Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The Savannah Blouse and Dress

I enjoy making knits and wearing them, but there comes a time when I need to wear something woven and more structured or I start to feel like I'm losing touch with reality.   Because, somehow, woven clothing resembles reality to me.  I can't explain it.

I'm a 5outof4patterns (affiliate link)  ambassador because I love how they create their patterns and how very little tinkering is involved to get them to fit.  Most of their patterns are for knits (affiliate link)  , which are very forgiving to sew, especially for beginners, so when the call came to test a wovevn pattern, I couldn't contain my excitement!  

The Savannah Blouse and Dress is exactly the kind of top and dress style I love and I hoped, hoped, hoped, that the excellent sizing that I love about their knits would be found in this woven pattern too.  

Spoiler alert:  it is!

If you don't know about pattern testing, here's what happens with the indie pattern companies that I have been using for a while.  Someone creates a pattern and makes many versions in their own size to get a demo model.  Some kind of magic is done through a computer program that takes that sizing and then expands it up and down the size ranges with whatever tweaks need to happen for the various sizes, shapes and options that will be available in the pattern.   The designer says "I need people to commit to making this pattern in a couple of variations to make sure everything is sized correctly, prints correctly and that the directions make sense and don't leave anything out."  Ideally, every size offered would be tested by at least one person, and every option (sleeves, lengths, etc.) would also be tried out in many ways.  The more it's tested before releasing to the public, the greater the chance that all of the kinks will be worked out.  It's also important to have lots of people reading through the steps to make sure they get the right results.  I've been part of tests where a specific thing just doesn't work and a major change has to happen and then we all try again.

For me, there are two hard parts in testing a pattern.  One, I am someone who wants to just get it done, so making a muslin or two or three before using my "real" fabric is very difficult for me.  I like the process and I understand it but I always want to be like here, now let me get on with it :)  It has really made me slow down my sewing process and actually look at things and figure out stuff that I would ever have noticed otherwise.  The designer wants to see the muslins and suggest changes if necessary and then we should make those changes and show how it looks and wait for the go ahead.  Sometimes, there's a lot of waiting.

The other hard part is the fast pace, slow pace.  Usually, the designer says during the call for testers that there is a short turn around, usually a week.  There's a specific facebook group made just for that test and everyone is supposed to post regular pictures, comments, questions, etc.  As an aside, I once tested a pants pattern and I was constantly shocked at how much talk about crotches and pictures of crotches and underwear came up on that facebook page.  People go all out to test a pattern and don't care who sees what while trying to figure out how to make something fit their bodies.  

Anyway, knowing that unless it's summer, I don't have a lot of sewing time, I work out when I will be able to get to work on it in the timeframe we are given.  And sometimes, the answers to questions can't come immediately because they want others to weigh in and see if it's a common issue, or life gets in the way and I can't check as quickly as I want to or the designer can't, etc.  So it's "OMG  I have to get on this NOW" and then it's "Oh shoot, I can't make another move until this crucial question is answered because it could change the entire thing!"   And then it’s “oh yeah, you missed the 3 crucial changes we did yesterday so print it out again and start over “.  

Don't get me wrong, it's fun!  I wouldn't volunteer to test a pattern if I didn't like it or if I knew I wouldn't have time.  And sometimes, I know I would never wear that pattern in a million years so I know testing it wouldn't be worth anyone's time because I wouldn't be invested.

But, seeing the demo of the Savannah (affiliate link)  , I knew I would move mountains to test this baby!  The neckline does just what my neckline wants and there are slight gathers in the front. Before she even announced that there would be a dress option, I was already extending the blouse into a dress because that's what I've done with every blouse pattern.  It's like a compulsion.  How nice that someone who knows what they are doing would have already done it for me!

For the muslin of the top, I did a straight small.  The only alteration I made was to shorten through the bodice because my torso is so short.  I literally take up patterns 3-4 inches.  This was 3.5 inches and I added 1 inch back at the bottom.  I have no space between my underarm and hip.  

I was worrried that the hips might be a little more snug than I wanted after as I looked at the muslin, so I graded my final top out to a medium at the hips.  In revising the pattern to include the dress, she actually changed the width at the hips just enough that if I make the top again, I don't think I need to grade out to the medium at the hips.

I chose the short puff sleeve for the top and the long puff sleeve for the dress.  I'm not sure what happened between the short and the long, but the width on these dress sleeves was so crazy to me, I had to bring them in 2 inches.  If I make long sleeves again, I would take out slightly more from the elbow to the wrist.   I feel like I could sail away!

The dress has ties and is very flowy.  At first, I wasn't going to use the ties, because I'm not much of a tied back dress person but I decided I should put them in.  When pattern testing, we really aren't supposed to go winging off and do our own thing and I figured if I hated them, I could remove them later.

There will be plenty of winging off in later iterations :)

The dress has an added pleat at the back.  When I made the top, I kept
thinking the back was slightly wider than I probably needed due to my swayback and I think I have a narrow back anyway.  When I made the dress, I felt like the back was WAY too wide.  The pleat is fantastic to make the whole thing flow, but for me, it makes too much fabric at the back.  When I tie the ties, there's more bulk than I'd like in the back.  For my taste.  If I made it again, I would try using the width of the back that is meant for the shirt.  I really think it would be enough.


For me, the hardest part of this entire process is the placket and binding. For the top, the fabric is a

stretch chiffon that was like trying to sew water.  It's slippery and refuses to hold a crease.  I love the look of it but sewing with it is not fun.  I figured my issue with the binding was due to it not holding a crease and just being so slippery.

However, with dress, the fabric is a rayon challis.  It's very smooth and drapey but not as slippery as the
chiffon.  And it hold a crease like you read about.  But I still really struggled with the binding.  It's not the directions.  I get what to do.  Translating into how the fabric comes out when topstitched just didn't happen the way I wanted.  In the pictures, it looks pretty good and to the general eye, nothing looks amiss.  But I know how it could look.  I've been thinking a lot about another way I could do it that might make it lay better on my next one.  My next one will not be a solid, for sure.

Here are a few tips I suggest when you make yours (affiliate link)  : 

  • First, don't use a solid, especially in the bodice.  Several people did solid sleeves with a floral bodice.  Having some kind of print really helps mask any issues you might have with that binding.  
  • Second, if you like your sanity, choose a fabric that will hold a crease.  Hemming it and doing the binding will push you right over the edge if your fabric won't crease.  There was more silent swearing and screaming in my sewing room over that slippery chiffon than with any fabric I've sewn.
  • Third, choose a flowy, drapey fabric.  A heavy cotton or structured cotton (like for quilting) won't drape and would look stiff.  
  • Fourth, be ready to make many.  If the neckline looks good on you, you're going to want to make every sleeve length (and sleeveless) and both dresses and tops.  
Get ready for a slew of these tops and dresses in my feed. I think sleevless will be the name of the game as we head toward summer.

This pattern is on sale as it debuts this week.  Be sure to click my (affiliate link)  to get to the 5outof4patterns website and get this amazing pattern now!







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