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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sense and Sensibility Patterns Review

When I was little, my mother sewed our clothes. Really! Not all our clothes, of course, but several items each season. We even have a family picture where all of us are wearing clothes she made-her and my dad included. Despite that, I never learned to sew. In fact, my mother gave me a sewing machine for a wedding gift, and it never saw the light of day until about 3 years ago when a group of moms in my homeschooling circle decided to learn how to quilt and start a quilt block swap and, despite the fact that I didn't even know how to thread my machine, I joined in.

I'm telling you all that so you know I am NO great seamstress. I have learned to hold my own with basic sewing, and have fully completed two quilts of my own and helped a friend layout and quilt several more. But even with that, I have never done a binding the "right" way, let alone made my own bias tape, or even followed a pattern from start to finish for an article of clothing.

Enter Sense and Sensibility Patterns. When I saw they were an upcoming vendor for review this year, I visited their website and I loved what I saw. As the name implies, they have many "period" patterns for dresses and other accessories, and they speak to the place in my soul that would love to see my girls dressed daily like Laura Ingalls Wilder in their cute dresses and aprons instead of our normal "uniform" of shorts and a T-shirt. I admit it, there's an old fashioned, modest, feminine dress lover locked inside this modern girl.

Sense and Sensibility Patterns sent us their Girls' Edwardian Apron e-pattern and e-class to try out, and I was VERY excited. I envisioned my oldest daughter and I making this beautiful apron together with her learning from my the skills I never learned from my mom to be productive with her hands. I quickly took her shopping to pick fabric for her apron after showing her pictures on the website of what the final product would look like. The fact that the ONLY fabric she would even consider was a black denim with pink threads running through it should have been my first clue that this was not going to go like I planned! Luckily my littlest girl was not with me, so I picked out a beautiful floral on a black background for her.

I decided to print the pattern one afternoon when my oldest daughter was not around. That was a smart move. The pattern was 25 PAGES LONG!!! Oh, and the pages are not numbered. That might not have been a big deal, but my helpful 12 year old son brought me the pages in small groups as they printed, so they were not even remotely in order. That was the first CON of the whole experience. Making sense of the pattern, putting it together properly, and then cutting it out required almost an hour and more than a little frustration. The pieces did not line up perfectly even when I was sure they went together, and I having never done the "follow a pattern" thing, that through me for a loop. But I pressed on, and after all the work to put it together, there was NO WAY I was going to cut it to one size, so I traced it on some muslin fabric I had and made cloth pattern pieces to use instead. At that point, I decided that I would make the first apron for my youngest child WITHOUT my oldest daughter. I was new to many of the things this pattern required (making bias tape and actually following a pattern for example) and I wanted to figure it out first and then be able to walk her through making hers.

Once I made this a solo project and had the pattern ready to go, it got WAY easier. The e-class is a wonderful thing, and worth every penny if you are as (in)experienced as I am in sewing and reading patterns. It literally walks you through it step by step in photo slides AND has an accompanying audio track that explains each step in detail. It's great, and again, if you are not an experienced seamstress, I'd recommend it.

After watching the e-class and having the pattern in hand, I cut out the pieces, which was very easy to do, as the pattern has a suggested layout for you. Then I went on to the part I was most concerned about-making my own bias tape. It was SO EASY. A little time consuming, but SOOOO easy. I'm so glad I did it. And I can carry that skill on to quilt making and other sewing projects too, so it was worth learning how to do. After seeing a picture on the Sense and Sensibility site with the apron bound with a contrasting bias tape, I decided to do that too, and the only hard part was that I wasn't sure how much fabric it would take since I was not using the main fabric of the apron nor was I using purchased bias tape. But I had plenty of the contrasting fabric, so I just cut what looked like enough and ended up needing to add about 12 inches at the end, and it was perfect.

The actual assembly of the apron was quite easy. It sewed together quickly and even with the places where the pattern didn't match exactly, the apron turns out fine because the hems you fold and the binding on the edges that covers any small uneven parts. In the end, the apron turned out so pretty that I won't even consider letting my daughter use it as an apron, :-). This one will be for wearing over a pretty white dress for church and dress-up occasions. And I plan to go back to Sense and Sensibility for the white dress pattern-they have one that will be perfect (see below).

I'm ready now to help my oldest daughter make her apron too. I think her interesting fabric choice will make a great apron to actually wear in the kitchen, and with apron being so lovely, just owning it makes you want to go make something in the kitchen so you have an excuse to put it on.

There are many pros to me for this pattern and others offered my Sense and Sensibility. First, they are correct to the period, but much easier than you may think to make. Second, the e-pattern format means you can purchase it and star making it right away, all from the comfort of your house. Third, the e-class makes it almost impossible to be unsuccessful at making your garment, and it will teach you many things that you will use over and over again in sewing-the skills are not just pattern specific. It's a great way to be tutored in new sewing skills while actually making a really cool item too. And lastly, with an e-pattern, you can print it out over and over if you need to so there are no worries if you lose a pattern piece or it rips, etc. And it was easy to modify (I combined the width of the sz 6 with a length between the sizes 4 and 6 for my apron).

The cons would be that putting the pattern pages together so they made the actual apron pattern was very time consuming and NOT easy since the pages weren't numbered. All told, it took probably an entire day to print the pattern, watch the class, assemble the pattern, cut out the pieces, cut out the fabric, make the bias tape, and then sew the actual garments. It is a labor of love, NOT a quick and easy project. Also, It surprised me that the bask straps/ties are not lined with like fabric. I tried it on my daughter about half way through it being finished, and when I tied the straps I noticed that I could see the "unfinished" fabric back, and it was quite a color difference from the front and made a beautiful apron much less attractive. I quickly cut matching strap pieces for the back of the existing straps and sewed them to the back of the existing straps-all of which was hidden in by the bias binding in the finished project. The end result is much more finished looking, and it surprised me that that is not the way it is intended to be done. Below show you what the back side of my fabric looks like compared to the front.

The bottom line is despite the pattern assembly learning curve, I would definitely buy from Sense and Sensibility again. I personally LOVE this apron, but I want to try some other patterns too. And while the e-class really bumps up the price, it is worth it if you want to learn new skills. It's like having a sewing class that you take from the comfort of your own home. The patterns are reasonable-$7.95 for the e-pattern or $12.95 plus shipping for a real pattern that they send to you. If you want the e-class, it is $19.95 without the pattern, or $24.95 bundled with the pattern. The Girls' Apron includes sizes 2-14 in one pattern and because the criss-cross straps in the back makes it so adjustable, the same apron I made for my 4 year old fits my 10 year old too...and my daughter's 12 year old friend. Pretty amazing!

Sari loves her new apron (please ignore the buckets of wheat on either side of her). The pockets are nice and deep, and I think the contrasting binding really pops off the black background.
Here's the back of the apron on Sari.

This is the exact same apron on my 10 year old.

Here you can see how the criss-crossing straps allow it to adjust for years of wear.
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Anonymous said...

I love it!!!

Melissa said...

Wow! Beautiful! Very well done!

Tiffany said...

It is really wonderful! It would be beautiful over a white dress.

Tiffany said...

My word verification was "laceliar." Sounds like a name you might call someone wearing fake lace (if there is such a thing).