January 18, 2021

Blazer Bound: Testing, Testing


Welcome back to our behind-the-scenes series on the development of the infamous, legendary and much-anticipated Cashmerette blazer. No pressure, guys! 😀

Well, since our last check-in, we got to a crucial stage in our pattern development: the first testing round. Since we completed our last muslin, we made some final tweaks (you can read about them here), and then prepared the pattern to send it to test.

Testing is a ton of work both for our Cashmerette team and for our testers. We have to develop the pattern to the same level as we would for launch (that means all the dotted lines are there for the different sizes, all the labels etc. are done, all the print at home PDFs are created and so on), and get the instructions ready too. The instructions are done in a simple Word/PDF format, not fully graphic designed – that’s because we usually make lots of changes post testing (otherwise, what’s the point of testing?!) and we don’t want to have to re-do a lot of layout work unnecessarily.

We reached out to a selection of testers across our size range, and we also asked them to split into two groups, wovens and stretch, so that we could assess the fit on both. The testers were given several weeks and were paid for their time and fabric usage. They provided amazing detailed feedback for us, which is truly invaluable. Thanks in advance to some of our testers for agreeing to be (headlessly) featured in this post!

Testing is an interesting beast as it’s 100% inevitable that the pattern will not fit all the testers perfectly, or even well. How could it, given we all have SUCH different bodies? So what we’re going for is a “decent average”. If everyone has the same issue, then that’s definitely going to be changed. But if some people find sleeves too short and some find them too long… well they might just be right then. As you’ll see a lot of interpretation has to go into the process.

So let’s get on to it!

Testing results: Stretch Fabric

Let’s look first at the blazers made from stretch fabric – which you may recall, was the original intention of the pattern. We ask testers to not make any changes to the pattern beyond grading between sizes, or shortening/lengthening. That way we have a much better chance of accurately assessing the fit.

Here are the fronts of the stretch blazers:

As you can see, the lemony one looked pretty fab! The other two also fit reasonably well, but the proportions looked off. You can also see the welt pockets for the first time here!

From the side:

We could see some tightness here, and the front was coming up at the front for two of them.

The backs were not too bad, but too wide across the upper back.

Testing results: Woven Fabric

As I mentioned, the pattern wasn’t originally planned for woven fabric but we thought we’d test it to see how it did. And the answer is… mixed?!

Here are the woven blazers from the front:

Immediately you can see there are more fit issues, including major twisting in the sleeves (although interestingly only on some people, not on others), too little ease at the waist, and too wide at the upper chest. The button is also too high (especially given we are drafting for big boobs).

Here they are from the side:

Again, some sleeve fitting issues, and pulling up on the front on some.

And from the back:

That extra width at the upper back is evident again.

Changes made with the testing feedback

The next step is that we briefed our pattern drafter with the proposed changes, as well as consulted with her for her opinion (she has a lot more experience at this than we do!).

Here are the changes we made:

  • Lengthen the blazer by about 1″, doing it at the upper torso
  • Reduce the upper chest width and shoulder width
  • Increase the waist width (and rebalance with chest)
  • Address the sleeve twist (this turned out to mostly be an armscye issue!)
  • Increase the lapel width for a better proportion

In addition, the testers found a range of issues in the instructions, which we addressed. In some patterns (especially the easy ones!) it’s usually just a few typos, but on something as complex as a semi-tailored, fitted blazer, inevitably there were a few more.

Post-test muslin with changes

Once our drafter made those changes, it was muslin-making time again in the studio! Making a blazer muslin takes FOREVER but luckily our new Pattern Development Manager Julie was able to tackle this one in the quiet time between Christmas and New Year.

So here’s the revised muslin on our team member Ayelet! (she’s a 14 G/H to a 16 waist/hip):

So much better, no?! We were very pleased! The length and proportions look much better, the princess seams are looking ace, the lapel looks good, and significantly less twisting in the sleeve. We’ve found that depending on your shoulder rotation there is zero to some sleeve twisting – so this is something where we have to find a good “average”.

