Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Report: The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits

I've had my Colette Guide to Sewing Knits for over a week now, and I finally had a chance to sit down and really look through it this weekend. (The book is now available for sale on the Colette web site and on Amazon.)
I've even had a chance to try some of the (new to me) techniques in the book over the past week.

The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits

Book audience

My impressions, in a nutshell, are that the book is great for the following audiences:
  • Beginning sewists
  • Beginners to knits
  • Newbies to serger and coverstitch machines
  • Sewists who wish to have a reference with information about various knit techniques and troubleshooting tips all in a single book
I fall somewhat into the "machine newbie" and "person who wants a reference" categories, in that I've never had any formal training on my serger or serger/coverstitch machines, so I'm happy with my book purchase. I think that this book is a great choice for those of you looking to buy a Brother 1034D serger (or equivalent) on Amazon or a used serger on craigslist and are nervous about not having a dealer or lessons available to walk you through the basics.

FWIW, if someone were going to teach an "Intro to Sewing Knits" course, I think that this book would be a great text to use.

Likes

The book is very well-organized, readable, and nice to look at with lots of pictures. As a knit-sewing veteran, I think that most of the content is sound, and a lot of it includes techniques that I learned on my own through trial-and-error. While the internet is a wonderful source of sewing tips and tutorials, it would have been nice to have all of this information in one place when I was starting out and then when I was a bit more confident and starting to venture out on my own away from pattern instructions.

I also liked that the book included instructions for common embellishments/applications that often aren't included in pattern instructions, such as applying foldover elastic, and a decorative rollover binding that I've seen some in RTW but have yet to see in a sewing pattern:


New-to-me techniques

Over the past week, I tried two new-to-me techniques described in the book with varying success:
  • Wonder Tape to stabilize my knit hems: I LOVED this and was wondering where it had been my whole sewing life. I'd seen reference here and there online to "using Wonder Tape to stabilize knit hems" but hadn't realized that Wonder Tape simply washes away in the wash and that it would make my hems so much easier to stabilize and look so nice.
  • Clear elastic for shirring: I tried this technique to shirr the waist of my in-progress Moneta dress, and I had no better luck with the technique than the other early Moneta reports that I've seen on the internet. I'm sure that it works fine for some people, but I'll go back to my usual method of gathering via long basting stitches for my next Moneta.

Dislikes

While my overall impressions of the book are fairly positive, there are a few things that I wish Alyson and Sarai had done differently:
  •  I would have liked to have seen longer and more in-depth sections on troubleshooting serger and coverstitch problems. We see enough "Help! My serger is looping off the edge of the fabric!" threads started on Pattern Review that I think that they could have reasonably included some additional common scenarios.
  • While the photos that show different stitch types are great, some of the technique photos were shot a little far back, making it difficult to see the details. I think that more close-up photos would have been great in a few cases.

Look at the pretty!

I wasn't familiar with designer Alyson Clair before her collaboration with Colette, but with me being me, I took a look at her web site, and I love the style of her designs. She also shows many of them on a lovely plus sized model, as well as a more traditional model. I pinned several of her dresses for inspiration, but here are a few of my favorites.

Love the yoked, lace overlay dress:


Also, this lovely surplice style dress with a pretty neckline:



And hmmm...doesn't this dress look a bit familiar now? (And it retails for $152 in Alyson's Etsy shop):


In other news, I almost completed a Moneta over the weekend. I finished everything except the skirt hem, but was starting to make some bonehead mistakes by that point and decided that I needed to put it away until I was feeling refreshed. I'm very happy with how it's looking and am looking forward to finishing it and getting to wear it out and about.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Finished project: Colette 1029 - Mabel skirt

I just made up the new Mabel skirt from Colette patterns, and I kinda love it:

Colette Mabel skirt - Version 3 (pencil skirt)
The Mabel and Moneta dress were officially released on Tuesday, but I pre-ordered a pattern bundle (along with the Colette Guide to Sewing Knits) and actually received my patterns on Saturday. The Mabel is a simple skirt designed for stable knits and has three views:
  • Simple mini-skirt
  • Mini-skirt with faux placket embellishment
  • Seamed pencil skirt (with kick pleat in back)
Mabel envelope cover with line drawings
I lacked any pencil skirts in my wardrobe. I know that they're a classic and a wardrobe staple for most women and that they're supposed to be flattering on all figure types. Unfortunately, with my own insecurity about my figure, I couldn't get past the curve-hugging nature of the pencil skirt and had avoided them in favor of fuller skirt silhouettes. However, I've been wanting to dress in more body conscious clothing; I think that (well) fitted clothing generally looks better than oversized clothing, and I love how well-fitted body conscious clothing looks on other women. I think this skirt might be a baby step in the right direction for me.

