What Works, What Doesn’t: Five Versions of the McCall “Mannish Jacket” from 1941

Readers,

Remember this jacket pattern? Of course you do.

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From 1941, McCall pattern 4065, the “Misses’ Mannish Jacket”

In 2015 I used it for a project following Kenneth King’s “Old School” instructions on his Smart Tailoring DVD.

From 2003 to 2015 I made up this jacket five times.

Don’t ask me why, but I always loved the jaunty pattern illustration.

The actual jackets? I didn’t love them, exactly, although I was proud of the quality of work I did on parts of them.  Only recently (like five minutes ago) did I make this crucial distinction.dark_tweed_jacket_1712-247x460

dark_tweed_jacket_1715-219x460

If I had seen well-lighted, full-length photos of this first version of the jacket on me I could have perfected the fit.

I made the dark tweed one first, starting it in a Palmer-Pletsch sewing camp in Portland, Oregon in 2003 and finishing it at home with guidance from my sewing teacher, Edith.dark_tweed_jacket_1721-460x363dark_tweed_jacket_1722-460x403

In 2006, in a stunt of sewing bravado, I sewed burgundy plaid, green heather, and red plaid versions. purple_plaid_jacket_1732-244x460

purple_plaid_jacket_1735-235x460

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The only jacket I’ve ever interfaced with fusible canvas. I know Kenneth King isn’t a fan of fusible canvas, but it turned out to work well in this garment.

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red_plaid_jacket_1792-242x460

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I need a little posture-correcting here!

Defiantly shaking my fist at the sewing gods, and with Edith’s encouragement and coaching, I cut the pieces for all three jackets (two requiring meticulous matching) over that Labor Day weekend.  Relaxing, right?

purple_plaid_jacket_1745-460x319

I have always liked this plaid for its colors and scale.

I just didn’t want to be intimidated by tailoring anymore, so I cut and sewed the three jackets, with different pockets, over the course of several months.

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It’s fun to cut some plaid pieces on the bias. I cut out a hole the shape of the finished flap from stiff paper, and moved the “preview window” around on the yardage. Then I cut the flap pieces.

purple_plaid_jacket_1743-460x307

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It’s nice when you can find the right buttons in the right sizes. These are a souvenir of a visit to Edinburgh.

purple_plaid_jacket_1751-460x307

Bound buttonholes are not my forte.

 

I had a few tutorials with Edith and also used Jackets for Real People by Patti Palmer and Marta Alto extensively.heather_jacket_1780-460x331

heather_jacket_1777-444x460

The bound buttonhole is coming apart. But–I love the subtle coloring of this fabric! I picked it up as a remnant for about $3.00 at the Minnesota Textile Center’s fabulous annual fabric garage sale.

heather_jacket_1773-460x375

I’m happy with the shoulders and notched collar job I did. This wool was a breeze to work with.

heather_jacket_1785-460x327

Holes in the lining created from carrying tote bags of books to and from the libraries I used to work at. Of all the jackets, I’ve worn this one the most.

I did learn a lot, and achieved a lot, and am still impressed by the ambition of the goal as well as the results.red_plaid_jacket_1808-460x357

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I settled for this style of button but think there are better choices out there. Something subtle and matte.

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Shoulders are okay, but I keep wanting to subtract a little roominess from the upper bodice.

But if the point of sewing clothes is to wear the clothes, then I didn’t succeed as much as I assumed I would.  I didn’t follow through with planning outfits around these jackets, let alone making the jackets the pivotal pieces they deserved to be.

Even though my now four “Misses’ Mannish Jackets” were underemployed in my wardrobe, yet again I turned to this pattern when I wanted to try Kenneth King’s brand new Smart Tailoring DVD last year.blue_tweed_jacket_1818-252x460

I wanted to try all of Kenneth’s techniques–for a notched collar, felt undercollar, mitered sleeves, and a vent–and the Mannish Jacket met all those specs. blue_tweed_jacket_1856-460x384

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This is Kenneth King’s “hidden pocket”: a nice addition to the lining.

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The patch pockets on this 1941 jacket are slightly asymmetrical, which I like.

I did consider many other patterns I’d been dying to try for years–but the prospect of going through the whole muslin, fitting, and pattern-altering rigamarole before getting to the tailoring was just too much. I wanted to finish my jacket before attending Kenneth’s weekend workshop in Cleveland a few months later. (And I did.)

