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November 9

My Minoru Jacket, A Pattern Testers’ Perspective

I do apologize but I have to let out a big *sigh* first and foremost.  I can finally talk about my new fall Jacket called Minoru by none other than Tasia of Sewaholic.  hip hip  It took a lot of restraint as I was blogging about how my one bun, Baxter likes to play in and around my fabric and not mention what this fabric was for.

Instead of gushing about what a wonderful pattern the Minoru Jacket is (which it really is!) I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts about pattern testing, since this was a first for me.

Earlier this fall, I signed up to be a Pattern Tester for Sewaholic (aka Tasia) along with 600 other bloggers/readers of the Sewaholic blog.  From there Tasia sent another email asking those 600 people if they’d be up for taking the plunge on the next pattern, which would be a jacket with lining and a zipper.  I immediately jumped on board with a bunch of others, but either by random selection or some other means, I was somehow picked to be a pattern tester for the newest Sewaholic Pattern.  I was pretty excited and ran home to tell my hubby about it.

I was both excited but it was also a sobering thought for me… I had to completely stop all of my other projects I was working on and sew up a jacket in 2 weeks.  I really didn’t want to halt my other projects, but I knew I had to in order to finish the Minoru jacket in time and to also to sew this to my own sewing-expectations.

Soon to follow from the initial email from Tasia, she sent us all a line drawing of the jacket and I fell in love.

She also sent us a few images of her pattern sample, a lovely orange jacket with b&w lining that are now seen on her blog:

It looks exactly like the line drawing, but I found it difficult to envision my own Minoru after seeing hers, without being influenced, that is.  I like Tasia’s casual version, but I knew that mine would have to be a bit dressier if I was going to get some good use out of it.  I already have quite a few casual jackets and also own a rain jacket, so I didn’t want to make mine in a cotton or with standard jacket material (nylon to be rain-resistant).

I spent a great deal of time at the fabric store, trying to figure out which fabric I wanted to use.  Fabric shopping is always fun but at the same, it was a bit stressful.  I decided to deviate from what I perceived to be the ‘correct fabric choice’ and went with a black & white wool blend fabric.  The fabric itself isn’t thick, and has nice drape (on par with a light denim material, thickness wise) and I thought the wool would help keep me warmer in Chicago’s windy weather than a cotton twill of similar weight.

Since I didn’t have time to take my fabric to the dry cleaners for them to steam shrink, I decided to do it myself, which is when Baxter decided she wanted to play with it…

With all of my supplies bought I now had some major questions to ask Tasia…

One of the biggest questions I had for Tasia about being a pattern tester is: Can I alter the pattern in any way (for fit or for personal preference/style)?  Below is Tasia’s response:

These are very good questions – whether to muslin or not, make changes or not. I thought about it and decided the point is to test out the pattern for instructions and errors but also to get feedback on whether you enjoyed sewing the pattern…  So I would say – test it as you would if you’d purchased the pattern! If that means a muslin, then go ahead with making a muslin. If you’d add stabilization to an area, then go for it. You’ll be happier if you get a wearable garment at the end of it all!

This one question/answer was a huge help for me, as a pattern tester.  Part of the fun of being a pattern tester is seeing the design before anyone else, and sewing it up to have for my very own.  But then the rational side of me kicked in… I’m pattern TESTING this for Tasia!  Making alterations in a pattern, ceases to be testing of the ‘product’ in it’s original form.  But I’m glad Tasia opted for us to make alterations as needed.  Otherwise it would have been hard to assess the final garment, unless it fits.  :)

True to form, I made a muslin of the actual jacket before cutting into my fabric.  I’m very petite on my upper half, vs. my lower half; I’m not just pear shaped, I’m a super-pear!  heh  And on top of being a super-pear, I’m also very short.  On normal patterns (the big 4, Burda, and even to some degree Colette), I have to make several different alterations cutting across at least 3-4 different sizes.  But guess what?!  I cut a straight size 6 on Ms. Tasia’s pattern!  The first time ever!

The only alterations I had to make on my Minoru was that I shortened the waist (with a fold and lap method on the pattern) and I also shortened the armscye by .5 inches (both on the sleeve and the armscye).  Other than those two modifications, everything else was perfect.

