My First Colette to Celebrate the Fourth!

Colette patterns seem to be the biggest deal in the indie pattern world, and so I feel a bit out of touch to admit this is my first – and very happily successful – foray into a new branch of the sewing community.  Courtesy of a Seamwork magazine subscription which I won from the “Sewing the Scene” Challenge last year, I have had the availability to now try out independent pattern companies and see what they are all about.  This year’s Independence Day celebrating gave me the reason to whip up a dress from a Colette pattern and finally dive right in!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a soft 100% cotton twill in blue and white stripes, remotely similar to ticking, with a chain stitched red border design along one selvedge.  This fabric was a JoAnn exclusive release.

PATTERN:  Colette “Hazel” sundress, no. 1021

NOTIONS:  One zipper, lots of thread, and a little interfacing

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was made in about 8 to 10 hours and finished on July 4, 2019.

THE INSIDES:  No seams save the center back skirt seam are showing and its raw edge is bias bound.  All other seams are covered by the full bodice lining.

TOTAL COST:  The fabric was rather pricey, even with a discount – which I why I made things work on only two yards.  The dress cost me just under $30.

Sarai Mitnick, the founder and Creative Director of Colette Media, started Colette Patterns in 2009 because she liked vintage patterns but found them difficult for beginners to work with.  This particular pattern has a lovely modern hint of mid-century vintage, which I played up through the fabric I used.  I was inspired by the occasional extant piece of 1950s clothing which has Scandinavian-style folk embroidery.  Also known as Swedish weaving or “Huck”, the distinctive red and blue heavy embroidery – in patterns of the well-known eight pointed star or the more floral motifs of the more Germanic people – was extremely popular in the 30’s, tapering off through the 40’s.  Due to the thickness of the huck material, this embroidery style was primarily done on kitchen towels and linens, but it is a weaving style in which the thread never appears on the back, making it perfect for garments too, once decorative dish cloths began to be replaced by the mechanical dishwasher.

I realized after my dress was done that in my efforts to make a patriotically red, white, and blue American dress, I channeled a vintage Scandinavian-inspired style.  But, hey – we are a country of immigrants, a nation merged by our diversity and desire for independence, so I don’t think the irony is out of place.  After all, I was appropriately sewing with an indie pattern for an Independence Day celebration, but I was wearing a vintage “West Germany” necklace and vintage-inspired flats from the Australian “Charlie Stone” shoes.  Freedom is universal.

I keep seeing the phrase “patterns that teach” associated with Colette patterns, and so I saw this as a nice base pattern – something to add to and customize to one’s own level of skill or preference.  Along that line, I tweaked the details slightly to add in a fully lined the bodice and also try out a new method of pleating.   Overall, though, I found the pattern to have great shaping and curving not seen in the “Big 4” patterns, clear directions, and sizing that runs on the small side.  It was just enough of a challenge yet not impossible to make for as amazing as it looks.  I think it was nicer than the “Big 4” patterns and yet not as good as Burda Style, in my opinion.  I’m glad I didn’t have to pay full price and yet I don’t think I would have felt that I overpaid if I had.  I’m not used to Colette patterns but I do like them enough to start picking out my next one!

The big things this pattern has going for it is the front bodice, the dramatic way it makes the most of a border print or a striped fabric (or both combined, in my case!), and the way I can still wear a normal bra under it.  So many sundresses need some special lingerie or something sewn in to support a woman’s assets, and this one is such an appreciated, effortless piece the way its wide straps and their placement worked out perfectly for me right where the pattern markings were.  When you can follow a sundress pattern’s strap markings to the letter and it works out well, I’m impressed.

I went up a size in this pattern (because it’s better to be safe than sorry) and tailored it in slightly for a perfect fit.  As I mentioned above, I also added a full bodice lining to keep the fabric from being see-through and cover up most all the seams.  The facing pieces for the neckline were cut instead as the interfacing ironed down to the inner edges.  About 5 inches were added to the original length of the pattern, and I also cut the skirt as one whole seamless piece, eliminating the side seams.  I know this left out the opportunity for side pockets (unless I do a welt or patch style) but that’s okay – I decided to make this the day before the 4th of July, so I just wanted simplicity.  I widened the straps by ¼ inch and used an exposed zipper rather than an invisible one as called for.  Finally, I made the whole dress come together using only 2 yards.  For my first time trying out a new pattern company, I sure wasn’t afraid to go rogue on many details!

