Sunday, 5 June 2016

Chequered Success: Colette Pastille + Simplicity 3257

Hi there!

Here's my summer dress, what was supposed to be a quick palette-cleanser after my latest unselfish sew. However, as my choices for palette-cleansers seem to often do, this ended up taking a lot longer than expected, and wasn't quite the easy win I hoped it would be- hence the 'chequered success', which is also a reference to messy print matching with the gingham.

I don't know about you, but I love sewing books. I've received quite a few over the last couple of years since sewing has become a major part of my lifestyle- I have the benefit/ curse of having a birthday quite close to Christmas which means I tend to receive a stack of them, get inspiration overload in January, but then find it hard to commit to one and get on with things. The Colette Sewing Handbook is one such gift, received about two years ago, and while I have read all the information and found it quite soothing as well as instructive, the patterns are of course five years old now and while lovely they do speak to the reinterpreted vintage style of a few years back which is a bit 'cutesy indie girl' for me now (although if I'd been sewing at that time past me would have loved it!). However, I'm still quite keen to try all the patterns, which have good bones and with style variations of my own can be made to be more 'me'. 

For some reason I'd been thinking about the Pastille dress a lot; I couldn't decide whether I loved it or whether it was really frumpy. I was also quite keen to get on board with the whole 'sewing patterns that teach' philosophy that Colette has. The neckline bow was a definite no, and I was torn on the skirt's horizontal pleats. Not really me, but a new technique to try, and I kind of wanted to do them just as a lesson. I also switched up the lapped zip for an invisible, as now I have the right foot these are much easier to insert and give a cleaner look.

Thanks to a warning from fellow blogger Lynne at Ozzy Blackbeard I decided to make a muslin to check for the dreaded gapy back that this pattern apparently inflicts on a few people. I took a different approach to this pattern than normal- instead of doing an FBA I cheated and graded between a 10 for the bust and 8 at the waist, back to 10 again at the hips. This seemed to work pretty well for the front bodice even if it was a bit fudged. For the back (again graded between 8 and 10, but perhaps I could have left it at 8 all over) I found I had to close and exclude the neckline darts and make the waistline darts longer on the back bodice pieces for a better fit. The skirt pieces on my muslin looked hilariously exaggerated where I'd graded between waist and hips- almost like the Elisalex which wasn't really what I was going for. As I wasn't 100% sold on the horizontal pleats at the bottom of the skirt I had the brainwave of subbing in the skirt from Simplicity 3257, a vintage skirt that was one of the first patterns I ever bought.
Luckily the front pleats of the skirt matched up almost perfectly with the Pastille's bodice darts, although I did decide to use the Pastille's back skirt pieces as 3257 has an interesting back vent construction that involves a large fold of fabric that goes all the way to the waistband that I thought would be too bulky and would interfere with the centre back zip. I also had redraft the Pastille back skirt pieces slightly to match 3257's length and side seams (although I added 1/4” more ease on each seam up to the hip on the 3257 just eyeballing as I cut as my last version is a tiny bit tight). 

So far, so good. It all came together pretty nicely, even if I had to find a way to (somewhat) neatly finish my slit at the back of the skirt on the fly as I realised it would be difficult to walk otherwise. My armhole facings are less than perfect- I've got a slightly weird shaping at the top of the cap sleeve where I must have curved inwards slightly when cutting out on the fold, meaning it isn't a nice straight edge at the top, and there is a little bit of gaping at the side seams under the arms that I would address next time.

My main issue with this dress is that, although the fabric I chose suits the style and gives the dress a flirty and casual air (in a different fabric it could look quite elegant and formal- and I'm tempted to give it a whirl again for sure) I managed to make a hash of cutting and as a result the check matching on this gingham is a total mess. The worst is at the waistline, where it seems that both the bodice and the skirt were cut at a slant, creating a little chequered wedge. The checks are also quite visibly running off the edge of the hem- and I just did the best I could with the back as how the bodice and new skirt back seams were going to match up was total guesswork. At least I kept the vertical stripes consistent for the most part...

It's frustrating as in a different fabric this dress would be a total win- I really like the combination of bodice and skirt and it fits pretty well, and after working through my adjustments would be a pretty quick sew for next time. It's just my lack of accuracy in cutting some of the pieces and, although I feel like I agonised over pattern-matching the gingham when cutting out it somehow seems to have gone awry. I don't know if this fabric is off-grain (which is possible, it was something like £3 a metre and has been sitting in my drawer for a couple of years) or whether there was some slippage in cutting, but it's galling.

I'm chalking this dress up as a 'curate's egg' which is an old phrase I've only recently discovered via my boyfriend, who came across it in his job as a sub editor (here are some bonus snaps of us being the homespun couple - he's wearing the GBSB shirt I made him last year). Apparently it means something that has both good and bad parts; it comes from an old Punch cartoon satirising manners where a curate who has been given a rotten egg by his host is loathe to criticise it and cause offence, so claims there are some parts of it that are still edible. Originally I suppose this phrase would have had a similar meaning as the less elegant 'you can't polish a turd' (i.e. someone desperately trying to make a good show of something patently terrible) but its meaning has morphed over time to take the kindly curate's balanced view as its driving force. So, this dress has good bits- but it also has some undeniably bad bits.

If it's not too cheeky to ask, have any of your projects turned out to be 'curate's eggs' recently?

Norseotter xx