Anderson blouse: let’s talk about it some more

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!

Or not.

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.

“With regards to the closure at the front, this is simply more of a design choice on our part. I agree that a lot of ready to wear blouses in this style do have a fastening across the bust, but we didn’t set out to design a blouse that was a copy of one we had seen, we simply used these as a basis from which to develop the design. Again this is a point at which we would encourage our customers to do what suits them best, however you are right and maybe suggesting a few options at this point would be useful to some of our customers.
“When working out sizing we unfortunately can’t cater for every body type, and we find it very frustrating that we can’t be more inclusive with the block that our patterns are made from. However we believe it is more important to stick to the same block when making different designs so that if customers get used to making a certain alteration with our patterns then they will know where to start. As someone who has to do a large FBA on every pattern I make (I by no means fit in Sew Over It patterns out of the package!) I do understand this frustration from a customers point of view and I almost exclusively use the finished measurement to make up any pattern, because that is what works for me. However, I believe that providing high bust measurements for this pattern would be beneficial so I will pass this on to our pattern development team.
“Fitting is a contentious area and what may suit one person may not be the perfect solution for another – at the moment we don’t have the resources to provide a range of fitting pointers for every pattern that we produce but we do encourage all of our customers to get in touch with their fitting queries and we will always give them the best advice that we can.
“I completely understand the points you have raised and will pass them on to our team. Sewing up garments is an immensely personal experience and it is very hard to come up with designs and methods of construction that will suit everyone. We always strongly advise our customers to personalise their garments to better suit their style or shape, and to follow their own means of construction if they are more confident in it, or would prefer to use a different technique. Sewing clothing is all about individuality after all!
“I hope this answers some of your queries, and allows you to have faith in our other patterns. You are always welcome to get in touch at any point it you have trouble with a pattern or are in need of a little advice.”

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!

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

17 thoughts on “Anderson blouse: let’s talk about it some more

  1. I get you on this one. I have sewn for a LONG time, and still get annoyed when I pay for something and it isn’t right. Their response seemed to put the onus back on you, even if they tried to do it nicely. I sew lots of indie patterns and if they have directions, they are usually spot on. If I use a StyleArc pattern I know there will be a bare minimum of directions, but I know that going into it. To provide directions that don’t work isn’t good business.

    1. I suspect that as I continue my sewing journey & accrue more & more experience, I’ll run into things like this more & more often. The reason this is bothering me so much is because it’s probably the first time that I’ve ever been like, “Hey, this isn’t right!” & then, to add insult to injury, it’s something so easy! It’s not like they’re suggesting some complex & confusing way of installing a collar or something. It’s a drawstring! You barely even need to know how to sew to sew a drawstring! & even after I explained the issue, they’re like, “Naw, it’s cool because the raw edge is serged.” No! Not good enough!

      I’d really prefer no instructions over instructions that are just garbage.

  2. I was pretty disappointed with the Anderson blouse too…and the shift dress. Sew Over It patterns are much to hard work for me and my body size that even if I really like a pattern of theirs I know its destined to take too many alterations to get it alright. They do have testers.

    1. Wow! I am sincerely shocked that they have testers. How did none of them make a note of the drawstring issue?

      I accept that different pattern companies work with different blocks, & some fit adjustments may be needed along the way for a decent fit on my unique body. I’m of a size that is right at the top or just outside of most indie pattern size charts, so I’m used to that. But I think the size issue with this blouse may be that they chose to add the design ease in places that make it hard for people to get the intended fit, maybe? I read your post, about the tight shoulders. If I had put sleeves in this blouse without making some kind of adjustment to widen the armscye, it would have been unwearable. Usually you have to bring the armscye up a little under the arm to convert a sleeved pattern to sleeveless, so it’s not gaping & flashing your bra (not that I care about that–I make my own bras, so they are always pretty!). But this one fit perfectly at the armscye…for a sleeveless a top. A sleeve would have cut off the circulation to my arms.

      The only other Sew Over It pattern I have is the Ultimate Trousers, & I’ve never made them because I’m just outside the size range & haven’t wanted to fuss with grading up for a trouser pattern that isn’t really my style to begin with. (I prefer jeans.) I did look over the instructions & nothing jumped out at me as definitely wrong. Maybe I’ll make them up in the fall just to see.

