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Pattern Review: Brownie Goose “Junie”

My first Brownie Goose pattern!  Although I’ve purchased way too many pdfs over the past year, I still scan the new releases to see if there’s anything I “need”.  The “Junie” struck me as so very vintage-yet-fresh, simple-yet-clever….like something a frugal  housewife in the 1940’s would have made, using calico print from feedsacks, and making her own bias-tape when buttons were expensive and zippers reserved for the military effort. I had to have Miss Junie!


I always print the pattern pieces before the instructions, because that’s where I generally need to “tweak” things, and I ALWAYS tweak patterns. Not for style, but for drafting technique if I spot errors.  If you’d rather read a review from a true beta-tester, who makes up the pattern “as-is”, by all means join the Brownie Goose FB group.  But if you are interested in making good patterns better, keep reading.


(I love feedsack prints!)

First, the skirt: the pattern can be printed out, OR drafted from measurements. I always appreciate having options (some people like to print out and tape together the rectangle skirt piece, others find it  a waste of paper and ink). The instructions give a measurement chart for drafting 2 skirts, a lightly-gathered A-line and a fuller gathered A-line. However, both choices are in a trapezoidal shape.  My last post explained why a trapezoid is not the best skirt pattern shape, and how to adjust the pattern using the industry-standard “Slash-and-Spread” method:


Using this method, I graded a new curved-hem/curved waistline skirt pattern for all sizes:


For the fuller skirt, I’d skip the A-line entirely and make a basic rectangle-shape gathered skirt, by using the skirt length measurements on the chart, and the wide hem-sweep measurements on the chart (ignore the diagonal trapezoid entirely).

Now the Bodice: My “immediate-impression” comments:

  • Same armscye front/back (my pet peeve; we are not built the same front/back….the measurement across-back is always bigger than across-front, meaning the armscye in back should have less scoop/more coverage):


  • Different shaped armscye between sizes: they should be the same throughout the range, and should be “trued” so that when the side-seams are stitched, the resulting underarm shape is a smooth curve front-to-back. If you plan to only make one size, you may not care whether or not the shapes are consistent between sizes, however I sew to sell, and need the entire size range to be consistent in case customers order multiple sizes:


The armscye in the smaller sizes is almond-shaped: it’s not trued at the underarm/side-seam…it needs to be scooped out more in front so that the fabric won’t “cut” into the wearer’s arms as she reaches forward:


Next is Alpha-Testing: I want to make sure the pattern has been Measured/Walked/Trued:

  • Measured: pattern pieces when put together should have enough ease to fit the size chart comfortably
  • Walked: seams must match in length wherever they will be connected: front to back, left to right, bodice to skirt, etc
  • Trued: when seams are stitched, the resulting edge must be smooth and ready for the next sewing step; no jagged edges, dips, triangles to snip off

There are 2 size ranges: Girls 8 thru 12 (pattern has same raised-waist measure as chest), and Child 18 month thru 7 (larger raised-waist measure than chest)….which is fine, except that the placement of each size within the 2 nests is rather random:


and then the placements are so different front to back that in order to check the side-seams for matching measurements (“walking” the pattern) I have to get out a lightbox.  It’s nice that the size lines are in a range of colors, however some sizes have  two different colors (size 6 is pink in front, blue in back….size 7 is green in front, brown in back)) so that’s just another bit of confusion:


…so I have to walk each size with a measure tape, more time-consuming.

Here is why the sizes aren’t “nested”: the back is not graded from the Center-Back line. (The front IS graded from the Center-Front foldline). There is no Center Back vertical line indicated, only little arrows at the waist indicating where the Center-back is, and the Center-Back placement is different for each size. This makes it really tough to see if the gradations are smooth between sizes.

The grainline  is printed on the back piece, however it is not accurate because each size has a horizontal waistline drafted at a different angle….thus each size has its own grainline (marked in pencil, 90 degrees from the waistline):


I could print out each size separately, cut them out, re-nest them by coordinating the grainlines, then walk each size to check for matching seam-lengths/angles, but that would be seriously time-consuming.  It’s faster to re-grade all the sizes.

Starting with the front, I trace the largest size 12 which has a very nice shape: good French-curved armscye, smooth neckline, simple vertical side-seam. It’s a good pattern, just strange grading. Keeping the grainline and Center-Front placement consistent, I can grade down the side-seams by using the “Finished Chest” measurement chart included in the instructions (1″ grade up to size 8; 2″ grade for sizes 10 and 12; divide all by 4 for Left/Right/Front/Back). By maintaining the shoulder angle and armscye shapes, I can grade a nest of sizes (I probably wouldn’t grade such a wide size range in a fitted-bodice style, however for this loose-fitting design it should be okay):


The back draft begins by tracing the side-seams and shoulders from the front to a fresh sheet of pattern paper:


Then add in the back armscye with less scoop than the front, to allow for the wider measurement across-back than across-front:


I can’t show the whole pattern piece (Fair Use doctrine allows showing portions of the product for the purpose of product review) but I hope you get the idea. Now I’m ready to trace one size to make a muslin. I’m only making the bodice muslin since the skirt isn’t fitted:


Establishing the Center Back is important to check on the overlap:


I’m happy with the fit…but wondering if it’s going to be necessary to put elastic in the waist since there’s not much fullness to gather in…..and I have read some tester reviews saying they had trouble threading the elastic.

