So, when I wrote about the sleeveless Anderson blouse I made recently, I think I mentioned that I had actually written to the team at Sew Over It with my concerns about their directions, sizing, etc. I’ve never done that before, & I don’t think it’s because these were OMG the worst directions of all time. It’s just because I’ve only been sewing for three years, & I am just starting to feel skilled enough to recognize not-so-great patterns when I see them. Had I made this blouse two years ago, I would have made too big a size based on the size chart, I would have made the “drawstring” (if you can call it that) according to their “instructions,” & I would have foregone any sort of closure, because there’s no mention of closure options in the pattern. & the result would have been an enormous, unflattering, unwearable garment that would have made me feel like I did something wrong, because surely I’m the weakest link here, right? They’re the ones who are designing & selling patterns. They must know what they’re doing!
I contacted Sew Over It & asked if they were interested in some feedback. They replied, “I’m sorry to hear that you had a bit of trouble making up the Anderson Blouse. I’ve just read through the instructions and can’t identify which part is missing from the construction. Could you possibly give me a little bit more detail about what you had trouble with?”
I was like, okay, I didn’t say I “was having trouble” with it. I said that the directions were not complete & would result in an unfinished, unwearable garment, but moving on.
This is kind of a rehash of my last post, but here was my lengthy reply:
“Sure. I read & reread the instructions, & as far as I can tell, making the drawstring casing the way they are written would result in an unfinished casing with a bit of ribbon sticking out of it on the inside of the garment, to be tied into a bow to fit. I couldn’t find anything on finishing the casing or what to do about the bow being on the inside. I made the blouse as instructed, but cinching it to fit made the open casing flip to the outside. It just looked messy.
“My solution was to stop sewing the right-hand side seam 1″ from the bottom of the garment. I clipped into the seam allowances, pressed the unfinished edge on either side in 1/2”, & topstitched them. (Forgive the imperial measurements; I’m American.) I finished the hem & pressed up a casing per the instructions, & then edgestitched all around, which gave me a casing that is open on either side of the side seam (pretty crucial for a drawstring), but also finished–no raw edges, casing fully-sewn with no gaps. & best of all, the drawstring emerges at the side seam on the outside of the garment, so the bow becomes a decorative element as well as something to cinch in all the ease at the hem.
“I also felt that a wrap blouse with no closure is…maybe not really a blouse? I read through a lot of blogs & looked at a lot of Instagram picture of other people’s Andersons to get a sense of how they tackled this challenge. Almost everyone was wearing tank tops for modesty. I didn’t want to have to wear a bonus shirt to contend with the fact that my shirt couldn’t function as a shirt. I didn’t want to add “hand stitches at the bust point,” because the blouses where people had done that seemed to be showing some pulling & distortion at that point. The hand stitches interrupted the drape, which is kind of the whole point of the blouse.
“So instead I added a row of tiny sew-in snaps. I did some research & the blouses that the Anderson is modeled in all have closures: hidden snaps or buttons. You can’t see them, but they’re there, & it makes sense. No one wants to spend $500 on a silk blouse they can’t move in. The snaps held the wrap in place without pulling out the facings or distorting the drape. I was surprised that a solution like this wasn’t even suggested as an option.
“The sizing is also way off on this one. I am a larger person. Had I gone strictly by measurements, I actually would have had to grade up the Anderson just a bit & probably do an FBA. Luckily I am in the habit of consulting finished garment measurements when choosing size (something that many new garment makers are not), so I made a straight size 16. I probably could have even gone down to a 14 without any issues. A straight (slim) size with shoulders/bust proportionate to her waist & hips may not have any trouble picking a size, because she’s probably picking based on a bust measurement commensurate with her shoulders. But that kind of body is rare, & the boilerplate bit about how ‘Sew Over It’s patterns are more closely-fitting that average’ has led more than one curvy sewer to choose a size that absolutely swamped her in fabric. It would be nice if there was a note in the pattern about how the design is such that getting a good fit in the shoulders is crucial, so maybe just consider bust measurement. Or if there was a high bust measurement to consider in the sizing chart (very helpful for those of us above a B-cup).
