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)
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.