Monday, 1 April 2019

Pattern Issues? Or is it me?

I realise that I haven't posted any reviews of my makes on Pattern Review as I used to do, for months now. There are a few reasons for this.
  • When I've made something before,  I'm not sure what else there is to say
  • If I don't like the result BUT I've altered the pattern substantially so the issues could be mine (though they're certainly not all mine!). On the other hand, most people do need to alter patterns to fit.
  • When others review well, and my result isn't good - am I being too negative? I don't want my blog or reviews to be continually negative. However, I have a feeling that some people don’t review negatively when that might be appropriate.
I've had a few patterns with problems recently. I'll mention two

McCall’s M7322 view A - now modified

The first of these was the tank I made for my Blackwood cardigan. At first, I thought it was the changes I made that meant it didn't work.  Could be, of course. What did I do? I ended up cutting the tank two sizes smaller than recommended by the pattern, plus narrowed the back of the pattern (and neck) by a couple of inches. The length is irrelevant. I used McCall’s M7322 view A - sleeveless, scoop neck

This past weekend (it’s a couple of weekends ago now!) I was away for a few days playing bridge.  A friend who was there with me said she never saw me wear any garments I made. She had without realising it!  I was actually wearing a few over the weekend and my friend was astonished - she thought they were lovely and would never have guessed I'd made them. She asked if I'd made any trousers - but of course that's a different story!! Nevertheless, I felt great about that. Then last week, I was presenting our group photography session, and someone commented I looked fabulous! That made me feel better about presenting!!

One of the outfits I wore while away was the above tank and cardigan. The cardigan is fine - no problem. I like it and wouldn't  make any significant changes to a future version, unless I make the other view, the longer cardigan with pockets though that’s a bit unlikely. 

The tank/shell, however, was excessively baggy and boxy - it would be improved a lot with waist shaping for sure but I'm not going to criticise the pattern for that - I prefer waist shaping for my figure but others don't for theirs.  I am going to criticise what must be a HUGE amount of ease - after all,  I am a pear/triangle shape with very large hips and I can easily pinch out several inches at the hip,  despite this being two sizes smaller than recommended. Now,  I've often read of criticism of excess ease when I haven't found that.  I've concluded that I like more ease than others.  After all it's a personal issue. This is excessive.

I've just thought - did I not review the original? I have photos but too late now!! I had a shortage of fabric length and so made the top a bit shorter than I would have liked.

Detail of now coverstitched neckline. Maybe part of my issue is that is shows up the scar from cardiac surgery 18 years ago
I find the scoop neckline too low. Again, I know that's a personal issue but I'm tall and have a longer distance between shoulder and bust line, so it surprises me. I measured the drop after watching a video about recommended drops, and this drop is at the top end (by which I mean, the deepest recommended) - perhaps I just like my necklines higher than most. I would go for the higher neck - view E.

I wore the tank and cardigan and at no time felt comfortable enough to take the cardigan off. Fortunately, the hotel was less hot during the periods I was wearing it and when I was walking outside it was fine.  At one stage, though, I found that my bra was showing because of the position I was in. Not good.

I have read quite a bit about  ‘balance’ in a pattern. I can't say I fully understand it, but I believe it's what makes a pattern lie correctly when made up.  This doesn't and the horizontal lines of my pattern move upwards from back through to front. You’d think this would make the front neck higher, though it doesn’t seem to – unless of course it would be a lot lower otherwise! The upward slope could be due to the need for a FBA. I don’t know, as the top was very loose. It could also be due to the changes I made to the pattern.

The last issue with the tank is certainly down to me.  The neckline doesn't lie nicely, as it falls forward/outward. I used my new coverstitch machine but did it over a full bias binding that had raw edges turned under, so it was quite thick.  I think that I should have altered that by unfolding it as I did with the armholes, which do lie nicely.

Detail of armhole - not easy to see

In conclusion, I don't like this pattern and won't make it up again. So, should I review it on PR? Reading this, do you feel I am missing something? Something I’ve done?

David asked if I could make it again with what I have found, and I explained that I didn’t have the fabric. However, I decided to take in at the side seams around the waist area and take out the coverstitched neckline and redo as mentioned above and see if that makes it wearable. I won’t alter the balance of the top and won’t change the low neck but at least it won’t be baggy and shapeless.

