Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Swagger Coat

This is a very long and wordy review. Go get some coffee or iced tea and settle in for the long haul.

Review: Swagger Coat #105, Hello Dolly Boutique patterns (c)2006 as sized for the 22" American Model doll

This pattern is based on a full-sized vintage pattern from the 1930s. There are sleeve style, hem length, and collar variations as well as a detachable hood. The coat and hood are lined.

This pattern has been hand-drafted down from the vintage original for a 22" doll. This pattern is also available for other size dolls. Bullet-point instructions are provided, with some very small reproductions of instructional line drawings from the original pattern.

I made the coat and hood up in some lightweight wool tweed salvaged from a Woolrich jacket (thriftstore) and lined it with Bemberg rayon lining. I did use lightweight interfacing on the facing pieces, listed as "optional" in the instructions.
I chose the 3/4 length view with 3/4 length sleeves, without the cuff and also eliminated the decorative sleeve band. I did the funnel neck rather than the collar view.

I do not own an American Model doll, however, the Resinsoul ball jointed doll I have is close in size to the AM doll so I have chosen to try patterns drafted for the AM, since they are generally widely available. I got the AM 22" measurements from a doll knitting website. I assume they are correct.

Measurements in centimeters
Diff          Resinsoul Dai   American Model 22"
+2   Height             58    56
-2.5 Bust               22.5  25
+2   Head circumference 20    22
 0   Waist              15.5  15.5
-3   Neck circumference  9    12 
-1.2 Hip                24    25.2
-3   Shoulder width      8.5  11.5
-2   Arm length         16.5  18.5

I suppose I should also add that I am not affiliated with any doll company or pattern company mentioned in this review and that I was not compensated in any way for this review.

I should also mention that I ultimately intend to use this coat on a different ABJD, an Impldoll Model, whose shoulders are the same width as the American Model.

Ok. On to the good stuff.

This is a nice, basic coat pattern but there are some minor flaws in the pattern as presented by Hello Dolly Boutique. These flaws do not detract from the overall usefulness of the pattern even though I spend most of the review on these issues. I hope my analysis of this pattern encourages you to go out and try it!

Errors can be divided into three broad categories: pattern notation, pattern drafting, and fit. 

Pattern notation errors:
Notches (for alignment during sewing) sometimes do not line up. Specifically, the notch on the side seam between the front and back pieces, the notch between the front and front facing pieces, and the cuff to sleeve notches.

“On Fold” notations: as is necessary with such small pattern pieces, sometimes the "cut on fold" notation is not placed on the pattern piece itself. It is easy enough to copy these over when working with the pattern.

However, there is possibly a missing "on fold" notation for the arm side facing piece. If cut as directed - a single piece not on the fold - it is too short to fill in the space between the front facing and the back facing. Cutting it on the fold is one solution, but causes a mismatch in length between this pattern piece and the back neck facing. The other possibility is a missing pattern piece.

Grainline marks are missing from all pieces, as well as any center front markings. The pocket placement limits the center front overlap to no more than 2cm. 

Pattern drafting errors:
The three facing pieces sewn together for the neck facing all have slightly different length seam edges.

facing mismatch
The controlling seam length should, I assume,  be the edge of the front facing. It is the shortest of the three. As a temporary solution to this, I simply trimmed the facings to a pleasing width and shape once they were stitched together, pressed, and sewed in place. 

Fit errors:
Until I have the chance to see this coat on an American Model doll, I can identify only two fitting flaws with this pattern: the finished garment neck opening and the useable opening in the hood. 

The neck circumference of the 22" American Model doll is 12cm (I got this information from a pdf document listing doll sizes on the dollswestdesigns knitting website). If this information is accurate, then the finished neck opening of the coat, with a 2cm overlap allowed on each side of the center front for closing, is 21.5cm. This is a bit larger then the doll's neck. This style coat should fit closely around the base of the neck.

Fixing this drafting problem is not difficult, simply extending while narrowing the front, the back, both sleeve pieces, and their corresponding facing pieces just a little bit will do the trick. The front sleeve piece (containing shaping for the shoulder) will be a bit more complicated to alter.
Shoulder shape detail

The cutting lines and pattern pieces for the collared view should also be checked. 

If you are picky about fit I would suggest making a scrap version of the coat (unlined, and un-faced but staystitched) from the waist up and check the shoulder and neck fit before you start. This is what I get for sewing for a doll I did not have at the time.

My hand standing in for a head
The hood is designed to be pulled over the head (my interpretation of the included line drawings) rather than wrapped as the written instructions imply. The opening as drafted when the hood is finished is about 8 inches, which would necessitate removing the wigs of most dolls and possibly the head as well. 

Adding 3/4 of an inch in length to both hood pattern pieces, and/or reducing the length of the seam forming the back of the hood, would remove this difficulty. 

I should state that the written directions provided by Hello Dolly Boutique imply the hood is completely open on the neck edge, which would avoid this problem altogether.

The directions for assembly are generally good with the exception of the admittedly puzzling detachable hood.

Alterations I would suggest for the assembly instructions are to stay stitch the neck edges of all the pieces before doing any sewing and certainly before pressing if your fabric is at all loosely woven or prone to stretching. 

