I made a Colette Phoebe in Linen last summer, and finally had Bess take pictures of me in it! As you can see, summer is long-gone in Montana!
What I Loved about the Colette Phoebe in linen:
When Colette Patterns published the Phoebe Pattern, I knew I had to have one. I love the waist seam and the slightly a-line skirt. I also love the princess seam plus a dart for sizes 18 and up. Some of us need both a princess seam and a dart!
Colette patterns seem to be drafted for my shape, so I made very few alterations to this pattern. I found it a full in the upper chest, but that was easily remedied by increasing the width of the seam allowances above the bust.
Figure-Flattery (or not)
Let’s talk a little about figure-flattery. Even though I know high necklines make my large bust look larger, I still made this dress. Just like the old days, when I bought ready-made clothes and I wanted things to look good on me because they looked good on the models in the catalogues, I had hopes that a well-fitted high-neck dress would look good on me. I don’t think it does. Jane and Bonnie say it looks good, but I feel self-conscious about my bust. I need a scoop or V-neckline to minimize my bust. Someday I will learn. Meanwhile, I will wear this dress from time to time because I love the color, and I love everything but the neckline.
What about you?
Are you ever hopeful that a pattern will work for your shape, even though you know deep down it won’t?
I am so excited that we have the Cashmerette Appleton Dress Paper Pattern! Jenny has designed six patterns for curvy women in the past year, and I'm sure she has more in the pipeline. Sizes range from 12 - 28, with cup sizes C - H. Woo Hoo! Here is the link to our pattern.
Based on my hip and bust measurements, I cut out a size 12 with cup size G/H. The size 14 with cup size G/H would have been better. You can see in the photo that the skirt wrap is pulling to the side. Next time I will cut out the size 14! (And, there will definitely be a next time.)
Using the sewalong on the Cashmerette website made sewing the dress a breeze. The fabric I used was The Confident Stitch Organic Soy and Cotton Knit in Navy and Organic Soy and Cotton Knit in Loganberry, which were both easy to sew with and super comfortable to wear.
Extra Steps lead to success!
A few minutes of hand stitching can set things up for success. I wanted to sew the hems of this dress with the coverstitch machine, which meant stitching from the right side without being able to see if I was catching the hem. So, I hand basted the hem with our Japanese fine silk basting thread from the wrong side, which allowed me to see the stitching line from the right side, and get a perfect cover-stitched hem the first time. The silk thread slipped out easily after I stitched the hem.
I recommend this pattern with only one caveat -- It has negative ease in both the bust and the hip, meaning that the final bust and hip measurements will actually be smaller than your bust and hip, so you may want to size up, or at least be honest with yourself about your measurements (a lesson I need to learn over and over again!).
Bonnie, our seamstress, whipped up a Colette Laurel Dress in Brussels Washer Linen for herself a few months ago. She made Version 3 – the one with the bell sleeves. It turned out great.
You can learn more about Bonnie on our About Page, but I want to say a few words about her here. When Bonnie owned Custom Fashions here in Missoula, she was everyone’s favorite tailor. I am new to Missoula, but my husband Fred has lived in Missoula on and off for the past 40+ years, and although he is not the tailored-made type, he knew I had to get Bonnie to help out in the shop. After making Missoula look great for over 20 years, she now sews for herself and the shop mannequins. Her workwomanship is precise, and she knows which of our fabrics work for all of our patterns. We will all learn from the clothes she makes. Triple win!
Bonnie's Colette Laurel Pattern Review:
The Laurel was Bonnie’s first Colette pattern, and she has some tips for sewing the Laurel and Colette patterns in general:
The pattern was a little wide and a little short for Bonnie. She suggests checking the finished measurements before cutting out.
The bust darts are a little long – be sure to check dart placement before sewing them. Bust darts should not be noticeable, and they should stop approximately 1 inch from your apex. In Fit for Real People, Pati and Marta say, if you are very small busted, a dart can come to within ½-inch of your bust point. If you are full-busted, it should stop 1-to-3 inches from the bust point.
Also, each sleeve bell is cut out of 2 pieces of fabric, and a seam is sewn along the bottom of the bell. The Brussels Washer Linen is a mid-weight fabric, and Bonnie felt the seam made the bell a little bit heavy. A good solution would be to either use a lightweight fabric for the inside layer, or to use the pattern pieces to create a new piece that could be folded along the bottom, instead of seamed.
