Thank you for joining me for my stop on the blog tour for the release of the Misusu Doris Skirt pattern!
(To celebrate the release of the Doris Skirt pattern it will be on sale until the 15th April. Be sure to keep an eye on Misusu Patterns’ Facebook and Instagram pages for a special surprise on the 15th!)
My first experience of pattern testing…
Part of what has sustained my sewing addiction for the past year has been the access to inspiring online sewing communities, most specifically a couple of Facebook groups I have joined where you can share your work and get advice, inspiration and information about patterns, fabrics, tools and techniques. It is pretty much all I use Facebook for these days. These groups are warm, friendly places with generous contributors and even more generous hosts. None more so than Misusu Patterns Sew & Tell group, where I am a member since discovering Misusu Patterns only about 6 months ago, and have thoroughly enjoyed seeing other sewers’ versions of Elles Lanfer’s beautiful patterns.
When Elles put out a call within the group for pattern testers for a new pattern, the Doris Skirt, I nervously applied! It promted me to get out the dSLR, which I use only for architectural photos, and try getting some proper pictures of previous sewing projects. I managed to get good photos of some of previous Misusu makes; Louise Sweater (one of my favourite patterns at the moment; I would love an adult version!!), Eva Sweater Dress and Rowan Tee.
I shared them within the Misusu Facebook Sew & Tell group and on Instagram with the hopes that having some half decent pictures out there might help get me selected! I was delighted to be informed a week or so later that I was on Team Doris!!
Prior to calling for testers, Elles had asked for feedback on what size ranges to offer in the pattern. The vast majority of comments agreed that it was fairly impractical to put a skirt on a child who couldn’t walk, as it would end up around their waist. This I agreed with, and so I was in a bit of a pickle; No.3 seems fairly committed to her bum shuffling. She can walk when holding hands, but really doesn’t seem likely to take off on a solo run anytime soon. I’ve justified making up a load of test skirts for her by convincing myself that she will walk before she has out grown them all. Fingers crossed. She can’t stay on her bum forever, can she?
Within the online sewing groups contributers regularly ask how a pattern sizing runs. It is not something that I have ever been too worried about, basically because I pretty much always aim to make clothes for my children with pleeeeenty of growing room. I’m damned if I’m going to spend time making clothes that will only last a couple of months! It also helps that while I clearly have an interest in clothes, I don’t really have a huge interest in either “fashion” or having my kids dressed perfectly. I love to see them running (or shuffling) around in brightly coloured, comfortable clothes made of interesting, soft and preferably hard-wearing fabric. Achieving a perfect fit has never been a high priority for me. I will always make a pattern a size or two bigger than they measure (if I even bother to measure; I usually just go for a couple of sizes bigger than their age suggests) and sure if it’s a bit long/big they will always grow into it!
So, the first challenge I could see coming with testing the Doris Skirt was that I would actually have to make the skirt to fit Maggot No.3! A daunting prospect, but fundamentally the point of the testing process. I came to the testing team with the hopes of being able to contribute to the success of the pattern, but also to push my boundaries a little and learn some new approaches and techniques. Challenge No.1: make a skirt that fits!
The Doris Skirt is a simple, clean lined pattern and, as with so many Misusu patterns, there is super opportunity to play with colour blocking and patterned/textured fabrics within the pattern. Unusual/asymmetrical lines are another beautiful feature of Misusu Patterns and used to great effect in Doris. I love the diagonal seam running from back to front and the little pockets that can have a cuffed edge, not to mention the dipping, crossover waistband; what’s not to love!! The potential for using piping along the diagonal seam appealed to my hopes of pushing my sewing boundaries. I had never done piping; Challenge No.2 accepted!
One of the benefits of starting a new sewing project is the opportunity to BUY MORE FABRIC! I have plenty (flipping tonnes!) of suitable fabric in my stash. The tiny size of the skirt, made with a number of pieces, lends itself to using up leftover bits ‘n’ pieces of fabric, of which I have many. But sure I wouldn’t be doing Doris justice if I didn’t get some lovely new fabric, would I?
I decided to check out Quilt Yarn Stitch, a fabric shop based in Tuam, Co. Galway with an accompanying online store. I had bought quite a few meters of different fabrics from them when I visited their stand at the Knitting and Stitching Show last autumn. (Their selection was the highlight of my first ever visit to the show.) I had bought my favorite “sloth” fabric from them, and so check in every once in a while to see if there is anything of interest.
They had a lovely double-sided jersey that seemed like it would be heavy enough to work for Doris. It also had contrasting pattern on either side, dots on the front and stripes on the back. I went with the blue & pink version and bought some matching pink ribbing too… when it arrived I was delighted with the weight and softness, but also realized it looked familiar. Misusu had a very similar fabric on the Doris Skirt in the Facebook test group cover picture! So I was safe in knowledge that it should work for the pattern! That fabric was set aside to be used as my final version and I got cracking on the pattern with fabrics from my stash for the draft skirts.
