Monday, December 14, 2015

Pattern Testing for New Spencer

In order to determine which of two patterns I wanted to use for my new Blue Wool Spencer, I made a mockup of each one.  I was choosing between La Mode Bagatelle and Laughing Moon #129.

Both are multi-size patterns, and I always try to keep my patterns fully intact in case I ever need to make one for someone who is a different size (or in case I change size myself).  The two patterns provided slightly different challenges in this regard, so I thought I'd do a post showing how I dealt with each.

Starting with Laughing Moon - this is the first time I've used this particular pattern, but I have used Laughing Moon patterns before.  The pieces are printed on opaque white paper, unlike commercial patterns I am used to, which are invariably printed on tissue paper.  I developed the following technique when I used my Laughing Moon tailcoat pattern for the second time.

All of my materials - Pattern, instructions, tissue paper, pen, scissors, highlighters.  Not shown:  Clear ruler.

It's always good to have chocolate on hand.  Also, the wrappers are good for distracting the cat when she tries to "help." 
This pattern is printed on three large sheets of paper.  Rather than cut apart the individual pieces, I trace them onto my own paper.  Usually I use my lightbox and trace the pattern onto newsprint, but the cord for my lightbox is currently MIA.  :(  So for this project I had to use tissue paper.

I start by fully unfolding the pattern sheets and opening the instruction book to the page that shows all of the pattern pieces by number.  Then I use my highlighters to color-code the pages so that I can easily find the piece I am looking for.  (If you know me in real life you know how much I love to color-code things!)  I only highlight the page number of the pattern sheet that shows when the sheet is folded to fit into the pattern envelope.  I then identify which pattern pieces are contained on that specific sheet, and highlight those numbers on the instruction book with the same color:

I started with page 3 because it happened to be on top when I unfolded the sheets.
Repeat with page 2 in a new color:

And page 1 in a third color:

After this was done I simply had to locate the pattern pieces I needed for the mockup, and start tracing them in the size I need according to my measurements.  Lucky for me they were all on the same sheet!  I traced the front, side, back, and collar pieces.  (I chose the collar from View C, but for the purposes of the mockup I didn't need the attached peplum, so I used the side pieces for Views A/B.)

The tracing is pretty straight forward.  I use the clear ruler for any straight lines, and make sure to mark all notches and match points.
Hmmmm... Perhaps gel pen isn't the best thing to use. 
Now I know I want this Spencer to close with a straight vertical center front, instead of the wrap front that this pattern calls for.  In order to accomplish this, I cut out the side and back pieces and pinned them on my adjustable dress form, Elsa. 

I cut out the front piece as well, except for the neckline edge:

Pinning this in place (being sure to pin in the darts), I then drew a rough center line down the front:

And extended it up above the cutting line of the original neckline, to line up with the collar match point:

Then I took this piece off of Elsa and used my ruler again to add an inch for seam allowance and overlap:

Now when I cut out the pattern piece, I cut along both necklines:

This way I won't have to trace a new front piece if I want to use this pattern in the future with the wrap-front neckline.  I can simpy fold over the vertical neckline portion:

And for today's purpose I simply folded over the excess portion of the original neckline:

Now I needed to gather my pieces for the La Mode Bagatelle mockup.  I have used this pattern previously, so the pieces were already cut apart and individually folded with the number showing, then stacked in numerical order inside the pattern envelope so I can easily find the piece I'm looking for.  I do this with all of my tissue paper patterns the first time I use them.

The only problem with the LMB pattern is that the instruction book page that lists all of the pattern pieces does not tell very clearly which pieces are for which garment.  It's not hard to figure out, but it's a little tedious and time-consuming to have to figure it out every time I want to make something.  So I solved this problem with color-coding, once again!  

This time I highlighted each of the garment letters on the pattern envelope in a different color (when I ran out of highlighters I used colored pens to circle them) and highlighted the numbers of the corresponding pieces in the instruction book.  Some of the pieces are used for two garments, so I highlighted those with both colors.

Then it was easy to locate the pieces I needed for my mockup (front, side front, back, and collar for View G).  Now since this pattern is already tissue paper, there's no need to trace it.  In order to avoid confusion with all of the layered cutting lines, I highlight the size I am planning to cut:

If I need to cut another size later I can always use a different highlighter color.  See how much they come in handy?
Just for comparison, I laid the Laughing Moon pattern pieces on top of the La Mode Bagatelle pieces.

Slight differences, but the basic shape is the same.  The major difference is that LM has a seam under the arm, and LMB has a princess seam down the front.

I cut out the pieces of both mockups from some pale blue cotton muslin I had left over from making my wedding dress.  (It was part of the lining, and had been dyed along with the silk I used for the main body of the gown.)

For LMB, I either folded the excess paper outside of the size I was cutting out of the way (if the outside cutting lines were far apart) as I went along a curve, like so:  

Or I snipped in to the cutting line at intervals (if the outside lines were close together) and folded back the resulting tabs, like so:

Since I was using scraps, I couldn't place this piece on a fold.  I added a 1/4" seam allowance at center back instead.
When I have darts on a pattern, I like to cut open one side and fold the other side out of the way to make it easier to mark: 

Finally it was time to make up the mockups and try them on!  (I made sure to take the paper pattern pieces off of just one set, and sewed them together before un-pinning the other pattern set.  I didn't want to get the pieces mixed up, since they are so similar.)

Laughing Moon (altered front):

You may notice that the edges do not overlap - or even meet - at the bottom.  I'll come back to that.

 And La Mode Bagatelle:

I wasn't sure which collar option I wanted before I did the mockups.  That was one reason for testing both patterns; the other reasons were checking fit/comfort and overall look.  I especially wanted to see the back seams, since I'm considering trimming them with some of my soutache braid.  Placement is important for the look I'm going for.

Now, back to Laughing Moon for a minute.  I had tried the mockup on Elsa before I tried it on myself, and it fit her fine:

It was even a little roomy.

 Ok, a lot roomy. 

Yet here it is on me:

I took this picture before the proper comparison shots, wearing a modern dress instead of my Regency attire.
So what was the problem?  Well, it turns out I have gained some weight, and I hadn't adjusted Elsa to my updated measurements before testing the pattern on her.  Good thing this was just a mockup!  Lesson learned. 

Back to La Mode Bagatelle.  I decided after trying it on that I did not like the collar on View G.  I considered trying the collar for View H, but that has a lower neckline so it wouldn't fit.  Luckily, for some unknown reason I had cut out both the collar and the collar facing pieces of the Laughing Moon pattern, so I tried the collar facing on La Mode Bagatelle, to see how it looked:

So to conclude, here are the two options side by side with the same collar:

Laughing Moon

La Mode Bagatelle
Back views:

Laughing Moon

La Mode Bagatelle
I have decided to use La Mode Bagatelle for this project.  I like the curvier side back seams, and the overall fit is better (and needs no alterations).  I also think the front princess seams will be useful for placing the horizontal rows of trim evenly on both sides.  I am going to use the stand-up collar from Laughing Moon, however.  I just like it, and I think it will fit with the overall military-inspired look I am going for. 


  1. Thanks for the mock-up post. Bookmarking this one for my attempt at Mode Bagatelle.