Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Tale of Two Blazers: A Comparison Between M6172 and S2446

Well, hello there!

Since my last post, I've been busy making 2 blazers.  My friend Shar jokingly told me that I'm on the "Blazer a Month" program after I shared my sewing plans with her, and she's not far wrong!  I've got several more planned.  Although I'm not quite sure I need a dozen in my closet - that's probably overkill for a housewife!  But they are just so darn fun to make - most of the time.


I started the new year with a second, and very successful, version of McCall's 6172.  This second blazer was hand-tailored.  Gosh, was that a blast!  (Obviously, you have to love hand stitching to find that fun, which I do.)  And the result was a jacket that is so perfectly molded to my body, it just feels like a dream every time I slip it on.  I posted several pictures in-progress on Instagram, as well as pictures of the finished jacket.  Alas, although I've worn it a few times, I have yet to remember to take a picture of myself wearing it!  One of these days . . .



This month, I moved on to Simplicity 2446, one of the Amazing Fit patterns.  Back in September, when I was getting ready for Bourbon and Blazers, I pulled out all my blazer patterns - I've accumulated quite a few thanks to those $1 pattern sales.  After perusing all of them, I narrowed my choices down to M6172 and S2446.  Style-wise, they're pretty similar.  I ended up starting with the McCall's pattern, mostly because it uses the Palmer-Pletsch fitting method with which I'm already very familiar. 

But I wanted to try them both, so I kept the Simplicity pattern out.  And in December, I ended up buying 2 kits for this blazer from Craftsy, for a whopping $25 each.  A pretty good deal, as the kit contains the pattern, the outer fabric and the lining.  I purchased the lavender kit still available here, and the navy blue shown in the pictures.  I resolved that these 2 would be my February and March blazers this year.

. . . (cue ominous music) . . .

I finished up my lavender blazer the other day, and while it's OK, it is nowhere near as fabulous nor as comfortable as my McCall's blazers.  This pattern just doesn't work for me, and I won't likely be making it again.  It confused me, honestly, because just about every review I've seen of this pattern has been overwhelmingly positive.  Maybe I'm just nitpicking?  But I figure:  I have a pattern that is perfect for me, so I really don't need to settle for second best.  I tried it; it's OK; I'll wear it.  But I won't love it like I do my McCall's blazers.


All the while I was making this blazer, I kept thinking that in my book the McCall's is a far superior pattern.  I decided to do a little comparison in case anyone was interested in the difference between the two.  I realize that my tailoring audience is probably pretty small, so if you have no interest in this sort of thing, you may stop reading now (if you haven't already).

Here's a table I made of the key aspects of each pattern:


Let's look at them in depth, shall we?

Fitting helps

If you've read any of the Palmer-Pletsch books and used those fitting methods, M6172 will be very familiar.  The first couple pages are a distilled version of all the adjustments you might need to make on this blazer.  You start with a tissue fitting, and then work your way through all the adjustments one by one; most of these are slash-and-spread adjustments.

The fitting method for S2446 is, for the most part, to take in or let out the princess seams.  There is a table to help you determine which cup size you need, and the side front piece comes in A, B, C and D cups.  All other adjustments are made to the 1" seam allowances on the vertical seams.

If your adjustments are mostly to the circumference of a garment, this is probably enough.  My personal adjustments are trickier though.  Because of my sway back and low round back, I ended up having to convert the center back from "cut on fold" to a seam.  I was able to adjust for my broad back along the back princess seam, but I felt that this doesn't give me as good a fit as the usual slash-and-spread I do. 

bust adjustment from M6172

I think that for anyone needing a small- or full bust adjustment, the McCall's pattern offers more precision, because it uses a slash-and-spread (or tuck) adjustment for the bust in addition to the princess seam.  I ended up using the B cup side front on the Simplicity pattern, but had to redraw the bust curve because it was too high for me.

Construction

If you think you might want to try out traditional tailoring, I'd recommend the McCall's pattern.  The instructions are for a traditionally inserted lining, which involves plenty of hand-stitching.  I didn't feel the instructions were enough though, either with the RTW version of my first blazer or the hand-tailoring of my second blazer - I spent a lot of time referring to my tailoring book and the Craftsy class on tailoring for both garments.  But I didn't feel the instructions for the bagged lining on the Simplicity pattern were clear at all.  And honestly, by the time I got to that point I was really ready to be done with this jacket so I didn't get out my book on lining to help figure it out - I just reverted to doing it by hand, which is default for me.