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This fabric, which I bought at a Textile Center of Minnesota sale, may well date to the 1950s. It likely came from somebody’s stash. The button dates to the 1940s, according to the owner of Taylors Buttons in London.

So that’s how Mannish Jacket 5 came to be: I sewed it as a learning exercise. And the fabric?  I chose that only because I was willing to sacrifice it, if the jacket was a dud. So, looking back, I see just how much learning technique took precedence over making myself something I wanted to wear.

In fact, just now I’m realizing that each of these Mannish Jackets may have been taken on a little too self-consciously as An Exercise in Sewing Self-Improvement.

I suspect this because, when I see these jackets hanging in my closet I hear myself saying:

  • “I put a lot of work into that.”
  • “I did a good job [matching the plaid/sewing the pockets/choosing the buttons].”
  • “I learned a lot.”
  • “I wish I hadn’t padded the shoulders so much.”
  • “Are they too long for me?”
  • “My bound buttonholes are too flimsy!”
  • “I do love the fabric.”
  • “If I just sew the right coordinates, I’ll wear them.”

In other words, I still see them as projects more than as garments.

I don’t notice myself saying:

  • “I love these jackets!”
  • “When can I wear them again?”
  • “What can I sew now to make new outfits?”

Don’t get me wrong: the Mannish Jacket series wasn’t a waste of time. I did learn a lot–and not just how to sew a notched collar without flinching.  But there will be no Mannish Jacket number 6.

What I had only vaguely felt–a sense that, however hard I had worked on these garments, they still fell short, without my knowing precisely why–became clear to me when I saw the stark reality in properly lighted photos.

These jackets were wearing me more than I was wearing them.  The shoulders? Wider than I’d realized before, and not in a flattering way.

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I am very dissatisfied with the prominent sleeve caps; they interrupt a clean, straight shoulder line. It doesn’t help that the shoulders are too extended for me. This is the same pattern I used for the preceding four jackets, yet this one turned out so different.

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This is too big! So exasperating. Also, I wonder whether I made the best interfacing choices. They are so hard to get right.

The length?  Disproportionate on me. The back? Too roomy.  This is the 1941 version of–yes, a boyfriend jacket! Of course!

I could alter the pattern pieces for future jackets, narrowing the back and shoulder and taking three or four inches from the 26 1/2″ finished length.  I could make a better-fitting Mannish Jacket. However, I think I’d be removing much of what makes the 1941 design distinctive. I also think my appetite for this style has been satisfied.

Instead, I’ll reassign Jacket 5 from bench-sitting as a garment to active duty as a tailoring resource.  And jackets 1 through 4 can serve occasionally as light coats flung over sweaters or flannel shirts and jeans to wear on crisp, dry, fall days.

There are critical points on the way to getting things sewn, where, if I do make the extra effort to identify the lessons, I can reap the full benefit.

As I look back at what my Mannish Jackets could teach me, some lessons are:

  • Photos of myself in muslins and garments give me much better data to work with than squinting in a mirror or getting feedback from well-intentioned helpers.
  • If the point of sewing most garments is to wear them in outfits, I should pay a lot more attention to the outfit level of planning.
  • Planning outfits is a skill in itself. If I plan outfits before I sew the garments, I’m more likely to enjoy really successful outcomes.  If I sew the garment and then only hope I can incorporate it into an outfit, then I’m more likely to be disappointed.
  • It’s okay to sew something as a rehearsal for the next iteration–as long as I’m aware that what I’m producing is just a practice piece. If it does become part of my wardrobe, that’s a bonus.

Lessons learned.  Now to incorporate them into new practices and put myself on an even more rewarding path.

(Thanks to Cynthia DeGrand for all photos.)

 

What Problem Does That Solve?

Readers,

Blame my background as a librarian for calling a new form that I’m experimenting with an “Acquisitions Record.”

Out of my 22 years working in libraries I spent four and a half in my system’s Collection Management department, in Acquisitions, selecting adult fiction, large print, and audiobooks. (I also pestered advised my colleague who ordered the cookbooks and sewing books.)

Since my time as a selector I’ve thought about where it might make sense to apply library principles and practices to getting things sewn.  I haven’t actually drawn up a collection management policy, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea. (That’s a topic for another time.)img_0934-460x307

What I did do, on the spur of the moment about a month ago, was record a few facts, reasons, and plans concerning a book I’d bought.  Why did I buy another sewing book, why now, and how was I planning to actually use it? I did have a plan for it–right?