The rear view is surprisingly not-horrifying:

Colette Mabel rear view with kick pleat
Here's the lowdown on fit, sizing, and constructing this skirt:
  • I made Version 3, the seamed pencil skirt.
  • My skirt took ~1 yard of fabric.
  • For fabric, I used a black ponte knit that I'd bought six yards of back when it was FabricMart's "one crazy priced fabric" a few months back.  I think this was a good choice for this pattern.
  • The pattern envelope calls this a one-hour skirt. I suspect that's the case for the most basic view. The pencil skirt has a few more seams/details. Once I had the pattern and fabric cut out, this skirt took me two hours to construct.
  • My measurements put me squarely as a 2X on Colette's size chart. With this being my first pass at this pattern and having no pattern equivalent to compare the pattern pieces to, I sewed a 2X straight out of the envelope. The skirt that you see in those photos? I made ZERO fitting adjustments.
  • I've been seeing some concerns online about the skirt fit being too tight on the lovely plus sized model on the Colette web site. Somewhere in Sarai's blog most, she mentions that the model is a 2X. You can see on me that while the skirt is curve-hugging, it's not overly tight, and I went by the size chart.
  • For hem length reference, I'm 5'2". I made no adjustments to the skirt length because I wanted a skirt that hit me just below the knee, which this skirt does.
  • The waistband does crunch down a little on me in front--I suspect that this has to do with me being short/short-waisted. I'd never tuck a blouse into this skirt, so that doesn't bother me, but other short sewists who do tuck might want to check the waistband height on their figures.
  • Construction is pretty simple:
    1. Construct the waistband, which has no elastic.
    2. Sew the skirt back/kick pleat.
    3. Sew the skirt front.
    4. Attach the waistband.
    5. Hem.
  • The kick pleat does lay flat nicely. These photos were taken after having worn the skirt all day.
I will definitely try the other views, albeit probably lengthened a tad for wearability. I think that the faux placket detail is cute and can add interest to a solid color whereas the simplest version (Verison 1) would be great for a print.

If you're on the fence about ordering/making this pattern, I hope that I answered some of your questions. If you have any other questions/concerns, please post them in the comments and I'll answer them honestly.

Gratuitous daughter shot

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Amuse-bouches: New Colette knit patterns

I was all set to finish my trenchcoat this weekend, but then I got the mail on Saturday. My new Colette patterns and Colette Guide to Sewing Knits book had arrived, and they aren't even officially released until tomorrow! I think that I was more excited to receive this bundle early than when my husband received his pre-ordered Madden 2013 game before its official release date earlier this year.

The two knit patterns and book were part of a bundle that Colette made available for pre-order at a discount last week. Colette didn't release any line drawings or other details about the pattern and only released a teaser first chapter of the book. I've seen some comments online that seem irritated with this strategy, but I figured that the new patterns pretty much had to be designs that would work for most women to use this pre-order strategy. These patterns are also the first to include Colette's expansion into the true plus size range.

I was excited about the book because I actually don't own a reference book for sewing knits, even though I sew them all the time. I liked the fact that the book covered serger and coverstitch use, too--two areas where I'm entirely self-taught (by internet and machine manual), and I thought that I would probably learn some nice, new techniques for my machines from the book.

I don't want to be one of Those People who posts spoilers on the internet for things, but if you're dying of a curiosity, I will share a few details about the new patterns:
  • The knit patterns are sized from XS-3XL, going from a 33" bust to a 54" bust, so it's pretty inclusive and goes pretty far into the plus size range. I'm posting the size chart so that you can see where you fall into this range:
Size chart Colette knit patterns
  • The two new patterns are a skirt (Mabel) and a dress (Moneta).
  • Both the skirt and dress include three different views, although two of the dress views are very similar.
  • Both the skirt and dress are fairly classic designs that should look good on a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • The dress pattern is slightly reminiscent (to me) of another indie knit dress pattern that's currently very popular in the sewing blogosphere.
  • The skirt is about as classic as you can get. Two of the views skew a little more youthful, but the third view is one of those that I think looks good on just about every woman.
  • The pattern envelope says that the skirt can be made in an hour. I'd suspect that this is true for an experienced sewist making the easiest view.
  • I'm not sure if this was a packaging error, but my pattern had duplicate pattern tissue for the piece that included two of the views.
Since I received my patterns a few days early, I got the idea into my head that "Wouldn't it be cool if I managed to finish one of these before the patterns are even officially released?" Because clearly, sewing new patterns is a race and a competition, right?