Instead of a zipper, Bonnie made a key-hole opening in the back. She can still get in and out of the dress. If you’re intimidated by zippers, this dress could work for you!
All in all, Bonnie is very happy with the dress, and working with the Brussels Washer Linen. Make sure to wash it and dry it before you cut out your garment – it does shrink!
If I had to pick my one favorite pattern (which I would hate to do), I would choose the McCall's 6355 dress and top pattern. I have made it so many times out of so many fabrics. I use it instead of a sloper pattern in my learn-to-fit bodices class, so my students can create wearable projects.
Here is my McCall's 6355 dress pattern review:
Pattern Description: Semi-fitted top and dress with optional front and back vertical darts, self-neck binding and optional invisible side seam zipper.
Pattern Sizing: 16-18-20-22. I made a size 16.
Did it look like the photo? Yes, it did.
Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes. Not only does this pattern have the Palmer/Pletsch alteration lines already drawn on it, but also Patti Palmer wrote the instructions herself.
What did you particularly like or dislike about this pattern? I love this pattern. The alteration lines make it easy to make any changes. I can keep or remove the vertical darts for a loose or tight fit. I don’t have any dislikes.
Fabric used: Designer Ikat Canvas with Rainbow Stripe from The Confident Stitch.
Pattern alterations and any design changes you made: I did a 5/8” full-bust adjustment, and a ½” broad-back adjustment.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? This is my second McCalls 6355 dress, and I’ve made 4 or 5 McCalls 6355 tops, so YES!
Conclusion: This is a winner of a pattern. It can be made loose or fitted, long- or short-sleeved. It can be a dress or a top. The shape is universally flattering, and yet I have trouble finding ready-made dresses or tops with the same shape. I used a black-striped Ikat from The Confident Stitch for this dress, and it was easy to sew with. I made the stripes vertical so I wouldn’t have to match them, and to make the dress more slimming: Win-Win.
Have you made this pattern? What is your McCall's 6355 dress pattern review?
Selecting the next sample to make is a collaborative effort around here. One of us has an idea for a perfect fabric/pattern combo, and we all discuss and decide together. Usually, Bonnie makes samples in her or Jane's size, since they are both approximately a size 6 -- the same size as our mannequins -- but, sometimes I luck out, and we decide to make something in a larger size. Enter the Colette Peony! You can find the pattern on our website here.
Here are Bonnie's answers to the Pattern Review questions about the Colette Peony:
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, it did.
Were the instructions easy to follow?
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I liked the style lines and that Colette Patterns fit Kate in the bust without any alterations. I didn’t like the height of the bateau neckline (too high), and I didn’t like the back sleeve cap ease. I lowered the neckline almost 1 inch, and took out approximately ¾” of the sleeve cap in the back.
Two black and white stretch sateens: Figure Eights, and Polka Dots. I liked using fabrics with the same colors but different designs for this dress. They were great to sew and fit with, but I narrowed the skirt a few inches because the lack of drape in the fabric made the skirt very wide.
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I lowered the neckline almost 1 inch, and took out approximately ¾” of the sleeve cap in the back. I also narrowed the skirt by approximately 3 inches.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes and yes. I really love the dress, and the alterations were not difficult.
One of Colette’s original patterns, this dress is still in style and a great choice for those of us with hourglass figures.
I think rayon is a great choice for all the Merchant and Mills dresses, which are not very fitted, and can look boxy. Bonnie made me a size 16 based on my measurements, but a size 14 would have fit just fine.
I washed and dried the fabric before Bonnie cut it out so that I wouldn’t have any shrinkage.
Bonnie loved working with both the fabric and the pattern – her only caveat is that the fabric is slippery, which makes it hard to cut out. We have been experimenting with Best Press for slippery fabrics. It is a clear spray that is touted as a “sizing alternative,” and it gives all fabrics a little stiffness.
I love this dress! The curved bib in the front gives it enough shape, and the shirt-tail hem is so cute. I could wear it every day in the summer!
