Goldilocks & the Three Blouses

Remember how the fairy tale goes…….

-This blouse is too small. (Pardon me while I spare you a visual of that.)

-This blouse is too big.
My mother destashed this crisp watermelon red seersucker and it screamed “Hawaiian shirt” to me. (It doesn’t help that I have been binge-watching Magnum P.I. episodes.) I pulled out my best men’s Hawaiian shirt pattern and cut the largest size. I decided that I needed a little more space in the bust area so I pivoted the side seams on both the front and the back piece to add a couple inches to the finished bust measurement. The result, as you can see, is a comfy, oversized South Seas-inspired garment. Yes, it fits. Yes, it goes around my bust easily which is often a rarity. Unfortunately, the blouse is too big and does nothing for my shape. It is a men’s pattern so that is to be expected. I will wear this but I think I can do better. They say third time is the charm, right?

-This blouse is just rightIMG_2021!
The next garment on my To-Do List was a blouse made from this navy blue and white striped seersucker with crabs embroidered all over it.  The little red crabs have on white sailor hats.  They are cute! Yes, I’m sure this fabric is intended for children’s wear but I have always been a sucker for seersucker and the motifs add just enough whimsy to suit my quirky personality. This is one of three embroidered seersuckers in my Fabric Stash. I pulled out another older tried-and-true pattern from the Pattern Stash.  

My goal is to create a well-fitting blouse and then repeat it in different fabrics and with variations for a complete wardrobe of exciting blouses to be paired with basic bottoms such as capris, leggings, skirts or jeans. The sailor crab blouse in my mind had a white collar and white sleeve cuffs top-stitched in red thread.  The cuffs did not make it to the final version but that is okay.  I like this blouse.  It feels good on and I don’t think it looks too big and boxy like the Hawaiian shirt.

The important thing is I believe I have finally found the basic blouse pattern I am looking for.  I have altered many patterns with a traditional full bust adjustment(FBA) and it has always been an epic fail.  See, in the fine print, it will tell you that an FBA is good for someone who does not need more than 2-3 inches additional width.  I exceed that range by a large margin.  An FBA for me results in a very large dart or two large darts on each side of my bust along with an extra thickness of fabric located in a spot where friction can be a problem.

I studied the use of pivoting darts also.  I never found that to be a viable solution.  In leafing through some older patterns, I came upon some older blouse patterns from years ago when I was sewing my own clothes.  These blouses all had blouse fronts and backs gathered or pleated to the yoke.  This seems to be a design method that is currently out-of-style. I remembered fondly several blouses that I stitched up back in those days.  It made sense to pull out this pattern and pivot the dart and hide any bust alterations within the gathers at the yoke.  That thought process rewarded me with this blouse.  I love this blouse.  I will make more.  I have several variations in mind already as well as a growing stack of fabrics pulled from my Fabric Stash.

Listen Up, Pattern Designers – Q# 9

This is the eighth in a series of posts concerning a survey that I conducted among some digital sewing pattern testers a few weeks ago. The initial post is here: There was another post that prefaced this whole journey here:

So after eight questions of me asking the pattern testers my questions, I turned the tables and gave the testers a voice.  I offered them the option to answer the open-ended question, “If you could tell pattern designers one thing, as a pattern tester, what would it be?”.  They could focus on any thing they wanted, anything about the whole pattern tester process or the sewing patterns themselves or interactions with designers that they wanted to say.

Predominantly, the testers wanted to say a big Thank You to designers for allowing them the opportunity to assist in the development of some amazing sewing patterns.  They appreciated the professional interactions, the organization of the Tester Calls and the constructive criticisms exchanged with the designers. A few comments were made to the designer concerning being professional in all interactions and being consistent in their business practices.  Some were a little confused at the designers’s requirements that they provide professional-quality photos of their test projects to the designer for them to use in their marketing of the pattern when it is released. Overall, pattern testers seemed to be honored to be chosen by designers.

Points to ponder:  This survey was fun to put together and analyze.  Many answers surprised me.  I am in a better place to understand how my patterns (that I have yet to get past the rough draft stage) will be used.  This understanding has helped me make some decisions on organizing, writing and producing my .pdf patterns.

So, though my patterns are not any closer to being posted, I know it has been a fun ride.  I hope you have learned something too!

Digital Pattern Dreams – Q #8

This is the seventh in a series of posts concerning a survey that I conducted among some digital sewing pattern testers a few weeks ago. The initial post is here: There was another post that prefaced this whole journey here:

My next to last questions was simple: “If you could have one wish granted to make .pdf patterns easier to use, what would it be?”  I left it open-ended for the pattern testers to freely express the thing that gives them the most angst when using .pdf patterns.  I was amazed at their wishes.

