It all started with an email last week from an independent designer who noted that their patterns had minimal instructions because the assumption had been made that anyone who bought a pattern "already knew how to sew."
I have been considering this all week.
O.K. how do most people learn to sew?
Schools have maybe a smattering of sewing instruction jammed in between other family studies stuff, if that. My kids made shorts on semester for example. Even I didn't learn to sew at school (the project was a slip and I think I barely passed - the teacher obviously had little patience for deviation, mine was floral with lots of free form lace).
My mother taught me the basics, things she learned from her mother, stuff like tailor tacks and the importance of grain lines, and I am grateful for that knowledge. In university I did a minor in theatrical costume design where I found out that no one can raise their arms in an 18th century frock coat from an original pattern.
But really most of the sewing knowledge I had starting out, pre Nancy Zeiman, pre sewing books, pre the internet for sure, I gathered from reading about 10,000 sewing instructions.
From this process I learned a lot about what worked, and even more about what doesn't.
Like most sewers (tell me if this is you too) I have remembered a particularly cool technique when I have found one and integrated it into my own repertoire.
For instance when I recently made Brensen Designs KISS dress I found a new way of bagging the lining in a sleeveless dress and that is the method I will use from now on. To me that meant it was a great, not just a good pattern.
I also learned a lot from alternative pattern sources. Kwik Sew and Jalie have taught me all I know about knits and Burda magazine opened my eyes to more ready-to-wear methods of construction and the reality that there were more sensible, and successful, ways to put garments together than the peculiar techniques I read in the Big Four.
All of this is leading somewhere.
After I had read my message a week ago from the designer who presumed sewers already knew how to put pieces together, I got to work on my son's shirt, Vogue 8800. This is an excellent pattern with a nice slightly retro, hip look and the fit was great. (BTW despite my earlier comments it turned out he really loved the shirt and gave me a shout out on FB for making it which was nice).
This is a convertible collar shirt, being casual and retro, and there isn't a stand on the collar, which is unusual for a man's shirt, but consistent with the style of this one.
When I glanced at the instructions I noted the usual Big Four method for finishing the back of the neck below the collar was still there, and I have taken professional level iPad shots of that method so you know what I mean:
|The last stage, see how nice and easy it looks to just turn under that neckline collar edge and slip stitch it down. A sewer might be fooled into thinking this will go smoothly and in the end look like this picture.|
|OK this is how you set this up. Note very accurate clips right to the stitching line, already I am worried.|
Where this technique goes off the rails. See how much action, and layers, there are at the intersection of the facings, collar turned under edge - all depending on those two surgically precise clips, which at this point are probably fraying and even more so because the odd stitch, the ones used to nail down the collar (making sure not to catch the free edge as they say) has been unpicked and restitched. I mean who can do this is a relaxed way?
I know all of this because in an unusual burst of conformity I actually tried this method to see if I was being too fussy. I did get it to turn out, with some fixes and restitches, but really am not happy with it, not as a process and not as a product. I can do better.
Techniques like this, and I am sure this one was just cut and copied in from some sort of central data back without any actual person thinking this through, function only to frustrate sewers and even worse, far worse, make the learning-to-sew sewer feel she just can't do this sewing thing.
Yes I know I have written a lot about this in the past but it always annoys me. Why are techniques never seen in ready-to-wear inserted into patterns by folks who should be trying to create new sewers, not lose them?
Are there other sewing-pattern-only-methods out there that frustrate you? What are the instructions you ignore?
Oh and how do I usually finish back necklines? I either serge right across the seam which reduces bulk and wears quite well, or I put a binding over the seam allowance.
Tell me how do you finish the necklines of collars without a stand?