For the record, this pattern was by far, the easiest pattern I’ve ever had to adjust, and it’s a jacket!  Tasia now has my mega-kudos and I’m sending her lots of happy sewing thoughts. heh

For 10 days, I left work at my day-job at 5pm and went home to my night-job, aka pattern testing.  I felt like I was on a serious time crunch after spending a decent chunk of time making my muslin and being quite indecisive about my fabric selection(3-5 days), so I had to be quite strict with myself in order to finish my jacket in the time Tasia allowed (we had 2 weeks). On more than one occasion, I felt myself rushing to sew a seam and I had to literally stop to remind myself that I’m not just sewing to get this finished, I’m sewing in order to assess the pattern and how it comes together.

I decided to take lots of notes throughout along with images to be able to provide Tasia a comprehensive review at the end.  I had to assess the little things we all take for granted like: Are notches lining up like they should be?, Is one piece 1/4″ longer than another?, Would this be beneficial to have a lengthen/shorten line?, etc.

I’ve frequently sewn other patterns together and the hem on one side seam may be off by 1/4″ compared to the other side.  In the past I’ve always assumed it to be due to my own sewing or cutting errors.  But in testing a pattern, everything is fair game to mention (or should be mentioned) since I couldn’t assume it was me.  This is a very different approach to sewing than I have had in the past; I’ve never questioned a pattern’s preciseness.  But after having a bit more understanding of how much work goes into a pattern, I now wonder that it may not be my error all of the time but an oversight.  (I’m now seeing that this kind of thinking can be a very slippery slope. heh)

Moving along…

Contrary to how I normally sew, I had to follow the sewing directions.  Before I committed to being a pattern tester for Tasia, I never realized that I have a tendency to deviate from the explicit steps that are given to me in patterns.  I hop around sewing step 2 then step 6 then back to steps 3, 4, and 5 and most times I change the directions completely to construct a seam differently than directed.  This was not at all possible in testing a pattern.  I had to sew each step, exactly how it was written, regardless of if I knew how to sew X or Y.  This may sound easy to you, but it’s not.  (Well, it wasn’t easy for me, in any case.)

I had to pretend I was a complete newbie to sewing, and had to force myself to follow each and every step and diagram as it was written in order to stitch together my Minoru jacket.  This was the only way I could assess if the directions made sense or not; if I didn’t approach sewing the jacket this way, I think I could have glossed over the issues that could trip-up newbie sewers.  For me this was the *key* to testing a pattern, or how I assumed Tasia would like us to approach things.

While I thought the Minoru jacket was both easy to sew and easy to alter (mega yay), pattern testing is actually a bit of work.  I had to force myself back to thinking like a newbie as well as being very *ahem* anal…. I mean detail-oriented (which I am thanks to my math background).  As much as I dislike correcting anyone, I knew that I had to be as detailed as possible for the sake of the pattern and to make it worth Tasia’s while to have pattern testers in the first place.  I didn’t want to let her down, nor did I want to be rude and correct her.  For me it was a bit of a catch-22, but I think I made it through all right.  :)

Okay, now that I’ve bent your ear off, here’s a few shots of my Minoru Jacket in action.

I’ve never had much luck in the past with raglan sleeves, but this jacket was perfect!  It made me love raglan sleeves again.  Why can’t they all be this easy and chic?

I decided to omit the zippered hood on my version (and sewed up version B).  I also added a layer of horsehair canvas into my collar like you would with any interfacing.  I liked Tasia’s line drawing and wanted my collar to have a bit of body and stand up on its own so horsehair canvas did the trick perfectly.

Clever Tasia included interior pockets on her jacket to carry around the essentials:

I decided to go with a deep red Bemberg lining on my jacket.  For me picking out lining is one of my favorite things to do, especially when I don’t have any color matching to do; I get to pick from a rainbow of possibilities.

And lastly, here’s a side view:

I was initially doubtful of the elastic, but it fits perfectly.  It nips in my waist to give me some shape along with allowing plenty of easy in the upper and lower body for mobility.

I’ve worn this jacket quite a lot since finishing it up last month, is a perfect fall transition jacket for me and will be handy to wear in the spring also.

Lastly, I have to give Tasia mega props for being able to pull together all of the pattern tester’s comments and thoughts in such a short amount of time.  She was on hand to answer all of my questions and help me during every step of the way, when I came across any issues.  She really knows her stuff and she was so fun and easy to work with; very kind, patient, and helpful.  (She even taught me a much better way to shorten my armscye which included handy drawings!)  I can’t say enough good things about her and her jacket.  This whole endeavor has totally motivated me to sew up her other patterns and I even feel confident enough that I don’t even think I’d need to make a muslin before hand!  How crazy is that?!

