Friday, October 28, 2011

Stitching The Pastille!

In honor of The Colette Sewing Handbook showing up in stores and mailboxes a bit earlier than expected (NOW!) I am going to let you in on my time constructing one of the new dress patterns in the book. In fact, it just happens to be the dress on the front cover. Enjoy the journey.

Part 1

In the spring, I responded to a request from Sarai of Colette Patterns for pattern testers. I had tested the Oolong dress for her before. This time I was offered two patterns from her upcoming book, The Colette Sewing Handbook. Licorice, a loose shift-like dress with sash and draped collar and Pastille, a fitted sheath dress with a modified sweetheart neckline and petal-like cap sleeves.

While I liked both designs, Pastille called out to me because I could see it fulfilling an important purpose in my wardrobe. I saw it as a potential job interview dress. Professional, non-fussy, classic, but with a non-corporate vintage edge. Styled with a cool vintage enamel brooch this dress would be great in my wardrobe, pretty and feminine enough for a dinner date but also appropriate for more serious occasions.

I will be posting a traditional review of this dress (see the teaser at left) later but I wanted to write in more detail about what I learned while making it. As it turns out I found myself trying out some new techniques when constructing my version of the Pastille dress.

My new pattern weights

  • My first move was to go to Home Depot and buy some metal washers. These would be my new pattern weights instead of straight pins. At first, I only saw the small ones that weighed nothing but eventually I found the heavy steel/zinc 5/8" size which were perfect. I now have 14 of them at only $.46 each! They work wonderfully in holding down your fabric and I've already used them on stretchy Lycra knits. In addition, re-positioning of the pattern is now quick and easy.

  • The second new thing I did was use clear tape to help out my dart making abilities. I have never been able to sew a straight dart, they always veer off course and end up where they're not meant to end. This time I replicated the dart lines from the pattern using a straight piece of tape instead of straight pins. Then I could just sew along the edge of the tape. So fabulous and my darts for this project were perfect.

  • Then I used my new friend (adhesive tape) to mark the three horizontal pleats along the bottom half of the skirt. The instructions say to thread trace the lines but I first wanted to make sure my lines were straight. I didn't have any fabric markers that would show up on this fabric so I used my design ruler and laid tape exactly where the lines were needed. With two contrasting colors of thread I then hand basted across the three skirt pieces right next to the edge of the tape, resulting in perfectly straight lines of stitching. For maximum visibility, I used yellow and orange thread to mark the different rows and I loved the resulting contrast on the dark gray fabric. Perhaps I'll use the same technique as a permanent feature on a future project.

  • However, this project used up a lot of tape, so next time I will be using painter's tape. It has a very low adhesive factor so that it can be used again at least two more times. Not as wasteful.

    Coming up: Fitting issues with the Pastille.


    Amanda said...

    Love the tape idea! That's a good option if you don't want to mark a line on your fabric, will keep that in mind.

    I love the Pastille pattern and look forward to trying it! Neat that you got to test it.

    Katy said...

    Great tips. I'll try out the dart one. I use cans of tomatoes as weights but washers are a great idea.

    Sigrid said...

    I love the washers and tape ideas. How did you tranfer the dart position from the pattern to the fabric?

    lsaspacey said...


    I had already separated the pattern from the cut fabric. I then folded the pattern piece back from the dart, matched the edges of fabric to pattern, weighing both down with a ruler and applied the tape along the dart lines. I'm not sure if that makes sense to you, if my camera took better photos up close I'd do a tutorial but it would just be a blurry mess.

    Amy Seager said...

    I really want this book! it looks amazing!

    thanks for sharing!


    SEWN said...

    Great ideas! thanks for sharing them.