The Great Pattern Review
#2324 - Child's Furry Costumes (Out of Print)
Judith Hollenberger - Recommended with reservations.
If you want cute this is it. I made View C, a rabbit. The directions are clear and not difficult to follow. I recommend cleaning your sewing machine carefully if you use fake fur; it gets all over. The only reservations are that it is a one piece outfit so diaper changing is not easy. If you do use fake fur, it makes a very warm outfit; it's not likely your child will be able to wear this about for long periods of time. For short appearances or photo opportunities these costumes are great.
#2645 - Alicyn Exclusives, Italian Renaissance Bridal Gown (Out of Print)
Patricia Cannata - Recommended
I had to be some adjustments because I chose fabric with a border print. This necessitated gathering the over skirt, rather than having it the same as the underskirt. The underskirt is finished off with horsehair stiffening on bottom of skirt. The overskirt is braided on the bottom. Sewing ability requires at least an intermediate level sewer with some ex-perience working with lining, interlining, and boning. All in all not to bad a project.
Sheri Jurnecka - Recommended
It turned out well, but if you are making View A, allow a lot of time for the sleeves. They took me 2-1/2 hours. They are elaborate and complicated. Fortunately, the instructions are accurate, well-written, and illustrated. Follow the instructions carefully. This gown takes a lot of fabric (look for fabric on sale).
Kimberly Villian - Recommended if you are good at alterations.
It runs quite large, especially in the bust. I cut a size 10 down to a size 6 and then it fit properly. If you are not a generous B-cup or larger, I wouldn't suggest this pattern, as it minimizes the bust and makes even a generous B look like an A cup. The best cup size would be a larger C or even a D cup (or a B with a little help in the bra). Unless you are using a very thin, soft fabric or have no hips, the gathered skirt only is flattering if you move all the gathers to the back near the zipper and leave the rest of the waist flat. The suggested length for the finished skirt and train is only acceptable if you are over 5'10"; otherwise, you have to cut masses of fabric from the hem (especially from the train section). The arm holes are quite small for the rest of the garment, but this can be adjusted. Make sure the upper gauntlet isn't too tight. The full under-sleeve is a bit excessive, since you make a false elbow pouf. I just made a false under-sleeve at the shoulder and from the forearm downward when using the double gauntlet sleeves. The instructions for the neckline inset are a bit vague and can be confusing, but with a little work and a few tries you can make the neckline work. The shoulder cape/swag is very simple to make and elegant.
Teresa Liao - Recommended
This is a pretty simple pattern and seems to be one of the few commercial patterns for an Italian Renaissance dress that is actually two separate layers. Unfortunately, it still has bust darts to draft out. It is a simple pattern to put together and is a lot of fun to wear. I made one significant change to my own dress; I wanted the skirts to be very full so I cartridge pleated the skirts to the bodices. I didn't think about leaving the center front flat, so the dress may have tendancy to make me look pregnant at certain angles, but I'm still very pleased with the overall effect.
#2793 - Elizabethan Costumes (Out of Print)
Christine Gorman - Not Recommended
I chose this pattern (16-20 size version) in order to teach a friend how to sew- the attempt was to make the "peasant" version, minus the apron and cap (I figured the cap might be difficult and the apron just looked silly). It was nothing but an absolute horror to work with, even for myself. First, the skirt is zippered in the back; we decided to replace that with a large, skirt (flat) hook and eye set. The skirt requires a simply dreadful amount of fabric for the way it is supposed to be gathered, an amount that's more akin to a noblewoman's gown than anything else. Instead of being gored, the skirt pieces are simply huge, almost-rectangles that add to the extreme bulk in the skirt's waistband (which is a fold-over waistband not unlike a modern pair of pants). This led to a skirt that, while appropriately a "full-circle" at the hem, is very bulky at the top. I prefer cartridge-pleating to this method. The shirt went together well enough, but we made the sleeves with a different pattern and didn't ruffle the neckline. The bodice was an absolute disaster. We ended up tossing it one day before faire and made a waist-cincher type garment instead.