So would I be a pattern tester again?  You bet!  While it did feel a bit like work at times, I really did enjoy helping Tasia and got a great jacket to boot.

P.S.  Tasia will be hosting a sew-along for the Minoru Jacket sometime in January so be sure to pre-order your pattern by Thursday November 10th to get in on the free shipping offer.

  1. gail / Nov 9 2011

    Very nice! I really love your fabric choice.

  2. Emilie / Nov 9 2011

    Wow, your jacket looks fabulous! I was wondering what it would be like to be a pattern tester, and I thought it could be quite stressful! I was on the mailing list too, but time is lacking this time of year so I decided to pass on the offer! I’ll keep it in mind for next time though!

  3. Emma / Nov 9 2011

    I wouldn’t have thought so from the line drawing, but it turned out beautifully. I love the profile shot – the elastic really does give the jacket a surprising amount of shape.

  4. weriem / Nov 9 2011

    Super nice! Bravo!!!

  5. Annabelle / Nov 9 2011

    This turned out really great. I love how you made it less sporty. When I saw the preorder email, I though “great coat, but I don’t need something like this right now”. Seeing yours, I may be changing my mind.

  6. Tasha / Nov 9 2011

    It looks fantastic, Liz!! How interesting to read about your experience as a pattern tester, too. I love how your final jacket turned out, really chic! I think the pattern is adorable but I’ve never lined anything and am kind of scared at the thought. But I secretly love hooded jackets and love how it nips in at the waist and that inner pocket. Brilliant.

  7. Qui / Nov 9 2011

    Wow, fabulous job.
    It looks wonderful on you. I love the fabric you chose!
    I’ll have to check out her patterns.

  8. Marie / Nov 9 2011

    This looks fantastic! Ironically, I really wasn’t too keen on Tasia’s version (maybe because it was red and maybe because it was casual), but now that I’ve seen another couple of versions, I’m really loving it! I think if I am going to make it, I would have to make it a bit smarter-looking, like yours ;o)

  9. Lauren / Nov 9 2011

    ah, i’m glad you posted this! i was also a pattern tester – i need to take better pictures (mine were very last-minute, oh-god-it’s-sunday-and-this-is-due kinda pictures lol) so i can post mine! funny, i actually considered doing mine up in suiting fabric but decided to go with something more casual. i do want to make another one, though, so we’ll see! love how yours turned out!

  10. Ginger / Nov 9 2011

    Wow, this looks FAB! Great job!

  11. Kris / Nov 9 2011

    I really like your version of the jacket! The fabric choice is spot on, and really dresses up the style. I hope Tasia shares the armscye-shortening-trick when she does the sew-a-long.

  12. Vicki Kate / Nov 10 2011

    I’ve loved reading about your pattern testing for Tasia – it’s fascinating and gives a really useful insight into the process. Should Tasia send out the email again, I feel in a better position as to saying yes! I dithered this time around and really wish I hadn’t.
    Your version is gorgeous, I’m hoping the canvas I’m planning will have enough body on its own for the collar to stand (well that and the hood inside it ought to help too!), but the horse hair interfacing is a good tip for view B – I’ll try and remember that… Thank you for blogging about the process!

  13. mahaila / Nov 11 2011

    It seems that the tester role gave your some insight regarding your ‘sewing behavoiurs’. The jacket turned out great and it sounds like you did a great job as a pattern tester:)

  14. Susan - Knitters Delight / Nov 11 2011

    Wow, your version is gorgeous as well! I am glad that I purchased this pattern on her pre-order sale.

  15. indigorchid / Nov 15 2011

    Your jacket looks great! And I liked reading your observations on being a patterntester – I think I would run into similar problems! (what, follow instructions?)

    Also, I love seeing little peeks of Chicago on people’s blogs now.. I just moved away, but it’s so nice to see little snippets and feel like I’m still connected somehow!

  16. Cennetta / Nov 15 2011

    Great looking jacket. Well done.

  17. Casey / Nov 15 2011

    Where’d you get your adorable shoe?! Perfect complement to your gorgeously made coat.

    • Liz / Nov 15 2011

      They’re a few years old from Nordstrom’s…. let me run to my closet and see what brand. They’re Kenneth Cole Reaction.

