Pattern Review: Elbe Textiles Steele Pinafore in Tencel/Linen
The Steele Pinafore was recently released by Perth-based pattern company Elbe Textiles. Lauren, the company founder, names many of her designs after heavy rock musicians. It's quite a contrast to think of this rather pretty pinafore being named after 6ft 8" gothic metal dude Peter Steele, who died after long-term drug and alcohol abuse (thanks Wikipedia for that cheery info). If you follow Elbe Textiles on Instagram you'll probably have appreciated Lauren's hilariously frank and self-effacing manner. I guess her pattern names are another insight into what makes her tick!
This was my first time sewing with an Elbe pattern, and it was a good experience.
The pattern blurb
"The Steele Pinafore features subtly shaped bodice panels that meet deeply scooped pockets. Adjustable straps tie up at the back and button loops work as closures at the side waist. Designed to be worn over a shirt or a dress, the pinafore skims over the bust, flaring out over the waist and hips.
View A has an A-line skirt and View B has a gathered skirt.
Both views finish below the knee.
Available in a B cup and a combined C/D cup in sizes A to N." (That's up to a 55" bust and 60" hip.)
Printing the pattern
Note there are two separate printing files, one for the B-cup version and one for the C/D-cup version. If you're not sure which bodice will fit you better, you might want to print-at-home a few A4 pages to test just this part of the pattern first, before you get large format printing done.
Depending on whether you choose the gathered or A-line skirt, you may not need all A0 pages printed, so make sure you specify this to your printer if you'd like to save paper and cost.
The pattern calls for a separate lining fabric, for the inside of the front and back bodice pieces. These are not large pieces. I was easily able to cut them from my garment fabric as well (although this may not be the case for all sizes or the full gathered skirt version), so it's self-lined. This was my first time working with a Tencel/Linen and I thought an exact match for the drape would be the safest way to create a lining that didn't cause distortion.
As it was, my first attempt at the final lining attachment at the front wasn't ideal. This is where it's topstitched all around, including the pinned or basted bottom edge with seam allowance pressed in. As you can see in the photo below, the lining ended up a fraction shorter than the outer, and caused some pooling of the outer fabric at the centre. This was no fault of the pattern, just the nature of the fabric and me not being quite careful enough with my pinning.
It wasn't terrible but I knew that if I unpicked and improved it, I'd be happier. So I did, and I was. These things are usually worth the effort, and can make the difference between a garment you're happy with and one that's a bit 'meh'.
I sewed the C/D-cup version in size E, and went all goth-metal-badass by using the gathered front skirt with the A-line back. No-one tells me what I can and can't do with my heckin' pinafores.
My proportions put me somewhere between the B and C/D-cup bodices. I had in mind to try the B, but then realised I'd had the C/D file printed. (I have to say, I've never quite grasped the whole 'bra cup size versus garment cup size' subtlety, and if anyone has a good explanation I'm all eyes/ears.)
C/D it was, and I'm pleased that the shaping is quite subtle and the fit (such as it is in a pinafore) is good.
As you can tell in the pattern photos, the Steele is intended to be a loose, comfy and swishy over-garment. There's plenty of ease built in around the waist and hips. Together with the open sides, this means it can be worn over a variety of tops including fairly voluminous shirts, which is a large part of its appeal.
The pattern calls for the use of tearaway or soluble stabiliser around many edges. I've never used this, and instead substituted our lightweight woven fusible interfacing. I'm more confident in this providing long-term stability to curved and diagonal garment edges. But then again, I don't actually know what I'm missing! In any case, the substitution worked a treat so I'm happy to recommend it.
The pattern came together smoothly, and fairly quickly. Once I'd sewn up the side seams as instructed, I realised the side openings were longer than I felt comfortable with (they go right to the top of the pocket opening). There's definite flesh & undies-flashing potential if I wasn't wearing a long top underneath, and I wasn't feeling that badass.
I hadn't added the optional extra button loops to hold the sides closed, although it wouldn't be difficult to unpick and add them. Since the whole garment slips on and off easily over the head, I chose to sew up the side openings a bit further.
If I made this pattern again I'd have a bit of a re-think about this area. I love the buttons and loops, and the loose, casual vibe of the opening. Perhaps I'd prefer a tab attached to the back skirt that acted as a shield under the opening... or joined facings to form a sort of gusset?
I used one of the colourways from our recent shipment of Tencel/Linen blends (and 100% Tencels) from Merchant & Mills. It has a great weight and drape as suits the Steele pattern. I'm pleased to report it was very nice to cut and sew. Despite the fluidity of Tencel, it's really stable. The fabric has a decent weight that makes it suitable for dresses, pinafores, pants, skirts and jumpsuits.
Here's the rumpled back view. The straps pass through large buttonholes at the top of the back bodice, and can then be tied however you like. A better view of that in the next photos! The centre back positioning means the straps are never in danger of falling off my shoulders, which is awesome.
Pattern: Steele Pinafore by Elbe Textiles
View: A in the back, B in the front
Size: E, with C/D Cup bodice, as per my measurements
Fabric: 80% Tencel 20% Linen 'Suzanne' by Merchant & Mills
Comments: The pattern has an interesting vibe that's a mashup of Victorian-era child and art-school cool. I wasn't sure about it initially, but the many tester versions appearing on Instagram (especially one in wool), and the arrival of these fabrics, tipped me over the edge.
A good 'un, just take note of those deep side openings.
- Jane xx