It’s Testing Time! Round 1…
I had categorized myself at application stage as “Confident Beginner”, as is pattern skill level assigned to the Doris Skirt pattern. Given a good set of clear instructions I’m pretty happy to tackle most patterns. I don’t have extensive sewing experience, but the basic Doris pattern is straightforward enough. It still has a few elements/options that are a little trickier for a newbie; numerous layers of fabric in places that are a bit difficult to handle, ribbing to the pocket edge, the possible use of piping and the unusual crossover v-shaped waistband. Nothing terribly daunting but a bit of a challenge for me nonetheless.
For round one I rooted through my stash and selected two french terry fabrics, white with a black grid and black (both fabrics by See You At Six) and contrasted this with some pink ribbing for the waistband and cuffs to the pockets. The pattern has an option for finishing the skirt with a hem or a band, I went with the hem for his first version. It all proceeded pretty smoothly. The pattern tutorial originally suggested attaching the pocket cuffs and inner pocket piece to the front panel on in two stages, so I did this, but actually found it easier in later versions to do in one go, as is now proposed in the final tutorial.
I was pretty happy with my first effort, but noted that for future versions I wouldn’t put a stripe running parallel to the diagonal seam, as it can really highlight any inaccuracies in keeping this seam perfectly straight. I also realized that it is pretty unforgiving to use a double needle to hem while trying to stitch parallel to narrow black lines (when you’ve only used your double needle a handful of times). Another thing I’ll avoid in future, at least until my skills have stepped up a notch!
I tried Doris 01 on No.3 the following morning and it fitted ok, but was too big. When I measured her, at the time of applying to be part of the testing team, she measured pretty much bang on Size 80 (48cm waist, 52cm hips and 78cm (approximately, it’s hard to pin her down/get her to stand up straight for a height check) length).
However, I’m guessing I initially measured her after dinner, as her little waist with it’s balloon belly measured closer to 46/47cm first thing in the morning. It was generally a little looser than planned. As I was using the smallest size the pattern provided and the fit was only a little too big, and mostly around the waist, I decided to take about 1cm off the waist for the next time round and grade this down along the side and back seams. The pattern tutorial contains clear instruction on how the grade between sizes to get the perfect fit, so important for a neat fitting garment. No.3 was measuring smaller than the smallest size, so I just used my best judgement in grading it down for the next version.
Round 2 – The Piping Beast
With the next Doris I decided I’d try out piping along the the side seams. I had some peach stretch piping that would contrast really nicely with a purple sweater and zebra stretchy sweater that I had in mind.
It didn’t work out so well. The first mistake was to use the cuffed pockets version, which added to the thickness of the layers at the side seam, so made it that little bit trickier than needed. Also, I don’t have a piping foot or any suitable foot for the serger that would help the keep sewing on the correct line. Suffice is to say I ended up sewing too far from the piping generally and then at the junction with the pocket cuff the serger pulled it all in too much as it struggled to get through the layers of fabric. I ended up trimming the seam off, re-cutting the back pieces and hoping that I hadn’t lost too much off the front panel in the process. Disgusted that it had beaten me, I went ahead with no piping to finish off this version.
The fit was actually not bad this time round, but the waist still a little big. I love the pink/purple/zebra print combo!
It was around this stage that Elles sent out her survey looking for feedback on the pattern and tutorial. Questions included asking about the overall fit, whether the waist sat too high or low at front and back, the angle of the side seams, having a split versus cutting on the fold in the back seam. This part of the process gave an interesting insight into how the pattern testing can help with the fine tuning of the pattern, and a little peek behind the scenes of the world of pattern design.
My next Doris would have been the last as the deadline was approaching, but Elles let us know that as there were a few more adjustments needed than originally expected that she was extending the process for another week. I decided to use the extra time to do a draft “final” version. I wanted to make a little top to compliment the skirt and I was delighted with the chance to practice taking final photos of No.3.
It also coincided with St. Patrick’s Day…
My middle child, Maggot No.2, needed something green to wear into crèche on the Friday, so on Thursday afternoon I popped into Fabrics Ireland on Mountjoy Square, conveniently located next door to my office (incredibly dangerous!) and looked for some nice green sweater fabric. I found a lovely rich green fleece, so went with that and spent till 1am on Thursday night making two fleece hoodies for the lads. I must be mad.
They were delighted with their tops, and I was glad I used the fleece as the weather was forecast to take yet another turn for the worse. At least they’d be snug to go see the parade.