The problems with the bodice are as follows. The length of the bodice is far too short, even though my friend is not an overly tall person (and the skirt was clearly made for someone who is about 5'6", which she is). The princess seams are not at all period and are very bulky. The bodice is too tight on her even though we measured carefully; it fits my mother perfectly, who is a few sizes smaller. The bodice as shown on the pattern cover is actually too loose. Also, the bodice pattern does not follow what I consider the Basic Bodice Rule: flat-line. We flat-lined the bodice. Without flat-lining, you would have a rather wrinkled garment that stretches overmuch. The pattern also calls for what seem to be loops to lace the garment, rather than the more popular (and sturdier) grommets, eyelets, or thread-eyelets. An attempt to use grommets in this particular bodice was disastrous, as it made the bodice even smaller!
#2810 - Evening Elegance: Gown and Cape (Out of Print)
Kimberly Villian - Recommended
This pattern in VERY easy to sew. I put it together in about 3 hours, and have made it several times since. It looks great on most figure types, especially those with curves. The cape is also very simple to sew, but takes longer to make than the gown. The cape does not have sleeves, but simple slashes in the front-front/side seam. The envelope makes it look as if the cape has sleeves. The finished gown is very elegant indeed.
#3033 - Evening Elegance: Misses Evening Cover-Ups, Capelets and Shrugs
Frannie Germeshausen - Highly Recommended
I made View E to take advantage of a remnant of beautiful fabric I'd found. These are not period styles, but if you have a small piece of fabric you'd like to do something with, this is a good option. View E in Medium called for 1-1/8 yards of fashion fabric. It was very fast and easy to make. It took me three hours -- if I'd been using fabric I could actually see (the lining was a single layer of green tulle, the interfacing was two layers of black crinoline netting), it probably would have gone even faster. I'd definitely use this pattern again. In this photo, Frannie is also wearing the Wingeo 1795-1825 Turban.
#3053 - Alicyn Exclusives, Italian Renaissance Bridal Gown (Out of Print)
Lorraine Carson - Highly Recommended
I love this pattern. I've made it up twice: once in lavender chiffon and once in velvet and printed sari fabric. However, I do agree with other reviewers that (1) you should be an intermediate sewer, because there are a lot of pieces to it once you consider all the lining and interlining and (2) it requires a lot of fabric. You can sort of sneak around point #2 by cutting some of the pieces that don't show out of cheap fabric that is roughly the same color. I think all versions of the sleeves are lovely and well worth the time to make them. However, you should plan on a full day and a lot of patience for these suckers! I use the skirt part for my Regency gowns, too, because it's just the right top width if I cut it a few sizes larger than I am and gather it in the back. And it flows beautifully when you dance. The pattern pieces are definitely sized for someone very tall (I'm 5'7") because I shaved off several inches from the pattern piece before cutting it out and still had a 1 inch hem. (Another good trick to save on fabric is to be sure your skirt pieces are the right length for YOU before you waste fabric cutting out much longer skirts than you need.) I put in lacing in the back in place of the zipper, which is an easy switch to make.
#3365 - Girls' Flower Fairy Costumes (Out of Print)
Judith Hollenberger - Recommended
I made View B which is a simple sheath dress and tulle petal overskirt. The directions were clear and the dress and skirt make up as pictured. If you like you can choose not to sew one of the skirt seams and it will be a wrap around apron that ties in back instead of a 'step into' skirt. This can be a plus if you are making it for a very small child.
#3609 - Misses' Camisole, Pantaloons, Corset and Hoop Petticoat
Susanne Erbida - Highly Recommended
This was the very first corset I made and it was fairly easy. The busks took me some time to understand how to sew them in. It took about 9 hours in total to make it (not counting figuring out the busks). I would recommend making it in two sizes smaller than your measured size. Even if it's too big, it's easy to make it smaller. Just cut a few centimeters at the back on each side and sew it together again.
#3663 - Misses Medieval Costumes (Out of Print)
Trystan L. Bass - Recommended
I used the sleeves of this pattern to make Arwen's Mouring Gown. I modified the sleeve pattern a lot to get the desired length and shape. I don't like to draft patterns from scratch, but give me a pattern that's halfway there, and I can tweak it to achieve the look I want. The sleeves and train are longer in the film costume, but I purposefully made mine shorter for practicality's sake (also because I didn't have a ton of fabric). The shape of the sleeves is a bit more full than mine too, but I don't think they're circles -- more like the pointed shape I made mine in. All in all, my gown is very true to the original.
