To ruffle, or not to ruffle – that is the question

Every year there are more and more indie sewing pattern companies popping up – which is great because the big four pattern companies definitely need some competition and a bit of a shake up! Sewing has become trendy again – a lot more young people are taking it up as a hobby, and the patterns available are slowly reflecting this with more modern styles coming through and making up-to-date handmade clothing accessible for everyone. Homemade clothing used to mean very modest frumpy clothes made by your grandma, or a cringey knitted jumper (Christmas theme optional).

Nowadays though, you can make stuff that looks like it’s fresh out of a high street store (and better made, too). I love discovering new pattern labels, and Republique Du Chiffon – although not a new company – have recently made it on to my sewing table.

I bought a batch of their patterns a while back, as I really liked several of their designs. I’ve now made the Charlotte Skirt (not pictured here, but will be hitting the blog in a couple of weeks!) and the Suzon shirt… I also have the Gerard coat already cut from some awesome Stoff and Still tapestry fabric which will hopefully be finished off soon (because it’s defo cold enough for it) and I have all the fabric for the Jolaine shirt. Too many projects too little time…

Whilst the big four pattern companies have a huge range of designs that just can’t be rivalled, and they are often available at discounted prices, I find that on the whole they are not so modern, or appealing to us millennial sewists (there are some exceptions though, I’m not tarring ALL their patterns with the same brush). I feel like they aren’t really aimed at a young, city-dwelling-edgy-fashionista crowd, more the ‘mom brigade’… and the pictures on the pattern envelopes and websites don’t really do much to persuade you otherwise. You do, of course, have to look past the stylings on the envelope – after all the fit, fabric and styling will change the way it looks quite dramatically, but these pictures are hardly inspiring to someone in their 20’s or 30’s that wants to start sewing.

I mean, look at these… Republique Du Chiffon and Named Patterns photos compared to the sad-face-inducing Kwik Sew one at the bottom:

REPUBLIQUE DU CHIFFON

NAMED PATTERNS

KWIK SEW 🙁 🙁 🙁

The indie companies like Sew Over It, Deer and Doe and Named are all appealing to the next generation of sewists, with their modern patterns and fresh photos. People can look at the pattern photos and think YES, I want to make something like THAT. They don’t need to look past the dodgy 90’s catalogue pictures to envision what their finished item will look like on someone their age – they can already see it and that’s what sparks the flame and gets the needle to the fabric. Their photos of the finished items wouldn’t look out of place on today’s RTW websites, and that’s what will get people making.

unfortunately, the indie patterns are more expensive than the ones from the big companies but on the whole the packaging is a bit nicer and the instructions are written more for the modern sewist, and are easier to understand. To compare printed pattern prices, Named Patterns are EUR19, Deer and Doe EUR14 and Republique du Chiffon EUR16. Kwik Sew/Butterick you can pick up for around £5 here in the UK. We don’t get the equivalent of the dollar sales that the US get, patterns here in the EU are pretty expensive.

Despite the cost, I would always rather pay out for the paper pattern over the pdf, unless I have no choice – this was the case with the RDC Charlotte Skirt (available as pdf only for some reason, but I *really* wanted it so just bought it). The indie patterns are usually printed on nice white paper rather than tissue paper though – I mean, whose idea was it to print on flimsy tissue paper?? It’s a nightmare to see the lines and symbols on it when you’re tracing it, and it rips and creases SO easily. Sometimes with the indies the pattern pieces overlap on the paper (but not as bad as some of the Burda magazine patterns that I’ve seen!) which can be a bit of a faff and it can resemble a Where’s Wally trying to find the small pieces amongst the mass of lines… but it’s bearable. I survived it. It does mean that you have no other option but to trace though, so if you’re a cutter, this may not be your thang.

The Suzon pattern doesn’t come with seam allowances either. I know, I know – I hear ya. It’s painful. This bumps the level of faff WAY up there. Firstly, you’ve got to find a way to add them. I bought a Prym parallel tracing wheel (from Amazon), which comes with white chalk powder – the idea is you cut out the pattern pieces as they are (without the seam allowances), then you place the pieces on your fabric and go round the templates with the roller side along the edge of the paper and the chalk side at whatever measurement you desire your seam allowances to be. You then cut through the fabric along the chalk lines you’ve just traced. This is how I did the Suzon – the white chalk worked fine on the black fabric, but I imagine you’re not going to be so thrilled with it if you’re using white fabric. The lines were a bit wibbly (the wheel, much like a supermarket trolley, seemed to have a mind of its own) and I was slightly concerned that I would end up with really misshapen pieces (especially around the collar stand) but thankfully it turned out really well!

