Pretty Blue Dress

This fabric and pattern were a perfect pair! I have had my eye on the Hazel sundress pattern from Colette Patterns since it came out last spring and when I finally bought the pattern I waited quite awhile to find just the right fabric for it. I knew I didn’t want a fabric with a pattern that would compete with the unique bodice design, but I also didn’t want a flat solid colored fabric. This turquoise chambray was the perfect middle ground. It is woven with royal blue and turquoise threads, which gives the color a lot of depth and interest. It was very hard to capture this in a photograph so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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I don’t often make a muslin when I sew. If I am concerned about the fit I will often just baste the pieces together and adjust from there. One time when I think it’s worth the time and effort of making a muslin is when the design has a very fitted bodice. So, since this pattern has unique bodice seams and is close-fitting, I decided that making a muslin of the bodice was a good idea. The decision led to some other good decisions in making this dress fit me.

First of all, the darts in the bodice give the dress a more retro silhouette, which might work better for someone who wears vintage style undergarments. I do not, so I needed to make changes that would get rid of the dart point. The easiest solution? Change the dart into gathers. (Instead of sewing the dart, sew two or three rows of basting stitches in the front bodice seam allowance. Pull up the stitches to form gathers where the dart would be centered. Sew the bodice front to the bodice sides as usual.) I think this design change worked well as a fitting solution and as a bonus the bodice gathers echo the gathered skirt. Win win!

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Design/Pattern: Colette Patterns Hazel

Materials: 100% cotton turquoise chambray, small bit of white cotton voile for bodice lining, thread, 22 inch invisible zipper (any zipper at least 14 inches long would be sufficient though)

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Techniques:

  • serged seam allowances on skirt and pockets
  • gathered bodice and skirt
  • quick-lined bodice
  • slip stitched hem and bodice lining

Alterations/Changes: As I described above, to fit the bodice, I changed the darts to gathers. I also decided to line the bodice for a cleaner finish. I used this method to create a quick bodice lining. One more thing about the bodice: the upper edge doesn’t gape. I’m pretty sure this is due to great pattern design rather than my sewing skills!

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This is a great summer dress! It’s made of cool, comfy cotton. It’s a unique design. And it can be dressed up or down. I am super pleased with this new addition to my summer wardrobe. I would definitely recommend this pattern to anyone who is looking for something a little different, yet still very wearable, to add to their closet.

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Gray Floral Laurel

I’ve talked about the Laurel pattern from Colette Patterns before, a couple of times, so I won’t go on and on talking about it. I am completely pleased with this dress, except that I didn’t finish it in time to wear for my sister’s wedding rehearsal dinner and haven’t had anywhere to wear it yet. I got up early the morning we needed to leave for the wedding and sewed as quickly as I could, but it just didn’t happen. This fabric was pricey, so I didn’t want to risk making a mistake I couldn’t fix. Now that I am done with this project, I can say that was a wise decision.

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Let me talk a little bit about how this dress is different than my first Laurel and how I would do things differently for a third version. First of all, since the blouse doesn’t have a closure and the dress has a zipper, I decided to go down a size. The extra ease wasn’t necessary because I don’t have to pull it on over my head. I made the version with front patch pockets, and I really like how they look, but they aren’t really functional. Next time, if I wanted functional pockets I would add them to the side seams.

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Design/Pattern: Colette Patterns, Laurel, version 2

Materials: Amy Butler cotton sateen, Alchemy Studio Collection, zinc, Victoriana, 22″ invisible zipper, bias tape

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Techniques:

  • matched “stripes” along side seams, sleeves and pockets
  • stitched & serged seams
  • darts
  • set in sleeves
  • patch pockets
  • invisible zipper
  • hems & neckline finished with bias tape & hand stitching

Alterations/Changes: I didn’t make any alterations.

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Even though I haven’t had a chance to wear this dress yet, I’m sure I will use it frequently. It’s not too fancy to wear to work (I’m on summer break right now so I’m not working), but it’s also nice enough to wear for more special occasions. I hope I have a reason to wear it soon!

Striped Linen Laurel

I finished this top one month ago exactly and I’m just getting around to talking about it. That may tell you a little bit about how this past month has been. The good news is that I’ve worn this top at least four or five times since I made it, which means it’s a keeper! It coordinates well with my existing wardrobe and is something different than a generic solid colored crew neck knit tee shirt. I needed a little variety in that department.

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As I mentioned, I was very excited by Colette Patterns’ new Laurel blouse and dress pattern and planned to make two versions immediately. Based on my measurements I was between a size 2 and a size 4. Since this shirt version was my wearable muslin I decided to make a straight size 4 and go from there. I am pleased with how it fits in this fabric. I think that this linen fabric calls for a more relaxed fit and I also wanted to be sure it was easy to pull on since it doesn’t have any closures. 

