Monday, December 1, 2014

The Problem with Washi - Pt. 1: Background

I admit that this is a curmudgeonly post, but I'm putting it out there in the interest of sanity, so that if someone Googles "Washi Dress," they might get a glimpse into what is really going on with this pattern.

I tend to peruse the indie pattern circuit.  I love ModKid patterns in particular.  Most of my sewing is Ottobre Design, as this blog attests in a limited way.  So when I stumbled on the Washi Dress from Made by Rae, and read about it again... and again... and again...  (and let's not forget the Flickr pool) I was intrigued.  What sold me was the versatility.  I rarely make the same pattern twice--there has been one top/tunic pattern and one pants pattern (both Ottobre) that I have made repeatedly--but the customizations on the Washi dress seemed enough to keep me interested!

I am not sure how I would classify my sewing level.  I am not a beginner, though I have been sewing for the barest fraction of the time that my mother and all my aunts had been sewing when I was growing up, so my standards for sewing excellence are a bit high.  I'm starting to think that I'm an advanced intermediate given some of the things that Ottobre has led me to try.  I don't tend to think much about level unless I'm trying out a Vogue pattern--which I very rarely do because I have Ottobre.  I mention this because the Washi dress is considered intermediate--but I don't actually think that the Washi dress is an intermediate pattern at its most basic.  You have a very few pattern pieces, and a couple of tricky techniques--if you consider the neckline keyhole tricky, but that's an optional feature.  For starters, I did the round neck option on the basic Washi dress pattern.  

What you have with the Washi dress is a nice, basic dress with an interesting neckline, an empire-waist, pleats, and shirring on the back.  The shirring has been known to give some trouble to those who are unfamiliar with the technique, but it can be mastered fairly easily with good instructions and the right thread (I recommend Gutterman's elastic thread!!  It makes a HUGE difference!).  The basic pattern (there is an expansion pack as well) has a bodice front, a skirt front, a back (with integral pockets that I omitted), neck facings, and cap sleeves.  Before creating the expansion pack, Rae posted a sleeve for the Washi that I opted to use before deciding whether I would buy the expansion.

Now, I don't make muslins.  I'm afraid that if I made the muslin to determine the fit, my sewing energy would be all used up on something I can't wear.  I have a limited amount of time.  And, well, I can't sew on ugly fabric.  I have a mental block against it.  So the fact that the pattern itself and the blog argue vociferously for the creation of a muslin for the sake of adjustment... and the fact that every single blogger who has made the pattern has made a muslin... and the fact that most of those bloggers went on to make extensive changes to the pattern... meant, basically, that I was going to disregard that advice at my own risk and buy some attractive but relatively inexpensive fabric to use to make the not-exactly-a-muslin of my Washi.

Have I mentioned that every single blogger who has reviewed this pattern has made a muslin?  And that, having made the muslin, 98% of reviewers have basically redrafted the bodice front?

Now, if this were a piece of ready-to-wear clothes, body-image activists would say that there was a problem with the article of clothing, not the bodies...  So I was dismayed to see this blogger remark that she is "pretty sure it has more to do with myshape, than the pattern itself, since so many people have had such great luck with this pattern."  Ack!! Please, don't do this!  This is coming from the blogger, not the designer.  In fact, the designer specifically promotes the ability to customize the pattern to fit ourown bodies--more or less implying that this we should do so if we are botheringto sew for ourselves in the first place.  So yay!  On the other hand...

I confess that I do not buy patterns expecting to do a lot of customizations.  Ottobre patterns are beautifully drafted, with very few exceptions.  So why the need to customize?

Rae has mentioned on her web site that she often had to do a "Small Bust Adjustment" (the cousin to the "Full Bust Adjustment") to make patterns fit.  It is oft-noted that the "big 4" patterns are generally sized for a B-C cup, regardless of the size, which explained (once I learned this truth), why I could never find a McCalls or Simplicity that fit, because when one fit my bust, I couldn't move my arms.  Ottobre seems to reproportion the bust along with the rest of the garment, which I appreciate!

So let's take a look at the bust darts on the Washi...  Every time you have a snug fit on a full bust, the darts are a little off, even if the dress can be deemed a success overall (as is usually the case):

"Needs work, but I would still make this pattern again."

Here, Michelle redrafts the darts and lengthens the bodice, and still resolves to do a true FBA next time:

And sometimes a non-full-figure also seems to have the dart a bit high:

You can see why this is a popular pattern.  It's cute. There are a lot of options.  But you can also see that not only is this not a pattern that fits all, it is a pattern that seems never to be suited for the intended wearer right out of the package.  It becomes, then, not so much a pattern as a learning exercise, and not everyone is going to welcome the experience!

More on my learning experience in the next post!

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