#3758 - Girls' Butterfly Fairy Costumes (Out of Print)
Leigh Ann Hildebrand
This child's fairy costume features unstructured sheer fabric wings decorated with fabric paints; the wings are especially easy for young children to manage. They involve very little sewing and make a good project to do together, with lots of room for creative embellishment. I've made wings for my daughter almost every year for a decade, each time using a different construction technique. I found this method particularly low-stress, though not as delicate looking as wire-frame wings.
#4091 - Misses' Chemise in Two Lengths
This pattern runs not just large but HUGE. It's a simple pattern, good for the beginning sewer, but make it at least two sizes smaller than it calls for. When I laid out the pattern, I thought that the pieces were too big, so I made it one size smaller than what I normally wear. The sleeve caps still fall about 2 1/2" below my shoulders, and I had to cut about eight inches off the bottom before I could even think of hemming it, and I'm 5'7".
#4339 - Misses' Civil War Era Bolero Jacket, Blouse and Skirt (Out of Print)
Frannie Germeshausen - Recommended
I made the bolero jacket. It went together easily. It's fully lined. They give instructions for braid trim, but I used giant ball fringe instead. The pattern also includes a blouse and skirt with petticoat. I think I will try to make the blouse, and report back after I do.
#4340 - Gothic Goddess: Lined Robe, Gown and Corset (Out of Print)
Theresa Eacker - Recommended
This is one of the Gothic Maidens patterns and the dress looks like it's a mix of some of Eowyn's gowns from LOTR. This was a 'reduce-the-stash' project, which produced a different look than what was in LOTR. The McCall's design of the neckline to the dress sucks. I redrafted it to come closer to the picture of Eowyn's gown on the alleycatscratch site, then piped the edge to give it support and substance. The top over-sleeve puff won't puff if you use chiffon/georgette without first underlining it with stiff netting (which means you have to bind off the seam allowances to keep from being scratched to pieces by the netting). The lower sleeve drape is a pain to have to hem so it looks nice (I had to do it by hand). I suggest lining it with a lightweight fabric to make the construction more graceful and more finished. McCall's suggests facings on the inside of the gown bodice. Pretty fiddly. I created a whole-bodice lining, which makes it possible to add boning to the seams and back opening for shaping. The back of the corset and gown both lace up, but McCall's suggests adding thick, heavy bands with created eyelets on the outside. UGLY. Instead, run boning up the inside of the opening edges for support. Put eyelets on the bodies of the garments. I used little rings on the back of the corset for a bit of visual ping. The corset pattern itself is in one piece while the corset on the LOTR Shield Maiden gown is in two pieces. Personally, I think the design in the movie is clunky and overwrought. I just made the corset in the one piece. Be sure to make a muslin to check the fit. I think this pattern is designed for very broad shoulders and a large ribcage. Those are the major issues I had with the pattern. I didn't make the cape/robe thing...enough is enough! There were some minor things but that's because I'm idiosyncratic.
#4478 - Infants' Hats
Kati Durden - Not Recommended
I'm trying to make Hat H, the traditional baby bonnet. The pattern calls for buckram and the resulting (half-finished) bonnet is so stiff it could be better used as a helmet than a hat. The directions for the bonnet are minimal and it is clear that it was an afterthought to the six sunhats that are included in the pattern. Poo.
