mishi2x Designs




Serger Project: The Robe Cardigan, Day 1

sponsored by Jones & Vandermeer

After days and days of rain and gray skies, I woke up this morning to some bright sunshine and blue skies.  It was turning out to be the perfect day to get started on my Robe Cardigan.  I first saw these "m patterns" at Purl Soho about a year ago (maybe more?).  I was tempted to purchase one, but was intimidated by it being 1) a sewing pattern and 2) in Japanese.  I'm still very new to sewing, so I just kept thinking, "One day, one day..."

Well, the day has arrived!  Having trolled the web for Japanese knitting books and such, I came across a seller on eBay - pomadour24 and her store.  She has it all!  When I saw this Robe Cardigan pattern I knew I had to have it.  My ignorance of the Japanese language be damned!

So here we go!

First things first.  I have to:

1)  Figure out my size.

2)  Decipher some Japanese.

3)  Trace off my pattern.

4)  Cut out the pattern pieces.

Figure out my size.

Well, I can honestly say I didn't think we were going to get so personal here, but what the heck.  My bust measurement is 39", so I'll have to make the "LL" size.  This pattern has 5 sizes: S, M, ML, L, LL.  The measurements on the envelope back are in CM, and in Japanese.  The LL's range is stated to be 99-104 which translates to roughly 39" - 41".

Decipher some Japanese.

Hm, ok.  First, I printed out this Dictionary of Japanese Sewing Terms from the Japanese Sewing Books site.  There is a link to a PDF of the dictionary after the list.  Armed with this knowledge, I ripped open the pattern and laid it out.  Not too bad.  I could clearly see my pattern pieces.  The instructions... that may take some time.

But I was able to figure out that this pattern includes the seam allowance.  I had read that a lot of Japanese sewing patterns did not include them.  I suspect those are the patterns in the books, where the patterns are all laid out one top of the other on one single sheet.  To preserve space, I'm sure they just eliminate it.  But since this is an individual pattern, I suppose including it made sense.

Trace off my pattern.

Luckily, these m patterns are on paper that are a normal weight.  I would say it's a touch lighter than our normal 20 lb printer paper, but much thicker than American patterns on that tissue paper.  So much better to handle.  I really detest that tissue paper.

I brought out the tools that I'd need.

Having quilted, I have a number of rotary cutting rulers.  Those, however, are a little heavy and bulky.  So this clear, flexible 2"x18" is my favorite when working with sewing patterns.  The Fairgate Vary Form Curve Ruler is great for armholes and neck openings.  Not necessary when tracing off, but makes tracing those curves much easier.

So, I place the pattern down, then lay pattern paper over it.  I use pattern paper that is marked with a grid and usually comes in rolls of 10 yards.  The important thing is that this paper is thin enough that you can see the pattern underneath it.  If not, you'll have to swap them (pattern on top of paper) and use carbon tracing paper between the two and run a tracing wheel over the pattern lines.  Effective, but not my favorite.


A tip I learned from my Patternmaking teacher is to extend your lines when drafting.  When you extend them, you get an exact intersection.  Takes all the guesswork out of the cutting-out part.

Also, I don't actually use the grid on the paper.  I like having it there; a huge blank white space makes me nervous.  But I don't trust it enough to actually use.  So, I use the blank underside of this paper with the grid showing through.

Another great tip I learned from Patternmaking is if you want to use a mechanical pencil, don't use lead thinner than 0.7mm.  The lead will break often and you'll want to stab yourself in the eye with it (ask me how I know.)  

After tracing each piece, don't forget to label them, and mark your grain line.  I've forgotten to label pattern pieces before and not being able to remember what it was, I had to chuck them.  


Cut out the pattern pieces.

I use my trusty Olfa Multi-Purpose Scissors for cutting paper.  It has the slightest serration on the blades so it keeps things in its place.  They're also indestructible.  I've had the same pair for years and have used them to cut up area rugs (again, don't ask), cardboard and paper without having to sharpen them.  

Of course, you can always use a rotary cutter.  But since this doesn't have many curves, I'll stick with my scissors.  I'll probably whip out the rotary cutter when I have to cut out the fabric.

Now that my pattern pieces are all cut out, it's time to cut out the fabric!  

Screeching to a halt.

I would be nuts to cut right into my working fabric, right?  Right.  I remember when I first started knitting and how swatching was so foreign, and so... annoying.  Now, it's practically all I do and I'm not sure how anyone gets around that.  I'm thinking the sewing equivalent of swatching is making a muslin.  Sort of similar in that you're taking an extra step to ensure your project comes out to your liking.

Next up:  Cutting and sewing up the muslin...