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Design/Pattern: Colette Patterns Laurel, version 4 (blouse)

Materials: striped linen (This fabric has a great story, if I may share. I bought it for about $4 a yard from a table at my local fabric store that had a wide variety of fabrics for summer clothing. Just today I was back in the fabric store and I noticed this fabric in a new location, with the other linen fabrics, and the price had been changed to $14.99 a yard. I am certain I wouldn’t have chosen this fabric at that price, so I’m really glad I got it when I did!)

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Techniques:

  • seam allowances were folded under and stitched down (It was my first time trying this and I don’t think it was worth it. If I were to use this fabric again, I would just use a zig-zag or overcast stitch.)
  • darts
  • self-fabric bias tape finish on the neckline
  • under/edgestitched the self-fabric bias tape to strengthen it (I am not sure what to call it, but this is what I did: Stitched bias tape to neckline, pressed seam allowances towards bias tape, stitched through bias tape and seam allowances close to seamline. Since the bias tape is turned to the outside of the shirt, this stitching is visible along the top edge of the shirt.)
  • selvedges used as the bottom edge of the shirt and sleeves

Alterations/Changes: The only change I made was to the cutting layout. The fabric was vertically striped, but I wanted my shirt to be horizontally striped. To achieve this, I simply cut my pieces with the lower edges along the selvedge. I then used the attractive selvedge as the “hem” of the shirt and sleeves. This also made the process of matching the stripes hassle-free.

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I already know that this shirt works with my wardrobe, so I am pleased with how this project turned out. I don’t have many woven tops, but I may have to change that since I like this shirt so much. The only thing I am not entirely pleased with is how the seams are finished. I may go back and re-do these at some point because the fabric still wants to fray, and since there isn’t a proper hem I sometimes get visible strings hanging down. It’s not a big deal, but it might bug me over time. For now though, I am just happy to report that Laurel may be my newest tried-and-true pattern. I’ll let you know how the dress version turned out soon.  

Sewing Plans: Laurel Shift Dress

I am quite a fan of the shift dress, so I was excited to see the newest addition to the Colette Patterns line. Laurel is a very classic shift that is billed as being blank canvas for interpretation and embellishment. Over the last couple weeks since the pattern came out I’ve been gathering inspiration and supplies from the Colette Patterns website, flickr group and Laurel Extras e-booklet, and from fabric stores in two states. I’ve finally got a plan for my Laurel pattern and I’m ready to cut into some fabric today. Here’s what I’m thinking.

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I have two Laurels planned in two quite different, yet quite similar fabrics. As Sarai, the owner of Colette patterns has said, this pattern is a great showcase for a special fabric. This first fabric I bought is this cotton sateen designed by Amy Butler for her Alchemy Studio Collection while I was visiting my sister. This fabric feels as smooth as silk and has a subtle sheen. It’s a lighter weight than many other cotton sateen fabrics I’ve bought in the past, but it is still substantial enough not to require a lining or underlining, I think. This fabric was a splurge, so I don’t want to cut into it until I know that Laurel is a good fit and match for me and for this gorgeous fabric. I’m planning to make Laurel version 1 (dress length without pockets) or version 2 (dress length with pockets) from this fabric if all goes as planned.

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I bought a second fabric so that I could make a practice version or wearable muslin. (I’m not a big fan of sewing things I can’t use, like a plain white muslin garment, so if I need to sew a practice version of a pattern I’d rather use a fabric I still like but that I wouldn’t be devastated if I ruined.) I got a real bargain for such a nice fabric, so I know I won’t feel like the money was wasted if my practice version isn’t wearable, but I still want it to turn out well. It is a striped linen fabric that is a nice medium-light weight. What I haven’t decided yet is whether I want the stripes to run horizontally or vertically. At this moment, I’m leaning towards horizontally because I think it would look neat to use the selvedge (that white stripe is part of selvedge) as the bottom edge, which would also save me the step of hemming. I’m planning to make the shirt version of Laurel, version 4, from this fabric.

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When I put these two fabrics in the washer together to pre-wash them, I was struck by how similar and how different they are from each other. Both fabrics have a gray background with a striped design in shades of pink, purple, blue and green. Yet, even though they share a color scheme and pattern, they are very different in “personality”. The cotton sateen is smooth, shiny and very feminine with a floral design making up the stripes. The linen has a slubbed textured, and is relaxed and natural looking. I plan on wearing the sateen dress to the rehearsal dinner for my sister’s wedding and the linen top with shorts or jeans for a casual day around town. If this pattern works well in both of these fabrics, I predict that this pattern becomes a tried-and-true favorite of mine.

Red Licorice (or What Happened to the Month of March?)