Only a couple of wishes related directly to sewing and fabric construction.  Almost all of the “wishes” were related to the format of the patterns.  Some were about the printing while others were specific about the pattern drafting and symbols.

A large number of respondents wanted the option to print in A0 or A4 format. A little research on my part taught me that the U.S. is the only nation that really uses the Letter, 8.5″ x 11″, format.) The rest of the world uses A4.  Trying to print a Letter page on A4 paper can lead to LOTS of problems and vice versa. It simply does not work.

Many respondents complained about the problem I addressed in a previous post of laying the pages out in a large grid and taping them all together.  Arrows, marks and page designations are not always clear.  Some designers do not include a master layout grid and are not consistent in their marking.  The testers pleaded for designers to spend time on that aspect of their patterns.

Testers called for less trim pages. They say they waste paper and are a nuisance.  I’m assuming by “trim pages” they are referring to those pages to the sides, top and bottom of the pattern grids that contain little if any printed lines but are important to making the full pattern grid.

A few testers begged for layers in the .pdfs.  Different layers would be created in the pdf with each layer containing one size of the pattern.  The customer would choose the layer containing the size that they need and then print. I know what layers are because of my work with our library’s floor plans in my role as the Building Coordinator but just for fun, I informally surveyed a handful of my coworkers who are fluent in .pdf usage and creation.  I asked them if they were familiar with layers in .pdfs.  No one knew what I was talking about.  One thing that I have learned being a member of several designer’s Facebook groups  where customers ask for help with their patterns is that the average .pdf pattern user struggles with getting their pages printed with the proper scale.  They struggle getting all of their pages printed with that one-inch square to print out as one-inch. A Facebook post appears hourly in those groups concerning the “Fit to Page” check mark.

There is also a call for multiple file formats being made available. In my library world, when I select an eb00k or serial article to download, I’m given file format options.  I can choose which file works best for my choice device.  Each file format has been specifically designed with that display in mind.  The options are generally a .pdf, an html, or an epub.

And last, but not least, there were “wishes” for a better means to store patterns after they have been taped together in their inconsistent sizes, a pre-cut pattern option and, oh what a dream, for patterns to be free because printing them is expensive.

Points to ponder: Do designers draft patterns to be used by sewists in other countries? Then the A4 problem needs to be considered. I wasn’t aware of the problem. This survey taught me what a big deal it is, not to Americans, but to other countries who want to use American sewing patterns.

Layers would be a great option but I foresee it being a nightmare for many customers.  Layers should be an advanced customer feature, maybe an optional file for advanced users.

Different file format generators are out there and maybe that is a direction that designers need to go.  I think patterns need some kind of uniformity.

I see so many things that tech-savvy entrepreneurs could jump on. My mind is spinning! And it is all to improve our sewing resources.  How cool would that be?


Line Drawings or Photos – Q #6 & 7

This is the sixth in a series of posts concerning a survey that I conducted among some digital sewing pattern testers a few weeks ago. The initial post is here: There was another post that prefaced this whole journey here:

My sixth and seventh questions pertained to the visuals included in digital sewing patterns.  There has been an argument out in the sewing internet world over whether line drawings were better or worse than photos.  So I included two questions, first of which was “Do you prefer a visual such as a line drawing or photo with each construction step?”  The answer was a simple “Yes” or “No”.CaptureQ6

In case anyone is in doubt, 90% prefer to have some sort of visuals included with their sewing instructions.  

My seventh question was an obvious followup: “Do you prefer clear line drawing illustrations or high-resolution photos?”.  The answer was a choice between “line drawings” or “high-resolution photos”.


There was not a definitive answer to this question.  The group was nearly split down the middle.  I think the thing to understand here is that pattern instructions need visuals to make the instructions clearer if for no other reason to assist those who are visual learners.

Points to ponder: I’m sure there is more work to be done in this area.  There are more questions that instantly pop into my mind here in reference to the quality of the line drawings as opposed to the editing of the photos.  As in most things, there are good and bad version of both drawings and photos out there in the sewing pattern market.

Viewing Digital Patterns – Q #5

This is the fifth in a series of posts concerning a survey that I conducted among some digital sewing pattern testers a few weeks ago. The initial post is here: There was another post that prefaced this whole journey here:

My fifth question changed courses and veered away from the printing path.  It asks “If you view patterns on a device, what type device do you use most often?”  The choice of devices were “Desktop pc”, “laptop or tablet”, an iPad, Amazon Fire, Kindle or similar e-reader”, “Smartphone such as an iPhone or Galaxy” and an open-ended “Other” category.


