The 2014 Misses!

 Top 5 2014 #sewingtop5

Where there are Hits, there have to be Misses! Thankfully I’ve not had too many catastrophes this year so I’ve ended up with just three contenders.

First up: Exhibit A – my Colette Dahlia.

Plaid matching

It’s probably obvious that I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so the Dahlia debacle was a definite low. Lesson learned – I managed to turn it around and ended up with a dress I could live with. The encouragement I received from you all as a result of my moaning was truly inspiring. Thank you. I put the problems down to not scrutinising my toile closely enough, and for choosing a fabric that wasn’t really suitable. It turned out I wasn’t the only one having serious fit issues. The cherry on the cake was having my salvaged rag appear in the Colette Patterns Dahlia Sewalong Round-Up (thanks to Clarinda Kaleidoscope for spotting it!). They clearly hadn’t read the accompanying post!

The V1342 Party Dress


The next ‘miss’ I am confessing to is my most recent birthday frock, the V1342. Don’t get me wrong, I rose to the challenge and loved the look of it, but the soft viscose hasn’t held it’s shape well. The result is a skin-tight fit around the behind and baggy ruching across the bust – not a good combination. Having worn it just once, it’s already losing its shape. No-one, and I mean NO-ONE wants a droopy bosom! I was never entirely happy with the finish partly due to complexity of pattern, softness of fabric, and general lack of skill on my part. It was made as a birthday one-off, and was a fabulous challenge. But I’m unlikely to wear it again without some serious sewing first aid so I think I will reuse the gorgeous teal fabric for a garment I will get lots of wear out of.

The Colette Beignet

Denim Beignet

My final exhibit is my Colette Beignet denim skirt. There’s nothing technically wrong with this number, I just haven’t worn it. Well, maybe twice! I approached this pattern methodically and carefully, and wanted to use it to develop my skills. I took time to top-stitch seams and chose perfect buttons; I was rather proud of the finished garment. The problem here is that it just does not flatter my shape. Probably my biggest lesson of the year has been to really consider what suits rather than making something I’ve seen someone else look fabulous in online.

Sewing Resolutions for 2015

Father Christmas left me an overlocker under the tree, so next year’s first goal will be to learn how to use it. My other ‘resolution’ will be to slow the pace down a little. I have loved churning through make after make; it’s addictive and there’s always something exciting that I want to make next. But it’s not sustainable in the long term, and does not match my objective for well thought-out sewing choices as an alternative to impulse-buying on the High Street.

My 2015 sewing pledge is therefore to devote time and space to improving my skills! See you next year, sewing chums. x


Dahlia: A Second Chance

Dear Dahlia,

Colette Patterns Dahlia Plaid

It was nearly the end for us. I didn’t think I could live with the imperfections. But after taking advice from people who know better than me, I was encouraged to give you a second chance. You were so close to being binned that I thought I had nothing to lose and might learn something from attempting to alter you.

Colette Patterns Dahlia in Plaid

When I first set eyes on that tantalising sneak preview email from Colette Patterns I knew I couldn’t live without you. The perfect (or so I thought) fabric was awaiting a perfect pattern. I may be shallow, but I was so easily seduced by your gathers, bound neckline and sleeves. The fact that you were a beginners’ level pattern was a bonus. Similarly, the fabric drew me in with its soft and comforting feel and autumnal palette. But in my haste I didn’t consider its structure or how it might behave. Things didn’t work out well the first time around.

Surgery to remove excess at the waistline having unpicked the internal waist yoke facing

Surgery to remove excess at the waistline

You’re definitely not going to win any beauty contests on the inside after my alterations, but I can live with that. You gave up nearly three inches on your waist without complaint. And two darts on the back neckline meant that no longer would my pants be visible when someone looks over my shoulder!

Dahlia back neckline with darts

Back neckline with added darts

I’ll admit that I had to undergo a bit of a mindshift to give you a second chance. Instead of seeing you for the misshapen rag you had become, I began to imagine that I’d found you in a vintage shop, where tender tweaks would bring you to life again. I would have been immediately drawn to your colours and texture, and wouldn’t have minded re-stitching your entire insides, even by hand, just to make you fit perfectly.

Colette Patterns Dahlia in Plaid

I can’t say that I take much pride in what we have yet. I’m too much of a perfectionist. But there’s something about you that made me want it to work out. I can’t promise you’ll be the only one, but the next Dahlia I attempt will be at least one size smaller, if not two, and in better quality fabric (and definitely not in plaid).

Colette Patterns Dahlia in Plaid

With love,

Rachel x

P.S. I used to think it was a bit strange being on first name terms with your clothes, but writing letters to them…I must have lost the plot.


Colette Patterns Dahlia in Plaid

Dahlia: The One That Got Away!

Zip not inserted, left side pinned

Zip not inserted, left side pinned

My projects start out 100% perfect, but that’s before they’re cut and sewn. It seems that every stage of the process moves the garment further and further away from perfection. From cutting to sewing and the final finishing touches, my dream of a perfect make deteriorates with the accumulation of human involvement. Most of the time the end result is wearable, even something to be proud of. This time, the project defeated me…Let’s just say, the jury’s still out as to whether it’s even worth finishing.

Plaid matching

Plaid matching

I will not be alone in falling hard and fast for the new Colette pattern: the Dahlia. Feeling optimistic, I followed Colette Pattern’s How to Match Plaids & Stripes tutorial and spent a good four hours, yes that’s four hours, cutting out the pieces. Deep down, I think I knew this Dahlia was doomed from the start. The brushed cotton plaid fabric was the perfect colour for a winter dress. In retrospect it would have made a perfect pair of pyjamas: soft, snuggly and yielding. Whilst being my dream colour combo, the fabric has a tendency to pull out of shape. Case in point: it took an awful lot of tugging to straighten it out after the pre-wash, and with plaids there are no shortcuts. So I shouldn’t have been particularly surprised when the bias-cut waist yoke appeared to have stretched out of shape. I decided to go back and add fusible interfacing to stiffen it up before I sewed down the lining yoke.

Major neckline gaping

Major neckline gaping

A similar effect had occurred on the neckline. Despite stay-stitching, the neckline had stretched out so that the binding gapes away from the body. Is it just me, or does stay-stitching itself stretch the fabric out? I do wonder if it’s better just to sort the neckline out for good at the earliest stage possible to avoid all problems. The only solution would be to remove the binding at the back and add neckline darts.


Whether the fabric has stretched beyond belief or I had cut a size too big is up for debate. I did cut a larger size than my last Colette pattern, the Laurel. I also graded out at the waist to be sure that it would fit after studying the size tables! The hastily prepared toile did not hint at the disaster to come. As I write, after the yoke lining has been stitched down, the only way I can take the fullness out of the waistline is to increase the seam allowance down the zip side. Would this result in the dress being noticeably off-centre?

More plaid-matching

More plaid-matching

So, the fit’s not great, the fabric pulls out of shape, and worst of all, the dress seems to be in a ‘Fatal Attraction’ relationship with my tights. I’m really unsure as to whether it’s worth the effort to salvage this, despite the super-human effort it took to get the plaid to line up. I think I will admit defeat and let this one go. It will be The One That Got Away. And it could have been so perfect….