So - I did the alterations I mentioned. I significantly tapered the top in at the sides, more at the waistline, with help from others in my sewing class to determine how much. I serged off the excess on the inside - sadly that meant having to cut off some of the coverstitched hem and armhole. So be it. I tried to stop short of the hem, but it didn’t work, and I had to cut off ¾” back and front and on both sides to ensure it lay smoothly. The top is significantly smaller than it was and fits better.

Front view

Front view

I did take out the coverstitched neckline stitching and redid it with the bias folded out and the excess fabric trimmed away. It lies much better now but I don’t know if it has solved the problem entirely. Sadly, I did that before the alterations at the sides! As a result, I had to fudge the joins - no way was I going to take out again!

Back view

Side view - my hem edges are a bit wonky as a result of redoing.
I guess I should have/could have taken off more at this point.

Today, before publishing this post, I did read some reviews - all said too big, too boxy but were not otherwise too critical.

GBSB Breton top

The second top I’m criticising is the Breton top from the GBSB sewing book ‘From Stitch to Style’

I love this look!!

Part of the issue here is that I didn't have much time and I hoped to enter this top into the #sew50visible challenge as it was modelled by a 50 plus model (shown above) so was eligible. I love stripes,  love long sleeved Breton tops and had bought a suitable fabric in Lucky Fashions, Dewsbury. I had never made anything from any of the three GBSB books I have and had never read any reviews of them and had no time to even think about a toile. Not really the best way to start!

I didn't realise the top was caught up on my trouser buttons
I examined the suggestions for size and chose appropriately, or so I believed. I lengthened the body by 2” and the sleeve by 1”. 

The sleeve has been shortened by 2"; they are a bit loose for me too

I traced the pattern. This was my first time using a magazine or book pattern. I found it a bit tricky to find the pattern in the first place as it wasn't listed on the sheets,  then found the front and back were different colours and I nearly confused with another top on the sheet.  Some of the markings weren't as well marked as I'd like. Anyway, I traced out onto pattern paper and at the same time made the front and the back as full-sized pieces rather than pieces to be cut on the fold as I felt that would make keeping the stripes matching more easily.

The sleeves are cut back by over 2" but are still a bit long for my taste

I checked each piece against the pattern.

I cut out without difficulty. My fabric was much better behaved than I expected based on recent experiences.

I then started to sew up. I found that the pattern marks did not match.  I checked my markings and they were as given in the pattern.  I measured the distances on the pattern, and they did not match.  This was the case with the sleeve notches which I was able to get around.  It was also the case with the side slits - notch to notch was at 9cm on one piece and 10cm on the other. I was able to deal with this with Lyn's help ( I was doing this in Lyn’s Thursday sewing class) but this was trickier as I hadn't made this kind of slit previously.

Lyn commented that she hadn't found patterns from these books very good. I wish I'd asked her first!

I didn't get it finished in class,  as I'd hoped. I really just had the final topstitching around the neckline,  sleeves and hem to do (the slits looked good I thought).

The pattern suggested a straight topstitch and I did that around the neckline to hold down the facings, but it looked awful. I wanted to finish in class so my new coverstitch machine was not an option but clearly would have been better. One issue here is that the facing is stitched at 1.25 inches but it's double that width and all that excess gets trimmed off.  Why?

I sewed the rest of the top together and serged the seams using the class overlocker. I followed the pattern order of construction and the top stitching around the neckline gets done at an early stage. I tried on the top. Hmmm. Not nice. The neckline looked awful, even considering the need for replacement topstitching. Lyn wondered if it had stretched, though I did stay stitch etc. The neckline was/is rather wide for my liking. This led to the sleeve/bodice junction being further down my arm than presumably intended and the sleeves were considerably too long. I had lengthened them by an inch because of my long arms but they were at least 2” too long. I turned up the bottom hem - length dictated by the side vents. The top itself looked big, shapeless and baggy and a bit too short despite lengthening by 2” - not at all like the rather sexy top of the model (though the skirt really added to that view! I love the skirt).

The end of the class had arrived. ‘All’ I had to do was to take out the neckline topstitching, cut off the excess sleeve and turn up the sleeve hem and then topstitch neckline, sleeves and hem. As my coverstitch machine is new, I am not proficient with it as yet, but even so, I could have finished this pretty quickly. I could have made the time even though I was packing to leave for the weekend the next morning. What stopped me? A combination of factors, the main one being I don’t like this top, so I didn’t feel in any hurry to finish simply to enter an IG challenge - after all, I’m critical of the pattern and it doesn’t look good. The other factors were that I’d have to find sufficient thread to thread the coverstitcher probably by winding several bobbins and I’d prefer to test and practice. So, it didn’t get finished.