“Obviously we all make alterations & construction changes on the fly while we’re sewing. I can’t remember the last time I sewed a pattern without making some kind of tweak. But this pattern really surprised me. Had I sewn it when I was first starting, when I was a lot more devoted to following the instructions, I would have ended up with an unwearable garment. I know Sew Over It teaches classes, so you probably work with new sewers everyday. I think you can better set them up for success with this pattern by addressing some of the issues I have brought up. In the end, I ADORE my finished blouse & have been wearing it non-stop. But it would have been a wadder if I hadn’t thought through the size, drawstring issues, & closures.”
I then kicked back & waited to see if I’d actually get a response. I had drafted my blog post already, but would have been willing to rewrite based on any reply that I got. Several days passed so I just posted what I’d written.
I finally got a response today:
“Sorry that I’ve not been able to get back to you before now. I understand where you’re coming from when addressing the casing at the hem of the Anderson Blouse, but the way we have constructed it at this step is actually intentional. In step 33 you are instructed to finish the hem with a zigzag stitch or an overlocker before turning it up to ensure there are no raw edges on show. Having the ribbon bow on the inside of the garment is meant as a quick and easy way to cinch in the blouse, and for people to be able to alter the degree to which they tighten it. The style of the Anderson Blouse is that the hem will be gathered in, and the fullness of the front actually falls over this line so any ribbon malfunctions, if they did occur, would be covered. The way you have amended the pattern with the casing opening at the side and the decorative ribbon is a great idea! We definitely want our customers to adapt our patterns to suit them rather than sticking rigidly and not ending up with a finished garment that they liked.
I don’t really know how to reply to this. She seems to think that in changing the drawstring casing, I have sewn the drawstring in place so it can’t be adjusted? Um…no. I made an actual functional drawstring, like any 12-year-old would make in a home ec class. & it’s obviously a cop-out to say, “It was a DESIGN CHOICE to eschew closure & make our blouse non-functional as a blouse! But sure, add closures if you want to copycat actual articles of clothing that people can wear.” & I don’t even understand the point of all that stuff about fitting. I’m not saying their size range is too narrow (though, obviously, most indie designers’ size ranges ARE too narrow, & that goes for Sew Over It as much as anyone else) or that I demand plus sizes now. I’m saying that their size chart doesn’t correspond to the measurements on this garment. It’s probably just a matter of having added too much ease at the wrong points in an effort to achieve the loose, drape-y silhouette.
As far as “not having the resources to provide a range of fitting pointers for every garment”…That’s just bullshit. I’m not necessarily the world’s biggest fan of Closet Case Patterns, for instance, but when Heather comes out with a new pattern, she also goes all in on walking people through everything they need to know to make it. She just came out with the Sophie swimsuit & put together an entire class (that you have to pay to see, but you know, for some people that is probably a useful resource) on how to sew a swimsuit. She offered kits for sale, complete with fabric & notions. She’s been doing blog posts on some of the trickier construction elements & fit alterations. I’m not saying Sew Over It needs to do a sewalong on making this not-very-challenging blouse, but maybe a quick “fit tip: choose a size based on your high bust” in the pattern description? That’s it. It’s that simple.
It’s really that motherfucking drawstring that gets me though. I’m imagining that 12-year-old home ec student that turns in a drawstring pouch using Sew Over It’s instructions. They would fail the assignment. Because THAT IS NOT HOW A DRAWSTRING IS SEWN. I don’t give a damn if you’ve serged the raw edge of your fabric. HOW did this pattern get published? Do they have a testing process? I can only assume that they don’t because I just don’t understand how NO ONE would have flagged this. & even after I explained it an email, they are apparently still not getting it? I know this seems like a really small thing to get so hung up on, but that’s exactly WHY I’m so hung up on it. There are literally HUNDREDS of free tutorials online about how to sew a drawstring, & yet this garbage is not only what got printed, but it’s being SOLD to people. For money!