Continuing the St.Patrick’s Day theme for the next Doris edition I went for a snuggly Doris “Patrick”. I love this fleece version. It is super cosy and the thickness of the fabric is very forgiving. The colour is great, a lovely shade of green, and the soft yellow bands compliment it very well. I also completely changed my initial opinion on using the bottom band for Doris. I love it. And looking at it now I think it has a slightly sporty 1980’s look? It is certainly gives a really simple neat finish.
I decided to use Misusu Patterns’ Lotte Dress/Tunic/Top pattern to make a matching fleece top to go with Doris. I simplified it by using only the main body part; leaving out the skirt element. I hoped that the slightly higher front would show off the lovely v-shaped waistband of Doris. I pared back the neckline too, mainly to make it quicker/easier to make, but also to keep it simple so as not to distract from the true star of the show; Doris.
I was delighted with the combination and No.3 seemed happy out too. She complied very well for the photos, with a helping hand from her dad! The weather was miserable outside, so I tidied up at the couch under the rooflight to get the best indoor daylit pictures I could.
After a little break from sewing for a night or two of the long weekend I got back into week two of the Doris testing. I had a couple more fabric combinations in mind and definitely wanted to conquer that piping beast…
For version Doris 04 I used some lovely pink french terry I had in my stash and combined it with the purple (aubergine?) sweater fabric I’d used for Doris 02. I decided to go simple, with no piping, no pocket bands and no bottom band. I used zigzag topstitching along the pocket seams and the hem, much more forgiving than the double needle!
At this point having done two versions with a hem and two with a band I decided that I definitely preferred the look of Doris with a band. I think it’s a little more casual and a more snuggly looking finish. The never-ending winter we are enduring might be contributing to this opinion…
Elles let us know that the pattern for the smaller sizes was pretty much finalised with the last draft, so we were good to go with final versions of Doris! I decided to go with two more options, a safe version Doris 05, and go for broke and try to beat the piping demon with Doris 06.
I really like how Doris 05 turned out. There was little or no stretch to the purple/augergine sweater to the front panel so I was concerned that it might not work, as stretch fabrics are recommended, but it fitted really nicely. I made another fleece Lotte top to match and tried to get some “final” photos. No.3 wasn’t in the form for it and I managed to get only one reasonable photo. I guess this is why they say never to work with children!
A Final Doris (for now…)
For my final test Doris I took on the piping beast once more. Well, sort of. I didn’t have any matching piping so used the ribbing for the waistband and hem to make a narrow strip along the diagonal side seams. The same challenges with standard piping applied. Keeping the seam perfectly straight and even. Not bumping out/in where the pocket edge is met. With the first run through the machine and the piping was a little off, (again veered off course at the bulk of the pocket edge) but I ran it through slowly a second time and it worked a treat!! In the final pattern tutorial Elles now directs that the seam allowance be graded back to reduce the bulk at these pocket seams, so that will probably help in my future versions!
The piping is so effective! It accentuates that gorgeous diagonal seam that is such a beautiful feature of many Misusu Patterns.
The fabric was a perfect selection for the Doris Skirt. The double sided nature works so well for the pattern. I used the dotted side for the front panel and the stripy side for the two back panels. I kept the stripe running perpendicular to the diagonal side seam, and it meets at an angle on the back seam too.
At the last (late night) minute I decided to go for (yet another) Lotte Top to match with Doris 06. I wanted to adjust it to cross over leaving a gap in the middle so as not to obscure the skirt in final photos.
I must have spent a couple of hours looking at the Lotte Top trying to figure out how to make the crossover line up properly at the shoulders, what order to sew the bits together to get the hem/rib to line up correctly. Not a job I should have done when tired. Unfortunately I made quite a few adjustments in a freehand manner, so don’t have a final paper pattern cut out that I could just use again without having to figure it all out once more. Oh well!
The final Doris/Lotte combination turned out great! The double sided fabric was so effective for both patterns. We had fun trying to get final pictures as the weather was pretty changeable, as was No.3’s mood!
Tried, Tested and Loved!
This pattern testing experience was thoroughly enjoyable. I loved seeing everyone else’s work as the process went along and loved that my late-night sewing formed part of a team effort. I am so grateful to Elles for selecting me to join the team. There was such a helpful, positive atmosphere to all communications within the group. I will certainly have no hesitation in putting my hand up for the next test call.
No.3 now has 6 beautiful Doris skirts ready to go in her wardrobe. Hopefully they will still fit her by the time she decides to start walking!!! She’s nearly there!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post, or even just skimming through! I know it was a long one. I need to practice, not only my sewing, but also my editing skills!
(And remember, to celebrate the release of the Doris Skirt pattern it will be on sale until the 15th April and keep an eye on Misusu Patterns’ Facebook and Instagram pages for a special surprise on the 15th! Please also visit my fellow testers’ blog/socialmedia Doris posts here!)