My biggest source of pride in this dress is actually the waist pleats.  The pattern called for a simple overall gathered waist, but why go conventional when there are other more complex possibilities yet to be attempted?!  I kept the center front and center back of the skirt flat because I think that is nicer over the tummy and bootie, but the rest of the skirt was knife pleated at every large stripe.  Each large stripe was folded over about ¼ inch deep to meet the nearest small stripe.  This process took me just over an hour in itself, mostly because I did one side wrong at first, but the finished look makes every minute worth it.  It is detailing like this that makes me and others so love vintage styles besides keeping past fashion highly sought after enough to be going up in value.  If I can bring a taste of that into my own sewing than my time is well spent.

I have seen several examples in their mailer leaflets (at right is one) of how JoAnn Fabrics thought of using this fabric and they were throwing me off at first.  I didn’t like their examples enough to try but I also had the hardest time deciding on using this Colette pattern for it…and I’m so glad went for it!  This dress really made me feel comfy yet festive, bright without being flashy, and proud of the quick work I put into it.  I do have a good chunk of the dress’ fabric leftover and I’m debating now between a purse or a little bolero to make out of it.  Decisions are the most fun, inventive, yet stressful part of home sewing.  Whatever I make, it’ll probably be much like the dress, though, in the way it was a happy experiment and a sudden ‘go-for-it’ type of decision.  Here’s to fun in the sun and more creative sewing!

Mystery Mail Order Split Skirt Jumpsuit

This is my attempt at a compromise between skirts and pants, technically ‘culottes’…with a vintage interpretation.  I’m not exactly sure if this is the best look on me, especially with the mid-length wide bottoms, but I love it despite such misgivings because it is so comfy, different, and a creative use of a border design (if I do say so myself).  This is by no means my first jumpsuit (see my others here and here), only my first faux-dress one!

My title alludes to the mystery vintage pattern I used to make my culottes jumpsuit.  It was one of those many mail order patterns of the modern mid-century, but what was particularly bothering me was I could not date the design.  I estimated that the design was early 60’s (or even late 50’s for a stretch) based on the hairstyle alone.  Then, I shared the pattern on Instagram, and someone apparently knew enough based on the pattern number to date this to circa 1962.  I still don’t know what company or newspaper this particular one came from, and if anyone can tip me off, please, do share!  For now, though at least I know what decade to understand this…but whatever past time it is from, I like my new and unusual jumpsuit!

This is my submission for the “Sew Together for Summer” challenge of 2019, co-hosted by the blogger at “Sew Sarah Smith” with the Instagrammers Suzy at “sewing_in_spain” and Monika at “rocco.sienna”.  This year’s theme is jumpsuits, dungarees, overalls, playsuits, and rompers…something one piece that has bifurcated bottoms.  This garment certainly falls in this category!  However, one is never enough of a good thing so this is just my first part for the challenge…part two will be a full 50’s playsuit, coming soon since the closing date is June 21!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a lightweight chambray cotton denim with a border embroidery stitched along the selvedge; facing in a lightweight plain cotton

PATTERN:  a Mail Order pattern no.1495, ca. 1962

NOTIONS:  I needed lots of thread and bias tape to finish the edges (chambray frays like crazy otherwise), with some interfacing and four waistband style hook-n-eyes

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This took me about 10 to 12 hours to make and was finished on May 18, 2019.

TOTAL COST:  just under $30

Whatever company this pattern was from, I am impressed.  For such a simple, unassuming line drawing and such a basic looking pattern (unprinted tissue, simple instruction sheet) it was sneakily complex.  The entire neckline and shoulder strap was one large and unusual shaped continuous piece that took copious amounts of pins, patience, and expertise to make correctly.  The pleating needed precise marking at the cutting out stage and lots of ironing afterwards.  Happily, I didn’t have to deal with much fitting issues – according to my tissue fit and preliminary measurements, this mystery mail order pattern ran one size smaller than what was listed, and I was correct.  Other than having to adjust this jumpsuit’s slightly long torso, it turned out pretty much perfect for me as it was straight out of the envelope.

Split skirts have interesting construction, especially when they are pleated like this one.  They also make for very large pattern pieces!  The deep pleats that meet at both the center front and back hide the crotch seam and make it look like a skirt.  I figured correctly that it made a better box pleat to sew the center fold-line together from the inside rather than just top-stitching the creases down next to one another, as the pattern instructed.  Depending on how much wear this jumpsuit sees, I might come back later and embroider on some “arrow heads”, the proper (and beautiful) way to stabilize the ending point of a pleat to prevent or stop a hole from forming in the fabric.

