Sunday, 30 January 2011

Colette Rooibos - done!

This weekend I finally finished my first proper garment of the year - the Colette Rooibos! Check me out, looking all smug!


looking suspicious!

These photos are taken with my iPhone (so I hope you can see ok - my proper camera is...somewhere) on the rooftop outside my flat. I can tell you I felt UBER glam clambering out the window in my sparkly shoes. It's the first time I've been out there since about September so it's looking particularly unkempt and all my plants to be. Oops. 

Now. The Rooibos. I loved this pattern. It was a total dream to sew. And I love the finished result. So. What did I learn?

After all my musings on muslins, I didn't make one because I am lazy. Having measured myself and finding myself between sizes, I erred on the side of caution (as advised in the pattern) and cut a size up. Tilly's just put up a really interesting post about how to cut the right size pattern, I'll definitely be referring to her tips when cutting out my next project. I fitted the bodice as I went along, adjusting any darts as necessary to ensure a good fit around the bust. With the rest of the pieces I just sewed them up normally, figuring I could take them in if necessary at the end. Which I had to do. I think if I made it again I will cut a size smaller. To resize the side hems, I put it on inside out, pinned it in and drew the stitching line on with white pen. During this process I got thoroughly stuck in the dress - unfortunately this was while Matt was in the shower so I had to wait (rigidly in a dress full of pins) until he got out to free me! At this point I also shortened the zipper so that it zips from the waistline up (it was originally a 16" zipper) as I thought it sat better that way. 

Pattern cutting
For the first time ever, I traced around my pattern pieces with chalk before cutting. I cannot believe the difference it made, the cutting and sewing up was just so much easier. It's definitely worth the extra time it takes. Also it's the first time I've used proper dressmaking scissors - can you believe it? What was I thinking before, trying to cut out fabric with paper scissors! Numpty. 

As I just mentioned, I shortened the zipper in the end, and I think it looks better on me. However I finally had the guts to try the zipper foot on my machine and it was a revelation. A revelation. Gone are the days when I chicken out of using it and sit like a mug hand sewing in my zips! Unfortunately I was so preoccupied with my success at attaching the zipper foot that I sewed the zip on inside out the first time. However this was quickly rectified thanks to my trusty seam ripper! I'm still not terribly good at the old zips, but I'm getting better. 

Well. You see the little collar? This is where I learnt the lesson that clipping your curves is essential. I stitched carefully around the neckline (quite tricky - lots of pointy bits) thinking I am awesome, this looks perfect. Impatiently turned it inside out to see what it looked like (I didn't want to clip until I'd checked the outside) - and my heart sank. It was puckered and looked awful. I presumed the problem was with my stitching and sat at it for ages, hand sewing, picking out stitches, swearing...until finally it clicked - the problem hadn't been with my stitching at all, it was just that I hadn't clipped around the curves/corners. I unpicked and resewed it exactly the same way as I had the first time, clipped, et voila. Perfect. Now, I would have clipped the seams eventually, I do know that much, but I just hadn't realised how much difference it would make and thought I'd made a massive error. Lesson learnt? Have more self confidence and less impatience!

I did intend to pipe the pockets and neckline (this is optional in the pattern) but I chickened out at the last minute. I will attempt the piping another time!

It took me ages to find the right material for this project - I knew I wanted a heavy-ish material, but I didn't know enough about different sorts of fabrics to confidently buy online, and John Lewis just didn't have what I wanted. Eventually I found this navy polka dot material in Rolls and Rems on Seven Sisters Road (recommended - cheap as chips, some of the fabrics are a bit cheap and see through, but there are some gems). It's quite heavy with a little bit of a stretch in it. The lining material is a silver fabric I had in my stash. I wanted white originally but again John Lewis didn't have a plain white cotton so I had to improvise. I had the brainwave of using one of Matt's old shirts for the lining fabric - however I wrote an email to remind me to hunt the shirts out when I got home, and instead of sending it to myself, sent it to Matt by mistake, who promptly vetoed the idea. I think it worked out for the best though, the silver looks much better!

