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I am a mother, a new 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 first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Monday, August 8, 2011

Vogue 1261 : the technical notes

Let's start with the whole issue of designer patterns. 

Now I doubt that Kay Unger or Alice and Olivia or DKY sit down and write out these instruction sheets for us home sewers. Most likely some version of a sample or standard size pattern is sent over and the folks at Vogue go into the cut and paste library or translate what they see into instructions. But it is quite clear to me that the garment on the envelope is not made exactly the way the guide sheet inside describes. This is particularly true in knit garments, and very true with this pattern.

I am going to try to organize my thoughts under headings, but begin by saying that this is an interesting pattern with some good shapes but the instructions are way out there. Way out.

Now from the general to the specific:

Thing that drives me crazy #1:

O.K. let's lose the straight stitched double seamed illustrations. Knit tops are not being sewn on treadles. Anyone post WWII has a zig zag and sergers have been around a very, very long time. In fact I bought my first serger after I attended a workshop given by some machine reps at a local motel. I was so desperate to see this new machine I ran through the snow and because I was late climbed over a snow bank with a fresh episiotomy - that's as graphically as I can describe how LONG ago it was that I saw my first serger.

We all have sergers or at the very least a good zig zag with some straight stitches. So what's with illustrating and writing the instructions as if electricity hadn't been invented yet?

Let me tell you none of those folks down at Vogue are sitting there writing this stuff in serger-free clothes.

OK, now let me tell you how I really feel.

In case you want to know what sent me over the edge (see name of blog above) it is this: A bias arrow printed on the collar binding pattern piece in a knit. Of course you only cut something like a binding on the bias to make it stretchy but of course this is completely irrelevant as the fabric is two way stretch - and says so on the very same pattern piece:

Exhibit A:

 Exhibit B:

I mean I have been around the block enough times to ignore that bias arrow, but think of the children, think of the children.

Thing that drives me crazy #2 (pattern specific):

OK, I got ahead of myself last night in talking about the seam in the centre back (it's straight and you can put this pattern piece on the fold - I did) and the seam at the back of the collar. As far as I can figure out they were trying to replicate a flatlock or maybe a coverhem but since the rules were not to use or imply the use of modern machinery they made up this weird twin-needle stuff. Now remember most twin-needles are really close together, unless you get yourself off to a sewing machine dealer for a $6.00 speciality one and most people won't.

Which means you are being asked to straddle butt seams with a tiny little space between two needles. I am not even going to go into the fact that in most cases you are advised to stitch from the wrong side which means a sort of messy zig zag is what is going to show on the right side - I mean why not just use a zig zag to start with?

Here is what those destructions look like:

By tape they mean the scotch tape holding on paper behind the butt seam made by pressing under each cut edge 3/8"

Less hysterical commentary:

Sleeves: As I said last night these are cut real slim and the cap is high, I hate to say it but these would best go in as a set-in sleeve if you don't want to distort the cap, or at least ease in the cap before you try flat construction just as the pattern suggests. The seam allowances are left to the outside and you are told to do this to them. I in fact just zig-zagged instead:

The collar: FYI the band that is folded over the cut edge of this single layer collar is smaller than the opening which means it pulls the collar in a bit so if you fold the top of the collar in it doesn't flip out. This is not a bad idea. Instead of all the twin-needle business I just zig-zagged this down, three step so it wouldn't tunnel. On a more substantial fabric (I made a million samples with my coverhem with starch and stabilizer but still got some tunneling in my soft single layer of bamboo rayon) I would and will use my coverhem to do this:

My fabric actually looks nice in real life but I had to distort/lighten it so you could see the details in navy fabric

The raw edge hem:

See note above about this fabric not looking so crappy and linty in real life

Now I am actually going to make this top again. I have invested so much emotional energy in it I figure why not. But in a sweater knit (remind me to hang that up before I go to bed, it's wet now) with a coverhem.

We will see how that turns out.

BTW my darling husband fed me while I wrote this. One of his super pizzas, he and it, deserve a picture. I have no cranky comments to say about his cooking methods, none at all:


Alison said...

You know...I think Vogue are trying to do a Marcy Tilton WITHOUT Marcy. LOL.

Those pizzas look fan-bloody-tastic!

Bunny said...

Thanks for the great explanation of the pattern frustrations.

Your husband's pizza and its incredible fabrication deserve a blog of their own! I would follow, particularly the cleaning oven part (wink). You know, that waiting for the train wreck thing. Sure looks tasty!

quinn said...

ok your husband pizza describe the ingredients

Ann said...

I think that when Vogue does a designer pattern they have the actual garment in hand (purchased or gifted from the designer). Then they deduce how it was constructed from that finished product. That is why designer patterns often have very different instructions than the non-designer patterns. The original Alice and Olivia top must have had the butted seams and ribbon on top. Vogue will modify the instructions to make it possible for the home sewer to construct the garment but try to keep the concept the same. At least that it how it used to be....

Eileensews said...

Now that I see the finished pizza, I want to give his method for baking them a try.

knitmachinequeen (KMQ) said...

OMG that pizza looks delicious! Wish I had some here but the only thing my husband can cook is meat on the grill!

Jodie said...

I hope you had wine with your pizza.

I'm tempted to buy this pattern and make it up in the way I think best (probably similar to the way you thought best). I do like the cowl and I think having the inner cowl smaller than the neckline is a good idea.

Hope Vogue is reading this, since using a twin needle to sew butted seams together would be hugely difficult and might wreck some poor beginner sewist's whole sewing experience.

I teach Home Ec and since I love to sew, enjoy teaching sewing to my students (beginners, one and all). When they come in with commercial patterns, the biggest problem they have is direction interpretation. And, often I'm giving them completely different directions! Generally zippers are put in LAST when they should be put in first/flat! Who writes this stuff, and does anyone check or test them out?

Jane M said...

My theory is that all the Big 4 have pre-written directions in an old word processing file that was created before sergers and zig zag stitiches! No one ever goes back to up date it because it was good enough then so it must be good enough now. I like this new top on you but thanks for the heads up about how you had to get there.

Amanda said...

THANK YOU for this!! Being relatively new with the serger, I've never understood why the Big 4 knit patterns don't have better instructions. I can't figure them out! If ever you have tips.....

Also, climbing a snow bank post birth = hardcore.

Martha said...

Favorite post ever. You outdid yourself. I can feel your pain. And I admire your sticktoitiveness. Over the top. Thanks.

Psycho Sue- Sew Misunderstood said...

those pattern instructions are a hot mess!

Irene said...

I enjoyed your rant. It took me years (more like decades) to finally realize that I get much better results when I sew my way. I buy a pattern for the pattern pieces, rarely for the information on how to put those pieces together. Keeping this in mind takes the frustration out of the equation.

Ms.Alethia said...

Great review on this pattern, V1261. Your site came up as I was googling the number. Actually, another site popped up that said go to your site to see your funny review on this pattern. I'm waiting for mine to arrive from Vogue, so thanks for the heads up. :)

Christina said...

I am planning my fall wardrobe and was researching this top on PR, which led me to your blog. Thanks to you, I think I will just sew the seams "the right way" (raw edges inside) as you did in your second version rather than attempting Vogue's artistic finish. Great tips in your post - thanks!

Nancy said...

I just wanted to let you know that I have made this pattern twice and I love the results. HOWEVER, I read your blog on it first which is probably why it's such a success. It was a relief to know that there are many out there who do not actually follow the instructions that come with patterns. Thanks for posting this.