I was really surprised that although I'd made two blazers previously, I found the construction of the Simplicity blazer quite difficult.  Part of it was those 1" seam allowances.  After my tissue fitting, I went back and re-traced all my pieces so that everything had consistent 5/8" allowances.  But I also felt the instructions were hard to understand and follow; some of the terminology is different from what I'm used to, and the sewing instructions are interrupted with fitting instructions throughout.  On the McCall's pattern, all the fitting is on the first couple pages; after that, it's all construction.

The Simplicity jacket was rendered even more difficult by the fact that some of the notches didn't match up.  The most egregious error was the fact that the seam which attaches the under sleeve to the upper sleeve doesn't match up at all at the armhole - I ended up having to trim some away.


The markings on the Simplicity pattern are minimal - no roll lines for either collar or lapel.  If you wanted to hand tailor this jacket, you'd have to add those in yourself.  The lack of these markings left me unsure where to fold back my lapel when the jacket was done.


For me, probably the biggest strike against the Simplicity pattern is the sleeve caps.  The shape of the cap is tall and thin compared to the McCall's pattern; this gives the sleeve too much ease to go into the armscye nicely.  I'm pretty good at setting in sleeves, but this one was ridiculously hard.  I spent close to 3 hours just attaching the sleeves, and they're still not ideal.  Because of the extra ease, the sleeve sits up off the shoulder a bit - not a look I'm fond of.  And there was so much excess fabric in the seam allowance, I ended up having to notch it so my shoulder wouldn't look lumpy on the outside.


Sticky-uppy sleeve at shoulder.  Yuck.

Here's a picture comparing the sleeve caps of M6172 (on bottom) and S2446 (on top).  The pattern pieces are not aligned, so that you can see how much more extreme the curve of the Simplicity piece is.


Details

The Simplicity pattern does include sleeve vents, although as written, they are not functional.  Neither are those cute flap pockets - they're not pockets at all, just flaps sewn to the front of the blazer!  Call me a stickler, but even though I don't use the welt pockets on my McCall's blazers (they're still tacked shut!), if I'm going to the trouble of making a blazer, it needs to have the proper finishes.  There are in-seam pockets on the longer version of the Simplicity pattern, and I think they're pretty cute; however, the reviews I read did say they are too small to be useful.  I made the short version of the jacket, and because I didn't want fake flaps, I left pockets off altogether.

I did make the sleeve vents on my Simplicity blazer, and although they cannot be opened, they are cute.  I chose not to add that detail to my McCall's blazers because I usually find the buttons to be bothersome when I'm sitting with my hands or arms on a table or when putting on my winter coat over the blazer.  But since they were already included on the Simplicity pattern and I'd never done it before, I gave it a go.  This part of the pattern is quite nicely drafted, I think - it includes an angled cut to make a miter which I think is pretty foolproof.


At first glance, these two blazers look almost identical, save for slightly different lapel shapes.  However, I think the difference between shoulder princess and armhole princess seams may be important to fitting.  I'm planning on researching that a bit, because I had much better luck with the latter.

Conclusion

Well, I think my preference is clear!  I know a lot of folks have had great success with S2446.  Alas, I am not one of those people.  I'll be using my McCall's pattern on the navy blue kit next month.

That said, I love the color of the Simplicity blazer.  I really bought it to use as a muslin for this pattern, but discovered that I can make lots of nice outfits with it!  Lavender goes with a lot of colors - who knew?   So I will be wearing this one this spring.

Have any of you used either (or both) of these patterns?  Do you have any information to add to this review?  I'd be very curious to hear others' experiences with these.

40 comments:

  1. Great review! I love the side-by-side comparison chart. I'm always so hesitant to try a new pattern when I already have one that fits well. Starting over can be maddening! I'll be sticking with McCalls blazer myself. I've had really good luck with McCalls patterns in general, so I always look there first.

    Anyways, both blazers look fantastic! Especially the hand-tailored version. I really love the contrast collar and pocket flaps. Can't wait to see the next monthly installment of blazers! :)

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    1. Hmm, interesting that you prefer McCall's over others. I tend to think all the Big 4 patterns are pretty much the same, but maybe not?

