Does split sizing equal a splitting headache?

So this week Colette released their new pattern, the Penny shirt dress. I’m on their Pattern Insider email list, so I got a sneak peek on Monday morning and was smitten from the off. It looks like a lovely pattern with some interesting features – I particularly like the belt detail on version 2, and the sleeves on version 1 are super pretty. Obviously, I’ve already bought it.


Anyway, I note that Colette have introduced split sizing to their printed patterns; something they’ve been doing with their Seamwork patterns since the beginning of the year. I get why they do it – you need to draft differently for different body types, plus it gets confusing if there are too many sizes on a single sheet. If you buy the misses (0-16) or curvy (18-26) printed Penny pattern directly from Colette’s online shop, you also get access to both ranges in pdf format so you can grade more easily. You can also buy the pdf on its own, if that’s your preference. For more about Colette’s approach to split sizing, click here.

This is a great development from Colette – they’re doing their best to be inclusive and cater for as many of their customers as possible. As someone whose body spans the misses and curvy ranges by as many as four sizes between waist and hips, having the option to grade is essential. I wish more pattern companies would follow suit, and when I say that I’m looking particularly at the Big Four. A quick scan of the McCalls website shows that their patterns come in two size ranges, with a crossover of one size (e.g. the ubiquitous M6696 shirt dress comes in sizes 8-16 and 16-24). PDF provision is patchy, and even when they do exist they’re split between the same size ranges. Basically, if you want to grade between the ranges you have to spend your money twice.

This puts me off buying from them. My pattern drafting skills ain’t all that, and the sizing/grading advice on the McCalls website to pick from my hip size and alter the waist is a bit of a ball ache (yes, I am lazy). Would it be cost-effective for them to offer grouped PDFs a la Colette? Or is it worth doing a mid-sized range of printed patterns in addition to the misses and curvy sizes so that there’s more overlap? How would this affect their design process? Should I just bite the bullet and give the Big Four a go?




You’d give me a job, right?

Morning all! I’ve got a morning of shorts-toiling planned (toile and toil are so close, aren’t they?), so I’m coming at you early doors to share an outfit that’s been sitting in my blog queue for a bit too long.

At some point, I’m going to get a job here in Seattle. However, there’s no sign of that work permit coming through just yet and boredom is beginning to set in. That doesn’t stop me from making interview and work-appropriate clothing though! Truth be told, I didn’t sew either of these pieces with jobs in mind, but I think the outfit would work nicely for a summer office wardrobe.


More roof porn. I love the roof. Had my dinner up there last night and everything.

The blouse is the Ultimate Shirt by Sew Over It and is one of my May makes. I’ve been hankering after a plain white shirt for so long. I think they’re a great basic – they layer well, they can be smart or casual and look super-crisp.

I managed to squeeze the class in before leaving the UK and I’m so glad I did because I learned so much about shirt construction. The shirt is fitted (thanks to Julie at SOI for helping out with that) and has bias bound cuffs and a collar stand to get to grips with. The only feature it doesn’t have is a lined yoke, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those on a fitted shirt (please prove me wrong though!).

Cuff close up

Here’s a close-up of that bias-bound cuff. You could add top stitching to the cuff itself, but I think it doesn’t need it here. I’m most likely to wear it with sleeves rolled up anyway, cos I’m ready to get stuck in. Obvs.

I’ve made three versions of this so far (pictured below) but this particular version is in some cotton shirting I picked up at District Fabric not long after I arrived. It was generally beautiful to sew with, though I will admit that it was possibly a little bit too thick for the French seams I attempted as my machine struggled a bit. We got there in the end, but I’d overlock throughout if I was doing it again. No matter – I’m really pleased with the finished effect and think it looks properly smart. Obviously, given my current obsession with shirts and shirt dresses, I’ve got another planned – this time in a floaty red rayon. Can’t wait.

Red ultimate shirt

This is the one I made in the class. That’s Atelier Brunette cotton lawn, which is lovely!

Blue ultimate shirt

My second one is in blue cotton lawn and this is an awkward photo taken at the Seattle Symphony Hall while waiting for Russell Howard to start (he was awesome).

The other half of the outfit is a long-overdue revisit of the Colette Zinnia skirt (V2). I first made this a few years ago and ended up throwing it across the room in frustration at my inability to insert an invisible zip. While I eventually ended up loving the skirt and wearing it all the time, it bit the dust earlier this year so it didn’t make it to Seattle. Not a bad excuse to make a new one though, eh?