      1. I know nothing about how they translate the feedback into the pattern, I just know a person who does pattern test for them I really don’t know too much about pattern drafting and I didn’t look at the drawstring instructions so I can’t comment but this pattern doesn’t have the best reviews so, I would have hoped they would look into that at some point but if they want to stick with what they produced I think it’s not the best choice.

  3. I totally agree with you, I read through the instructions before I started sewing but got totally lost a couple of times. I didn’t get the hem at all and even the direction for the front edges was unclear and I did my own version to avoid hand stitching. Love the finished item and very tempted by the ultimate trousers but a little unsure now.

    1. Once you figure out what they’re saying, the blouse is really straughtforward. Just serge the raw edge at the bottom, turn it up to the inside once, & edgestitch to make the casing. I think the way the directions were worded was kind of unnecessarily complicated. Like: “With wrong sides together, press the hem over by 1.5cm.” That’s how they phrased the direction to press up the finished edge. It can be challenging to strike that balance, to give clear directions without resulting to industry terms that may be unfamiliar to new sewers. I think they missed the mark a bit. It reminds me of when I am using the detailed directions on GoogleMaps & it says things like, “Bear left to turn on to such & such a street,” but actually the street just curves to the left & all I have to do to stay on it is, you know, not drive off the road.

  4. I was contacted Sew Over It to review a pattern once. I asked for more details, because I don’t mind occasionally trying a new product without compensation, if I really like it. They wanted a tutorial blog post with at least 10 (or was it 20?) photos and 1000 words or more; in exchange for one pattern…I felt like that’s way too labor intensive to ask for a pattern that may or may not work for me. I can’t speak on the patterns themself because I’ve never tried one. It left me with a bad taste in my mouth, I guess because the value they placed on there product was so high in comparison to the value they placed on my time as a potential client. Not slamming them at all, I just think that sewists in general are undervalued by brands and this was a perfect example.

    1. I think it’s completely fine to “slam” behavior that you feel is not appropriate. I personally have never been invited to review a pattern, so I don’t know what standard operating procedure is. I do know that since I have starting putting more effort into my sewing-related posts in the last six months or so, photographing & writing up a 1000-word post (which is about average for me–I am loquacious!) takes me about three hours of solid, uninterrupted time (which is at a premium for me, as the mother of a preschooler). Even if you are only placing a $10/hour value on your time, & not factoring in the time & money spent on actually making the garment, being paid with one free pattern is not really commensurate with what is being asked of you. So you made the right choice, from a cost/benefit perspective.

      I agree that it seems to boil down to an over-valuing of their product versus an under-valuing of the potential customer. Sew Over It says they don’t have time time/resources to offer fitting tips for each pattern they release. Um…why not, exactly? If some simple fitting tips (ie, “choose a size based on your high bust measurement”) will help people achieve more successful results from the patterns, they will be more likely to recommend the pattern to friends, which means more people will buy it, setting off a chain reaction of happy customers throwing more business their way. What on Earth are they doing that could be more important or pay bigger dividends than that?

      I have yet to find a single 100% positive review of the Anderson blouse. People don’t like the fit, the drawstring, or the lack of closures. If they implemented my suggestions (which I provided to them free of charge), it would go a long way toward helping people achieve better outcomes. I didn’t go to business school. I am not a fashion designer. So how is it that I see this when they apparently have an entire “pattern design team” that seems to think a voluminously-fitting blouse with no closures & a drawstring application that would fail a junior high home ec student should be purchased for cash money & “fixed” on the fly by home sewers that are apparently more competent than the design team?

      The funny thing is that I have written far more than 1000 words on my DISpleasure with this pattern, along with well over ten photos!

  5. I think the problem here is that that is not a good customer service email.

    Reading it as a third party, without any investment I can… see where they are coming from, and I can see where they probably think that they have written a balanced and conciliatory email. They have, however, fallen prey to the number one customer service failing of trying to explain yourself! I do a lot of replying to complaints emails for my job and honestly the best thing is to think ‘does this person need this information or am I just trying to make myself feel better?’.

