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.


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.


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.


  1. Thanks for your review. I most always sew with knits & wondered if the book was for newer sewists. I did read her first chapter & I liked how it was presented & especially liked the photos.

    1. Even as a knit veteran, I'm still happy that I bought the book. I'm kind of torn on wishing that I'd bought the e-book version though--I've gotten spoiled by my Kindle (and associated apps) and kind of wish that I could pull up the content anywhere, rather than needing the physical book nearby.

  2. Can't wait to see your finished Moneta!

    1. Thanks! It's finished, and I'm quite happy with it. Just need it to stop raining now so that we can take photos.

  3. I'm looking forward to seeing the dress. I'm still pretty sure it isn't my style or would be flattering on me, but I am really curious to see more versions. The more I see the Mabel skirt, the more I like it!

    The book looks really good; I may buy it after my birthday. I do have Sew U's knits book, but the illustrations and pics are really tempting me!

    Too bad you can't find the Tie Me Down pattern. You could borrow mine (uncut) if you want or maybe Trudy has an old pattern sitting around to send you in exchange for a blog post? I really should make that blouse. It really does seem universally flattering on PR.

    1. I know that the Tie Me Down pattern is *somewhere* in the house (I wouldn't have tossed it), but it's not in any of the, um, 3 bankers boxes of HotPatterns that I have. Stuff ended up in weird places with our move.

      I am going to make up the new peasant blouse as soon as my copy arrives, as the next project I make after my halfway-done StyleArc Amber top (which should be in the next couple of days).

  4. I'm debating about that peasant top. In general, peasant tops aren't my style-- I'm really picky about them. But this one looks nice and summer casual (with shorter sleeves). I love the idea of doing some embroidery at the neck or hem. I bet it would be cute with the Mabel too!

    1. That's exactly what I was thinking--that it would look great with the Mabel. The really boho peasant tops aren't my style, but this one looks a lot more modern--that's what I like about it.