It’s way too easy to acquire sewing stuff, with the best of intentions, and then not to use it to its full potential. And that bothers me.

The Sewing Bible: Curtains--not to be confused with Katrin Cargill's Curtain Bible, of course!

The Sewing Bible: Curtains–not to be confused with Katrin Cargill’s Curtain Bible, of course!

I threw together a table in OneNote and started making columns to collect facts.

  • Date: Aug. 21
  • Type: Book
  • Description: The Sewing Bible: Curtains
  • Price: $4.29; originally $24.99
  • Where purchased: Half Price Booksimg_0936-460x288

Then I created a couple of columns to collect explanations.

  • Reason/What problems this solves: Looks like good instructions and designs for curtains and draperies, different from what I already have.
  • Why now? Kitchen curtain and dining room drapery projects by mid-Oct. before our next houseguest arrives.img_0935-460x361

Then I pushed myself to move to the planning stage:

  • Plans to use it: Read about sheers, tab-top curtains, design, construction.
  • Projects scheduled: Visit Fabric Farms 8/29. See list [of supplies to look for] in Outlook.
  • Projects completed: Aim for mid-Oct.img_0936-2-460x439

That was my first entry.  I was being ambitious: the heat of August persuaded me that October was a long ways off. Nevertheless, asking myself what problems this purchase was meant to solve, and why I was buying now made me think longer, more creatively, and more concretely.

My next sewing-related purchase turned out to be the very next day:

  • Date: Aug. 22
  • Type: Class
  • Description: “Fast-Track Fitting with Joi Mahon” plus Vogue fitting pattern for the class
  • Price: $21.14 (incl. shipping the pattern), usually $44.99
  • Where purchased: Craftsy

And my explanations:

  • Reason/What problems this solves: Different approach from Kenneth King’s in “Smart Fitting” DVDs, and complementary. I don’t want to wait to get help from my old sewing teachers. Also, I can ask Joi questions online as part of the class, and I can’t ask Kenneth.
  • Why now? Sale was one day only. This was on my wish list. I’ve read her fitting book, very impressed with her clear, organized explanations. Returning to sewing in earnest after blog sabbatical; want to crank out garments I love. Fitting is my biggest Achilles’ heel.

Fitting and pattern alteration have always seemed beyond my abilities. Could this Craftsy class change my attitude?

On to the ambitious planning:

  • Plans to use it: Aggressively use to fit my patterns, then try fitting a blouse for Cynthia.
  • Projects scheduled: E-mail Cynthia to set date to measure me per Joi’s class. Possible blog series. 1959 Vogue belted jacket pattern: read instructions Aug. 23.
  • Projects completed: [left blank]

Even though my simple little acquisitions record was barely 24 hours old, it had already begun to work some magic. I wasn’t just recording a past expenditure. I was thinking more systematically and strategically before my purchase.

That’s especially important for me when I buy Craftsy classes. They don’t occupy physical space, and it’s easy for me to forget that they’re resources like my books and tools–and maybe better, because Craftsy instructors respond to students’ questions.

In the last month I’ve made six entries in my acquisitions record: for a book, two online classes, a fabric remnant, and two patterns.  I have found that’s it’s been fun to track what things are coming into this sewing room and what potential they offer:

  • methods I can understand for fitting patterns better even before I sew the muslin
  • methods for altering ready-to-wear to perfect the fit
  • curtains to grace our new kitchen and dining room
  • flannel pajamas with flair
  • a steady supply of custom-fit aprons

    Got the cotton duck, got the apron pattern--now on to getting those aprons sewn for our new kitchen.

    Got the cotton duck, got the apron pattern–now on to getting those aprons sewn for our new kitchen.

That tantalizing potential is there, for sure.  And, I know, it certainly is easy to get over-ambitious creating projects and deadlines without the necessary follow-through: call me Exhibit A.

But I think this simple form is going to help move me in the right direction to get things sewn.  It’s a good starting point.

And when I get a better idea–I’ll just create another form.

Getting Things Sewn Turns 2

Readers,

Yesterday, February 16, meant that another year has gone by and Getting Things Sewn is 2.Two_candles_Happy_bday_0267 (460x386)

In Getting Things Sewn’s second year, the grand total of things I got sewn was…

Zero!

You heard right. Zero.

