I don't do this sort of thing often on the blog, but I thought this was too interesting to pass up, even if the photos are a bit boring. Next week--back to prettiness :)
"Block" is the industry term for what home sewers (that's me!) call a "sloper," which is the basic pattern used to make garments. For example, if I took a billion measurements and made an Allie-sized bodice sloper, then I could make lots of design changes to the sloper (add ease, rotate darts, move neckline, etc.) and it would look totally different, but still fit me. Although I wish everyone used Allie-shaped slopers, most professional pattern companies use a standard block made to fit industry-standard measurements (although some do their own thing, i.e. Sewaholic's block is pear-shaped, SBCC's block is petite, etc.).
What does this have to do with Colette? Well, it has been rumored that the old Colette block was not based on an industry-standard figure, but was in fact Sarai-sized, designed to fit the founder. Naturally, if I had a pattern company, I'd want the patterns to fit me, too! Now, think about all the changes you have to make to a standard-sized pattern to get it to fit your individual, non-standard body. Maybe you have to bring up the waist, do an FBA, a narrow shoulder adjustment, a flat butt adjustment... you get the idea. If you know you are working from a standard block, you know you will probably have to do a certain set of adjustments. On the other hand, if the patternmaker is not clear about their block, you can not know what adjustments you will or will not have to make. Using Sewaholic (pear-shaped block) and Simplicity (industry-standard block) as an example, I know that when making Simplicity patterns I will generally have to grade up in the hips, and maybe even do a small bust adjustment (SBA). Because Sewaholic tells you that their patterns are for pear-shaped figures (like mine) I know that I do not have to make those adjustments--they are built in! Neither of these are bad, because I know the shape of the pattern and I know my body, and I can help those two things line up. If half of that equation is missing, and there is not clarity about the block the patterns are built on, you can't help the patterns line up with your body without lots of trial and error. Trial and error is tough on beginners, especially if they buy sewing patterns hailed as "patterns that teach" but that don't provide them with the appropriate tools.
Back to Sorbetto! I was super curious about the new Sorbetto, because although they've talked a lot about changing their block, they haven't said much on who it is designed to fit! (Here is Colette's post about their new block and the process they have been using to improve it.) Industry standard, or...? Let's find out! In the interest of science, I made two Sorbettos--one version of old Sorbetto, and one version of new Sorbetto, v.1, which is the version with identical style lines. Looking at the old and new size charts, you can see that the body measurements are identical through size 16, and put me in a size 2 for the bust, a 4 in the waist, and a 6 for the hips in both patterns. In the interests of science, I didn't do any pattern adjustments in either pattern besides grading between sizes, but by looking at the complete garment measurements I could tell there would be noticeable differences in fit, even before I started sewing! The new Sorbetto is has 1 7/8" more ease in the bust and 2 1/8" more ease in the hips, in addition to being 3/8" longer than the original. For reference, here's the old size chart:
New Sorbetto: Woah, what a difference! It seems to me that Colette heard the complaints (the bust darts are always too high! the armscyes are always too tight!) and waayyy overcompensated in the opposite direction. While the bust darts on the old version are too high, by about 1/2", the new bust darts are almost 2" too low. In addition to being too low, the bust darts are much larger than the original, and so the bust is huge on me; although the shoulders/upper bust fit me nicely, from the bust down I am swimming in this pattern. (That additional ease reflected in the finished garment charts is accurate.) I know I am not busty, and most indie pattern companies draft for a larger bust than mine (say, a C cup) but there's room for like 87 more cup sizes or a small infant inside this top. (If my middle school wishes ever come true and my boobs grow like 10 sizes overnight, I know which top I can turn to.) I found the armscyes to be a touch too large for my tastes, as well. Additionally, the drafting errors on the old pattern have been resolved, but new ones have sprung up in their place: sewing the dart leaves you with a serious angle in the side of your pattern, like the side seam was not trued after drafting the dart. Since the back side seam is straight, it makes it tricky to sew the front and back side seams together--this is a mistake that I would expect from a beginner drafting project, but not from a big company like Colette. I won't make this again.
I honestly went into this experiment expecting the old Sorbetto to be really ill-fitting and the new one to be much improved, but unfortunately, I found the opposite to be true. While the original certainly has some drafting errors and shortcomings, for me, the old Sorbetto would be a perfectly reasonable tank top after a few small adjustments. The new Sorbetto, on the other hand, does not work for me at all and would need to be totally overhauled for me to feel confident about its fit. Although it is a free pattern, I'd rather pay the $10-ish for a better tank pattern. Although I haven't sewn it, the Liola looks lovely for my money, has a sweet little back pleat detail, and the user-submitted examples on Indiesew all look like they fit decently.
Have you made the old or new Sorbetto--or both? Do you have a favorite tank pattern? I'm in the market! ;)
ps: the old version of the Sorbetto appears to have been scrubbed from the site. i had a copy ages ago (as I mentioned already) but the PDF was on an old computer, so thanks so much to Indu from Kaleidothought for coming through with an old copy in a pinch!
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