Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The other side

So Jo Ann sent me this email today...and after a short exchange she said that she didn't mind if I posted the contents to the blog.

It started with this email that Jo Ann sent to Connie Crawford about my challenges with the pattern:

"Hi Connie,

Well the first dress went well and she got rave reviews but the second was not good.  Can you tell what went wrong? To me it just still looks too big for her.

Jo Ann

It is important to note that I did not ask Jo Ann to contact Connie.  It was something she did on her own. 

Connie's answer is here:
"Hi Jo Ann:

Thank you for your email. Since your email did not explain what you are comparing the dresses with (pattern numbers), I am guessing that the blog is what you wanted me to see. I am sorry to hear about your situation with this dress, however, I will offer you some hints as to what I think lead to some problems...since you asked.

In the red dress, I felt that the dress was cut without using paper (underneath the fabric). Many times when cutting a soft fabric (rayon, silk, polyester, light cottons etc.) the necklines will stretch out of place and make the garment look as if it has too much ease. Believe me this is looked at very carefully in all of my samples. Also, when cutting with paper, you can be sure to lay the center front EXACTLY on center without adding any unintentional grown from center front to the princess seam.

Now for the princess fit.... if it was possible for me to custom make a pattern for every body type, I certainly would and could. However, 80% of full figured women have lost their waistline by having a fuller stomach. Since it is easier to take in a princess seam and the side seams, I had to choose to make it for this group. And, this is the reason why we have included the princess fitting step within the sewing process. The princess seams also allow you to take out any amount of flared fullness and actually make this dress with a straight skirt look.

With the 45 years that I have been making patterns and conducting fitting seminars, I want you to know that I do make the patterns on full-figured women. Last weekend this dress was on a 1X professional model in a fashion shows and afterwards several ladies tried on this dress and it fit perfectly. I also have had several emails from women who have made this pattern and it fit perfectly since this pattern came out the first of March.

If there have been cutting mistakes, you can always measure the pattern and the fabric and see if there are any discrepencies in the pieces. I can always look at the dress personally and see what went wrong. Unfortunately, not all women are shaped the same, but I try VERY HARD to make these patterns for the full-figured women. NOBODY else does a full range of patterns for the ladies above a 2X. 15 years ago I dedicated my professional skills to make a collection of patterns for full-figured women. After all someone need to love and care for these women.

Also, on a personal note, I make 20 cents per pattern. In other words, this is strickly a dedication I have made in helping our larger customers.

Connie Crawford

As I told Jo Ann, there are two sides to every situation and it is only fair to present both sides.  Personally, I'm done with this pattern and will think 3x before purchasing another but if you own the pattern and have had success with it, would you kindly place a link to a photo in the comments so that we can see it?  It really would be nice to see some of  the successes because there are no reviews of this dress on PatternReview...and when I add mine it will have a negative bent to it based upon my experiences.

On Tuesday, I wore the B5620 dress to work and it actually wore well with the sweater buttoned over it. I got a couple of you look pretty compliments, too. So even tho the fit is suspect, it did alright in the wearability test and it will remain in my closet. always, more later!


  1. How nice that CC responded to the inquiry, and quickly, too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I guess I'm not as charitable as you, but it seems to me that CC is blaming you and allowing no possibility that the pattern is off.

  3. I'm such a newbie to sewing .. i didn't know one was to use paper underneath fabric when one cuts out a pattern.

  4. I'm curious now, Yvonne says she is new to sewing but i have been sewing my whole life and i've never seen or been given any instruction to place paper underneath fabric when cutting out. What is that all about? doesn't seem like this would keep the fabric from skewing or anything. (not that that seemed to be the issue with your dress from what you had said)

  5. Do they put it anywhere in the instructions that you should use paper under the fabric when using certain fabrics? Or do they just conveniently leave that out so we can all suffer? I've never heard of using paper under the fabric before.

  6. I think it is great that you are giving everyone a chance to hear CC side of it and for the successful to post. I've picked up on the fact that no matter what size we are, everyone is shaped differently and some pattern companies just offer a better fit for our particular body shape. It seems to me that CC may just not be right for, no blame really, just a fact and move on!