INSTRUCTIONS:  there are charts for body size measurements, finished garment measurement, yardage required…everything you need.  The directions are detailed and chatty, clearly showing when and where to stitch and to press.  This is what sewists  love about PDF-format, what distinguishes downloads from paper, and Brownie Goose does this very well.

There are some steps that I’ll change, and here’s why:

  • Armhole facings: it’s faster and easier to line the bodice, than to deal with facings (stitch, edge-finish, apply, press, under-stitch, and tack down). If you are using a heavy fabric such as a pique, then a lightweight facing would be appropriate, but with calicoes a full lining is just faster.
  • Waist elastic: I’m still not sure if I want elastic at all, however I can understand now why people in the tester-reviews are having difficulty with it: the instructions advise you to gather the skirt, stitch to the bodice, then press the seam allowance DOWN towards the skirt to create the elastic casing. The elastic casing will have one thin ungathered layer (bodice) and two thick gathered layers (skirt) (drawing on left).  Not only is this bulky, but it’s also difficult to get the elastic through gathered fabric with all the little nooks and crannies. Instead of you press the seam allowance UP you get two thin ungathered layers (bodice) and just one thick gathered layer (skirt) (drawing on right) and the elastic goes through two smooth fabric layers:


Moving on….I cut out the bodice, bodice lining, and skirt pieces.


Stitched together the bodice front-to-backs at shoulders. Stitched bodice to lining at armscyes, turned inside out, pressed:


Next step: BIAS TAPE-MAKING:  The Junie pattern includes a lesson for making bias tape, but it’s the “cut strips” method which I find annoying to do, because it’s so easy to get the strips matched up unevenly when stitching together.  It is MUCH easier to use the  continuous strip method:



The bias-tape neckline construction is essentially the same as the Naples dress from Jennuine design, but backwards (ties in back instead of front). Easy-peasy:


Adding the bodice lining changes the sequence-of-stitching: time to sew the bodice to bodice-lining:


It’s a sweet design but to me it looks like not “enough”.  Maybe a pocket?


That would also prevent the kiddos from getting themselves dressed backwards!

POCKET PLACEMENT: here’s a handy guide for how to measure where to place the top edge of a patch pocket (just be sure measure from child’s neck at collarbone center-front, do NOT measure dress from neckline, as neckline depth varies according to style):


If you don’t have a fit model available, you’ll have to “eyeball” where the collarbone lies to get pocket placement:


Skirt sewing, and stitching to bodice, is straightforward. The last step is creating the waist tunnel and threading elastic through. This is the step I would flip around, pressing the waist seam allowance UP towards the bodice instead of DOWN towards the skirt.  Less bulky, and easier to thread the elastic through:


After stitching the casing down, I check again and decide against the elastic.  I like it without:


All in all, it’s a light-and-breezy summer dress that gives you lots of color-combo options….a quick and easy sewing project!


  • Tibeca

    I really just wish you would draft all the patterns and sell them. I’d buy them in an instant. It would save my EONS of work. Even if you sold pattern pieces but not instructions, I would still buy it.

  • knitbunnie

    I should stop reading your BLOG. Now I want to fix all the patterns. You are wonderful!

  • Rosie

    Great review. You are far more patient that I would have been with this pattern. I’d rather twak at Big 4 that I picked up for $1 than redraft an indie.

    Illustrator really isn’t too hard. 🙂 I think the chatty instructions are why I really dislike PDFs (besides the drafting that has to be fixed… if I paid $8 for this, I shouldn’t have to redraft it. Tweak for fit, sure. But redraft, no). The chatty drives me bonkers. I counted once: a pattern I was using use 54 words to tell me to run gathering stitches, gather the skirt to fit the bodice and stitch it together. I want my directions clear, concise, technical and only detailed where needed for clarity.

  • [email protected]

    How about the chatty instructions that end with “Wow, you did it! Good for you!” … if we were in kindergarten. I understand that many sewists do love the “hand-holding”, but it can be taken too far. (I do need to just make the time to learn Illustrator!)

  • Kate

    Another excellent post.

    I think almost the entire PDF pattern world should be locked into a room with you and not let out it until they have learned how to draft properly.

    Personally I chucked Brownie Goose on to the wouldn’t touch with a barge pole pile a long time ago, you are far more patient than I. To my mind patterns like this can never fall into good pattern territory as the average sewer doesn’t have the expertise either spot the problems or make the necessary changes and more to the point they shouldn’t have to.

  • [email protected]

    Hi Kate! It seems there are many highly talented and creative designers, and not nearly enough pattern engineers. Sadly, as manufacturing moves overseas, so does the patternmaking…leaving fewer instructors in the west to teach drafting, and fewer on-the-job opportunities to learn. Serious indie patternmakers in the U.S. attend Kathleen Fasanella’s bootcamps, but not everybody has the time and funds to do that. I wish there was a quick and easy way for designers to learn patternmaking so that they could “do it all”!

  • [email protected]

    Hi Rita! I actually have thought of that at times…and also of learning to use Illustrator myself. I’ve heard mixed reviews of Lauren Dahl’s workshop, but it’s something I’m definitely considering!

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