I took one class in 2013 – Christine Haynes Sassy Librarian Blouse. (You can see my finished blouse in this post from 2013.) I logged into my Craftsy account to look at the sewing classes, and saw that I’ve actually paid for EIGHT classes. But – I’m embarrassed to admit this – I’ve only viewed the one in its entirety. Oops.
How did that happen? Well, I bought most classes on an impulse (sale!) or in the case of the Jean-ius! class, I had read Amy’s Sew Well post “Designer Denim Made to Order” about her experience making a pair of jeans for a petite friend, and decided to buy it because it seemed really good (plus she provided a link for 40 percent off). I guess I was more interested in sewing, rather than watching videos.
I bought my first Craftsy sewing class a while ago – the Sassy Librarian Blouse by Christine Haynes – and finally downloaded the PDF pattern and began viewing the lessons in March. I was already a fan of Christine’s. I bought her book Chic & Simple Sewing back in 2009 and made several things from it. So I knew her Craftsy class would be a good buy – and it was – particularly because I was lucky to buy it when it was on sale but the class is still worth the current full price of $29.99 because you not only get the pattern but step-by-step instructions from Christine.
There are two views of this top – a sleeveless version with pin tucks and one with release pleats and sleeves. But you can easily make your own variations of the two styles – put a collar on the sleeveless version or leave off the sleeves on the other one.
This was also my first PDF pattern. All of my previous experiences with sewing patterns have been with printed patterns from books, indie designers, or from the Big Four (Vogue, Simplicity, Butterick, McCalls). I had a lovely cotton voile that I got at Fabric Outlet in San Francisco last fall and I wanted to get sewing.
It was an interesting experience watching the video lessons. Christine takes you though every step of the making the top – from pinning and cutting your fabric to marking darts and pleats as well as topstitching and understitching. She offers plenty of useful tips along the way, talking about her own sewing experiences.
It was nice to see how she marked darts. I definitely learned some additional sewing techniques from her lessons, such as remembering to use my ham to iron the bust dart. I forget to use my ham sometimes!
Overall, the class was quite informative because Christine goes into great detail about construction and finishing, which will definitely make the finished blouse look great. She’s very detail-oriented and precise, offering excellent reminders of things to watch out for and things to avoid and why (i.e. don’t sew over pins or you could throw off the timing of your sewing machine).
I learned about using the three-step zig zag stitch to finish my seams and facings. I never liked using the regular zig zag stitch because it tends to bunch up but I confess I never used the three-step zig zag. It works great! So thanks, Christine for mentioning that stitch!
My only problem with taking the class is that there are no written instructions so you have to watch each lesson. You can’t really skip ahead without missing something. There are a total of 12 lessons (not including the introduction) and each lesson is divided into anywhere from two to seven parts.
Each part is titled so it’s easy to go back to a section if you need to repeat the instructions or demonstration. For example, “Pattern and Cutting” is broken down into View One or Two, The Fabric, Pining the Pattern, Interfacing, and Cutting Out the Pieces and is 17:55 minutes long. The longest lesson is the Buttons and Bows – 39:35.
I used the Craftsy app on either my iPhone or the iPad as I watched the lessons. The class opens to where you last left the lesson so you don’t have to remember where you were – a handy function.
Occasionally I found myself getting impatient. Making this top took longer than I thought it would because it’s very stop and go: You watch part of a lesson, then you pin, sew, or iron, and then watch the next step, etc. I didn’t do the buttons until May – my incentive to finish was to wear it for Me Made May. I ended up wearing this top twice in May, once on Day 8 and the second time on Day 29.
The cool thing about Craftsy classes – especially if you buy a brand new class, is that you can interact with the instructor and other people taking the class. So if you get stuck or have any questions, you can get answers right away.
At a certain point, instructors are no longer answering questions but there is a discussion section in each Craftsy class and you can see what questions people posed in a particular lesson. So if you do have a question, you can just scroll through other people’s questions and see how the instructor answered them. And if you don’t find an answer, you can pose your question and other Craftsy members who made the top may reply to your query.
Also, as you’re watching a lesson and you want to make note of something, you can click on “Add Note” and then insert a note at the very moment in the video. Then the next time you make the top, you can go to your notes and see what you wrote. This is a nice feature.
Here’s what my finished top (View 1) looked like. I’m wearing a vintage wool beret:
I confess that I did NOT make a muslin. I was impatient. I just wanted to get going. However, I do have a smaller than average bust so I should have taken then into account before I cut my fabric. What I ended up doing was bringing in the side seams a little so it wouldn’t be too loose in that area.
When I make the top again, which I’m certain I will, I’ll make a real bust adjustment and give myself a little more ease in the hips.
