Pattern Reviews,  Sewing Tips

Pattern Review: LLK “Sorrento”

5/6/2019 I’m updating this review today, due to comments from the pattern company. I reprinted the pattern using a different printer and found a slight difference in size, which is good because the adjustments I had made before were confusing. About the pattern grading: LLK grades literally from the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) chart developed by the Alvanon research firm. This is a general guideline of average body shapes and sizes. ASTM uses measurements rounded off to the nearest quarter-inch, with some uneven jumps between sizes….meaning that if sewing patterns are used straight from these charts, the patterns themselves will automatically have jumpy grading. As I’ve posted before, I much prefer consistent grading rules that because that’s what I am accustomed to from working in the garment industry, and because consistent grade increases make choosing the right size (and mashing sizes) easier.

Every company I’ve worked with has developed their own signature size chart, with dress-forms custom-made to match. As garment production expert Kathleen Fasanella explains, apparel businesses can do this, or use the size chart from their favorite drafting textbook, or use the off-the-shelf “average body” charts provided by ASTM: https://fashion-incubator.com/how_to_get_sizing_and_grading_standards/

It’s a personal choice. You can read in the comments section of this post that ” At LLK, we unanimously agreed, that we love “uneven” grading because it allows us to grade specifically to the ASTM charts. “

I tend to agree more with professional patternmaker Betsy Cook , who says ” Too often someone will give me an ASTM size chart for their sizing and “grading”. A small part of me dies. You can’t use ASTM for a grade rule …


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Whenever trying out a “new-to-you” pattern designer, it’s helpful to study one of their most basic designs first, so that you can see if you like the fit, draping, grading, instructions…or whatever is most important to you as a sewist. If adjustments are needed, it’s easier to do this on a simple design, then you can make the same adjustment to that designer’s more complicated patterns. (Note: this is assuming that the designer uses consistent fitting blocks and standardized body measurements.)

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Little Lizard King is a “new-to-me” design company, and this week I tried out this very basic sleeveless pullover dress, “Sorrento”:

After printing out and taping together the pattern, my initial impression was that the drafting looked good, the shapes are lovely, this could be a really useful basic block pattern. Next I checked the pattern measurements.

WIDTH: Since the skirt is unfitted, I focused on the fit of the bodice. The grading is slightly “jumpy” ie; the grade amount is inconsistent between sizes because LLK grades literally from the ASTM ….except that they exclude size 6X so there is big jump from size 6 to size 7. Here is the bodice side-seam grade (Sorrento on the right, another designer with even grading on the left):

Can you use the pattern “as is”? Sure, especially if you’re making it in just one size. I prefer grading according to consistent rules for these reasons:

  • if you are going to make multiple sizes, such as for siblings (or to sell), you’ll want the proportions to be consistent
  • every child has growth spurts at different ages, so it’s easier to fit if you know that the next-size-up has a consistent increase; you can better predict if one size up will work, or if you should skip a size
  • if you mash sizes, you need accuracy in going up or down a size

For example. look at this size-mashing I just saw on Instagram:


https://www.instagram.com/p/Bw4zLWnAleX/

This is a new (May 7, 2019 release) pattern from Cali Faye Collection. See how easy it is to combine different sizes when the grade “rule” (measurement increase) is consistent across the size range? This grade is super-professional: it has one set of rules for the first 6 sizes, then a slightly bigger rule for the last 5 sizes, which reflects the need for greater proportional increase as 3-dimensional objects increase in volume.

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For my own use I re-graded the pattern to have a consistent 3/8″ grade from sizes 6 through 14:

Then I re-graded the smaller sizes to a consistent 1/4″ grade:

I made the same adjustments for the back bodice. So now there are two grade rules: 3/8″ for the bigger girls sizes, and 1/4″ for toddler and little girls sizes.

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LENGTH:

I smoothed out the skirt pattern jumpiness so that the grade rules are 3/4″ length between the baby sizes, then 1″ length in toddler sizes and 1 1/2″ length in girls sizes:

It was confusing to figure out the total dress length (skirt plus bodice plus straps) because the finished length measurements chart is taken from center-front NECKLINE TO HEM. What I really need to work with is a finished garment measurement from SHOULDER TO HEM. You can’t measure your model “from the garment neckline” because that is a style point, not a body point. Necklines change with every style.

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5/6/2-19: the pattern has been updated with Finished Length measured from the shoulder to hem.

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SEWING: Time to make a test garment. I traced the pattern (I tested size 6 since it’s in the middle of the range) and cut out a basic muslin:

The stitching instructions are straightforward and complete. They use photos for the tutorial, which is fine (I prefer line drawings but I know they are very time-consuming to create.).

WIDTH: The finished size 6 muslin-test-garment measures about 28″ across-chest, which is enough “fitting ease” for getting dressed over-the-head without any placket openings.

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LENGTH:

On the dress-form, the fit and proportions for this size looks fine to me. I did recheck the shoulder-to-hem length grades by size and found that as the sizes go up, the proportion of skirt-to-bodice increases. The infant sizes are about equal length skirt-to-bodice, but by the time you get to sizes 12 and 14 the skirts are almost double the length of the bodice. I went back to the Little Lizard King site to see the tester photos: the proportions are different for babies and toddlers as compared to the older girls. Maybe the skirts do look better when longer on the older girls….but if you’re selling online it’s helpful to note what size your sample photo is, and mention that the skirt proportions increase in length with size.

