SEWN - Pauline Alice Mila Dress + Thoughts on testing patterns for others

SEWN - Pauline Alice Mila Dress + Thoughts on testing patterns for others

Dear readers,

As mentioned in my last post, I had an unusual amount of sewing time last year. So when I saw the call for testers issued by Pauline Alice patterns, I thought it would be a fun and valuable experience. I manage the tester group for Just Patterns, and I thought I could learn from being on the other side. Pauline Alice is also a brand I was interested in trying out. Beth has sewed several of their patterns successfully, but the designs had never made it to the top of my sewing list yet. It was a perfect opportunity to sew whatever would come my way, and to give back to the community some of the support I receive from our testers.

But let's look at the dress before I talk about the testing process!

Pattern

When I received the pattern, I could choose between the jumpsuit and the dress version. I wear jumpsuits occasionally, but I thought I would get more use out of the dress with the long sleeves. Plus, I'm currently obsessed with pencil skirts featuring a front slit. The bodice ties drafting and construction is not something I have seen before, which I always enjoy. It's worth noting that the grain on the bodice is unusual as it runs parallel to the neckline rather than the center front.

One thing to be mindful of is that fabric requirements for Pauline Alice Patterns are estimated for the largest size. If, like me, you are on the smaller side of the spectrum, I would suggest using the pattern pieces to determine how much fabric you need.

Construction

  • Fabric - GOTS certified organic linen from Coup de Coudre in the perfect shade of Taupe

  • Notions - wood buttons from stash bought years ago in Guatemala City.

The sewing went smoothly, and I believe that the errors I found in the instructions were all corrected in the final version. But when I reached the stage when I could try on the dress, I felt like I was swimming in the bodice area. The bust has a lot more ease than what I am used to, 10"½ (26cm). If you want to make this dress for yourself, I would suggest trying to size down for the bodice. Unfortunately, I already made the smallest size, and I don't think I'll take the time to grade the pattern down. In the end, I decided to chop off the sleeves (after writing to Pauline to make sure that it was ok with her), and it completely changed the way I feel about the dress. I knew I would be wearing it a lot. 

Sadly, a second problem arose the very first time I wore it. The center front seam keeps ripping open, sometimes tearing the fabric. I don't know if it is my lifestyle as a mom, a lack of ease, or it is inherent to the design. I already fixed it twice and reinforced the area, but it landed again on the mending pile. This time I want to add a hook and eye on the inside to avoid the strain on the seam, but any other suggestion is welcome!

Thoughts on pattern testing

First, I had to actually follow the pattern instructions more closely than I usually would. It is rare for me to use a pattern without making several design and construction changes. So a bit of mindless sewing felt like a relaxing experience!

In terms of also being someone that releases home sewing patterns and uses testers in the process, it was a great experience to be on the other side. Here are my four takeaways:

  1. I'm terrible at proofreading my own writing. Every time Just Patterns testers point out errors, I feel guilty, and fear people will start questioning my ability to write in English. As I took my notes on the Mila pattern, I realized that I was not judging or annoyed with the process. I knew that it was part of what I had signed up for. I feel a little less bad about the mistakes/typos in the patterns I've sent out for testing.

  2. I made a conscious effort to record my observations as I sewed. It might be what good sewing bloggers do, in my case, if I manage to document my pattern changes to remember them later, I'm already proud of myself! Taking notes throughout the taping of the PDF, the fabric cutting and the construction was a new way of working. It took a little longer, but I do see the value of recording the making of some complex projects even when I'm just sewing for myself.

  3. Pauline Alice sends a detailed questionnaire at the end of the test to collect feedback. I manage things differently for Just Patterns tests, but structured feedback is something that I am considering adding. Currently, testers are all in one Facebook group. People post as they wish, as they sew and run into issues, or only at the end. What I like the most is to see other members of the group pitch in to help with solving problems. Sometimes when I log into Facebook, the group has resolved the issue on its own! But I do see that it would be almost impossible to manage if I was to run several tests in parallel. A questionnaire probably also helps the tester to remember something he might have forgotten otherwise.

  4. I enjoyed making a "surprise" garment that I would probably not have tried if I had only seen the release. It was also refreshing to sew something that I had seen no version of on Instagram or blogs. The finished dress is something I reach out often in my closet, so it was really a fun experiment!

That's it for today, I would love to hear your thoughts about pattern testing. Have you done it? Do you enjoy it? Were there particular tests that were more fun than others?

Until then, happy sewing!

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