That said, we still wanted to tweak a few things:

  • The waist was still a bit tight, especially when the blazer is done up, so added an additional 1″ there (this is also really influenced by having big boobs – for a smaller cup size, the waist might be OK).
  • Lowered the welt pockets by 1/2″ for proportional balance
  • Any other changes that could decrease the sleeve twist any more.

And it’s back to testing again!

Depending on how the test goes for a pattern, sometimes the changes are sufficiently minor that we just proceed with the rest of the steps to take a pattern to market, but sometimes we have to re-test.

In this case, given the blazer is so complex but also such a requested pattern, we wanted to feel confident we’ve got it right so we decided to do another round of testing. It adds a lot of time, and indeed expense (it’s a 5 figure sum to test each time in testing fees!), but we want to see if our changes worked for everyone, and know that the pattern is going to be a hit.

So right now, the team is working on checking the revised post-post-test pattern, and then we’ll be processing it, updating the instructions, and we are aiming to go to test again by January 22 (fingers crossed – we’re also working simultaneously on a lot of other things!). We’re also starting to plan our photoshoot in advance – we can’t make samples until we’ve done the next round of testing and confirmed the fit is right, but we can start planning (and buying) our fabrics and styling! I’ve just got one word for you: FUCHSIA! And, I’m fondling all the Harris Tweed. I will not apologize.

26 thoughts on “Blazer Bound: Testing, Testing

  1. Briana says:

    Super excited! I am so excited to make a blazer this year!

  2. Mariah says:

    My excitement for this is palpable! Seeing the round 1 testing photos are amazing — and fit better than any blazer I’ve had over the years. I am anxious for this to get released so I can make a few!

  3. Heidi says:

    I’m really looking forward to this! If it’s not too late, or maybe for later extension pack ideas, I would love a puffy shoulder sleeve option!

  4. Renee says:

    This is so interesting and very exciting. Thanks for the clear explanations on what you’re doing and how it looks.

  5. Rachael Richardson says:

    How can we get involved and become a test sewist? I filled in an online form once but heard nothing back. It looks so exciting!

  6. Lasercat says:

    It’s very interesting to read the story of that pattern from the idea to the refinement and the testing. I’d love to be part of a test like this. 🙂
    So if you ever need a tall woman with big bust and small waist for pattern testing, e-mail me. 🙂

  7. Carmil says:

    I have just three words…. I CANT WAIT!

  8. Yvette says:

    Hmm last version better BUT I am seeing issues I have with ready to wear .. To my eye , shoulder width is still too much – there seems to be still be extra fabric around / upper chest/ bodice area just about bust – particularly closer to the sleeve seam – to my eye widens rather than flatters or contours the shape in that area – my observation is that the area below the shoulder to the top of the bust line for plus sizes is not “ padded” but with extra fabric there seems to my eye to add bulk- not sure button placement is most flattering for larger bust lines- pockets seem to be too high and “ bound” part too wide Maybe more angled or lower placement or closer to center? Back is quite flattering But I think if the shoulder width, armsyce issues are adjusted a bit more the drag lines would disappear I would really like to have a great fitting jacket pattern I know this is tricky and definitely beyond my skill set I appreciate all you do! I am anxious for the final result Best regards Yvette

  9. Jo-Anne says:

    Can’t wait..just one thought…would there be an option to make the sleeves shorter 3/4 length, which looks quite stylist, and cooler especially living in Australia where it’s usually pretty warm.

  10. Mary Ellen says:

    Awesome! So exciting – and your fabric comments at the end made me chuckle! I loved seeing it on Ayelet as she is the same size as me. Great work and thanks!

  11. Christy says:

    I still have a lovely camel stretch suede sitting ever so quietly waiting patiently!!

  12. Donna Makowski says:

    Patiently waiting……..

  13. jonezgrrl says:

    Awesome! So much attention to detail. I really appreciate all your hard work. As I looked at the different results I wondered if having two body types as you do for the Ames jeans would help. I know – easy to say.