      And thank you. I'm very proud of the hand-tailored blazer. It is perfect. And I mean Patrick Grant perfect ;-)

      Next month: navy! I have to wait until some of the winter gloom clears so I can see what I'm doing!

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  2. I've not used either but own both. And have looked at the two of them and B4610 as options for my first traditional blazer. Hmmm. Maybe I'll start with M6172 since it has the PP fitting advice.

    I love both and agree that the lavender is perfect for spring and will pair well with lots of other things!

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    1. Thank you! I think the M6172 will be a great starting point for you because you are used to tissue fitting, and you've just gotten the PP book, so you won't have to learn anything new, fitting-wise.

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  3. What a great in-depth post! I do really like that lavender color, I bet you'll get a lot of wear when it finally warms up. I have to admit, I'm really not one for blazers. I have a RTW one that I got on mega sale and I wear it more like a fall jacket, and it's about the only one I can think of in my closet. I always enjoy seeing others post about sewing them, however. Your experiences does go to show that just because a lot of people are fond of a pattern doesn't mean it works well (either fitting, construction or what-have-you) for all.

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    1. Wait a minute - you mean you don't have a reproduction of a Dior Bar Suit in your closet?! ;-)

      I have no idea why I love blazers so much, but I do. It probably has something to do with the perfect fit that has always eluded me in RTW and which is now attainable. But like you, I do tend to wear them as jackets/outerwear.

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  4. Very interesting post, especially since I bought the simplicity pattern last weekend. I don't think I've ever used a pattern that has had much information about fitting within the instructions, so the lack of that information isn't an issue for me as I wouldn't expect it.

    I am disappointed by the pockets in the simplicity, but knew that going in (thanks to you), so am prepared to add them. Good tip about the sleeve caps though.

    One thing I'm pondering with mine is the level of tailoring I want to do. I've watched the craftsy course and like the idea of trying the pad stitching etc, but I'm concerned that adding the horsehair will make it too stiff in the front, especially since my wool is fairly lightweight. Do you have any tips from your experience? Since you've done a few different methods now

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    1. I never had used any patterns with fitting information in the instructions either. However, these two are from lines which focus on fitting, so it was interesting to me to see how the 2 companies differed. Yes - do be careful of those sleeve caps. It wouldn't be too hard to change them, and if it were the only problem for me with this pattern I probably would. But the entire armscye doesn't fit me well either.

      I didn't know this until I went to buy the hair canvas, but it comes in different weights! My store had 3 weights; my wool was medium weight so I went with the medium one. It's much more supple than I imagined it would be. I think that if you can find a lightweight hair canvas, you would be OK with your thinner wool. I was half expecting the jacket front to be armor-like, but it really bends and drapes quite nicely.

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    2. That's good to know. I shall have to investigate my hair canvas options in that case, hopefully I can find something lightweight.

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  5. So, like I mentioned to you earlier, I had that problem with the under and upper sleeve seams - but what I forgot was that at the time, I thought I must have cut something incorrectly. I feel vindicated now - about that also about those sleeve caps! I had *such* a terrible time with them, and it really discouraged me. I am relieved to hear that it wasn't just me. Also, I couldn't make heads or tails of the lining instructions in the Simplicity pattern. I used Jen Beeman's tutorial on bagging a lining. I was still confused on a couple minor points and I think I'd benefit from a video, but her tutorial got the job done. I am definitely going to try the McCall's pattern next.

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    1. Yeah . . . I thought it must be my error too on the sleeve seam, so I even went back to the original tissue to check that I hadn't missed trimming a seam. Nope - that's the way the pattern was drafted. And I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who couldn't figure out those lining instructions!! I think you will find the McCall's pattern a refreshing change!

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  6. Really interesting post Gail. I've never made a blazer, and am not sure I would (I'm not really a "blazer person") but I loved reading your comparison of the 2 patterns anyway. If I was ever to make a blazer, I'd pick the McCalls pattern based on your reviews.

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    1. Thanks, Sam! Honestly, I'm surprised to see how many people find this interesting!! I really had 3 people in mind when I wrote it, all of whom I've had recent conversations with regarding these two patterns. So I'm glad there's a wider audience, because it took me a long time to write this post!!