I did know the finished measurements of this garment and realised there was a fair amount of ease, so should perhaps have sized down at the early stage. I’m not sure how much that would have affected the neckline. I presume the sleeves would have been less long. The pattern notches were certainly incorrect. The body was too short despite lengthening.

I don’t think I’ll make this again and it has put me off further GBSB patterns. I saw that someone else had made the top for the same challenge and seemed very positive about it. So - is it me? Am I choosing the wrong style? The wrong size? Am I too fussy? All of the above?

I will add that it’s not nearly as bad as I first thought, and David quite likes it. I wondered about adding a patch into each side of the neckline, stripes going the opposite way - a kind of gusset - as my bra straps show - and investigated that in the following class. However, I decided against it as I didn’t feel the gusset insert would work - it would look very busy with stripes going in all directions and anything else would require a major deconstruction of the top and I wasn’t going there.

I ran into difficulty coverstitching the bottom hem. The fabric was ploughing.  I realised I needed to adjust the settings and was advised to change the needle from the one that came with the machine (Schmetz ELx705 to the  stretch version of the needle - Schmetz ELx705 SUK CF) so did that. Someone else suggested I might be using cheap thread. I didn’t think it was but could be. I bought some better-quality thread advised by my dealer but colour choice was limited and both he and I thought my original thread was preferable. He didn't think my thread was the best but not the worst either. I decided to send away for some MaxiLock which is certainly much smoother – and that’s what I ended up using.

I wondered about needing  to change the differential feed more to stop the ploughing of the fabric and whether I needed to change the foot pressure - not something I have tried as yet. Or even use some kind of temporary interfacing/wundaweb. Another issue is that the hem was rounded, and I had difficulty guiding the fabric. I’m not sure whether I should consider getting a hem guide. It all adds to the cost of this expensive hobby and would it be a useful addition?

I decided to straighten the hem as it would be easier to follow a stripe for the coverstitching rather than a curve at 1.25” from the hem fold, which I found very difficult. It’s not quite as nice without the gentle curve but I felt it would be easier to handle. It shortens the overall length in the middle by about ½”

My coverstitch has 3 needles and the needles can be used in any position. I read about machine basting hems where the centre of the foot/centre needle would lie and then coverstitching with the wide coverstitch - needles in L and R but not middle, following the line of machine basting. I was able to use my sewing machine’s inbuilt dual feed and achieved a basted line to follow - and of course, which kept the hem in place.

I also cut down the neckline facing to bring it much closer to the finished width.

I then managed to do the wide 2 needle coverstitch around sleeves, hemline and neckline without difficulty.  I had practised first, to check tensions etc. I chose to secure all the ends, though that is not 100% necessary. Then I had to take out the basting stitch.

My bra straps show, sadly

The coverstitch is supposed to cover the cut edge of the hem but because of the way  I did this, after construction, it didn’t. I then had to trim the fabric closer to the coverstitching.

It’s finished!! The neckline is too wide, but I could wear a cream camisole under it. I’m not keen on the style - I don't think Dolman sleeves are for me. I prefer a structured sleeve and shoulder.

Another issue - when I put on for these photos (my daughter was visiting and took them) I couldn't tell what was the back and what was the front of the top!!

Rather belatedly, I read some reviews and found all reviews saying that the top was too short - many had missed out the side slits (which required a 2 and 3/4" ) hem and simply turned by 5/8". I'm very glad  I lengthened by over 2" in the end. The reviews also mentioned narrowing the shoulder length to have the sleeve start at a more favourable position, which would have helped. I didn't see others mention that the markings were incorrect though some mentioned the absence of markings for bustline, waistline etc and the need to 'guess' at a size. Others did not mention too wide a neck so that may be my issue alone.


What did I achieve/learn?

I have two finished garments which are wearable even if not the perfect style for me or perfectly stitched.

I went some way along the coverstitching learning curve. I think the coverstitch definitely does give a more polished finish. Next garment I do, I will plan to cover stitch from the start and will cut facings and hems etc the correct width.