I normally hate box pleats in skirt backs because they rarely stay looking nice between sitting and everything life calls for, but a good hot steam of the iron keeps them pretty good.  The box pleating in the back was a lot more challenging than the front, needing much hand stitching, because of the center zipper running through the middle.  You are basically trying to have a fold line end right where the edge of the zipper teeth are!  I made sure to have a bit extra ease in the fit because if something like this fit snugly the back pleats over the zipper would not come together at all and only pull apart.

A border running above a hemline is rather conventional, so my favorite part of this jumpsuit is the way I have the embroidery border wrap around the neckline, too.  It really balances out all the interest at the hemline, in my opinion, and brings just enough attention to what might be lost otherwise – the fabulous strap design which is the closing method.  This jumpsuit has wrap-over-from-the-back straps, pretty much like overalls, that end as wide, cornered tab closings on the front of the bodice.

The pattern called for buttons to close the shoulder tabs, but they are the only thing holding up the 2 something yards of fabric in the skirt.  Thus I opted for two strong sliding hook-and-eyes to close each strap…but with the back zipper I really could have just sewn the front tabs down permanently and not had them workable.  Oh well!  It’s always way cooler to have the tab closings actually work, and at least I know what garment to raid if I ever need some last minute notions for another project.

The open, eyelet-style embroidered border presented several creative challenges.   First off, the dress’ neckline and straps needed a facing to complete the eyelet without making it obvious the openings in the embroidery designs were being filled in.  The only answer to that was to make the facing a similar weight plain white cotton, and interface it in likewise cotton interfacing, as well.  Secondly, after completely hand stitching the entire neckline and shoulder straps and tab closings, I was bracing myself to do more of that to the hem.  However, the hemming was easy once I just figured on following along with what was already there.  Then I was able to use a close zig-zag stitch (much like a loose button hole stitch) on my sewing machine and just follow along with the scalloping of the bottom to the border.  I’m tricky like that!  Hubby shook his head at me like I was cheating out of doing the hem right – but hey…I’ll save myself both time and bodily misery where I legitimately can.

Speaking of misery, in order to give my culotte jumpsuit a ‘test run’, I wore them over to frolic and play in my parents’ backyard (the backdrop for our pictures).  Yup, my new jumpsuit is certainly great for jungle gym climbing, puppy dog chasing, and general child level play!  However, my ‘test run’ (watch it here) sure caused me so much achy arms and tired legs for the next several days afterwards!  I suppose I need more play clothes like this if only to have a reason to exercise while having fun like I did that day.

Warm Weather White…Topped Off!

A sundress, to me, is a sort of ‘default’ summer garment.  Sure, it can be changed up and made in a million different ways and (don’t get me wrong) I do love a sundress.  However, when Allie J. had her June ‘Social Sew’ with the theme of “sun dressing”, there was something in my mind that told me, “You have plenty of sundresses…that’s an easy thing for you to fall on…pick something you don’t have, something new and different that still means summer to you.”  O.k., I’m always up for a challenge.

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So, I have make a bright white year 1934 blouse and re-fashioned a modern sun hat into a vintage one.  With my wide cuffed driving gloves, a two tone belt, and my already made mid-30’s basic black skirt (posted here) I have a new basic toned summer outfit.

My blouse was so easy that I want to whip up about a baker’s dozen and is so comfy that I want to wear one on a regular basis (also why I want multiples)!  There’s only one yard needed, anyway.  On its own, I think the blouse is not obviously vintage, which is interesting as it is from a very old date in an era known for “stand-out” designs.  Most importantly, this blouse is the ultimate summer blouse for me – just enough to keep me effortlessly classy and covered up in old style while staying cool as a cucumber!  Nailed it!  With an awesome one-of-a-kind hat to keep the sun out of my eyes I am ready for the heat.

THE FACTS:DuBarry 1114B, year 1934, envelope front-comp

FABRIC:  The blouse is a 100% cotton with all over embroidery in a “hibiscus flower” pattern, the hat is modern in a 100% straw content

PATTERN:  Du Barry #1114B, year 1934, for the blouse and my own design for the hat

NOTIONS NEEDED:  Nothing but the basics are needed here – thread, bias tape, and buttons, all of which were on hand.  The hat refashion needed something special besides water and clothespins…I’ll explain down later.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  only 3 or 4 hours from start to finish, which was on June 24, 2016.

TOTAL COST:  The embroidered cotton was bought as a one yard discounted remnant at JoAnn’s store, so it only cost me $8.50.  The hat was given to me as a present from my mother-in-law.