The back. The only thing that is wrong here is I think I put the button band on the wrong side. It just feels wrong when I do it up. Oh well.

I don’t have much to say about the construction, other than I have now conquered my fear of invisible zips. This one went in with no issues. First time! The real star of this skirt is the fabric, though. It’s a pink chambray that I picked up in the Village Haberdashery before leaving the UK. Nowt special about that, you might say, but this one SPARKLES! It’s got gold thread woven through it so it’s got a lovely sheen which screams summer to me. Unfortunately the photos don’t pick up on the sparkle, but I assure you it is there.

If you’re a long-term reader of this blog, you’ll know that I love versatile separates. These fit the bill perfectly. I’ll wear both of them throughout the summer, and if/when I get that work permit, they’ll be ready for interviews/office work at the drop of a hat. Anyone want to employ me?! (pleeeeeaaaasssseee?)


Thinking of making this my Linked In pic tbh.


Keep it simple, stupid

After promising to keep this blog up to date with a weekly post on my Me Made May progress I completely failed to do so. That’s not to say that I stopped taking part in the event, it’s more that I got really, really bored with taking pictures every day. Sorry (not sorry). You’ll just have to take my word for it that I kept my pledge. In fact on Week Three I absolutely smashed it with six handmade garments within one week!

Apart from learning that I find daily photos pretty tedious, I did learn some valuable things about my me-made wardrobe:

  1. I wear mostly separates. I don’t think I wore a single dress throughout the whole month. I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re more versatile – you can style a top or a skirt many different ways whereas a dress is more restrictive. I do love a good dress, but they’re just not my first choice of a morning.
  2. I love my Scout tops. My black and white zigzaggy Scout was my most worn item of the month, clocking up three wears in all and proving that you can’t knock a good basic (especially when it’s in a funky fabric).
  3. Next year I probably need to be a bit better at planning. There are some pieces in my wardrobe that just didn’t get worn because by the time I got round to them it was getting a bit too warm. My office turns into London’s biggest free sauna at this time of year (i.e. the aircon doesn’t work as intended) so long sleeves and woolly trousers are pretty much out. If I had planned a bit better, I could have worn them earlier on in the month when it was still a bit cooler.
  4. I’m pretty satisfied with how my clothes fit into my life. I am not in a client-facing role so I don’t need to be suited and booted every day, but more smart casual. I wear a lot of my clothes in the office and at the weekend so I think I’ve got the versatility thing down. Obviously there are a few things that don’t cross over – e.g. my Coco top is distinctly casual, and my Zinnia skirt only gets worn at work, but otherwise there’s a lot of mixing business with leisure.

So apart from the picture laziness I think Me Made May turned out pretty well. I even managed to keep the second part of my pledge, which was to finish off the Moneta that has been my only UFO for the past year. I only just managed it though – I finished it in the evening on 31st May, so it really was the equivalent of Indiana Jones snatching his hat back from that rapidly descending door. Incidentally Facebook reminded me that 31st May last year is the day I took the Moneta class at the Village Haberdashery (and here’s the result of that). I think it’s fate. I should make or finish a Moneta every 31st May from now on. Maybe it could be a blog community thing? Who’s with me?! Ok, just me…

You might be able to make out the lack of gathering on my left (your right). But that's only if you're not distracted by my boobs, which for reasons beyond my comprehension just look huge here. I'll blame the bra.

You might be able to make out the lack of gathering on my left (your right). But that’s only if you’re not distracted by my boobs, which for reasons beyond my comprehension just look huge here. I’ll blame the bra.

Anyway, the dress! This one, in bright pink cotton interlock, had been hanging off the back of one of the chairs in the kitchen for nigh on a whole year while I got myself scared about sewing with knits. I really shouldn’t have been so upset about it all because it is a pretty quick and easy sew all told. I made the simplest version – plain neck with short sleeves – and to be honest it was mostly fine. Having got my confidence back after making the Coco, I really don’t know what I was worrying about because in terms of the actual sewing it was pretty easy.

Once again, what I found difficult/awkward was the clear elastic. I stabilised the shoulders with it and felt that it mangled them a bit, so instead of using it to do the neckline I used Wundaweb instead. In hindsight this was a mistake – it’s too thin to do anything other than stick the fabric down so the neckline is a little bit wrinkly on the finished dress. Nothing to stop me from wearing it (in fact I’m wearing it as I type), but I think I need to suck up my issues with it and get some practice in.