What I do now, instead of tracing the chalk onto the fabric, is go about it a different way. I trace the pattern pieces without the seam allowances, but before I cut them out I run the chalk wheel around the lines on the actual tracing paper. Where there would have been a line of chalk on the fabric, there is now a line of small perforations on the tracing paper – the chalk wheel has little feelers on it which are enough to pierce through the tracing paper. I then cut out the pieces following these lines instead – this way, if I want to use the pattern multiple times, I only have to use the wheel once and the pattern pieces are already there with the seam allowances added – yay! (Added bonus – it doesn’t matter when the chalk runs out either because I’m not actually using it).

The Suzon pattern does suggest varying widths of seam allowance for difference pieces – standard is 1cm but there are others listed depending on the piece in question. My seam allowance wheel only does a minimum of 1.5cm // 5/8″ so basically that’s what all my pieces get, if they could do with a smaller one like on the collar stand then I’ll trim after stitching, it’s no biggie. Plus, if I’ve got varying seam allowances, it’s not as easy to autopilot through – I’m so used to 5/8″ seam allowances that remembering to do something different is a bit of a mission and the potential for it to go wrong is cranked up to the max.

So after all the time spent tracing, cutting and adding seam allowances (if I had also had to cut and stick a pdf I think I would have curled up and died) I’ve actually ended up with a pretty neat shirt, construction-wise. In fact, this might be the neatest little collar I’ve ever sewn! I just can’t make up my mind whether I like those ruffles or not…

This is literally the only garment I own that has ruffles. Usually I would say that they are too fussy for me – and that might still be the case, but something in me wants to make a long sleeve version of this. I don’t even know what drew me to this pattern in the first place… but something did and is now calling to me to make another. Weird. I want to switch out the cotton ruffle for a lace ruffle, and add a pointy collar – I guess I should really make my mind up whether or not I actually like the ruffles first before I commit to making more?! The ruffle gets progressively wider the closer it gets to the shoulder, and it’s that width which puts me off I think. I feel like I have 80’s power shoulders going on…

Along with the ruffles being a new thing for me, this is also the first ever item I’ve made in plain black (and only the second non-patterned item!) I decided to make it in black because I wanted to dodge the girly look… and head more towards the gothic/Victorian look. Plus I make *so* many patterned skirts that I guess I need to balance them out with a plain top. It did feel a little bit boring to make something that was plain black, I mean even the BUTTONS are black too, but it was oddly satisfying and I’m pleased with how it looks.

So – my first make from Republique Du Chiffon has turned out to be a good one and I’m encouraged to go ahead with more of their patterns, despite the faff with the seam allowances. I guess it does provide you with more scope to sew it how you want (so if you like 1cm seam allowances you can do just that) and without the seam allowances it’s easier to make adjustments to the pattern pieces if you need to and then add the seam allowances after. Next up I’ve got the Charlotte skirt, and I’m also umming and ahhing over the Emile trousers – they look like they will fit my hourglass shape but I’m worried the excess fabric at the darts will make my hips and stomach look bigger than they are. One way to find out, I guess?!

Have you sewn a good pair of high-waisted, but not-too-baggy pair of trousers? Tell me your pattern recommendations!

Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… a black and gold posh sequin affair – because it’s my birthday! 😍 Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!

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17 Comments

  1. October 22, 2017 / 12:35 pm

    LOL-ing away here at the comparison with Kwiksew! I’m 57 FFS and I find their looks dreary as all get out. I can see what you mean by the fashion forward model photos on the up and coming sites, but I long since trained myself to go by line drawings in any case…and it’s still Vogue for me, on the whole. Plus StyleArc of course, more than 50% of my pattern collection consists of those two brands.
    Now, seam allowance and over-precise cutting. I comment the ‘Couture Dress’ course on Craftsy. Everyone should do it. While I’ve never been fussy about scientifically precise cutting, NEVER EVER trace patterns, and have a built in sense of ‘good enough’, that course took the scales form my eyes. Mark the SEWING LINES on your fabric, preferably by thread basting, and wildly, freely rough cut the fabric pieces apart. Pin/baste together by feel, and stitch away. Seam allowances are then trimmed to suit, and dealt with as you wish. Wildly anarchic, and very much more precise in the end result. It’s wild! I’ve been doing the equivalent ever since, mainly on things that DO require precision, like corsets. Go on, invest in it. Your making will advance a thousand paces.
    PS, not feeling the flounces, but the goth top with the wild skirt is a brilliant mix….