  7. It was certainly nice that CC replied to Jo Ann's email. I agree with Debbie Cook. It's just as easy for the pattern maker or printer to make a mistake as the sewer. I wonder if patterns are tested using the tissue paper patterns we buy.

  8. Using tissue paper under slippery fabric has been around forever. It is especially used for chiffon and lightweight fabrics that shift when cutting around curved areas or in trying to keep a center front or center back fold stable. The fabric is pinned through to the paper beneath and all cut at the same time. This technique used to be demonstrated in the Margaret Islander Industry Sewing Videos and is taught in Fashion Design colleges. It is just one more trick to keeping things accurate with troublesome fabrics.

  9. I had numerous fit issues with a Connie Crawford top pattern. I used stable quilters cotton and recut the yoke. The top ended up in the recycle bin, never to be worn. That was my last CC pattern

  10. I thought it was a bit condescending, but that could be email. Curious that we still haven't seen any successful pictures with this pattern.

  11. I just have to wonder why there are no positive reviews of the pattern and why no pictures of successful sews of the pattern.

    I had *heard* of using tissue paper under slippery fabrics and have to echo what was said above - was this stated in the pattern instructions?

  12. I've never used paper under a fabric except for a silk chiffon I bought years ago that wouldn't stay put no matter what. I ended up pinning every inch of it to tissue while smoothing out wrinkles and checking the width was consistent, then laying the pattern on top of the tissue/fabric layer.

    I do think everyone has a pattern company that gives best fit as they all (used to?) use different fitting blocks. I use Vogue as their patterns fit my wide shoulders and long arms, but used to buy McCalls for my mother as nothing else fit her shoulders well. I don't mind altering patterns, but prefer to do as few as possible.

    Perhaps CC just isn't your fit? If I were CC, I don't know what else I'd have said without having the pattern and dress in my hand. No comfort, though.

  13. I agree with Debbie Cook. I've met Connie Crawford in person before and have her fitting DVD. I don't particuarly care for her in person, or her delivery on the DVD and feel her comments are an insult. She thinks you should buy patterns by your full bust measurement and most of us know that that is a recipe for disaster! I don't subscribe to her school of fit, don't like her or her patterns and don't care that she only makes 26 cents per pattern. Her patterns suck on so many levels and I am entitled to my opinion because I am speaking from my experience with them. I'm insulted that she seems to be insulting my internet friend's sewung intelligence. Connie can go take a hike.

  14. Some "professionals" just can't admit that they can make a mistake. I've only heard of using paper under very difficult to handle fabrics such as chiffon or a very slippery or stretchy fabric. Personally I've never purchased any of Connie's patterns..they just don't appeal to me. Sometimes patterns just aren't drafted well and they need to just admit that and come up with a better process to testing their patterns.

  15. Carolyn,
    "If it don't fit, don't force it, just relax and let it go." An old song that seems to fit the situation.

    Again I repeat you are a wonderful seamstress and should not second guess yourself over any pattern. I also have not heard about cutting over paper, what I have done is iron the interfacing onto the fabric before I cut. I know that this is a waste, but my neck and armholes don't stretch and fit better since I started doing this.

  16. Carolyn, I applaud your fair mindedness in your comments about Connie Crawford's response. I think it is wonderful that you invite those who have used and liked this pattern to provide a link. But for yourself, who has tried valiantly to make it fit your body, I say move on! You have too many other patterns that you want to try. I'm guessing that CC has had success with her patterns on some bodies, but no one patternmaker can possibly have success with all bodies. Maybe her patterns are not made for all of the women with your particular body shape. Whatever the reason, you gave it the old college try, and you can now get on with what you do best, sew garments with flair and panache--and joy!
    Best wishes and happy sewing,

  17. I have met CC in person and her email response to Joanne reflects her real personality, which is defensive and quick to attack when her patterns or techniques are questioned. I do give her credit for responding. Knowing your sewing skills I don't think improper cutting or construction was the issue. It is probably that the plus size figure her patterns are drafted for may not be quite like yours. Similar to the way regular Vogue patterns fit me well, but Sandra Betzina's Vogue patterns don't. Even with changes I think should work, they never seem to fit right. I thought both dresses looked nice even though the fit was not the same as that of your TNT patterns.