Photos by Bess Bird Photography
Do you lurk on the Merchant and Mills website, wishing you were that cool? The black and white, old-fashioned look is so distinctive, so hipster, so English. 'Rajasthan hand-blocked indigo?' Yes, please! Who cares where Rajasthan is! If Merchant and Mills say it's great fabric, I believe them. They also print their patterns on stiff card stock -- totally impractical for tissue-fitting, but super cool nonetheless. All of their patterns are smock-like, which is not a flattering look for my figure, but who cares? Laura at Beyond the Hedgerow made the Factory Girl Dress a few months ago, and I was inspired.
I bought some linen/rayon blend at Selvedge Studio, and sat on the front stoop to wait for my tube of card-stock pattern to arrive. The tube arrived remarkably fast, given the distance it had to travel. I made a straight size 16, which fit beautifully in every way. The card stock pattern pieces made me feel like a true factory girl in an old-fashioned factory with old-fashioned tools. I found the instructions easy to follow. All the pieces fit together beautifully. I've worn the dress weekly since I made it -- to work with leggings, on the weekend without leggings, as a beach cover-up, tromping around Washington, DC. Wearing it more than once a week would be tacky, right?
As all parents know, the holy grail of big family events is to make or wear something that is not "too embarrassing" to one's offspring. This simple sheath in a slightly stretchy, slightly shiny cotton fit the bill for my daughter's college graduation. SunnyGal Beth helped me fit Butterick 5602 during my day with her in April.
I learned two important things while making this dress: (1) I don't always need a full-bust adjustment -- sometimes I just need to lower the bust darts. (2) Beth has a trick for altering vertical darts to accommodate a tummy.
During my day at her studio, Beth shared her method of altering fish-eye vertical darts: she marks the vertical quarters of the dart, and moves the fullest part of the dart from the half-way mark to the upper quarter mark. This simple shape shift creates more room for the waist and what I call the "under waist." My belly is fullest at the "under waist" mark. I have yet to learn how to demonstrate things on the computer, so here are my hand-drawn instructions:
I always want to feel confident in the clothes I'm wearing (hence this blog). Most of my hand made garments help me feel confident -- they skim my body, the sleeves and pant legs are long enough, they don't ride up or pull down, you get the picture. I have a few items that REALLY help me feel confident. One of those items is the Nancy Zieman Santa Fe Dress. The folds of the bodice minimize my bust, and the rest of the dress falls beautifully. My first version was in a black slinky knit purchased from Nancy's Notions. It is great for traveling, but the fabric is slippery and thick. I made this second version with a bamboo knit from Fabric Depot in Portland, Oregon. It is also available from The Sewing Workshop online. The fabric is a lightweight jersey, which made the front folds much easier. For both versions, I slashed and spread the bust pattern piece horizontally so the under bust seam would hit at the right spot.
Helena, Montana, is a lot like the mythical Lake Wobegon -- The women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average. Helena is not fashion-forward or overly formal. I once wore a hand made skirt to the grocery store on a Saturday. I saw a friend at the store, and she was confused, "I love your skirt. Why are you wearing it? Do you have a Saturday meeting?"
Because of where I live, I rarely worry whether my outfit is "good enough." I throw together work outfits on weekday mornings, and make sure my jeans are clean on weekends. Traveling is another story. I grew up in a swanky suburb of San Francisco, my daughters both live on the East Coast, and my work travel often takes me to Seattle and Washington, DC. When I go to cities, I toss some outfits and as few pairs of shoes as possible into my suitcase and hop on the plane.
When I reach my destination, I realize I am not in Helena anymore. Everyone looks great, even at the grocery store. I once wore a skirt and my Chaco sandals to the gym in my home town. While I was changing the the locker room, a stranger said, "I love your skirt. Please tell me you are not wearing it with those sandals." I was supposed to put together an ensemble to go to the gym? I did not get that memo! Needless to say, I frequently regret my packing choices.
Thanks to wonderful bloggers like Une Femme and Susan Carillo, I was inspired to actually try on outfits and photograph them before I traveled to Connecticut last week. If you hop over to Susan's blog, you can see the great wardrobe she put together for her recent trip to France. Of course, she took her pics next to a rustic fence and knows how to avoid cutting off the top of her head. I took mine in front of the laundry room, and have not yet learned the whole-body selfie technique.
I decided to wear both dresses with the tan shoes. I felt confident and comfortable in the big city!
How do you plan your trips? Do you just throw things in a suitcase, or do you take selfies to make sure the outfits work?
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