I did make progress, however.

Let’s take a walk down Sewing Blog Memory Lane and see what has happened since last February 16:

After Jack and I decided to sell our house in Minneapolis, Minnesota and move to Columbus, Ohio I planned my new sewing-space-to-be by zones instead of defaulting to one big storage space.

I got ready for packing and moving by reading a stack of books on decluttering,IMG_5147 (460x345) and learned how to plan my wardrobe reading the newly published Looking Good…Every Day.IMG_5148 (345x460)

I got a good start on a 1959 Vogue jacket, taming ravelly fabric and testing the collar piece

I trimmed closely to the zigzagging without trimming it away.

I trimmed closely to the zigzagging without trimming it away.

and making samples of bound buttonholes

Will it fit comfortably?

Will it fit comfortably?

and the pocket

The pocket is pinned to the front, aligning the stitching box with the one I traced onto the front.

The pocket is pinned to the front, aligning the stitching box with the one I traced onto the front.

before I closed down my basement sewing domain.

I learned about a fabulous trade journal, American Fabrics, that was the highlight of my field trip to the American Craft Council’s library

The hope and optimism of postwar America.

The hope and optimism of postwar America.

(although the corgis did steal my heart).

Penny and Loretta, office dogs and unofficial mascots of the American Craft Council, greeted me.

Penny and Loretta, office dogs and unofficial mascots of the American Craft Council, greeted me.

Our advice columnist, Miss GTS, told a desperate reader how to pack up her UFO to finish later.

Miss GTS says "An UnFinished Object doesn't have to be an UnFun Object!"

Miss GTS says “An UnFinished Object doesn’t have to be an UnFun Object!”

Inventing an intuitive, easy, and painless system, I edited my pattern stash

Duplicates other patterns. ditto, too much design ease, not my style.

Duplicates other patterns. ditto, too much design ease, not my style.

and reported the results.

Weighing in at a slender 5 lbs 4 oz

Weighing in at a slender 5 lbs 4 oz

I went to the Textile Center’s Fabric Garage Sale and bought gorgeous yardage

This was only the beginning.

This was only the beginning.

to pair with my growing collection of vintage buttons.

These translucent buttons seem right for this lighter-weight linen.

These translucent buttons seem right for this lighter-weight linen.

Jack and I bought a house in Columbus

With Kelly, our great real estate agent.

With Kelly, our great real estate agent.

and put our house in Minneapolis on the market.

The cottage is for sale!

The cottage is for sale!

I made a field trip to Lancaster, Ohio to see a show of costumes designed by Edith Head,

A clip from The Big Clock showing Maureen O'Sullivan in her suit with the fetching faux bow.

A clip from The Big Clock showing Maureen O’Sullivan in her suit with the fetching faux bow.

and returned to meet the old girl herself.

Who would have thought?

Who would have thought?

I made a field trip to New York to participate in Peter Lappin’s annual Male Pattern Boldness Day. Peter gets the credit (or blame?) for inspiring me to start my own blog.

I set up my sewing room in our new home, making a floor plan with zones.

Moving paper is easier than moving tables!

Moving paper is easier than moving tables!

With a sewing room, but no sewing community developed yet, I wondered what it would take for me to make progress.

A sewing blogger must wear many hats.

A sewing blogger must wear many hats.

It continued to be clear that I need fitting and pattern-altering help from an expert, and I found one teaching classes at Columbus’s Cultural Arts Center.

Columbus, Ohio's Cultural Arts Center offers classes in painting, metal work, and much more.

Columbus, Ohio’s Cultural Arts Center offers classes in painting, metal work, and much more.

As a bonus, I’ve gotten to meet wonderful classmates who are fast becoming sewing friends.

I continued to want to make beautiful jackets and coats, but more than ever I wanted to make the process enjoyable and not only the result. When I learned about a brand new DVD set about tailoring, I ordered it right away.IMG_6704 (288x460)

Watching Smart Tailoring, I thought it would be both instructive and fun to sew jackets following Kenneth King’s “old school” and “new school methods.” I am gathering my materials

Tailoring canvas and a June Tailor board for jacket-making

Tailoring canvas and a June Tailor board for jacket-making

and tools

 These tailor point scissors are indispensable.

These tailor point scissors are indispensable.

and am about to do the pattern work for my first “old school” jacket.

