I am usually very late to the party when it comes to sewing patterns. I very rarely sew up something from a newly released pattern. This is for no other reason than I just can’t keep up. I have eyes bigger than my stomach, in a sewing kinda way.
The reality is, I have a long queue of sewing wants, a plan and budget to stick to (kinda’). And by the time I get to it, the pattern I’m working with may just be from last season. I wish I had more time but instead, I just keep my fingers crossed that I don’t look silly sewing last year’s pattern with stashed fabric and with nothing new to say about it. So when I got an email from Heather Lou, the creative brain behind Closet Case Patterns, thanking me for volunteering to pattern test, I thought, F’ the queue and YAY for something TOTALLY NEW!
So just to make sure we’re all on the same page, let me tell you all I know about pattern testing. Pattern testing is a process within which a designer will release a draft of a pattern with instructions to a limited number of people in order to gather feedback and any constructive criticism. Pattern testers make the garment from the pattern using said instructions on their own dime, answer questions and provide feedback with detailed photos of their garment. It is completely voluntary and a process that independent pattern designers heavily rely on to fine-tune their product before its final release.
I have never pattern tested before.
This was my first time. One could say I popped my pattern testing cherry. …too much?
Okay, moving on.
I have also never sewn a fitted bodice with a princess seam. So while I was freaking out about whether or not I’d do a decent job and waiting to receive the pattern in PDF format, I went to Joann’s and found some black bull denim to test with. And then I calmed down when I remembered how detailed the instructions were for the Kalle shirtdress, another CCP design I had never sewn before with a collar and hem facing. My Kalle’s are awesome all because of the stellar design, detailed instructions, and sewalongs provided by Heather’s team. If there is anyone that can help you succeed in sewing, it’s Ms. Heather Lou.
When I received the inspiration photo and line drawing of the Fiona sundress, I was super excited because I had been looking for a pattern with similar features…summery straps, fitted bodice, buttons down the front, and big pockets. Something like this… and this. The Fiona wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned; it was better because it was different.
I immediately loved the column silhouette and the open back with crossed straps. I opted for View B bodice with the midi length skirt.
Fitting the bodice was tricky. I ended up basting the front closed and asking my husband to pin the back together just to make sure it was together as it would be once the buttons were in place.
It wasn’t obvious to me at first that I needed to lengthen the straps but I could tell right away that the angle at which they were sewn to the bodice back was not quite right for me. I lengthed the straps by about 3/4″ and adjusted the angle. I did not change where they attach to the bodice.
Heather has since changed the placement and length of the straps, so it may no longer be an issue. It is definitely something worth taking the time to baste together to make sure the strap placement and length is right.
Aside from adjusting the straps, I did not make any other changes. I sewed a size 10 and I measure 36.5/29/38.5 right now. I’m considering grading down to a size 8 waist and hip for my next version, at which point I’ll decide whether or not the skirt darts need to be adjusted for my shape.
I can probably fine tune the bodice a bit as well, although it felt like a good fit. My understanding is that CCP will be releasing a fitting post on princess seams. I’m sure this will help me understand what might need to change.
OMG, I almost forgot about the buttons! Holy buttons, there are potentially 21 if you were to sew the midi-length version, as I did. I immediately knew that I did not want to sew that many buttonholes, automatic buttonhole feature or not, that’s a lot of freakin’ buttons. I opted for snaps. I’m so glad I did because I think they are a much better choice for denim for both utility and design.
I chose the heavy duty snaps from Joann’s in an antique silver finish. (There are other finishes too.) These snaps are not gonna pop open but they may come off your dress completely if you pull hard enough. I’ve already had to replace two of them and I can’t tell if it’s user error or the quality of the snap. Next time, I will heed Heather’s suggestion to use heavy duty ring snaps. More specifically, I’ll use the kind that requires an awl to make a hole in the fabric through which the rivet must pass through. A rivet is a more secure attachment to the fabric than these measly, bendy prongs!
I would also, without a doubt, consider pattern testing again, not just to have the latest and greatest but also for the community experience and to feel like I have something to offer. (Motherhood can make you desperate for these things!) It was an experience that I really value as a sewist trying to develop new skills, be a part of a community and gain confidence in all that I do. Overall, I am really happy with how my first Fiona turned out. I have some tweaking to do for my next version but nothing I can’t handle when Heather’s got my back.
Disclaimer: I’ve never met Heather but I am a huge fan. (I admire her work ethic and expertise.) I was not paid to pattern test.