A very small percentage, approximately 19%, view their .pdf patterns on a desktop pc.  All other sewists responding to this survey view their digital patterns on a mobile device of varying size.  They use everything from a smartphone to an e-book reader to a laptop or tablet.

I find these numbers astounding.  What does this say?  We, sewists, are as much a part of the whole mobile world as anyone in modern society.  We use our phones to check our email, post to Facebook, snap pics and post to Instagram.  We are completely and totally mobile and modern.

Points to ponder: We are viewing our patterns on devices propped up next to our sewing machines and cutting tables and on shelves in our sewing rooms.  We are mobile,  sewing up Step 7 in a pattern while posting our efforts to social media.  What should pattern designers take from this?  Should we not, as mentioned in a previous post, take this behavior into consideration when writing patterns? Shouldn’t designers write patterns for a smaller screen with different aspect ratios?


DIY or Commercial Printing – Q. #4

This is the fourth in a series of posts concerning a survey that I conducted among some digital sewing pattern testers a few weeks ago. The initial post is here: There was another post that prefaced this whole journey here:

My fourth question continued to explore the printing scenario.  It asked “Do you print .pdf patterns on a home printer or do you take them to a commercial print shop like Kinko’s or Office Max?”. The options that I provided as answers were “Home printer (I enjoy taping all those 8.5″ x 11″ pages together.)” or “Home printer (I tape them but I wish there was a much better way.)” or “Commercial printer”.

I know that there are many sewist who have expressed a great appreciation for digital sewing patterns.  I completely understand they have no local sources for sewing patterns. I completely understand that the internet has brought them more than they could have ever dreamed of in sewing.

Many, many pattern instructions and sewing bloggers use the phrase – patterns can be taken to a print shop or local copy store as a major selling point.  This makes them more attractive and useful over ordering paper pattern through the mail or traveling to a fabric store to purchase the traditional printed patterns such as those sold by the Big Four pattern companies.  But do sewists really do that?  Inquiring minds, etc….. so I asked and I had a little fun with it in the meantime.


Two people out of my entire group take their .pdf patterns to a commercial printer. And no wonder, none of the patterns I have bought have offered me the option of a large format print file.  All of the patterns I have experienced (and my experience is not very vast) were supplied in .pdf format for 8.5″ x 11″ paper so there is really no need to go to a print shop. Going to a commercial printer could eliminate the need to tape all of those pages into a large grid. It takes time, a computer with appropriate software and some technical knowledge to convert a pattern written for an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper to a larger size sheet.

Seventy-five percent of users print the pages at home, lay out the giant grid and tape it together wishing the entire time that there is a better way to do this. I wholeheartedly agree on this one.  Here is the very place that I think modern technology has been left out of sewing patterns.

Points to ponder: With all of the modern projection technologies and display geekiness and all other unimaginable innovations most often seen in an Avengers movie, there is no reason we should be doing all of this work for a sewing pattern. I’ve spent years in library technology and the cutting edge stuff is mind-blowing.  Then, I go home and sit down to sewing patterns that are literally still back at the tracing paper and pencil stage.

As for those sewists who enjoy taping all of those pages together, bless your pea-picking little hearts, I have a huge stack of pages that I need to send you!

Black & White or Color – Q. #3

This is the third in a series of posts concerning a survey that I conducted among some digital sewing pattern testers a few weeks ago. The initial post is here: There was another post that prefaced this whole journey here:

My third question was posed to those sewists that print.  It was simply “If you print out patterns, do you print them in black and white or full color?”.  The answers were a choice between “black and white” or “full color”.


Again, I am blown away by the results here although I am finally in the majority of respondents.  Over 58% print their pattern pages in black and white! 

For myself, there is a significant cost difference in printing black & white or color.  I always like to print black & white unless I am doing some marketing things and feel the need to spend the extra money.  Color printing is three times the cost of black & white for me.  I must really want something in color to spend that extra money.  A digital pattern can quickly be expensive to print by the time a large pattern grid of 8.5″ x 11″ pages has a total page count of 64 or more.

Points to ponder: Do designers realize this?  I’ve seen some elaborate patterns where each size was drafted in a different color.  It was nice but those colors are lost in black & white format.  Some photos display differently in black & white.  The detail is not as sharp.  I’ve seen a great deal of high-resolution color photos used as illustrations for each step.  Some of them were not formatted in a manner that makes them legible in gray scale or black & white. Do designers consider the appearance of their graphics in black & white?