Alternatively, the top-to-skirt proportions could be affected by a bodice length grade rule that may too small: as the sizes go up, the bodice lengths are proportionately shorter (as compared to the full length of the dress).

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Typically a size 12 months shoulder-to-waist is 8″ and the pattern is fine:

For size 14 the shoulder-to-waist would typically be 14″, and the pattern seems short to me:

So I regraded the bodice pattern by length, increasing the grade rule to 3/16″ between toddler sizes and 1/4″ between girls sizes. Original grading in hand, newly drawn in grading on the table:

For my taste, the length proportions between bodice and skirt now look more balanced throughout the size range. The skirts are still proportionately longer as the sizes go up, but now the bodice isn’t too short in the bigger girls sizes.

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SEWING: Onto the real sample: I up-cycled a set of vintage kitchen curtains from the thrift shop:

Instead of using the little shoulder-strap pattern, I switched to longer ties. This adjustability makes it easier to get the right fit for your child, and also makes it more accommodating to pass down to another child whose proportions might differ slightly:

Each strap is 15″ long:

Here is the final dress. Next time I might add a pop of color with a contrast casing fabric for the elastic at the waist.

Construction note: The pattern also comes with a measure chart to make a gathered skirt, however the instructional photos do not show the construction steps for that version: stitching on the waistband casing and threading the elastic through. Personally I find an elastic casing using already-gathered fabric to be bulky and difficult to insert the elastic. On the Sorrento, if I wanted a gathered skirt (let’s say I had a border print fabric) I would use the circle skirt pattern pieces cropped to make a short skirt yoke, then attach the gathered skirt to the dropped waist.)

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“Sorrento” is a good basic design with so many possibilities. I’m working on a gathered skirt hack…..coming up soon!

Happy Sewing!

Janet

4 Comments

  • Bev

    I can’t believe my good fortune! I just started planning a Sorrento for my granddaughter and thought I would check your blog to see if I might find some wisdom I could apply. Last year I made the London dress by Violet Fields Threads and found your grading to be spot on. And there it was!! Like you, I don’t like a gathered skirt with an elastic waist, but have this beautiful border print and can’t do the circle skirt. I would never have thought to make a yoke with the circle skirt piece and attach the skirt to it …Thank you for the inspiration!

  • [email protected]

    This IS fortunate timing! If you look at Violet Fields Threads “Oaklyn”, it has a drop-waist with a gathered skirt, this is kind of the skirt proportion I was thinking of, except the yoke would be a circle-skirt instead of a gathered skirt (if that makes sense!) It’s just an idea in my head right now…….

  • Natasha

    Thanks for the time you have taken to make the Sorrento pattern and post your review. We like constructive feedback and always welcome it.

    Many of your measurements used to calculate the lengths are incorrect / inaccurate. I believe this is why you found the pattern didn’t add up mathematically to match the lengths in the pattern. Did you check your one inch square? Perhaps it hasn’t been printed correctly.

    For example – the actual measurements compared to your measurements used for your calculations.

    Strap Lengths (in brackets, halved measurement):
    12m: 3 1/2 (1 3/4) – your measurement: 1 3/8
    18m: 3 3/4 (1 7/8) – your measurement: 1 1/2
    2: 4 (2) – your measurement: 1 5/8
    3: 4 1/4 (2 1/8) – your measurement: 1 3/4
    4: 4 1/2 (2 1/4) – your measurement: 2
    5: 4 3/4 (2 3/8) – your measurement: 2 1/4
    6: 5 (2 1/2) – your measurement: 2 3/8
    7: 5 1/4 (2 5/8) – your measurement: 2 1/2
    8: 5 1/2 (2 3/4) – your measurement: 2 3/4
    10: 5 3/4 (2 7/8) – your measurement: 2 3/4
    12: 6 (3) – your measurement: 2 7/8
    14: 6 1/4 (3 1/8) – your measurement: 2 7/8

    There are variances in your other measurements too, however the pattern does in fact match the lengths when the pattern is printed. We do plan to update the pattern with a shoulder to hem length though!

    The LLK patterns are graded for standard sizes by age. LLK used the ASTM charts (like many companies) as a guide. At LLK, we unanimously agreed, that we love “uneven” grading because it allows us to grade specifically to the ASTM charts.
    We do realize there are smaller sizes increases between sizes 18, 2 and 3 and a big jump between 6 and 7. We realize not all children follow this growth trend, but the studies done to produce these tables, show that the average girl does. However, because we draft specifically to the ASTM charts, and show in the tutorial how to blend if in between sizes, etc. It allows for the same fit to be reproduced over and over for children of all different sizes and ages every time the pattern is made.

    I always enjoy reading your blog! Thanks for supporting LLK!

  • [email protected]

    Hi Natasha! You are right, my printer was slightly off, I’ve reprinted on a different printer and updated the post. As far as grading, obviously you can set any size standards you want, and any grade as you prefer. I will always look for consistent grade rules, it’s in my DNA. Thanks for adding shoulder-to-hem lengths! Best regards, Janet

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