I also used it for the waist, where you gather the skirt and then attach that to the bodice. You’re supposed to do it in sections and I managed to do it properly on about three quarters of the skirt, so there’s a section that isn’t as gathered as the other. And it’s on the front so noticeable. Again, it doesn’t bother me enough to prevent me from wearing it, but I’ll take it as a learning point for next time. To be honest I think it might have worked in my favour though. As I’ve mentioned recently I have put on a bit of weight (let’s say it’s through being content with life) and when I cut out the pattern last year I was a small. Based on my measurements now I really should be a medium. However, with the error in gathering the skirt now sits comfortably on my waist and I can quite happily wear the dress without feeling like I’m going to pop a seam somewhere.


I did the whole thing on my machine, but next time I might have a go with my overlocker instead. After looking at the finish on my Coco I also whipped out my twin needle and I have to say I much prefer the look it produces – so very professional! So while this Moneta is by no means perfect, I’ve learned some good lessons which will stand me in good stead for the next one.

I’ve worn it in to work a couple of times and loads of people have complimented me on it with my best friend even telling me today that it looks like RTW. Not sure how much she’s massaging my ego there, but I’ll take it! It’s a great basic dress that will take me right through the summer and probably into autumn and beyond (I can see this with tights and a cardi). I’ll definitely make more and I’m looking forward to having a go at some of the special features it comes with. However, for the time being I think I’m going to try and put a dent in my stash before buying any more new fabric, so hold on – I might be some time.

Over and out.

The back. One of the nice features about this dress is that the front neckline is higher than the back. I quite like this - it's a cute feature that you don't necessarily see a lot. Nice work Colette.

The back. One of the nice features about this dress is that the front neckline is higher than the back. I quite like this – it’s a cute feature that you don’t necessarily see a lot. Nice work Colette.

A salvaged Sorbetto

The dress that never got worn. The shame.

The dress that never got worn. The shame.

It’s confession time. A long, long time ago I bought this dress in Warehouse, mainly because my flatmate had the same dress, it suited her and I loved the fabric. It never suited me as well as it did her and as a result I’m ashamed to say that I never wore it.

The other day we got a charity bag through the door and I took the opportunity to have a good sort out. When I pulled this dress out of the wardrobe I was struck with a Great British Sewing Bee moment. Because of all the gathering and the shirring, I was convinced that there was enough fabric in the skirt to eke out a Colette Sorbetto. So I grabbed my seam ripper and spent quite a tedious and messy hour and a half taking out all the stitching, elastic and overlocking from the skirt/bodice join and the bubble at the bottom. There was just enough usable fabric for a Sorbetto as long as I took about an inch off my normal pattern length which I’d lengthened by two inches anyway as I have a long body and generally find Colette bodices to run a bit short on me.

This would be my fifth Sorbetto and I thought that by the time I had done the third and fourth versions last summer, I had just about nailed the fit working off a size 4. However, when I went back to it and looked a bit more closely I decided that the bust darts were sitting a little bit too high. The only alterations I’ve ever made to a pattern have been length alterations, so I had to do a bit of research. This post on Megan Nielsen’s blog was particularly helpful, but with lowered bust darts and a couple of inches added, my pattern is looking a bit mangled now!

I may have just had my hair done.

I may have just had my hair done.

I also lined my top with some cream polycotton as the patterned fabric is a bit sheer (I think it’s some sort of voile). I’d never done this before but I figured that as long as I took the pleat allowance out of the front pattern piece and sewed up the bust darts I’d just be able to sandwich the fabric pieces together and treat them as one. It worked a charm. I used loads of pins so that it wouldn’t move, but everything fits together pretty nicely. I used French seams throughout, and I managed to get them lying properly, so the insides of my top look pretty fricking neat and professional too.

Finally, I was worried about turning up the hem and therefore removing extra length, so I used bias binding on the inside instead – I think it only took up about an eighth of an inch, which is really very pleasing. With the length taken off the pattern I thought the finished article would turn out shorter than usual, but by a very happy accident Sorbetto number five is EXACTLY the same length as Sorbettos number three and four! What a triumph!

Sorbetto back

It’s nice to revisit an old pattern like the Sorbetto. I remember when I made my first I spent most of the day trying to fathom out how to sew the pleat (I was over complicating it massively) and the bias binding properly. Now it absolutely does not faze me. This top took me an afternoon to put together, but that includes two lots of cutting out and a trip to the fabric shop for supplies. I’m sure I’ll keep on coming back to it every summer, or when I need a new pyjama top, but I think I need to try something new with it, like a collar or some sleeves.