    Like, most of the points end with ‘we agree, and we’ll change it/pass it on!’ but it gets lost in all the initial lengthy explanation and makes it feel like they are arguing with you. It also kind of reads like these things have either never occurred to them (not many plus size people giving them feedback, huh?) or this is like the 100th time they’ve heard them and they’re sick of them.

    I will maybe give them the closures/design choice argument, although i personally think that’s a dumb call on their part (ie, it makes me think their design calls are likely to be not good and not work for me – have you seen the video where Lisa shows the blouse when it’s a new pattern? In the ten minute video she has to fiddle with it about 100 times because it keeps falling open, and then she just gives up (she’s wearing a cami under it). They clearly have not totally understood your point about the drawstring – even if they think you are misinterpreting it, the conclusion to draw from that is ‘our instructions are not very clear’ more than anything. And I do honestly have sympathy with the size range argument. i think it’s not good enough but I get it. But the ‘not enough resources to provide fitting tips’ is total crap. 1) just get the freaking size chart right, it’s not hard 2) proof read your boilerplate fitting instructions when you make a new pattern, and check if they’re appropriate IT’S NOT HARD and 3) that’s basically saying ‘we don’t have enough resources to do a good job’. Expecting that much interpretation from the sewer is fine for a free or even a cheap pattern, but their patterns are not cheap!


    1. No, their patterns are not cheap! I wasn’t sure what the dollar/pound conversion was, but I happened to plug it into a conversion calculator today & was dumbfounded to realize that they are charging almost $20 American for this pattern! That is INSANELY expensive! Indie patterns do seem to be trending toward being that expensive…for paper patterns. This was a PDF! & I literally only used two of the pattern pieces! Highway robbery, man. I’m so glad I got it at a discount.

      I think you’re right, it’s the weird explaining that is bothering me the most. If they were like, “Okay, great, we’ll pass that on!” I would still just assume that I was being blown off, for the most part, but at least I wouldn’t also feel condescended to. I’m annoyed with the size range argument because that’s not even an issue I actually brought up. I mentioned my own size & some fitting issues I’ve seen other larger sewers have with the pattern not as a criticism that their size range is too limited (I mean, of course it is, but it’s a hell of a lot more expansive than that of a company like Deer & Doe, which tops out at a 33″ waist, like, thanks for nothing) but more to explain the perennial problem for plus-sized sewers: larger waists do not mean that we suddenly have enormous linebacker shoulders, & in a pattern that relies so much on a good fit in the shoulders & has so much ease in the waist, the existing size chart combined with the whole “our patterns are closely-fitting” thing is going to lead larger sewers in particular down the primrose path to a very poorly-fitting garment. That might be true for average-sized sewers & extra-small sewers too, but I have never sewn at those size ranges, so I am less familiar with those fit challenges.

      I haven’t watched the announcement video, but I will! It sounds like a hoot. I did notice that in the earliest pattern announcement promo photos, there was a photo of Lisa wearing the blouse untucked & OOF. She literally looked like a drowned rat in it. She was just being devoured by fabric. Now that photo is nowhere to be found on the Sew Over It site, replaced by photos of the blouse tucked in or Lisa sitting in such a way as to obscure the enormity of the billows of fabric. I had to do a deep drive into the FB archives to find it. Which indicates to me that there are probably some fitting issues for smaller sizes as well.

  6. I think a lot of these indie pattern designers are too defensive about their designs, which leads to this explanation/justification of what people have found to be difficult/erroneous/misleading in their patterns. There was an incident with a Chicago blogger and By Hand London a while back that followed the same format, and it’s so off-putting. It seems like maybe she’s arguing that the drawstring is designed to be tucked inside the blouse, but that doesn’t match the line drawing, and it doesn’t solve the issue of the casing being unfinished, so it gives the impression that she doesn’t have a great sense of her own patterns or great reading comprehension skills (as does her misunderstanding of your comments about the sizing of the pattern). Neither inspire me to buy any of her patterns!

  7. I was just reading over the directions on this pattern and got hung up on the reference to the front facing, but there is no front facing piece. Is the neck binding piece meant to be the front facing?

    1. No, the facings are cut-on. There are notches, if memory serves, that mark where you press them under. I think the idea is that they are then secured in place when you attach the neck binding & finish the hem.

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