I would also suggest assembling and sewing the facings to the coat's front and neck edges before sewing the underarm/side seams: easier to iron all that facing if you can lay the coat out flat. 

The Pockets:
The pocket pieces and instructions make little sense at first glance, but if you just follow the directions provided, they work out nicely.
Lined pocket flat

I do believe that the pocket trim piece should be a bit shorter from top to bottom, since it comes right down to the bottom edge of the pocket. The illustrations show the pocket trim coming not so far down. I cheated the trim piece a little bit when ironing the pocket to raise it a bit. 
Pocket from above

The trim piece, it should be noted, is slightly asymmetric, so the pocket has a little extra style built right in! 

The main pocket piece, according to the illustrations, is also supposed to have a lining. There is no lining called for on the pattern piece or in the instructions. It would be simple to add one if desired. 

The Hood:
By dint of squinting repeatedly at the hood pieces and the illustrations provided, and perhaps too much coffee, I determined how the hood was originally intended to be assembled. The bullet-point instructions provided for the hood are scanty. 

The pattern pieces provided are a left and right hood, each to be cut out twice. I believe they should each be cut out only once. There are matching notches on the hood pieces, creating an asymmetric hood shape (however, the double and single notches on one side seem to be reversed. It does not matter, since the hood is equally asymmetric either way). 

There are several illustrations of the hood included on the pattern instruction sheet. One drawing as worn, where one can see the criss-cross drape at the front mentioned in the instructions, one of the hood hanging down the back of the coat (on the pattern cover page), one of what is apparently the seam below the peak of the hood being stitched (not present in the written instructions) and one of assembling the hood which looks suspiciously like a Möbius strip. 

I have seen other 1930s garments with a similar twisted "right to wrong side" construction at the neck, and in this case, the twisted section of the hood, where both the outside and lining fabric are visible, lies below the wearer's chin. 

From two of the illustrations, it appears that the hood was intended to button in place on the coat. It may be more practical to use snaps on this scale garment, as the written directions indicate. 

One side or both of the hood must be detached in order to remove the coat. This is somewhat awkward, but the hood adds quite a bit to the overall style of the garment.

The "hanging down the back" illustration looks like the hood pieces may have been cut on the bias, or the fabric used in the illustration was a fine twill or other inherently easily draped fabric.

revised hood construction directions below** 

Changes I made from the instructions while constructing the garment:
From the illustrations provided, it appears that the lining was originally supposed to be either trimmed to just meet the neck facing pieces, or the lining sleeve and back pieces should not have been cut identically to the sleeve and back pieces of the coat. There is a notation on the front coat pattern piece to "cut here" for lining. That cutting line matches up nicely with the front facing. 

The written instructions direct the seamstress to turn the assembled lining's 1/4" allowance under and slipstitch the lining over the facings.

I chose instead to trim the front facing seam allowance away and bind the edge of the entire facing with self bias tape (made from the lining material).

I then slipstitched the facing over the lining.

Finished coat (inside) and hood (detached)
I hemmed and turned up the bottom edge of the lining, bias bound and slipstitched the outer fabric hem in place,

Bound hem allowance
 and then french tacked the lining in place.

French tack

I also tacked the lining in place at the intersection of the underarm sleeves. 

In addition to ignoring the instructions for slipstitch hemming the coat, I turned up the outer fabric 1/2" and the lining about 3/4" instead of the 1/4" and 1/2" called out in the instructions. So my version of the coat will be 1/4" shorter than the 3/4 length I originally cut out. 

I made these changes because one of my goals for the doll clothes I make is to emulate full-sized vintage construction techniques as much as possible, within the limits of my knowledge, and accommodating the challenges small-scale sewing can present.
I hope this review does not discourage you from trying the pattern. It is a nice basic raglan sleeved pattern and could easily be adapted to other vintage styles (I'm thinking vintage ski jacket or shooting coat or fur coat or cozy fireside robe or silk-twill evening coat.)

**revised hood instructions.

As far as I can tell, the hood is not attached to the back of the coat
 Pin together the two short notched edges of the left and right hood pieces. Continue pinning no more than the same distance down one long side. Sew where pinned. Repeat with lining pieces. You have just formed the peak and back seam of the hood.

Clip corners and press both assemblies. Notch the seam allowance where the stitching ends in the middle of one long side. Place one hood assembly inside the other, right sides together.

Sew the long (previously unstitched edge) attaching outer hood to lining on long edge of hood assembly.

Sew from the notch to the short raw edge on the other side. You will now have something that looks like nothing so much as a pair of pants you'd have to teleport a pair of torso-less legs into.

Hood assembly prior to slipstitching the raw ends
Turn rightside out and press this whole thing nice and flat.

You have two raw ends, each having one lining surface and one fabric surface. Put one lining side against the other fabric side, aligning raw edges, and start slipstitching them together.

You will have a Möbius strip when you are done. Press the slipstitched seam.

Figure out where the snaps should go and attach to the front of the coat. 

I attached the snaps in line with the front sleeve-to-front-coat seam, and the snaps on the hood about ¾ of the way in from either edge.

No comments:

Post a Comment