Covered buttons are a really nice detail. You can buy covered button kits at any fabric store or online at Joann Fabric and Craft or from Etsy sellers [search “covered button kit”]. But how do you center an image on a covered button when the kit doesn’t let you see the fabric on the other side?
My challenge was that I wanted to center a little flower on the button – and my Dritz covered button kit included a white (opaque) rubber mold piece that wouldn’t let me see whether the flower was centered after I pushed the fabric and front button piece into it.
There are covered button kits with a clear rubber piece but that wasn’t for sale at my local fabric store. But I really wanted to finish my top and I didn’t want to wait and order something online. (The Cutie Stuffs Etsy shop sells covered button kits with the clear mold piece. I ordered a larger covered button kit from Cutie Stuffs last year.)
So I thought about how to solve this problem. I drew two lines perpendicular lines through the center of the button pattern (see above photo, my blue lines are a bit faint). The back of the Dritz kit included a circle on the back of the package that you cut out and use as a pattern for your fabric.
Then I drew two perpendicular lines through the center of the flower I wanted to center on the button.
Next I placed my button pattern on the marked fabric and lined up my markings.
I traced my circle, cut it out and placed my front button piece in the center of my fabric circle, pushed it into the white rubber holder. Then I put the button backing piece on top and pushed those pieces together with the blue plastic tool.
I really liked the clothes in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design so I bought it last fall. (See “Book Review: Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.”) This was my first experience with patterns that you had to trace, not cut out. The patterns were printed on both sides of the paper and some of them overlapped each other. Granted this saves paper and space but I was used to buying traditional patterns printed on tissue paper that you cut out. But I was game – this was a chance for me to use that Swedish tracing paper that had been sitting around for a couple years. (For more on the book see “Book Review: Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.”)
The patterns were very easy to trace because each size has very distinct lines and seam allowances are included. So all you needed to do was trace and cut (no darts!). I just traced these patterns freehand. All the garments use jersey fabric and are rather fitted because you’re using fabric that stretches.
I made a hand-sewn tunic, skirt, and bolero jacket from this book as well as an embroidered wrap, which I’ve posted about a few months ago (see “The Embroidered Wrap“). I haven’t written about the outfit yet but here’s a preview.
About a month after I bought Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, I ordered a copy of Shape Shape: Sewing Clothing Patterns to Wear Multiple Ways by Natsuno Hiraiwa, a graphic designer turned fashion designer. This was a bit of an impulse purchase. I liked the photos of the garments, lots of asymmetric cuts and of course, interesting shapes.
The patterns in this book are also printed on both sides but they are not that easy to trace – not only do many pattern lines overlap but the lines are all of the same skinny weight. It’s difficult to be sure you’re following the correct line for a particular piece and there is no differentiation among the pattern lines designated for each size. This means that the line is exactly the same for size small, medium and large. (Note: This pattern doesn’t include seam allowances so you must add them.)
I made one garment from the book (the Free-Style Curved Stole) but it was a little small (and I didn’t forget to add the seam allowance either!). I think I’ll give it to one my sisters who’s about 4 inches shorter. The garments in the book are sized for petite Japanese women, which means that at 5 feet 7 inches I’m a giantess for these clothes. There are only three sizes (S, M, and L) but I must be an XL or larger – something to bear in mind if you make anything from this book. (Of course, if I had read the reviews on Amazon, I would have realized that the sizes run pretty small, large is more like a medium.)
For my next adventure in pattern tracing, I turned to the dresses in BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern. With this book, I got more serious about tracing and finally bought a few French curves. (See my post “Tips on Tracing Sewing Patterns” for more on the tools I use.)
The patterns in this book are very easy to trace — even when many pattern pieces overlap — because some pieces are printed in black ink and others in red, plus the lines for different sizes are very clear. Seam allowances are not included, which makes it easier to adjust and/or modify the patterns. For many of the garments in the book, you need to take one of the base patterns and modify it to create a new pattern.
Let me tell you, after Shape Shape, it was a relief to trace patterns from this book!
Last but not least, is the pattern I traced from a PDF. I few months ago, I bought Christine Haynes Sassy Librarian Blouse on Craftsy, which uses a PDF pattern that you download and print on letter-sized paper. The pattern uses more than 35 pieces of paper, which you then need to tape together, overlapping the edges to match the lines. By the time you’re done taping all the pieces together, the pattern is a bit bulky in some areas.
So I decided not to cut the PDF pattern and instead, trace my size on to pattern tracing paper. I’m used to those tissue-weight patterns. Seam allowances are included in this pattern. None of the pattern pieces overlap (yay!) and the sizes are clearly delineated.
I’m still working on this top. I traced the pattern pieces and cut the fabric and my woven interfacing. When I finish it, I’ll be sure to post about it! What have been your experiences tracing patterns?