#4696 - Misses' Renaissance Tops
Leigh Ann Hildebrand - Not Recommended
I'm making a pair of full detachable oversleeves for Younger Child's PEERS R & J. She wanted sleeves oversleeves as shown in View B. I'm on autopilot, following the directions for these sleeves. Said sleeves are basically two tubes, fully lined. Instructions are as follows: "Pin lining over sleeve, right sights together, at upper and lower edges, matching seams. Stitch upper edge. Stitch lower edge, leaving an opening for turning. Turn right side out." Though I *know* better, I blithely follow the instructions. Problem? Well, what you're creating is essentially a toroid (donut) shape, and You Can't Turn A Donut (tm). I know this. Probably many of you know this. Evidently, the proof reader at McCall's does NOT know this. However, I was still on autopilot, so I followed the directions, turned that puppy and got....a partially turned crazed half-toroid shape. Thankfully, I had only done this on *one* sleeve, so I can do the other correctly. The first sleeve, though -- when I get done being irritable, I'm going to have to take the stitching out of this vast velvet sleeve and resew it again the right way. So, note to all -- the directions for View B of McCalls M4696 are INCORRECT. Blah.
#4862 - Misses'/Men's Poet Shirts and Sash
Celeste Kostyniuk - Recommended
This pattern was very easy to follow. I used the A version, due to being in a time crunch for a kid's play. I had no trouble with it. There are lots of gathers, but much pinning makes it uncomplicated.
#6096 - Medieval Magic (Out of Print)
Pat Shaw - Recommended
It was a lot of work, but worth it.
#7280 - O Holy Night (Out of Print)
Sally Norton - Highly Recommended
Great for beginners. Eight variations on the pattern (for both men and women) are included. I used the gown and coat to make a man's Middle Eastern Gallibiya and Aba. Extremely easy and a very attractive result. Joe (center) is wearing the ensemble made by Sally in the photo on the left, although you can only see the striped coat.
#7861 - Child's Animal Costumes (Out of Print)
Judith Hollenberger - Recommended with reservations.
I made View B, the Zebra. The directions are clear and easy to follow. The costume makes up as shown. I highly recommend you do the piping; it really enhances the look of the costume. My reservation has to do with the fact that this is a one piece costume for a small child. If your child is still in diapers, changing the diaper will be a challenge.
If you make this costume in fake fur, it will be very warm. The outfit includes footies. If the child is outside Trick or Treating or at a party, the soles of the costume will take a beating and get very dirty. The child cannot wear shoes with the footies; the costume feet (footies) do not fit well in shoes. Neither of my children cared for the headpiece. Maybe I stuffed it too firmly and it was uncomfortable? It's a large structure and a little ungainly. The tail will not stay on through a lot of stress (such as games); it is just attached with velcro. For short appearances and photos, these costumes are wonderful.
#8826 - Medieval Underdress and Overdress (Out of Print)
This Cotehardie is dreadfully huge. At the very least cut on their pre-seam allowance lines. Other than being oversized; the pattern is fine.
#9107 - Empire Waist Evening Dress (Out of Print)
Kathleen Farrell - Recommended
This dress makes up easily. The neckline is as low as it appears in photo. If you are bosomy you'll have all the Regency cleavage you can stand. If you're modest and buxom then add a bit to the pattern piece before you cut it out (even better, do a practice piece in muslin). The front bodice piece is too wide. Take it in, if you use it as your lining, before you add your front bodice piece. I made my front bodice piece much wider so that I could gather it (a popular feature of dresses in the Regency era). Otherwise, this pattern makes up very closely to Regency period design. Kathleen is admired by Kevin Roche who is wearing the Wingeo Frock Coat 1790 - 1820, French Influence 212.
#9124 - Evening Elegance: Misses' Top and Skirt (Out of Print)
Victoria Meyn - Recommended
I made the top only. This pattern is fun and easy to make. The instructions are very good. The only thing I change is putting grommets in the back where the zipper would go. This style lends itself to being a bit Renaissance/Tudor peasant worn with a chemise undergarment. I made this in leather (front) and velvet (back) scraps. Victoria is wearing her bodice in the photo to the right.
#9672 - Evening Elegance: Misses' Tops, Skirt and Stole (Out of Print)
Victoria Meyn - Highly Recommended
I just love this pattern for ballgown bodices. It is easy to wear and easy to make. It isn't period at all; however it would lend itself to well to a fairy ballgown or other fantasy evening wear. The instructions are very clear. The boning is easy to install. I put in grommets instead of a zipper. I wore it to the ball at a dance camp weekend. The theme of the ball was cows (yup, COWS); that dictated my choice of fabric. Victoria's cow bodice can be seen in the photo on the right.