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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Friday, August 19, 2011

Good ideas and things that are not making sense in Vogue 1264

O.K. We have already established I love this pattern because of the fit of the pants. I want to make this clear before I make comment on some of the construction advice. 

You know, I have a fantasy. In my dreams, someone at a pattern company appoints me pattern instruction proof reader - you know I would be paid to say what your average sewer would find confusing. I would love to tell the instruction writers how to make things just easier and more successful.

How many sewers, new sewers in particular, have been turned off the whole process of sewing because they couldn't manage to do what the instructions said, or what the picture looked like? They quit sewing because they thought it was them when in fact it is instructions anyone would have trouble with.

In my view, one of the main purposes of any instruction, sewing guides in particular, is to make the user feel smart and not stupid - that is, if you want them to keep coming back. In fact, I would argue one of the things the independent pattern companies  have going for them, even if they are sometimes limited in the styles and currency of what they offer, is that their instructions are generally helpful.

O.K. let's talk about Vogue 1264's pants. Then I better go to bed.

Good things first.

The nice thing about a designer pattern is the details. This one advised me that the waistline facing (and BTW even though it is a faced waistline it is right up at the real waistline no more of the dangling stuff) needed to be bound rather than say serged. I did this and used an old silk tie I bought at a second hand store for $1.50. The tie like all ties was of course already cut on the bias so it was easy and fabric economical to just cut a strip from the middle of it.

I cut this binding much wider than I needed rather than using the pattern piece. I did this so I would have something to hold on to while I stitched it down from the right side. I hate turning things over and finding I have missed catching something. Of course I will trim the extra off and the net effect will be as if I had used a narrow binding in the first place but was a really good sewer:

Now onto Things Make No sense.

Things that make no sense #1:

Construction order.

These pants call for an invisible zipper which of course is inserted before the seam below is sewn (I might do an invisible zipper tutorial sometime - they are the easiest zippers for beginners). This of course is easiest done with two garment pieces, in this case the left front and back legs.

So why then are you asked to do it after this step, pictured below?  If you do this you are going to have far too much random and out of control fabric around your sewing machine and as a result are in danger of applying the zipper to one leg and say one hem, or waistline, or something even more creative:

Makes no sense #2:

In this step, and in the final one in these instructions, you are told to sew the inside button tab to the back of the pants, meaning that it comes forward on the inside and is buttoned on the inside of your front waist. Maybe there is a good reason for this but to me a tab and a button should go towards the back, just like you would if there was a waistband that buttoned. I changed mine to the back because I don't see a button on the front of my side, even on the inside:

Makes no sense #3:

The continuation of the above with the button sewn to the front part, but note that you are also told, as the nearly last stage, to make a button hole in the tab.

Now really.

That little tab was made all on its own a while ago and that is the time to put in the buttonhole, when you have the option of making another little tab or several if you have to in case you mess up this up. Who wants to unpick that facing and that invisible zipper just because you made a crummy buttonhole because you were nearly done and you were tired? Why instruct in stress?

This is probably not the way to have the Big Four hire me as an instruction proof reader is it?


Texan said...

I can tell you I have more than once not followed directions, as they made no sense and given I did know how to sew albeit my sewing experience is mostly interior design. I have already found in my new adventures into clothing sewing to take the directions with a grain of salt so to speak :O).

What I find interesting is if there is a hard way to do something in some cases that is the way they have you do it, When there is a much simpler way to do it :O).

Jodie said...

I'd vote for you! I'm a strong sewist and teach Jr. High Home Economics (grades 7 to 9) and only reason I stopped allowing my grade 9 sewists (who had taken Home Ec for 3 years) to purchase their own patterns was the fact that the instructions are so terrible and difficult for them to interpret. Because even the highly organized/detail oriented students who were very able, were completely frustrated by the directions. My favourite (NOT) was when the directions were in text in 3 or 4 different languages with the pictures at the end. So unhelpful.
What I ended up doing with my students is having them use Kwik Sew patterns (the directions are generally pretty good and common sensical if you know what I mean). For my exceptional sewists who are quite capable/lots of initiative I purchased an independent company pattern of a messenger bag with excellent directions.
For the most part, for myself, I generally use pattern directions as a guideline, but I always try to work in units (Bunny/La Sewista does this and did a post about it, I think). I try to pass that on to my students. But of course, with beginners, they think that they MUST follow the directions. For someone that's working without a teacher, using Big 4 patterns would be a frustrating/off putting experience.

Are you listening VOGUE?

shams said...

I wonder if Vogue is off shoring the instructions. Maybe they are being written by non-native English speakers?

I *love* your silk tie binding!

Sarah C said...

Now a days I really just skim over the directions to get a general idea of how they say to put something together. While I cut out my fabric I start working out how I am going to put it together. Sometimes it maybe like the pattern says, other times I make take sanity saving shortcuts.

NuJoi said...

Send them an email. They've always responded rather quickly in the past.

Eugenia said...

Great postI am fairly often puzzled about the whys and wherefores of pattern instructions. When I was a beginner I used to follow them blindly anyway because I didn't have enough confidence not to. Now that I have a bit more experience I try to think things through and go my own way more.

Birdie said...

You would have saved me from so much trouble when I was first starting to sew, if you had this job! I'll write them a letter on your behalf. ;) Honestly, though - it's stupidity (and, like you said, instruction in stress) like this that nearly made me give up sewing. Had I not found bloggers and their tutorials and instructions online, giving directions that made sense and techniques that worked, I wouldn't be, well, commenting on a sewing blog today!
(came here from All My Seams, btw, and will be following your blog as well now)