    • Sarah
      October 22, 2017 / 8:55 pm

      Haha, I’m glad it’s not just me with those Kwik Sew patterns!! I do use a lot of Vogue patterns, although some of those could do with an update on their photos. Style Arc I looked through at your recommendation, but didn’t come across anything that took my fancy – however they have a LOT of patterns and it might have just been that I didn’t find the ones that would have rung my bell. Actually, you might be just the person for this question – do you know of any sewing patterns for a proper frilly high neck victorian style button up blouse/shirt? I was thinking of making a long sleeved Suzon to scratch this itch, but I don’t know whether I’m feeling it yet.

      Hmm, that Craftsy course certainly sounds interesting, but BASTING SEWING LINES?! How long does that take?! I can see that you’re almost certainly right though, that it would give amazeballs results. You get out what you put in and all that. Ok, I’m off to look up the course…

  2. October 22, 2017 / 3:21 pm

    You might want to try the Clover Double Tracing Wheel at Amazon. This little tool allows you to select the seam allowance width before you trace. Just pull out the little wheel, pop it in the slot of the desired width and you’re good to go.

    • Sarah
      October 22, 2017 / 8:49 pm

      Ah, thank you for the heads up Helene! I wonder if the edges are sharp enough to indent my tracing paper though – it looks like you have to use it with wax/carbon paper?

  3. October 22, 2017 / 5:12 pm

    I’m 32 (about to turn 33 in a couple of weeks) and I actually prefer the Kwik Sew photos because they show the garment fairly clearly without the model making any overly distracting gestures. It’s ironic that you used the recent Named photos in your example; I was literally just lambasting them to my best friend yesterday because their model cannot stop awkwardly groping her head (I blame the photographer for not giving better direction), and a lot of their photos have the model crossing her arms across the chest of the piece that is being modeled. In the case of a particularly detailed piece, like a coat or a structured blouse, I want their arms at their sides so I can SEE the garment.

    But like you and TheDementedFairy (fairies and pixies up in here!) said, most of us get used to looking at the line art for the specifics of fit and structure. So from that perspective, the garment photos are more of an advertisement of lifestyle rather than an advertisement for the pattern specifically. In that regard, I think you are exactly right! The indie companies are definitely trying to appeal to the younger, modern demographic, while the major companies are doing what they’ve been doing for decades. I’ve always been an outlier in terms of “accurately representing my generation” so it’s not really surprising that my perspective is way off from the norm for most 20-and-30somethings. 😉

    As always, a great post! Keep being awesome!

    • Sarah
      October 22, 2017 / 8:45 pm

      Ahhh it’s so funny you should say that about Named because when I was looking through their photos the other day my first thought was GET YOUR HAND OFF YOUR HEAD haha!! Totally agree on the arms over the chest etc too, you want to be able to see everything and see how it hangs etc.

      Perhaps we need a halfway point between the indies and majors – decent photos, but modern ones! I have a few friends that really struggle with just the line art, they can’t quite visualise a finished item so they look to the styling for inspiration, and when it’s miles away from their tastes it puts them off what might have been a fab finished item on them.

      We can’t win can we!

      It’s really interesting to hear your thoughts as we are nearly EXACTLY the same age – I’m 33 in one week! Happy birthdays to us! 🙂

  4. cat
    October 22, 2017 / 9:40 pm

    I know what you mean about the ruffles but on this shirt I love them. It is such a contrast in styles! and I luv that you did it in black! I cannot have pleats in the front of pants. It just adds bulk to my stomach. I have tried the sew over it ultimate trousers. I added on a contoured waistband (the pants were cut way to low for me). I love the clean lines and narrow leg and the zipper on the side. I have a couple more pants patterns (from the big four) which were highly recommended on pattern review so we shall see!
    XXOO Cat
    PS: what is with the hand on the head or face? , I see these type of pics every where!