For another project, I had already pre-washed (and cut into) a length of black ponte knit that I thought would be perfect for the Mabel skirt.  I cut the pattern tissue and fabric on Sunday, then before work this morning, I constructed the body of the skirt. Here's a sneak peak that doesn't really give too much away:
Mabel skirt in progress
Tomorrow, I'll switch my Evolve to coverstitch mode and then finish the waistband and the hem. And then I'll win a prize or something by having my skirt done on the day that the pattern is actually released.

On a side note, after seeing a few mentions elsewhere online that others had received their patterns early, the cynic in me had to wonder if this was deliberate viral marketing, and not just super efficient shipping by our USPS. Granted, I work in an industry where leaving a prototype iPhone in a bar has set the bar for viral marketing. In any case, I suspect that most people who are big enough Colette fans to have pre-ordered the patterns will be happy with them; they're classic designs but true to the Colette aesthetic and should be flattering on most figures.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

BurdaStyle Plus highlights from recent issues

Two recent posts from Cashmerette and Diary of a Sewing Fanatic about indie pattern sizing have gotten me thinking about the lack of plus sized sewing bloggers and general lack of plus size pattern options. Part of the reason why I (re)started this blog is to encourage other curvy and plus sized women in their sewing adventures. Based on other posts and general chatter that I've seen around the sewing blogosphere, I want to start an occasional series of posts related to sewing when you wear a larger size and/or have a bust size greater than 40" (the cut-off for many non-plus patterns). We do have options; we just don't have as many options as our slimmer counterparts, and sometimes we have to hunt a lot harder for our options.

To kick off the series, I want to highlight some of my favorite Burda Plus patterns from recent issues of BurdaStyle magazine. I haven't subscribed to the paper version of the magazine in several years, but I do follow new releases on the BurdaStyle web site and usually "favorite" a couple of plus sized patterns in each month's issue. Every pattern in this post is available as a $5.99 PDF download (without seam allowances) from BurdaStyle.

I promise, none of my choices will be frumpy or sacks with belts tied around the waist.

Let's start with the January 2014 issue and work our way to the most recent April issue...

Zippered Jacket 01-2014 #132

I have what might seem as a weird love of casual jackets--probably because I'm always cold and often dress in layers.  However, since I work in software, a blazer is too formal of a jacket style for my office environment, so my office topper is usually a cardigan or a casual jacket. To that end, I really like the paneling details and seaming on 01/2014 #132:

BurdaStyle 01-2014 #132
I think it would be fun to play with different textures and maybe some faux leather trim on this jacket.

Paneled skinny pant 01-2014 #134

I love that Burda released a skinny pant pattern for the non-skinny. You could use the side panel in a darker color to add some shadow-style color-blocking and elongate your bottom half, if that's a concern. The only thing that I don't care for about these is the lack of pockets. I need pockets in my pants, but if I was motivated, I could always draft/add them--maybe even inseam in that panel. The pants are #134 from the 01-2014 issue.

BurdaStyle 01-2014 #134

Ruffle Blouse 02-2014 #142

I know that I've pointed out 02-2014 #142 before, and StyleArc has an even more exact match to this now in the Nancy blouse, but if you didn't want to spring for the StyleArc, this blouse is pretty and feminine with a ruffle front that isn't overly bulky or obnoxious:

BurdaStyle 02-2014 #142

Diagonal Panel Dress 02-2014 #141

Also from the February issue is this knockout Diagonal Panel Dress (02-2014 #141):

BurdaStyle 02-2014 #141

Satin Belted Dress 03-2014 #130

I have no idea where I would wear this, but dress 03-2014 #130 would enable you to rock your inner Joan Holloway, bombshell-style. I think that the seaming and neckline on this one are pretty fabulous and should look great on a curvy figure:

BurdaStyle 03-2014 #130

Two Toned 1940s Dress 03-2014 #133

BurdaStyle seemed to be on a vintage style kick for March. This similarly retro, 2-in-1 dress (it's a dress, but it looks like separates!) would also be flattering on a lot of curvy figures, I'd think:


BurdaStyle 03-2014 #133

Knotted Top 04-2014 #136

April had some generally "meh" plus sized patterns of shapelessness and high necklines, but this issue did have two simple knit tops that I really liked. I'm of the opinion that you can never have too many knit tops. My first pick is 04-2014 #136, a cross between a surplice top and those twist tops that were so popular a few years ago. With creative draping still very in-style, this top still feels pretty current to me:

BurdaStyle 04-2014 #136

Square Neck Top 04-2014 #135

Finally, this knit square neck top has French darts for bust shaping, an interesting neckline, and a two options for length--one longer and with ruching, and one t-shirt length. The line drawing for the ruched one looks a little maternity-esque, I think, but I made a HotPatterns top with similar ruching a few years back (pre-baby), and I didn't think it looked maternity at all on me.

