Spring Palette Challenge: To Be Continued…

Happy April, y’all! With the start of the new month comes lots of rainy days (at least it does here in the northeast) and the end of Colette Spring Pattern Challenge. Technically.

My initial plan was to sew a blouse, a skirt, a jacket and two dresses. You’ll notice the conspicuous absence of any dress progress. So I will be continuing sewing these pieces into the next month. At the end, I will have to track down a photographer and do a full fashion shoot of my “collection.” And tulips. Because spring photos should always have tulips.

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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:

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My Sewing Anniversary

The mention I made of a Sew School plan I designed a year ago made me realize something. As of about two weeks ago, I have been sewing for one year. What better time is there to look back and take stock of the hobby that’s become my obsession for the last 12 months.

I’ve learned so much in this year, due as much to hands-on experience as to the brilliant sewing bloggers out there. Every time I’ve had a question, I’ve been able to google around or search on YouTube and find an answer. If any of you are reading this: THANKS A MILLION!

Here are photos of my finished projects for the year:

  • Kwik Sew 3683 – My first. A two-piece¬† jersey knit tunic with unfinished edges. I wear this as PJs these days.
  • Kwik Sew 3765 – An elastic waist skirt. The back seam hasn’t held up very well. But I’m still impressed with my very first hem.
  • Kwik Sew 3579 – Another tunic in four pieces. It’s too short and I don’t think I understitched the neck facing. At least, not well.
  • Butterick 4790 (unblogged) – The infamous walkaway dress, where I learned that hemming a full circle skirt is a beast.¬† And that dresses that don’t close all the way are not really all that practical.

  • Butterick 5285 – Thank goodness I’ve gotten better at gathering stitches.
  • Kwik Sew 3756 (unblogged) and Butterick 5466 – I guess I had a case of francophilia because I made a French Sailor shirt — with set in sleeves — and a skirt with French seams.
  • Butterick 5214 (unblogged) – My favorite and most worn dress of last summer. A vintage 1947 pattern made from lemon-tree print silk/cotton blend? What’s not to love? I’ve even already mended this one. I accidentally tore a skirt panel in late summer and replaced it!
  • Vogue 8604 – I inserted an invisible zipper, lined a jacket and made buttonholes. Someone was feeling cocky.

The end of the year marked the arrival of my dress form, Joanie. (She joins my sewing machine, Lola.) She’s a much better model than I am.

  • Vogue 8379 – My most worn dress of the Fall/winter.
  • Kwik Sew 3756 – The velvet panne dress version. Here I am trying my hand at adding trim and embellishment to make the dress my own.
  • Butterick 5559 – My understitching has improved but could still use some work. Does anyone out there have advice for getting front facings to really stay put??
  • Butterick 5147 – The sheath dress that was harder than it looked.

And, last but not least, my Halloween costume. It was truly, truly outrageous!

Spring Palette Challenge – The Plan

So I think I’m gonna do it. By it, I mean the Colette Patterns Spring Pattern Challenge. I know, I know. When it comes to sewing, I’ve so far been what you might call capricious. For proof of that, one need only look at my track record of scrapped plans here on this blog. First, there was the self-designed Sew School from over a year ago that I still haven’t finished sewing. Then, there’s the matter of Casey’s Swing Dress Sew Along that I haven’t even gotten started on. But I can’t stop thinking about the palette challenge.

The pull of these pretty spring colors is just too strong.

I’ve even mostly figured out what I want to sew. Two out of three of these fabrics and patterns are already in my possession and have been for a little while. But I will have to get my hands on the pattern and fabric for the Jenny skirt.

I’m way behind on both challenges, of course. I’d love to be able to fold the sew along into this plan too. But what fabric to use? The pattern recommends crepe, heavy rayon and silk charmeuse (which I think may be a little fancy for a day dress). Have you seen anything that might fit my palette and suit the dress? If so, feel free to leave a comment and let me know.