Thursday, June 4, 2015

Recent Project/Pattern Review SA-250

Girl's yoked dress from Sewing Academy (Historic Moments) pattern.

Yoked bodice 1850s/1860s girl's dress from HMP/SA-250 pattern.

Recently completed project: a girl's dress for the Fort Nisqually wardrobe.  It's a black/white windowpane cotton, fully lined.

I used the Historic Moments Patterns/ Sewing Academy - 250 "Girls' Dresses 1850-1865" pattern for this garment.  Specifically, I used the yoked bodice pattern, with the boat/batteau neckline and waistband options, and the short puffed sleeves. The skirt has three tucks, which may be let out for future re-sizing.

Thoughts on the pattern:

It's very comprehensive pattern, with a 40-odd page booklet covering period sewing techniques and offering different finishing details for your dresses.  This is a great pattern for site costumers or large families, as the many different variations prevent "cookie-cutter" issues.

The available design elements include a yoked or a smooth bodice, with high ("jewel") or low ("boat") necklines and piped edges or waistbands, and four sleeve variations (short smooth or puffed sleeves, long bishop or coat sleeves).  Some of the variations include further customization options: for instance, the bishop sleeves may be made with closed cuffs or with plackets.  These elements, including the four "set in" sleeve patterns, are all interchangeable.  There's also a third "infant-style" bodice which comes with yet another sleeve; in this case, the sleeves/shoulder are cut as one piece (like on an old-fashioned baseball shirt), so it can't interchanged with the other pieces.  However, the infant bodice still has options to customize: varied fullness, fixed or adjustable necklines, waistbands or piping, and the sleeve may be made up smooth, loose, or puffed. Skirt instructions include plain and tucked options.  The author also has advice for making a dress with hidden "growth room", which can be let out as needed.

To see if you like the author's style, I'd recommend reading some of her free patterns (such as this pinafore).  If you can follow it easily, you shouldn't have trouble with HMP/SA-250 (and if you do, there's a support forum available).

The main drawback to this pattern is it's scope: it's very easy to become intimidated by the many different options included in it; with so much ground to cover, there's lots of "continue on page 17 for option X or page 20 for option Y".  For the rectangular pieces (skirt panels, waistbands, cuffs), the instructions call for measuring the child and cutting custom pieces, which may also be strange for one used to modern commercial patterns.  There were one or two typos which caused temporary confusion, but I was working from an older version of this pattern, so these may have been corrected already.

One thing I would change about this pattern is suggesting skirt widths to go with each of the four bodice sizes; period lengths are discussed, and overall width ranges, but as someone without experience sewing for children, I was sort of flying blind on decided how wide to make the skirts. Another potential issue with this pattern is the way the pieces are laid together, particularly the set-in sleeve.  All four sleeve styles and sizes are overlaid, which I enjoyed (it shows how the different styles relate to each other, as well as saving paper), but it does make for a lot of crossing lines which require some concentration to follow.

What You Get:
  • Pattern booklet
  • 3 pages of full-sized bodice and sleeve pieces, on printer-weight paper
Pattern Score: 4.5-5 Stars

Difficulty: Beginner and up.  There's a tutorial of period sewing techniques in the pattern booklet which should be useful to new sewers, or those unfamiliar with period techniques.

Accuracy: High.  No original images are included with the pattern instructions, but many examples are available at the designer's website.

General Impression: This is a very versatile pattern, and provides the shapes needed to make many permutations of girl's dress in the 1850-65.

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