I have a confession. You see these pretty buttons?

Well, they're actually a pair of earrings. I didn't originally intend to put buttons on the front, but when the dress was all sewn up the front looked like it needed an extra something. I experimented with all my brooches, my button stash, and nothing looked right. Then I caught sight of my ears in the mirror and it clicked - the earrings! Perfect! I love them as buttons on this dress, so I'll either have to find buttons like them or else figure out a way of converting the earrings so I don't get jabbed in the chest by the posts! If anyone's seen buttons like these I'd appreciate a heads up. 

I learned loads while making this pattern - I would say that although the pattern is reasonably straightforward, it's not one for beginners - for example it just says 'insert invisible zipper' with no pictures or further instruction. I guessed my way through it and it seems to have worked, but a bit more guidance might have been useful for a novice such as myself. I was also thoroughly confuddled by one of the instructions which requires you to roll up the shoulders and "flip" the garment. It ends up looking like this: 

This is the whole bodice all rolled up! I was not at all sure I was doing it correctly, but I thought I wouldn't know until I'd tried so I crossed my fingers and sewed the seam....and thank goodness I'd got it right! Again this may be an obvious method if you're a more experienced seamstress, but for me it took a leap of faith.

All in all, I think this is a fabulous pattern - I will almost definitely make it again, perhaps in a more summery colour. I'm tempted to go pattern crazy on it using two different florals, but perhaps this is going a bit far. Matt told me yesterday that my leopard print coat and sequinned hat/glove combo makes me look like I'm off out collecting cat skulls - perhaps that's a sign I should step away from the patterns?? Or maybe it would look cute with a peter pan style collar?? Possibilities possibilities!

I can't wait to try another Colette pattern, perhaps the Macaron?

I hope you've all had lovely weekends, Matt and I took a walk to Stoke Newington yesterday and had a plunder around the vintage shops then came home and ate dee-lish fresh tuna and beans while watching Harry Potter. Perfect!



  1. It looks amazing! Well done. :D

  2. It looks fabulous! Good job! :-)

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  4. Hi Carly,

    Just recently found your blog. This dress is lovely. I really like your crochet snoods as well. I have just taken up crochet myself, and will definitely try out your snood tutorial once I've got the hang of the basics.

    Law xx

  5. Oh wow, wow, wow Carly it's fabulous. What a fine dressmaker you are! It's a great fit and the fabric's gorgeous, I'm sure I've seen little rose buttons somewhere recently, will let you know if I remember where. Hope you're feeling proud of yourself, smug face well deserved.

  6. It looks lovely :) really cute dress, I love the collar!

  7. Oh my giddy aunts, you have learnt so much just with one make! Yeah, that bodice is crazy with the sausage roll thing going on. Well done, you - this is a lovely version of the dress and I love those rooftop shots. Re buttons: you should check out Ebay. Look at these:

  8. Hello Carly,
    Me too, I'm a new visitor but am so in awe of your dress I had to gush!- it looks a perfect fit & love the collar & "buttons". I will go check out your snood tutorial - it's about time I tried something a bit bigger than crochet flowers!!

  9. Aw thanks for the lovely comments ladies, you made me blush! I'm thinking of wearing it to work this week so I hope it holds up.

    Karen, those buttons are PERFECT - and there were two left which I snapped up immediately! Thanks for the heads up.


  10. Amazing! You look so gorgeous, and I LOVE the earrings as buttons - inspired genius!xx

  11. Carly, this is GORGEOUS! It really suits you. Genius move with the earrings. You should post a picture up here:

  12. Wow, I love your complete Rooibos version! The fabric choices AND especially the earring-buttons! This dress just looks great on you.

  13. Wow, what a beautiful dress! It looks awesome in that fabric, especially with the buttons/earrings! I could swear I've seen similar ones recently, but I can't remember where and anyway it would have been in Germany somewhere... Anyway, good luck finding some!