puny casing that will only hold very narrow elastic. I need to try these on Daughter when she gets up...I'm hoping the elastic waist will be comfortable enough. I guess on the next pair I will add length at the waist to accommodate a much wider casing.

So it turns out I don't know as much as I thought I did. I'll be trying again, though. Stay tuned for the continuing saga. I'll be trying the dress next. I need a little break from these pants.


Karen said...

First off: BRAVO! The pants are adorable in spite of the hiccups. They are super, super cute.

Second: what is hubris?

Third: the fourth pattern co. is Burda. Simplicity, Butterick, McCall's, Burda. I guess Vogue doesn't count.

Liz said...

I'm glad I don't call myself a sewist, therefore I can get away with Simplicity & McCall's. :)

kate said...

Huh, I was sure the fourth company would be Vogue. Guess my post is wrong, then!

Hubris: exaggerated pride or self-confidence. :)

Liz - I totally use those patterns ALL THE TIME. I didn't mean to make it sound like I'm some kind of pattern snob. I am definitely NOT!

Pam said...

I love the linen dress pattern. It's very sweet and girly and simple. Can't wait to see it finished!

Ruth said...

My hat is off to you. I would have unfolded the pattern, boggled, and put it right away again.

LauraLo said...

Super cute pants, you did a great job! Personally I am against tracing a larger size and sewing with no seam allowances. If you look at the different sizes of the same pattern, you'll notice that a larger size is 5/8 let's say larger at the waist but 1/4 larger at the beginning of the armhole. So you do alter the shape of the pattern.
To help you with metric, just keep in mind that 1 m of fabric is just a bit more than 1 yd and we mostly work with 55" wide fabric.
Good luck with European patterns, I hope you have a great time!

P. S. I could bet the fourth was Vogue not Burda!!!