I won’t make any further Dolman sleeve tops.

Outstanding queries

Should I go for a hem guide and/or a clear foot for my coverstitch machine?
Thread is very expensive. In the overlocker, because you don’t see the seam, you can get away with a close enough thread – grey is very useful for a lot of colours. With the coverstitch machine, 1, 2 or 3 threads show on top. Is it okay, I wonder, to wind some thread onto bobbins and use that? I looked at various posts and saw that while just this was suggested, someone suggested that the thread should be wound onto the bobbin and then rewound off that bobbin to another bobbin so it lay in the same direction as the other. Is this necessary?


Should I review either of these garments on PR? I think I'm going to go ahead and review the Breton Top as I don't believe any of my changes were responsible for the problems I met.
Any thoughts on thread?


  1. I think it is useful to everyone to read critiques of patterns, both negative and positive, and I love reading about alterations. I think a gusset at the neck of the Breton stripe would definitely be a good addition to hide your straps, and would appear as a design feature. I don’t think it would be too busy at all. I use normal sewing thread for the needles on my coverstitch, the straight stitch doesn’t use much so ends of reels often get used up, and any close enough colour for the looper. As far as feet go I think the clear foot is a+ (Juki dont have one but I would buy one in a flash if they did just to help me make my joins in the round match up) but I wouldn’t bother with a hem guide. I bought one, it’s a bit of a faff, and I have now, with practise got much better at judging the edge without it. One thing I have found to help is to overlock the cut edge of the hem before coverstitching because that gives an edge you can feel better as you guide it through the coverstitch. And of course very careful measuring and pinning. I don’t tack now, although I did at first.

    1. Thank you. That's very helpful (sorry I don't know your name). I will go for the clear foot (or the centre foot which is clear and I believe the centre guide is detachable) but not the hem guide. These ttop weren't made with coverstitching in mind but next ones will be and yes careful measuring and pinning. Normal thread for the needles would be a lot easier! I'll have to see if my coverstitcher will accept that.
      Yes, I'll have to rethink the gusset...

  2. My vote is absolutely put up a review of both tops. As long as people are clear about things that are personal preference (too low or wide of neckline) vs. actual issues (pattern marking way off), seeing how a pattern turns out for a variety of people using different fabrics is a Good Thing. I also like reading what alterations were done, or should have been done.

    I wish people were a bit more honest about pattern issues though. Not every company will cover all sizes or shapes, but I do wish that when they need called out on pattern errors or bad instructions, reviewers would do so. In my mind, there's a difference if a garment comes "OMG it's HUGE!" because the size chart information is way off (bad drafting?), vs. it's designed to be roomy, vs. personal preference.

    About the winding thread on bobbins twice... I'd say if it works OK for you winding once, don't bother rewinding. I wonder if the "need" is dependent on thread brand and the way it comes off the spool? Or if you have a mix of bobbins wound both ways? I have zero thoughts on the coverstitch feet, I have a machine that I'm still trying to figure out the basics.

    1. Thank you. I agree with your thinking.
      I'm still trying to figure out the basics of coverstitching that's for sure. I don't have a great selection of threads.

  3. I also like to read the good and bad with pattern reviews. I have struggled excessively with a certain pattern that everyone "loves" and no one has said they had issues with. This makes me question myself - why does it work for "everyone" and not me?

    I think your tops look great! I know how excess ease can be though. I like way less ease than most. I find that the "big 4" patterns usually have a lot of ease. I will take my high bust measurement and use that to find my size (I'm a pear too). Then I measure the hip part with my ruler to see how much to add. Or I will find my hip measurement on the pattern and grade out to that from waist to hip.
    Learning the coverstich is a journey :) and perfection is overrated. Your tops look great so keep doing what you are doing.
    And I also have a dislike of dolman tops.

    1. Thank you. Your first paragraph really resonates with me. I've had exactly the same issue with a particular pattern.
      Yes, I use HB to choose size but something obviously went wrong here! I found it difficult to work out where to measure on the Breton top.
      Thank you for your kind comments.


Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. Please leave a comment. I welcome each and every one. I value criticism (constructive of course! ), love hints and tips and would appreciate suggestions for future direction.

Update and Continuing with Machine Embroidery Course

I haven’t been sewing anything recently. I’ve managed a few alterations and repairs and a little bit of machine embroidery - though I’ve f...