Hi there! Remember me? March included some unexpected surprises that caused me to need to put sewing on a back burner. Spring break starts today though, which I’m hoping will mean one thing–lots of time with my sewing machine and serger! I do have one pretty treat to show off before I start my spring sewing marathon. This is the dress that took all of March to make!

Worth the wait, huh? I think so. First of all, this pattern is a gem. I think the style is so classy, yet unique. The shape of the collar is great, in my opinion. It’s not a very commonly used collar shape, which makes it really stand out on the boat-neckline of this dress. I was afraid that the sleeves would be too voluminous for my taste, but if I arrange them just right by pushing the elastic up over my elbow and then letting the sleeve fall below it, it creates a really nice shape.  

Design/Pattern: Licorice, from the Colette Sewing Handbook

Materials: Red poly/rayon/lycra knit (often called Sophia knit). The pattern calls for woven fabrics, but I really had my heart set on making this style in a red stable knit, so I went with my heart rather than the pattern instructions. Luckily, my heart knew what it was talking about.

Techniques:

  • Sewed seams with a long, straight stitch, then serged the seam allowances close to the stitching line. (I am not yet confident sewing straight seams on the serger.)
  • Set-in sleeves
  • Casing for elastic made with bias tape
  • Finished neckline with bias tape

Alterations/Changes:

  • Made a petite adjustment at the waistline
  • Adjusted dart placement and size on the dress front
  • Omitted the lining and zipper because I didn’t think it was necessary for a knit dress. Because of this, I had to invent a way to finish the neckline. I created a very neat finish using bias tape. If there is any interest in seeing a tutorial for my technique, please speak up in the comments.

As a teacher and as a seamstress I am rather stingy about giving out A+ grades, but I think this dress deserves it. I think the style and fit are spot on. And I was really needing a great red dress! Besides that, I was patient with myself as I was sewing because I wanted the end result to be worthy of the wonderful design and the red fabric. I love it so much that I plan on wearing it twice during its first week.

Clover: Fitting

I have begun making the Clover pants pattern from Colette Patterns. So far, I am pleased with my progress (even though I just wish I could call in “sick” one day so that I could just stay home and sew). I found a fairly good quality rayon/poly/lycra blend suiting fabric at my local Hancock’s for 50% off (score!), so I decided to skip making a separate muslin of the pattern. I bought the amount called for by the pattern, but I ended up with about 3/4 of a yard more than I needed. So even if I really botch something, I may have enough to re-cut a piece. Here is my cutting layout for a size 6 with 60 inch wide fabric (just in case you’d like to save yourself some money or fabric when you make Clover).

Instead of making a muslin, I decided that I would take my chances, baste the seams and make any adjustments after that. They fit surprisingly well, but there are a few wrinkles here and there. I have been pondering the Colette Patterns fitting cheat sheet and trying to figure out which issues apply to me, based on the photos I took of my first fitting. What do you think?

I think the front of the pants fit quite well. I don’t see too many wrinkles there. The wrinkles under my derriere seem to be the cause of my fit issues. The problem is, I’m not quite sure which adjustment I need to make. My guess right now is to do a swayback adjustment. I have never done one, but it seems to be a pretty common fit issue. I am going to see what I can do without re-cutting the piece, but for my 2nd pair I’ll probably do the real adjustment to the pattern pieces. Even if I can’t get rid of all the wrinkles on the back, I think I’ll be pretty happy with the fit as long as the waistband is comfortable. Any advice you have about fitting pants or diagnosing fit issues with pants would be greatly appreciated!

 

Pattern pick: Clover


I am still working on the labor of love jacket, but it’s getting so close to being done that I’m planning my next project. And after an unsuccessful day of shopping for pants, I’ve decided on Colette Pattern’s Clover pants (click the picture to head over to their website). Like most women, I have trouble finding pants that fit correctly. And like most seamstresses, I can’t stomach buying ill-fitting clothing if I know I can make it better.

I hope I’m right in this case, because I’ve never made a pair of pants (other than pj’s) that have fit perfectly. It’s been awhile since I’ve tried and I’ve learned a lot since then. Besides, the Coletterie has had a series of pants fitting tutorials that will help me immensely if I need to make major adjustments. I have high hopes for this pattern: 1) it will have a more modern fit than a Big 4 pants pattern, 2) I will be able to get a perfect fit and re-use the pattern to make several pairs of pants, 3) it will be a quick, easy project.

Now that I’ve ordered the pattern, I’ve got to decide what fabric I’ll use for the first pair. I don’t want to invest too much in the fabric for the first pair so that I don’t have to worry about working with a tricky or expensive fabric while I’m perfecting the fit. My thought right now is to find a stretch corduroy or twill. I’m also undecided on color, but that will fall into place once I decide what fabric to use. I’m looking forward to working on something new and hope you’ll stop by to see how it goes.