As I look back over Getting Things Sewn’s second year, I see the predictable disruptions of househunting, house-selling, packing, moving, and settling in. But I also see a very promising beginning to my new local sewing community. I am finding people to say “Wow!” to where I live and online. I’ve come to see that’s essential to building and maintaining my momentum.

I am also finding people to say “How?” to–experts who can inform and nudge me to build my fund of knowledge and experience.

Zero things sewn wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for year 2.

But as for year 3 I’m off to a great start. IMG_6373 (460x308) (2)

If you ask me, there’s nowhere to go but up.

In the elevator of Columbus's great LeVeque Tower, built 1927.

In the elevator of Columbus’s great LeVeque Tower, built 1927.

(Thanks to Cynthia DeGrand for candles photo.)

Editing My Pattern Stash: How It Turned Out

Readers,

Some of the patterns from the 3-star pile.

Some of the patterns from the 3-star pile.

If you’re short on time (I know I am), I’ll get right to the point: editing my pattern stash turned out surprisingly well.

Move 'em on out: difficult side closure, too boxy, I'd never wear it. Brings the eye down, I have better choices, rounded shoulders, boxy and brings the eye down.

Move ’em on out: difficult side closure, too boxy, I’d never wear it. Too much ease, I have better choices, rounded shoulders, boxy and brings the eye down.

As with editing my fabric and button stashes last year, editing my patterns was informative, fun, and productive. Even painless. What more could I ask?

Duplicates other patterns. ditto, too much design ease, not my style.

Duplicates other patterns. ditto, too much design ease, not my style.

The trick in editing my stashes, I’ve found, is designing a process that’s intuitive and easy (are those the same thing?) and that helps me do something better than  before.

Great uses for my vintage buttons, but I would probably not wear either.

Great uses for my vintage buttons, but I would probably not wear either.

The process has to be intuitive, so I understand it; easy, so I actually do it; and helps me accomplish something that matters, so that it’s worth the trouble–worth the trouble of executing the process, but also designing it, which has been the real bugbear.

Bolero overload. Sweetheart necklines: no!

Bolero overload. Sweetheart necklines: no!

But on to the results.

Using the rating system I devised, I assigned one to five stars to each of 200 patterns.

Sloping shoulders, no waist definition.

Sloping shoulders, no waist definition.

Basically,

  • 5 stars: I’ve made these and they were successful. Keep.

    Duplicate, better choices, not my style.

    Duplicate, better choices, not my style.

  • 4 stars: I haven’t made these, but they’re flattering and I love them. I can definitely imagine making them. They would work in my wardrobe. Keep.

    I have better choices, looks like a home ec project, ditto

    I have better choices, looks like a home ec project, ditto

  • 3 stars: I haven’t made these. I’m ambivalent about something here: some features are flattering and some aren’t; the style might work or it might not. These would probably never be tops on the sewing to-do list.  Are these worth keeping? Look at these again and decide.

    Elegant, but lots of other patterns are better wardrobe matches.

    Elegant, but lots of other patterns are better wardrobe matches.

  • 2 stars: I haven’t made these. Something is a dealbreaker: the style no longer suits me, or I now know that’s not a flattering silhouette, or this duplicates other patterns. Out they go.

    Sloping shoulders, dropped shoulders, bolero overload

    Sloping shoulders, dropped shoulders, bolero overload

  • 1 star: I have made these. Face it: they’re duds. Maybe they’re fixable, but I will never make it top priority to fix them. I’d rather choose a different pattern. Bye-bye.

    I wouldn't wear it much, zipper closure, not sure I'd wear it.

    I wouldn’t wear it much, zipper closure, not sure I’d wear it.

The 3-star pile was the most interesting and instructive. Seeing all the 3-starred ones together, I could see similarities in design features that just didn’t work for a triangle figure like mine:

  • Insufficient shoulder definition: dropped shoulders, kimono sleeves, raglan sleeves
  • Little or no waist definition
  • Features that drew the eye down or just didn’t draw the eye up
  • Too much design ease

    Scoop neckline--no; I'd never get around to sewing this; boxy

    Scoop neckline–no; I’d never get around to sewing this; boxy

I saw styles I wouldn’t wear now; I wasn’t that person anymore, if ever I had been.

Sloping shoulders; wrapround dress insecurity; what--MORE boleros?

Sloping shoulders; wrapround dress insecurity; what–MORE boleros?

Some patterns looked costumey to me now.