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  7. Amazing post Gail! Thank you for doing such an in depth review. I currently have a Bogue and a Butterick blazer pattern and will be looking at them closely before choosing. Though I may go get the McCalls pattern anyway. Your tip about the sleeve cap may be enough to convert me. Your blazers are gorgeous!! So well done. I would love to see a pic of them on!

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    1. Thank you so much, Margo! I have never used a Vogue pattern (although I own plenty of them!) so I'm interested in giving the Vogue blazer pattern I bought recently a try. I'm also planning on trying some Burda patterns, just to see how the fit differs.

      I'm hoping to get some photos eventually. But I have to admit it's my very least favorite thing about blogging!

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  8. These are so beautiful! I really want to try out hand tailoring a blazer.. Just need to find the time! Great job! I love the comparison as well. Very useful :)

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    1. Thanks, Monica! I have really fallen in love with tailoring. I think that for me, knowing that I won't be able to finish the project quickly enables me to just take my time and enjoy all the handwork. I didn't feel rushed at all when I made the brown blazer.

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  9. Your brown blazer is simply gorgeous. I found that a Simplicity coat pattern I muslined last year was also missing the roll line. As a beginning coat maker, I found the prospect of adding my own off-putting. I wish pattern companies were as detailed as you with their descriptions!

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    1. Thank you, Morgan! I feel a teensy bit curmudgeonly insisting that a pattern I paid $1 for contain all the information :-) And I know I could have just chosen a position for the roll line and put it on myself. It just surprised me, since my frame of reference was the much more thorough pattern.

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  10. Great post - I love your grid comparing the two patterns. I really believe that adjusting for length is necessary to get a good fit - if the depth isn't in the right place, no amount of adjusting circumference will fix it! And Amen to center back seams - I love them! I thought of you over the weekend because I received an Alabama Chanin gift certificate for my birthday. I'm having a hard time deciding which kit to purchase! I'm town between a skirt and a corset. Do you know if the fabric come pre-cut for a particular size?

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    1. Thank you! I've been teaching myself all kinds of computery stuff lately, so I'm quite proud of my table :-)

      Ooooh, lucky you! What a great birthday gift! The pieces in the kits do come pre-cut to a size. I think you can order custom kits if you need to blend sizes, otherwise you have to order straight sizes, e.g. S, M or L. I find the sizing to be smaller than other companies. I'm a M up top in AC, and everywhere else, both RTW and sewing patterns, usually an XS or S. That said, the AC sizing fits me well because the shaping is curvy. The size M kit for a sleeveless shell I got fit me fine in the waist and high hip, although when I've traced patterns from the book I grade out at the hip to a L.

      If you have any of the AC books, take a look at the sizing charts and maybe even measure some of the sewing patterns. That's what I did to determine my size for the kits, and it's worked well for me so far.

      I'll look forward to seeing which you choose!

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  11. OK, so, I really need to see photos of you in both blazers!!! You know, for science and whatnot? :)

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    1. I know - I'm so lame. Right now I can blame it on the lack of good light. But that excuse is going to disappear soon (I hope!)

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  12. I really enjoyed this post. I have the Simplicity pattern, but think I'll pick up the McCalls based on the sleeve cap difference you discovered. I have a hard enough time with sleeves, no need to make it more difficult. ;)

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    1. Thank you, Marrie! I'm sure you could fix the sleeve cap, and because you already have experience with tailoring the rest probably wouldn't be too hard for you. I do find it interesting how different patterns seem to work (fit-wise) for different people/body shapes. I'm hoping that in the next few months, I can report on Burda and Vogue too.

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  13. You've been a busy tailor these past months - no wonder you took time off from blogging!

    The McCalls blazer actually looks better-fitted even on the hanger, though appearance on the hanger can be deceptive, I know. So you've given me a good steer on pattern buying; now all I need are improved sewing skills. ;)
    -- stashdragon

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    1. Well, the time off was more a function of getting a bit bored with blogging and not really having much to say anyway :-) Since I'm making a lot of repeats these days, I don't feel like I need or want to post about each item.

      And you're right, the McCall's blazer is much better fitted.

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  14. Wow Gail! I love comparison posts :) you did a great job tackling each one and giving us the pros and cons. I'm not much of a jacket wearer, but if I ever sew one I'm saving this review for reference :D They both look great, but that lavender one is soo pretty!

