Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Sincerest Form of Flattery – Talbots and the Spring Palette Challenge

Talbots is one of those stores I have spent much of my adult life making fun of. It has just always seemed so stuffy, old and decidedly bourgeois, I couldn’t imagine myself ever wearing anything from there. But either the brand is undergoing an overhaul or I am turning into a stuffy Muffy in my old age. Because this bright, ladylike skirt from their Spring line inspired me:

I had planned to make a pencil skirt (namely, the Burda Jenny) as my next project for the Spring Palette Challenge. When I lost my ambition to print and trace and yadda yadda, I was left floundering about what to do next. Thanks to Talbots, I came up with this:

It’s a revisit of the Butterick 5285 Fast & Easy pattern that I attempted in my earliest sewing days. It did not go well. This time, it went well enough for me to add a few fancy details: pockets, bias-bound seams, a narrow hem and a grosgrain ribbon-faced waistband (in yellow to tie it in with the other projects in the challenge).

You’ll notice that this skirt is not precisely the same as the Talbots skirt, which is pleated rather than gathered at the waist. Several views of the Butterick pattern do have an option to do pleating (I seriously considered view B) but I made the decision to go dirndl because of how much I really hate gathering. I know that sounds counter-intuitive. Sewing is a fun hobby, why would I do something I hate?

It’s sort of like in college, if I had a class I hated, I forced myself to show up early and sit in the front row. Or how the worse I feel, the nicer I dress. Somehow, dealing with unpleasant things head-on takes the sting out of them. Does that make sense? I really need to try to apply the technique to more aspects of my personal life. But that’s another story for another day.

The Rundown:
Pattern: Butterick 5285
Fabric: Pink stretch poplin from Chic Fabrics (Are you noticing a theme yet? It’s one of my favorite Garment District shops.)
Crucial Tool: Seam ripper (for when the gathers didn’t turn out evenly and I had to take the waistband back off and try again)
Helpful Hints: Megan Nielsen’s pdf tutorial for how to make a dirndl skirt

Full Yellow Jacket: Spring Palette Challenge #2

Finally, a second piece for my Spring Palette Challenge (SPC). The pattern for this is Butterick 5214, a recent reissue of a pattern originally released in 1947.

I am especially proud of this jacket (or is it a bolero?) because it’s something that I can turn inside out. No, it’s not reversible. But it’s not ugly on the inside!

In order to accomplish this, I used a French seam on all the pieces. For those of you not familiar with the technique, you create a French seam by sewing the seam twice. First you sew a shallow seam (in this case, 3/8″) with the wrong sides of the fabric together. Open out and press the seam. Turn the fabric inside out so that the right sides are now facing. Sew the seam again at a normal seam allowance (in this case, 5/8″). This encases the unfinished edges that ravel. If that wasn’t clear, I’ve included a link to the video tutorial that helped me below.

Anyway, the bolero is made from about a yard and a half silk four-ply fabric that I purchased almost a year ago. I made the matching dress last summer in a lemon tree print. (By the way, Gertie and I were sewing this same lemon tree fabric at the same time last year. And even though hers is, well, hers — so pretty much perfectly amazing — it just goes to show you that great minds think alike.)

As there are only two or three weeks left in the SPC and I’m only through with piece number two, I’m trying to decide whether to abandon my ambitious plan of getting five pieces done or to grant myself an extension of a couple of weeks. To be fair, I did get started on the challenge three weeks late.

What do you guys think? Would an extension defeat the point of a time-based challenge? Or is getting my planned “collection” done a more impressive and important task?

The Rundown
Pattern: Butterick 5214 (Jacket, Size 18)
Fabric: Yellow Four-Ply Silk from Chic Fabric
Makeshift Tool of the Week: Men’s plastic collar stay. I still haven’t bought a point turner but I used the point of a collar stay to help turn the collar and front facing. I think it turned out pretty well.
Helpful Hints: Check out this straightforward YouTube tutorial on French seams

Spring Palette Challenge: Vogue 8032

All blogging evidence to the contrary, I have actually been working on the Colette Spring Palette Challenge. It’s currently on week 6 of 10, putting me way, way behind. But I have finally finished my first item: view A of Vogue 8032, a gathered neck blouse with a collar and back ties. It incorporates two of the colors from my palette.


As the pattern envelope states, this was indeed very easy to put together. Gathering seems to be my sewing Achilles heel and it was the one element I had some trouble with.

This was also my first attempt at making bias binding. The pre-made binding I had purchased in yellow to finish off the armholes was simply to heavy for this light, airy fabric. Thank goodness for Sarai’s tutorial on the Colette Patterns blog. I didn’t follow it to the letter because I hadn’t purchased enough fabric in anticipation of making binding. But I think it’s pretty good for a first try at the technique with only fabric scraps to work from.

There were two tools I wished I had in my sewing kit for this project: a point turner and a bias tape maker. I haven’t needed them previously but if you plan on making this blouse, I’d definitely recommend both. The point turner is a crucial tool for getting crisp, pointy ends on collars and ties without damaging the fabric. Ultimately, I think I did all right, thanks to my superstar iron.

I am planning only five pieces for the challenge: this blouse, a jacket (Butterick 5214), two dresses (McCall’s 6069 and the Sensibility Swing Dress) and skirt (either the Burda Jenny or Simplicity 2512) so it’s possible I might still catch up.

The Rundown:
Pattern: Vogue 8032 (View A, Size 18)
Fabric: Orange and yellow polka-dot silk/cotton blend from Chic Fabric
Crucial Tools: Point Turner; Bias Tape Maker
Helpful Hints: Check out Colette Patterns Tutorial on continuous bias tape

Academy Awards 2011: Loved it, Hated It!

The end of awards season is such a bittersweet time for me. Because I review movies weekly, I see a lot of films throughout the year. But once the year-end lovefest begins, I make an effort to see the year’s best in earnest. I even saw all of the Oscar-nominated animated shorts this year. If you’re interested, I was rooting for The Gruffalo, one of three nominated films starring the insane wonder that is Helena Bonham Carter:

Continue reading