  18. I can't comment on her patterns (just not my style), but I attended two seminars - pants fitting and professional techniques for home sewists - with CC a few years ago and, despite the fact that she is a very no-nonsense person (read: very, very blunt), she said a number of things that resonated with me. Full disclosure: I was picked from the audience and she created a pants sloper to my measurements. I later realized that the reason I was the only volunteer was that I treated to a 30 minute running commentary on my body - it's quirks and uniqueness (read: every little flaw)- for an audience of 50. Lovely. I rank it as one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life. But I did get a pants sloper out of it and learned a lot about my shape (and each and every single little vivid detail. sigh.)

    Anyway, I think the plus to Connie is that she is a staunch critic of the fashion and sewing industries for all their immense shortcomings when it comes to plus sized fashion or even misses-sized figure variations, and for perpetuating bad technique/poor instructions in their patterns. On the con side, she was a fashion design teacher for 20 years and definitely speaks with a "teacher knows best" attitude - this comes across loud and clear in everything she says and does, like her response.

    Since others asked, her point about cutting with paper is that you pin your fabric to paper along the selvedge and fold. Then you pin the pattern on top and cut through all layers. This prevents your fabric from shifting, stretching or distorting while you cut. It's particularly helpful for knits, stretch fabrics or slithery fabrics, and helps you cut more precisely.

    Wow, sorry for the loooong comment, Carolyn. If the pattern doesn't work for you, I say just chuck it.

  19. I attended CC session at Sew Expo this year and she is does have strong views but she does want all women to have a well made garment. Her talk had lots of industry shortcuts and cutting fabric with paper underneath the fabric (as she described in her email) was an industry technique that she insisted made garments a better quality product. Paper patterns don't indicate that you should use a layer of paper underneath the fabric. I'm really pleased that CC emailed you directly because it does show that she is in the industry to help us. This reinforces my view that 'we' have the best 'hobbie'.

  20. The other comment I'm curious about is the comment that plus size woman don't have a waist because they have a tummy.. yeah sure i have a tummy but there is a 10 inch difference between my waist measurement and my hips..Or does that difference not matter cause i have a "hollow back" and a belly?

    Grrr... comments from "experts" make me really wonder where the heck even to start..

    Sorry to take my frustration out in your comments.. Buying fabric and patterns is pretty risky for me in these early stages period... let alone cutting into it and knowing that between "wonky patterns", learning and not really having a good feel what will work on my body...

    It might be easier to drop my starting stash off at the salvation army and ....

  21. Definitely another side to this. Funny when the two sides are so different, who's right. I have always found CC off-putting and very condescending. I refuse to subject myself to her in classes any longer and am on the fence to whether I want to sew up any of her patterns, although I do own a few. On the other hand, that border print is really cute and I'm wondering if you could take it in some in the seams to get a better fit.

  22. Hi Carolyn,
    Hmmm, I don't understand the reasoning behind buying a pattern for the full bust. Isn't the industry standard to buy for the upper chest? Is she thinking that if we buy for the full bust the rest will magically fall into place? Dolly Parton anyone?
    I'm in the upper chest measurement camp myself and adjust for the bust and everything else.
    Your dress looks like it is just too wide from shoulder to shoulder and the sides look like they may need to be shortened.
    It may not be the 'draft' of the pattern so much as her fitting philosophy. I would not have said you cut the fabric out wrong, it's clearly just too wide on top.

    Oh well. Love the post! Thanks for sharing!

  23. "I think the plus to Connie is that she is a staunch critic of the fashion and sewing industries for all their immense shortcomings when it comes to plus sized fashion or even misses-sized figure variations"

    I can't help but think that with "friends" like this, who needs enemies? Plus-size fashion does not equal tents, elastic casings, and muumuus - which is what most CC patterns are. I really miss the old Butterick plus patterns. I had some real winners from them - and they had/have actual shape.

    I've also met her once in person when I was new to sewing for myself. Good thing I have a thick skin.


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