BurdaStyle 04-2014 #135
Of course, I don't think I've seen a single one of these patterns made up on PatternReview or in blogland, so who knows how they translate to "real life", but it's nice to see that there have been some interesting possibilities in recent months.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Leibster? For me?

Said in the tone of the "Bad NFL lip reading" video here:


(The orange peanut bit still cracks me up.)

L over at You Sew, Girl kindly nominated me for a Leibster award! I feel so honored--thanks! L sews a mean pair of jeans and was the instigator for the currently running Trenchcoat sewalong that I'm participating in.

The Leibster Blog Award is designed to show support for blogs with 200 or less followers.  

Accepting the award has the following conditions:

  • Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Answer five questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate five people and notify them.
  • Ask them five questions.
On to my questions:
  1. Why did you start sewing?

    I've always been interested in sewing--all of my female relatives sewed (my cousin has a degree in fashion design), and I can remember handsewing Barbie clothes when I was really young. I asked my mom to teach me a few times but was horribly intimidated by the task of threading the machine, of all things.

    Finally, a few years ago, I lost a significant amount of weight (all of which has been back and partially gone again since then) but was horribly frustrated and depressed by the fact that even though I was finally a healthy weight and could wear size 10 jeans, I still had to shop at Lane Bryant for a button down blouse that didn't gap or pull because of my large bust. I enrolled in a beginning sewing class at my local adult ed program, made a cute pair of pajama pants (reviewed here), and the rest is history.
  2. Do you have a pattern company from which you sew the most?  The least?

    I sew from HotPatterns and StyleArc the most. Both companies match my personal style well and usually don't require many fit adjustments for me. I'm also intrigued by relative newbie Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick (SBCC), since I'm only 5'2" and their freebie Tonic Tee quickly became my TNT tee pattern. I've downloaded a few of their paid patterns but haven't had a chance to make them up yet.

    I don't often sew from the Big 4 pattern companies for myself, but I do still use them when sewing for my husband and daughter.
  3. When your sewjo makes a run for the border, what do you do to bring it back?

    I pick a quick, easy, low-risk project to bring my sewjo back. The last time this happened, I sewed another version of my Tonic Tee. Sewing a TNT is a perfect pick-me-up when you've just sewn a wadder.
  4. Why did you start blogging?

    Oh boy...pull up a chair for this one...

    I've been blogging in spurts since I started sewing in 2007. I'd go long stretches without blogging because life would get in the way and/or I would wonder who would actually read anything I wrote. Also, as a plus sized woman (most of the time), I generally haven't been happy with the shape of my figure and didn't want to "put it out there" for others to judge.

    In the past two years, I've become hyperaware of women's body image issues now that I have a daughter. (I am now also prone to posting rants on Facebook about the socialization of gender roles in young children.)I'm struggling with wanting to be both a positive role model for her but not being happy with my own body. Writing a blog documenting my sewing projects (with pictures) is a step on my path to body acceptance.

    On top of that, there just aren't that many plus sized sewing bloggers out there. (Don't get me wrong, there are a few really AWESOME ones.) I've also been noticing fewer plus sized women posting reviews with pictures on PatternReview in the past couple of years. So, I'm blogging my sewing projects also partially to lend a voice to other plus sized sewists and maybe give them ideas on which patterns are/are not friendly to voluptuous figures.
  5. Is there a fabric that you will absolutely not sew?

    Anything that ravels horribly and will not press--poly chiffon, poly georgette, etc. No matter how pretty, I tell myself "just say no" and walk away.
 As part of my agreement, I'd like to nominate the following fellow bloggers for a Leibster:

To the bloggers, I apologize if you've already been nominated elsewhere that I somehow missed or if your blog has more than 200 followers--I couldn't figure out how to view the stats for followers unless it's a badge on your site:
 And my five questions for them:
  1. How long have you been sewing and what was the first garment you made?
  2. Lately, it seems like everyone has been starting their own pattern company. If you launched your own indie pattern company, what would your focus(es) be?
  3. What are your favorite projects that you've sewn?
  4. What do you like the most and the least about blogging?
  5. Do you have any random talents that your blog readers wouldn't know about?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Trenchcoat update: 04-April

The trenchcoat now has sleeves!

Yes, my sewing room really looks like this. You can now feel better about yours.

It also has a self-fabric belt!