I have another shawl collar dress that's better; wouldn't wear it; boxy, sloping shoulders and boxy; sloping shoulders

I have another shawl collar dress that’s better; wouldn’t wear it; boxy, sloping shoulders and boxy; sloping shoulders

Whenever I found myself saying “There are better choices,” I paid attention.

Given how many 4-star patterns I have sitting on the bench begging to be put into the game, when would I ever sew the 3-stars? Like that famous New Yorker cartoon, how about never?

After the edit I arranged my pattern catalogue differently. That was not part of the original plan.

After the edit I arranged my pattern catalogue differently. That was not part of the original plan.

Because I understood why I was keeping what I was keeping and weeding what I was weeding, I had no second thoughts and no regrets.

I hadn’t set out to weed out a certain number. It came to about 60, or about 30 percent, just using this star rating process.

When I looked at the keepers, their winning qualities stood out all the more for not being lumped together with the ones that were only pretty good. For me, that’s the ultimate value of an edit: to clarify what interests and inspires me the most, and identify the resources–the fabrics, buttons, and patterns–that are the best matches.

Arranged by garment category now, not by year, the way I arrange my wardrobe.

Arranged by garment category now, not by year, the way I arrange my wardrobe.

There was another unexpected result from this edit: I changed how I arrange my pattern catalogue.

Years ago, to sidestep the problem of choosing one category for a multi-garment pattern, I arranged patterns by year.  But I realized recently that arranging my patterns by year emphasizes the historical period of the garments, which doesn’t help me plan a wardrobe.

Sometimes I attach swatches to the page.

Sometimes I attach swatches to the page.

When I want a coat, I should be flipping to the coat section of my catalogue and examining all my coat choices regardless of the era.

In a couple of instances, it turned out, did I want to put a pattern into a couple of garment categories: both “Jackets” and “Tops,” for example.  In those cases I can just make an duplicate page.

Tracing the outlines of the garment helps me see it better.

Tracing the outlines of the garment helps me see it better.

What I had feared–that my catalogue would be the size of an unabridged Webster’s dictionary–has not materialized.

Abridged, then?

Perhaps.

Weighing in at a slender 5 lbs 4 oz

Weighing in at a slender 5 lbs 4 oz

Editing My Pattern Stash

Readers,

I think I’ve come up with a pretty good way to edit my pattern stash.

Is this too many coat patterns?

Is this too many coat patterns?

Although I’m writing this on the road from Ohio, where Jack’s and my househunting adventure is taking exciting new turns, my mind has not strayed far from life’s really important questions:

  • Do I have too many patterns?
  • What’s the right number, anyway?
  • Will I ever know how (or care) to make my own t-shirts?

    This belted topper pattern from 1950 is a keeper.

    This belted topper pattern from 1950 is a keeper. 5 stars.

I know these questions have been plaguing you, too, readers. That’s why I have been spending all my waking hours this week–the ones not on the phone with our real estate agent–pondering a process for evaluating pattern stashes.

What I made from the topper pattern exceeded my expectations. I love when that happens.

What I made from the topper pattern exceeded my expectations. I love when that happens.

I’ll spare you the details of those first 30 hours of pondering and first two drafts of this post, and cut to the chase: I now have a working model for sorting patterns.

Another great in my pattern pantheon.

Another great in my pattern pantheon. 5 stars.

When I get back to the sewing domain in Minneapolis in a few days, this is what I’ll do:

1. Bring together all my patterns. I have about 200.

One of my favorite sewing projects ever.

One of my favorite sewing projects ever.

2. Sort them into categories such as:

  • Coats
  • Jackets and suits
  • Blouses, shirts, tops
  • Vests
  • Skirts
  • Pants
  • Accessories
  • At-home wear (robes, pajamas, exercise clothes, aprons)
  • Menswear
  • Home decor

    From 1936, another favorite pattern.

    From 1936, another favorite pattern. 5 stars.

Patterns will be judged and compared within their category.

3. Make space for five piles.

4. Patterns will be rated from one to five stars.

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

5. Each star rating has objective and subjective statements related to it.  Assign each pattern to the pile with the statements that make the best match:

5 stars

  • I have made this.
  • I love it.
  • I would make it again.
  • Even if I don’t make it again, it’s worth keeping this pattern.
  • This flatters my figure type.
  • This works well with my other wardrobe items.
  • If this is a new direction for my wardrobe, it’s worth building outfits around this.
  • This works well with the life I’m living or am looking ahead to living.