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    1. Thanks, Kristin! I've been loving wearing the wool one, and I'm really looking forward to wearing the lavender one too once spring comes!

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  15. Love your brown jacket - I'm really keen to see it on you! Beautiful work and such an interesting comparison! Thanks for being so thorough.

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. I love my brown jacket too - it lives on that dresser front so I can see it all the time :-) It is truly the best thing I've ever made. I will eventually post pictures of it on :-)

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  16. Gail thanks so much for this comparison. I must admit in terms of style/design I like the Simplicity pattern better. Incidentally I did make the same pattern last year. I don't know if you ever saw it http://sewingprincess.com/sewingprincess/2013/12/very-british-herringbone-orange-wool-simplicity-2446-amazing-fit-misses-jacket/

    I did have the same sticky-uppy sleeve issue. my reasoning was i shouldn't have used a shoulder pad...but never compared the sleeve cap as you did.
    I also had another problem...I stupidly forgot to add a pleat to the lining...so it feels a lot tighter than it did before adding the lining. Indeed the pattern instructions don't mention that!
    Well sizing is also an issue. Having made another Simplicity pattern I knew I had to go two sizes down. So all in all I did like the pattern, but would change those two things if I were to make it again.
    I've never tried any McCall's pattern...now I am curious ;o)

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    1. I did see your post when you made your jacket, and I went back and read it again when I made this one. I think yours turned out SO much better than mine, and I wondered if it was because you used wool (which is more malleable than the cotton twill I used).

      You're right about the pattern not calling for adding a pleat for the lining! I didn't notice that because I had to add one in order to cut my lining on the fold, since I had a very curved center back seam. Also, since many of my fitting issues are in my back, I had learned about this before.

      I like the styling of both. I think the shape of the lapel can really change the look of a blazer, and that's what is inspiring me to try out different patterns.

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  17. Gorgeous jackets, both of them. I have both patterns and have been trying to decide which one to tackle first and your post is so amazingly helpful. Thanks so much!

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    1. Glad this was helpful for you :-) I have seen some lovely versions of the Simplicity pattern out there; it just didn't work very well for me with all the fitting adjustments I have to do. I'll look forward to seeing one or the other of blazers from you!

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  18. Hi, I'm reading this for the first time and really appreciate your comparison which really pinpoints what I've wondered about for a long time. Thank you, Lynda (Toronto, Canada)

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  19. This is a very well written comparison of the two patterns, thank you. Please don't be too harsh on the look of your sleeve head. It’s referred to as a Rope Shoulder because the sleeve-head stands above the shoulder line as though draped over rope. As you have found out, with little, if any, padding in the shoulder, the rise is created by the upper sleeve being cut larger than the armscye (armhole). The excess cloth, plus the stitching and pressing of the seams between sleeve and shoulder create the ‘puff’. I would surmise this is the style look the Simplicity pattern drafters were aiming for. It's a shame you don't like it, as you have executed it well, and it looks very good on your blazer.

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    1. Thank you for your comments! I have to admit that I'm a little harsh on the rope shoulder because it's just not a look I like. At the time I was also disappointed because on the pattern envelope, the shoulder does not appear to be roped, and some of the photos I viewed of others' blazers did not have this feature. However, I did not read all the reviews - it could be that some people altered their sleeve caps to reduce this excess.

      That said, I have actually worn this blazer far more than I originally thought I would! It's become a favorite despite the less-than-stellar fit. I recently revisited this pattern (unblogged) and found that my fabric choice may also have had something to do with the difficulty in setting in the sleeve: my new blazer used a stretch sateen instead of the non-stretch twill of this version. Although there is still a little fullness at the shoulder of my new blazer, it's not nearly as much as this lavender one, and it went in much easier. (Also, I've made a lot of blazers over the last year so I'm much more practiced!) Always learning - I find all this to be so fascinating.

      My new blazer gave me a better appreciation of this pattern. The sleeve vent is really lovely, and I think the dart at the collar makes the collar construction so clever. For my purposes, I still like the McCall's pattern better, but it's always nice to have alternatives in one's pattern library. The body and lapel shape of this pattern suited my vision for my new blazer better than the McCall's did, and it was so convenient to have the pattern all ready to go!

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