Not only is the pattern I used for my blouse a Du Barry line (harder to find, made between 1931 made 1947) but it also has the “NRA” symbol, something limited to years 1933 and 1935 as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal Depression Era initiative.  Also, each garment in this three piece ensemble of skirt, blouse, and jacket has basically only three pieces for a ridiculously and deceptively easy outfit.  This is very utilitarian but lovely in its details.  I mean, just look at that jacket, too, with its two tone scarf closure!

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The main drawback is that the only way this pattern was affordable was because the instruction sheet was missing.  So far, I made it by without the instructions and I think the blouse is the hardest item from this pattern’s trio, but I would still love to know exactly how I was supposed sew it ‘cause it was slightly tricky.  Yet there was nothing some ingenuity couldn’t make work.  At the front neckline edge, where the blouse bodice joins to the all-in-one shoulder/sleeve yoke there seems to be some sort of tuck or dart called for, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure it out no matter how I tried.  What small tuck I did make all but disappeared, leaving a small bubble behind when I finished the neckline.  My hubby figured out that perhaps the bow (which I left off, as you can see) hooks and hangs from this bubble tuck, so perhaps it is meant to be there.  Between the embroidery and some steam from my iron the bubble has disappeared already, but I would love to see the instructions showing how this was supposed to work.

DSC_0759a-compLook at the odd pattern pieces!  The shoulder front/back yoke is the most unusual one – it is cut on the fold and darted so it is all-in-one, including the sleeves.  This is actually the first blouse pattern where there are separate pattern pieces for both the right front and the left front.  Those two pattern pieces are identical, the button holes and the buttons are just marked differently, so I’m kind of counting them as one piece despite them being cut separates.  I left out interfacing because I wanted an easy, quick blouse without being stiff or prissy. DSC_0806-comp

The hem has a shirt tail bottom, which I haven’t seen much of in vintage women’s’ blouses.  The ends are rounded off which I think is so cute!  I had tried to hem the ends under but with the embroidery in the cotton it turned out much too thick especially for a blouse that is meant to be tucked in.  So I merely finished off the raw edge with some double fold white bias tape giving a clean-looking hem, with a hint of a contrast, and a flat edge.

DSC_0804-compAs this blouse was just so quick and easy with its insides left raw (the embroidery keeps the cotton from fraying), I compensated by making bound “windowpane” buttonholes.  There are only three of them down to the waist so it wasn’t overmuch.  Making any more than five bound buttonholes starts to become more of a chore for me…but the promise of the finished project always gets me through any tough spots.

I love how the embroidery keeps the blouse from looking as sheer as it really is but I think the neckline somehow turned out a bit low.  I also don’t understand why the sleeves don’t look quite as wide as on the cover drawing, but oh well, they still are great.  Happily, this blouse goes with so much in my wardrobe, and works with my 40’s bottoms, as well as McCall 375, 30s hat pattern&Jaya Lee Designs on Etsylooking remotely modern.

Speaking of modern, the hat from my mother-in-law was originally such a bland, un-interesting piece, so very forgettable, it’s no wonder she didn’t want it.  I had to make it special, but also something I needed to go with my wardrobe, something I was lacking…a 30’s style summer hat!  My inspiration for this re-fashion came from browsing through pictures, old catalog re-prints, patterns, and online vendors.  The early 1930’s hats all had small brims and small crowns (many with ridges) worn over closely cropped or tightly curled hair.  Time to soak and re-block.

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A large tub of plain water was the starting point.  The lace was taken off and the plain hat was soaked for about three hours to soften it.  However, there is a clear glaze covering the straw which made things challenging.  The glaze still kind of flakes off like falling snow when I wear it.  Nevertheless, I was able to pinch out two giant ridges running the length of the crown, held in place while the hat was drying with clothes pins and wave clips meant for vintage hair-do’s (available online or at salons).  The brim was un-rolled and pulled down at the center front and center back as well.DSC_0801-comp

Some unique lattice-cut ribbon from my stash was folded in half for the band and a simple double bow was made from the full width.  The ribbon is kept in place with a straight pin because I want the option of easily changing my mind 😉

It’s fun to stray from the norm, especially since I can make whatever comes into my head!  I found a new way to rock the summer.  I hope I’ve inspired you to look into re-fashioning those ‘blah’ hats to your liking.  Have you used your creative juices to make something especially different that means summer to you?  Or have you, like me, found a new amazingly simple blouse that is perfect for you from an unsuspecting pattern?

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