    I can see this in my mind's eye with fabric and buttons from my stashes. 4 stars.

    I can see this in my mind’s eye with fabric and buttons from my stashes. 4 stars.

4 stars

  • I have not made this.
  • This flatters my figure type. (For me, a triangle figure type, that would include emphasizing the upper body with a defined waist and shoulders.)
  • I love this pattern.
  • This would work well with my other wardrobe items.
  • I can vividly imagine fabrics or buttons I’d use. (Even better: I have the fabrics and buttons.)
  • I can vividly imagine where or when I’d wear this.
  • I can vividly imagine what I would wear with this.
  • I can imagine loving wearing this.
  • If I had to learn new skills or get help to make this, I would.

    Some of my vintage buttons are waiting for their star turn on this coat. 4 stars.

    Some of my vintage buttons are waiting for their star turn on this coat. 4 stars.

3 stars

  • I have not made this.
  • I like this pattern, but I can’t say I love it.
  • This has elements that flatter my figure type.
  • This also has elements that do nothing to flatter my figure type–they’re either neutral or detract.
  • Something appeals to me about the style.
  • I might be able to make this work.
  • I have never vividly imagined the fabrics or buttons I’d use.
  • I have never vividly imagined where or when I’d wear this.
  • I have never vividly imagined what I would wear with this.
  • If I had to make multiple muslins or learn new skills to make this, I would choose a different pattern.
  • If I were in the mood to experiment, or had the right help, and the time, I would make this.

    From 1947. I like this.  Would it be too boxy on me? Shall I try it? 3 stars.

    From 1947. I like this. Would it be too boxy on me? Shall I try it? 3 stars.

Two stars

  • I have not made this.
  • Even if this is right for my figure type, it’s not to my taste anymore.
  • This doesn’t match my life now or how I expect to live in the future.
  • I am not willing to experiment with this pattern. I would choose a different pattern instead.
  • I like it well enough, but have never vividly imagined anything about it, I realize.
  • This is a perfectly good pattern, but it duplicates others I have.
  • If I let this go, I wouldn’t really miss it.

    I bought this for the lapels, but I'd have to take so much design ease out, I might as well choose another pattern. 2 stars.

    I bought this for the lapels, but I’d have to take so much design ease out, I might as well choose another pattern. 2 stars.

One star

  • I have made this.
  • This is a dud. It doesn’t work for me in fit or style.
  • If I made it in a different fabric or color it would still be a dud.
  • It is not worth it to me to fix the problems with this pattern. I’d rather choose a different pattern.

    On the 5 foot 10 inch tall model, this anorak looked great.

    On the 5 foot 10 inch tall model, this anorak looked great.

The 5-star patterns are keepers.

The 2- and 1-star patterns can be let go.

On me, not so much. 1 star.

On me, not so much. 1 star.

Then I’ll look at the 3-star and 4-star piles again. What can I learn from those piles? What makes one pattern a winner in my mind and another an also-ran? How much am I swayed by the front-of-the-envelope illustration? Is the technical drawing on the back just as appealing, more appealing, or less? In my experience, some patterns have fallen short of the promise on the front of the envelope–but others have exceeded it.

I had such high hopes for this 1934 pattern.

I had such high hopes for this 1934 pattern.

I may notice more patterns that are similar enough to consider duplicates, and choose to edit a few more out.

I won’t limit the number of patterns I can own in each category. However, I do have limits of time, money, and attention. I’m likely to accomplish more by perfecting a smaller number of patterns that I love, especially ones that adapt more easily to different seasons or occasions.

Do you think cutting about 8 inches off the length changed the proportions?  Am I willing to try making this pattern a great one for me? 2 stars, or 3?

Do you think cutting about 8 inches off the length changed the proportions? Am I willing to try making this pattern a great one for me? 2 stars, or 3?

As I work through this process, I may notice different questions and statements occurring to me, as in the menswear, accessory and home decor categories. “Make, or buy?” for instance. How willing am I to perfect a hat pattern? In the past, not very.

In the future? Put that question in the 3-star pile. I’ll deal with it later.

Interesting belt choices, pockets, and the chance to use beautiful buttons put this pattern into the 4-star pile.

Interesting belt choices, pockets, and the chance to use beautiful buttons put this pattern into the 4-star pile.