Ages ago I volunteered (via her website) to be a pattern tester for Megan Nielsen, an independent pattern designer based in Australia, for those of you not familiar with her.
I’d forgotten all about it when in early June I got an email inviting me to participate with testing the next new release…so exciting!! Then, disappointment…because the timing was terrible for me. The pattern was due to be sent out at the end of June with late July as the expected date for feedback. Why was this disappointing? Because I was going on holiday on July 1st for two weeks and when I returned I’d have no time to get the dress made because of bridal alteration commitments-sad times.
I emailed to let them know (because basically it would be rude not to do it when they’d invited me to help!) I had a lovely reply to say they’d still send the PDF and if I could get it done then great but if not, then never mind.
I’d never actually made a PDF pattern before this so I downloaded it but that’s as far as I got before going on holiday. I naively thought that if you printed it out on bigger paper then the fewer sheets it took so I gaily asked my daughter (an intelligent girl…usually) to print it for me while I was away because I was still optimistic that I might get it done. She printed it off on A3 paper but oh dear…all that happens is it prints it out bigger so the sizing is totally wrong!! [some of you will be laughing by now at my rookie error but I’m hoping that others will be thinking “Oh, I didn’t know that either” in which case this is a public service announcement!]
All this meant that when I got back and had to hit the ground running with my other commitments I had no chance of completing it by the feedback deadline. It languished for weeks before I finally could get sticking. In truth I’m not sure I’m wild about PDF patterns yet but I can see that they have advantages-they are cheaper than a paper version of an indie pattern, you can reprint them as often as you want and you can print them on regular paper which is sturdier than tissue. The disadvantage is they can take ages to put together and they can be confusing at times to find the matching parts, not to mention possibly running out of ink and/or paper halfway through.
Anyway, once I’d got Karri all put together I could set to work. Included with the printouts are a helpfully clear list and pictures of the various pattern pieces needed (there are quite a few because the front bodice has several sections and the lining is different to the outer shell) I found this useful once I’d got the pieces largely put together so I knew I hadn’t missed anything out. There’s also line drawing which you can label or colour in if that helps with your design choices-the suggestion being that you could use up lots of scraps of fabric to create Karri.
I had a sample length of some navy fabric woven with dots which I’d bought ages ago at Hitchin market so I decided to use that. I’d also bought some navy of the lovely quality Italian lining at the K&S show at the same time as the red/green shot that went under my recent party frock so I was all set.
I was very impressed with the quality of the pattern in the sense that it appeared to have already been ‘trued’. I didn’t find any notches or markings missing, there were no strange wonky angles or un-matching seam lengths. It felt like a human had drawn and created it, not a computer program. My only observation (had I been in time to make them) would be to make the grain lines much longer on every piece, this is a real bugbear of mine as they’re almost always too short so are neither use nor ornament. TOP TIP-if the grain line is ever too short draw it on for yourself across the full length of the pattern piece, you’ll be able to get the placement along the grain much more accurate. I also decided that I’d move the grain line to run equidistant through the middle of the centre front and centre back panels, instead of following the CF and CB edges. Why? because if they’re on the same grain as the side front and side back panels then all the panels will fall or drape in the same way. This also doesn’t make a lot of difference to the amount of fabric the dress takes, in fact I found it didn’t affect the lay plan significantly at all. One other minor change I made was to lengthen the sleeves slightly as I’m not mad about my upper arms.
Sewing the dress up was very straightforward, even though the front style-lines look complex. I slightly altered the order and method of making up and inserting the lining purely because I wanted a more streamlined finish to the inside and I knew a different way of achieving this.
The skirt is a nice length and I’m pleased I moved the grain line for the centre front and backs because they have a nice flow to them. The pockets are a useful addition but you could easily leave them out if fabric or time is tight.
The one significant thing I changed was the width of the shoulders, they were quite a bit too wide for me and I don’t think I’m particularly narrow across the shoulder. They extended too far over the ends of my shoulders and didn’t look good. I discovered this a bit too late because I’d already put the sleeves in and they just looked all wrong. I unpicked the sleeve heads (not the whole sleeves) moved them by about 1.2cms and restitched them back in. They are aren’t my neatest job as result but they’ll do.
Also, because the dress fully lined, there aren’t any neck facings to contend with.
I’m not sure how much I like the deep V back as well but that’s probably an age-related issue not a style one and I can easily raise it up when I make it again.
Overall I was pleased with the accuracy of the fit (shoulders aside)-it was true to the measurements I took, I was slightly between sizes.
I finished the hem by hand because I didn’t want the hem spoilt by being machine-sewn.
Overall I like the Karri pattern and I’m sure it will be popular. It could be made up in a variety of fabrics from wool crepe or tweed to georgette for the more adventurous amongst you to make it totally individual-my version looks quite business-like but it would also look good in denim or a feminine printed cotton. The front shoulder sections and sleeves would look pretty in lace too. Have a look at Megan‘s own site for more inspirational ideas from other bloggers.
As always, all opinions expressed are my own and I’ve received no payment or sponsorship for them. I’ll definitely be making another Karri at some point, possibly with a longer sleeve for winter, or sleeveless for the summer. I’d happily pattern-test again too, hopefully the timing would be better then, because I love any excuse to sew and it’s lovely to feel involved in the whole business of helping to create someone’s vision. I’ve had such a breadth of experience over the years that I really hope and believe I can assist and offer good advice (often based on my own mistakes!)