Thursday, February 3, 2011

Law of Averages

Occasionally people ask me whether Vogue "Average" patterns (that's one rank below Advanced, fyi) are that tricky. Or they want to know what makes a Vogue Advanced so intricate. At which point I turn around to make sure they are actually talking to me, cuz wtf do I know from Vogue Average. I suspect the sum of my experience is having accidentally bought some patterns in this category because "average" seemed easy enough when first I started sewing.

Amazingly, not too long ago, I did knowingly buy a Vogue Advanced. It's this Claire Schaeffer, and I have no regrets:

Concerns, maybe. But I don't need to make it till I'm ready, right? And I have heard that the instructions, while lengthy, are awesome.

I too wonder what separates the average from advanced or, for that matter, what separates Vogue Very Easy from regular Vogue "Easy". Is it prerequisite technique? Pattern pieces? Number of steps? Which brings me to the crux of this post:

See, I have spent 8 hours tracing, cutting and preparing fabric for Butterick 5559 - a Vogue family Easy pattern. I don't know about you, but even if the go-forward sewing is a breeze (and we know that's not something one should ever take for granted), I don't think that this process qualifies as easy.

In 8 hours, I have (thankfully) traced a pattern, now trashed because of all the crap I had to do to transfer markings, cut the fabric, tailor tacked the tuck lines and the darts onto the fabric, chalked the darts on both sides of the relevant pieces, drawn curved darts and pinned said darts.

Look, I'm not complaining. I don't expect gorgeous clothing that looks kind of complicated to be super easy, even if the pattern envelope tries to give me that impression. I'm just saying there should, perhaps, be a disclaimer, or a code, which advises purchasers that their particular easy pattern, for example, while it doesn't require the ability to sew zippers / any other closures or to do seam binding or other finishing techniques, does require the ability to transfer some pretty serious pattern markings in a way I don't think one can adequately accomplish without tailor tacking. I think there should be a pattern-specific skills required / techniques used matrix on the outer envelope is what I'm saying.

Till now, I should mention, I've never tried tailor tacking. You think I might have looked up how to do it (the pattern doesn't suggest or explain the method, I've just read about it before) and somehow I couldn't bring myself to. Why? Because I thought it might throw me over the edge to formalize the process. I opted to make it up from memory of blog posts and book chapters so that I wouldn't feel like it was too complicated. Of course, now I don't know if I've done it right, but that's not the point.

The point is: If I were some novice sewist (ok, I am, but go with my analogy) looking for a great dress that seems fancy but happens to be super easy, I might pop this in my cart with nary a thought, only to be traumatized by 8 hours of prep prior to being able to actually start actual sewing.

Note: This novice wasn't traumatized. Just irked because she hadn't expected a need for such intricacy at the outset. Really, I had more than enough resources to assist me. Oh, and so far, I absolutely like this pattern. It's fascinating. But I wouldn't recommend it if you haven't sewn a bunch of other dresses first. Let's tag it: Kristin "Moderately Challenging Pattern Prep, Advanced Beginner-Intermediate".

That totally rolls off the tongue.


  1. I have that Claire Schaeffer pattern too, which I am completely in love with and totally intimidated to begin. I need someone to jump on it and tell me how bad it really is. Volunteering? *wink*wink*

  2. You're not a novice!

    I don't trust the word 'easy' when it comes to patterns.

    That one, to my eye, looks complicated.

  3. P.S. I was referring to the dress pattern, not jacket. The jacket looks advanced.

  4. Ginnie: No way! :-)

    Susan: I got you. I don't actually trust the word easy whenever I find it!

  5. lol! Very true.

    Other necessary catagories:
    - "Neat idea, will not work on a human body" for patterns like the butterick walkaway-dress
    - "Serious foundation garments needed to achieve similar results" for patterns like V2903
    - "two hours+ needed just to cut/trace out the paper pieces" like M5525

  6. You've done all the hard work for this pattern now. The sewing part is a cinch and goes pretty quickly. I was surprised too by how much prep work was involved with this pattern.

  7. Roses: Hilarious! You've got it!

    Kim: Hmmm, I know it worked that way for you, but pls. read on :-)