  14. Mrs. P says:

    It is so nice to be a part of the process! I am so excited to see the blazer finally come to life. I do think the upper bust looks a bit bulky but otherwise its a great fit! Can’t wait!

  15. Kim says:

    So exciting!! Will this be able to be modified to be a shorter length for wearing over dresses?

  16. garichild says:

    This is what I love about testing! The back and forth is what is needed when you are running to get a great fit!! Can’t wait for the final product.

  17. Ann Packard says:

    I appreciate the time and effort put in your pattern testing. One thing I noticed was a flare at the wrist on some of your testers. Now this could be a result of a sleeve too long, and can easily be remedied.

    Q – I am larger, but in no way do I have the bustline that most if your models have. Can you occasionally show some of your patterns on models with smaller bustlines?

  18. Meg says:

    The side view still looks like the front is short. I hope the sleeve/armscye issues are solved, I would be thrilled. Any attempt to adjust these has always turned out badly. Love the new lapel but the pocket welt looks awkwardly large.

  19. Laura says:

    I’m so glad that you pay your testers for their time and fabric. I find it a really odd part of the sewing industry that pattern designers expect folks to volunteer to test and usually only pay them with a free pattern. I can’t think of any other industry where testing your product for delivery to market is a free process.

  20. Christy says:

    Might there be a class accompanying the pattern?

  21. Ruth F Duvall says:

    Will the blazer pattern include a lining?

  22. Heidi Luotolahti-Pitkäranta says:

    Thank you for your hard work.
    I am not trying to be rude, but I am a bit frank. There is your money involved. The pattern must sell and carry the fabulous fame of Great patterns of cashmerette.
    Harrison shirt fits perfectly. Upton sits perfectly, on different bodies. Your cardigan has a fantastic fit. As do Cashmerette patterns in general. Why is the blazer so much inferior when it comes to fit? Is It hard to use the knowledge of Harrison and Upton to the pattern of blazer? Should the pattern of blazer be more simple? I sincerely have no idea. You shall find the answer. Maybe blazer is just so much more difficult when it comes to fit.
    I keep buying your fabulous patterns. They deserve their grand reputation as the best patterns on this planet.

    1. The Harrison Shirt took over 2 years to develop, and I believe the Upton Dress took nearly a year, so what you’re seeing is the normal progression of how long it takes to master a really great fit for curves in complicated patterns. We’re giving you a “behind the scenes” look in this series – not just the final result, so you’re comparing final patterns to one in progress.

      1. Heidi Luotolahti-Pitkäranta says:

        Thank you very much for your reply!
        As mentioned, I am a fan of Cashmerette patterns. I have 5 sewing machines (four Berninas as you seem to use it also) and have used Burda patterns most of my life, but now I consider Cashmerette to be the best available. I have Upton, Ames, Yoga, Monterose etc and am most eager to buy more. I buy several patterns a month also other than Burda or Cashmerette.
        My point actually was quite selfish. I cannot hack well enough to do a Harrison -based blazer. That would be simpler to sew than the classical one and would in my opinion look more fresh on me than the classic. Therefore I suggested you would put on your list also an extension pack of Harrison to have a different Harrison-based pattern with a blazerlike collar. Not a heavy- duty – blazer, but a lighter version. In my business we rarely need a classical blazer, but a light version would be most welcome.
        The classical blazer may not even finally be my cup of tea and therefore I may not see it the way a professional sees or someone who really wants the classic one. But I most eagerly would like the light-version.
        Anyway thank you for creating the best patterns on this very planet!

  23. Marvita says:

    You ladies rock! It’s great to see your process. I ordered the Harrison Shirt but haven’t made it yet. What I love is your attention to detail for curvy women. I purchased the FBA class and love it. Your content added a few details about FBA I hadn’t experienced before. Those small features can make all the difference between garments we love and those we tolerate (because we don’t want to throw away money…😉

Let me know what you think!