      But I do have to say… they’re kids shoes. heh I have tiny feet (size 4 women’s) so I frequently will shop the kid’s department in hunt for cute non-children looking shoes.

      Thanks for your lovely comment on my coat! :)

  18. Kat / Nov 15 2011

    What an interesting post, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the pattern testing process. I am on the mailing list but I did not volunteer as I was very busy at the time and I knew I would struggle to complete the jacket in the required time. You have definitely given me a lot of food for thought should I get the opportunity in future though! I think it is interesting that you skip steps…I’ve never really thought about it before, but for dresses I often make up the skirt first as it is generally quick and easy to do and makes me feel like I’m making progress…however if I were following the pattern that is usually the last step! Oh and what a lovely jacket you have made by the way :)

    • Liz / Nov 15 2011

      I make the skirts first too! :) What’s funny is that I never really noticed how much I skip around on patterns and that I incorporate alternate techniques and ways to sew from other patterns and books. Testing a pattern was a new experience for me, but I could definitely see doing it again.

      • Marcy / Nov 15 2011

        I also tested this pattern and had similar concerns. I follow patterns like I follow recipes – it’s a jumping off point – then I do whatever I want, so I had to rein myself in for sure in order to provide good feedback to Tasia.

  19. Caroline / Nov 15 2011

    Oooh, lovely *wooly* version! Very smart to use a wool _blend_ for that, and I just love the satiny red lining. It looks great on you. I’m thinking about what you say about pattern testing and needing to follow the instructions step-by-step. Maybe I shouldn’t be a pattern tester — I think that would drive me bonkers! :P Good for you for being so faithful to the process, and such a friend to Tasia. I’m so excited to try this pattern.

  20. puu / Nov 15 2011

    what a great and detailed post–i never would have considered most of the issues you encountered while pattern testing. also, i think the hair canvas in the collar was a brilliant touch!

  21. kslaughter / Nov 15 2011

    Wow, I love everything about your version of this super cute jacket! It looks great on you—very flattering. Thanks for sharing about pattern testing—makes me want to try it sometime :-).

  22. Linda L / Nov 15 2011

    Great looking coat! It turned out very nice using wool fabric.
    Excellent post on pattern testing this jacket. That inside pocket is a very nice feature.

  23. Laurie / Nov 15 2011

    I like the idea of you’re adjusting the pattern according to your needs, because I’m sure I would too. I am taller than most so would have to adapt it in some ways. I would want to know if the pattern is adaptable or not. I’m glad it is!
    Laurie

  24. Sølvi / Nov 16 2011

    Hey! Saw your version over at Sewaholic.net, and just wanted to say how nice I think it looks! What a great fabric choice! Gorgeous! :-)

  25. Sophia / Nov 16 2011

    I found your website from the link on Sewaholic. Love your version of the Minoru and all of the construction details you included. I can’t wait to make mine! :)

    PS. Your bunny is adorable!

  26. Sofia / Nov 16 2011

    I absolutely love your jacket! You look really good in it, it flatters your shape really really well, and I love that you made it out of wool. It looks incredible! Nice work! (I want your bunny too, so JEALOUS)

  27. Jennifer / Nov 16 2011

    Your version of the jacket is gorgeous!! Nice work, and lucky Tasia to have you as a pattern tester :)

  28. Ashlee / Nov 16 2011

    This is so gorgeous! I was hoping to make myself one in a wool blend and then one in a more sportier/casual fabric, so I love seeing how it will look a little dressed up! Great work :)

  29. Sewing Princess / Nov 18 2011

    Love your woolen version. I actually didn’t think about it but it’s a great variation to make it dressier

  30. Paunnet / Nov 18 2011

    Absolutely gorgeous!

  31. Shannon / Nov 19 2011

    This is gorgeous!! I think making things by hand really becomes worth it when you can create things like this that are so different from anything you’d see in a store (at least anything I’ve seen) but still look so professionally done and couture. I hope someday my knitting/sewing looks this good! Kudos!

  32. Meg / Nov 21 2011

    Can I just say that I loved your version so much that I went and bought the pattern immediately? I adore it, and you look fabulous in it!! Love the collar especially!

  33. Lorenna / Feb 28 2012

    Hi Liz,

    I wanted to say how much I love your version of the Minoru jacket! Your coat is the reason I bought the pattern! I was so nervous thinking about making the coat in a wool fabric until I saw how beautiful yours turned out. Thanks so much!

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