Constructed & top-stitched self-fabric belt
I'd already finished constructing the lining, and I plan to insert that this weekend. I do need to buy more thread, though, before I'll be able to get much further. Amazingly, I was able to find the thread and buttons that I'd originally purchased/began using on this project from when I started this coat 2 1/2 years ago.

Assuming that I get the lining inserted this weekend, then over the next week, I'll just have to do my buttonholes and buttons, and then I'm done! The end is in sight! Even better, I'm (currently) on track to complete my coat by April 15th end date of the trenchcoat sewalong.

In other news, I'm disappointed in how I've been doing in fabric in vs. fabric out this year. I hadn't realized how "off pace" I was until I revisited at my goals for the year the other day. I'd wanted to have twice as much fabric "out" (either through sewing or donation) as I purchased this year. I'm pretty much flipped on that goal--slightly over twice as much "in" as "out". I plan to remedy that somewhat this weekend by going through my stash and pulling out enough stash fabric for donation to bring me into stash parity for the year. I already had ~12 yards pulled aside for donation, so I think I can pretty easily bring that total to at least 25 yards.

One question to my followers? Do you count fabric used in a UFO in your stash reduction tools? The trenchcoat took about 4 yards of fabric, so it would be nice to count that towards my stash-busting goals. ;)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

2014 Q1 sewing goals check-in

I'm sure that none of us can believe it, but the first three months of 2014 have already flown by, and with that, one quarter of the year is behind us. Back in January, I made a list of sewing goals for myself for the year. In the interest of holding myself accountable and maybe re-igniting some motivation for a few things, I thought I'd check in and comment on how I'm doing.

You can go back and read the original posts, if you're interested:
Goal: Sew at least 15 patterns from the candidate pattern stash.
Status: On track (slightly ahead of pace)
Summary: I've been updating my spreadsheet with each pattern I've sewn, where applicable. Here's a snapshot of the current spreadsheet (highlighted patterns are candidates for my capsule wardrobe):

Pattern stash spreadsheet - 01-Apr-2014
So far, I've made 6 different patterns from this list this year. Of those 6, I've made 4 of them multiple times. I'm very easily on track to sew up 15 of these this year.

Goal: Sew at least 20 pieces of stashed fabric.
Status: On track (well ahead of pace)
Summary: I've been updating a different spreadsheet with my fabric stash progress. So far, I've used 11 pieces of stash fabric this year. Given that it's only the end of Q1, I'm thinking that I may have been a little conservative in this goal. On the other hand, this goal has definitely motivated me to sew from stash more and run out and buy new fabric less.

Goal: Sew a water-resistant jacket with a hood
Status: Not started yet.
Summary: I keep going back and forth on a pattern for this, but the bottom line is that I still need one and haven't sewn one yet.

Goal: Sew a winter coat
Status: Not started yet.
Summary: I thought that we were done with our big cold snap for the year when I originally wrote this goal (we weren't), so I figured that I probably wouldn't really start this until the fall, anyway.

Goal: Sew my daughter's Halloween costume
Status: Not started yet.
Summary: This is another distinctly fall-ish goal.

Goal: Sew a 12-piece capsule wardrobe
Status: In progress (slightly behind).
Summary: So far, I've sewn two of the twelve pieces that I talked about in my planning post. This means that I'm slightly off my planned pace of three pieces per quarter. I'm not too worried, though--if I sew four pieces in Q2, I'll be right back on track.



Goal: Get over my fear of fly zippers
Status: Not started yet.
Summary: I haven't tacked a fly zipper yet in 2014, but I do want to make several pairs of pants and jeans and possibly a jean skirt, so I am confident that I will accomplish this goal if I accomplish my wardrobe goals.

Goal: Execute a wearable set of welt pockets
Status: Not started yet.
Summary: Yeah, I haven't tackled these so far either in 2014.

Goal: Fabric out for the year should be 50% greater than fabric in
Status: *embarrassed look*
Summary: Right now, I'm at 47.63 yards IN for the year and 20.5 yards OUT. I'm way, way, way off pace here. I blame stress shopping and Fabric Mart sales.

Goal: Explore the functionality of my Babylock Evolve
Status: On track.
Summary: Unlike most of the rest of my non-stash-related goals, I am making nice progress on this goal. I've added comfort with a rolled hem and lettuce edging to my Evolve arsenal. I really love this machine and am very happy that I splurged on it a few months ago.

I can't say that I had really looked at these goals much since posting them, which was probably a bit of a mistake. However, the year is still fairly young, and I have plenty of time to get back on track with most of them. I'm a little disappointed with myself that the only area that I'm doing really well in is sewing down stash (although my sewing down fabric stash numbers are negated by my fabric purchasing numbers). I know that I can do better for Q2, and I intend to do so.