    • Sarah
      October 24, 2017 / 8:02 am

      Ahh see that’s what I’m worried about – those pleats adding to my stomach! The Ultimate trousers were the next option on my list… they seem quite a popular pattern! I wasn’t sure how they would look on me though, usually I prefer a fly closure. Strange that you had to add on a waistband – I thought they are marketed as high waisted trousers! I do have a VERY high waist though, and that’s where I’m struggling. I’m keeping an eye out to see which patterns you make 🙂
      Haha I’m not sure what’s with the pics of the hands on the head/face… it does seem to be the new thing!

  5. October 23, 2017 / 7:45 am

    Love that shirt on you – the black gives it an edge for sure. Agree with you on the big 4 re how they model the garments, very few look fashionable which is why anytime a blogger makes anything from them, they look amazing and as the comment above said – they also photograph to show where seams are etc – but the fabrics they often choose are so far off the mark. The tissue paper is probably for shipping costs I would think. Personally I go for a mix of 4 – either vintage (favourite), contemporary vogue, some indie, or draft my own…. vintage is probably my go to, as I always fall for the misleading long leggedy skinny drawing on the front (no photos here) and I like the interesting sewing techniques….I did sew the rachel comey bowie pants some time back and will be making another pair as they are a nice mix of high waist thin leg….https://voguepatterns.mccall.com/v1507

    • Sarah
      October 24, 2017 / 8:08 am

      I’m really glad I went for the black fabric 🙂 I just don’t understand why the big 4 don’t at least update their photos, even if they can’t use nice fabrics. I wonder how many people pass up on a pattern because of how it looks on the envelope. Haha I’m so glad I’m not the only one that gets lured in by those slender pictures on the front!! I’d say my mix is contemporary Vogue plus indie patterns, I’ve made a couple of vintage patterns but just couldn’t get on with them and the results weren’t great in the end. Ooh thanks for the pattern link, love the waist detail on these! Think they might be a contender for the list! 🙂

  6. October 23, 2017 / 12:06 pm

    I love this blouse on you. I think the plain fabric sets off the ruffle perfectly! Great post – you make some terrific points. I have the clover tracing wheel, it’s great and would definitely mark paper. I’ve used transfer paper too.

    • Sarah
      October 24, 2017 / 8:11 am

      Thank you! I’m glad I went for the black fabric. I’m still thinking that I might make one with a lace ruffle! Ah, ok thanks for the heads up on the tracing wheel, I think I might have to invest in one of these. A few years back I used coloured wax paper to trace but it was such an almighty faff that there was no way I was going to continue bothering with that! I’m so impatient though that I hate spending time tracing and cutting and just want to get on and sew haha!

  7. October 24, 2017 / 8:04 am

    What a great looking combination. I know you had your doubt about the ruffles but it actually works with the skirt.

  8. PatsyPoo
    October 26, 2017 / 10:04 am

    Yep, I definitely like the ruffles. They really work here. Like you though, I have no ruffles in my wardrobe.
    And also, I’ll have you know, Christmas themed knitted jumpers are very in at my house. 😂 My husband ASKED for one which he wore to death for years. It had a massive reindeer face on it with a red nose. It’s gone now because it was falling apart but he still wants me to make it again… 🤣🤣🤣

    • Sarah
      October 27, 2017 / 8:25 am

      Yeah, I just can’t make up my mind on the ruffles!! Maybe I’ll just keep this one blouse to wear exclusively with this skirt.
      Ahhh the Christmas jumpers… I have a blue mohair one (shop-bought) with white sparkly snowflakes on it – which is a *little* cheesy but it’s soooo warm and comfy!! I think my husband would tell me where to go if I suggested a Christmas jumper – he only just about wears fair isle which he says looks too much like a Christmas pattern! I think if the reindeer jumper was loved so much then it’s definitely time to make it again… it would be so cool to use a red sparkly lurex yarn for the nose!!

  9. Julia
    November 13, 2017 / 2:29 am

    The pants might be great on you! You may need to do a muslin for fit. Highly recommended, everyone’s hips are original! These look like a favorite pair of pants I had for a while, really comfortable, a lightweight but tough and drapy twill. The closure was on the side, actually instead of the back. Could be beautiful for an hourglass figure! I may have to try that pattern.

    • Sarah
      November 13, 2017 / 8:13 am

      I think I will Julia… like you say I will make a muslin from a bedsheet or something just to see whether the style suits me or not. I’m just worried they will make my stomach look big with all that fabric around the front… there’s only one way to find out, I guess! I am slightly worried about a flimsy zip closure… I feel like I need something more substantial around my hips!!

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