Sunday, January 1, 2012

Colette Licorice: The dress that almost broke me.

Like everyone else in the sewing world, I nearly lost my shit when the Colette Sewing Handbook came out.
The Colette Sewing Handbook

Five patterns for almost the same cost of one pattern?! Thank you Amazon. To say that I was excited would be the understatement of 2011.

I got the book and browsed through all of the patterns. I was on the fence about every one of them. You see, until this point I had been completely unsuccessful at making a Colette dress. I made the Sorbetto and Violet with relative ease, however, when I attempted to make one the dress patterns I experienced a level of fail that made me shriek with anger.

The Crepe was my first attempt. I lost one of the sleeve facing pieces. Then I made the mistake of reading every sewing blog about the Crepe and became quite overwhelmed. The obsession with having "the perfect fit" made it nearly impossible for me to make this dress. I made a muslin then gave up.

A couple months later, I purchased the Parfait pattern. This dress came together much more easily. I decided to be creative and add piping around the midriff band. Then, I added the invisible zipper. It broke. Frustrated but determined, I took it out and replaced it with another invisible zipper. It broke as well. The dress has been in my UFO pile ever since.

The Peony almost broke me. I could not get the neckline to work for me at all. Everything below it fit just perfectly. Eventually I screamed "F%#@^ it" and cut 1 1/2" off the neckline and used bias tape to finish it. It's not perfect but it'll do. Photos and a blog post of its very own will are on the way.

For New Year's, I wanted something classy and simple. By simple, I meant "ease of construction." I didn't want anything that required a lot of detail or pattern pieces. I wanted a quiet, simple sewing project. There is no such thing.

I decided the Licorice dress from The Colette Sewing Handbook fit the bill for my "quiet, simple sewing project."

I hated the sleeves. They were just too big. I also decided to make my own matching fabric covered belt instead of the sash tie. I bought my buckle kit and belting here. I also used this tutorial.

Before I go any further, I would like to mention the book that helped me make all the necessary adjustments to my muslin. Without this book, I would have stabbed myself with my scissors. The Busy Woman's Sewing Book by Nancy Zieman is awesome. I found it at Half-Price books for less than $5.00.

With this book in hand, I decided to make a muslin. I made two muslins total. Based on the finished garment measurements, I cut a size 12 even though I usually wear a 14 in Colette patterns. The dress fit perfectly but the waist was a bit snug. I added a bit to the waist. I also added 2 inches to the hem so that it would hit my knee.

Now, if I had stopped here and used the original sleeves, this dress would have been easy. But no, I had to complicate things.

I used the sleeve from the Wiksten Tova pattern. I used the cuff from the Burdastyle Handbook Blouse. I made the blouse a month ago, but it went straight to the "fail pile." Adjustments were made. I lost track of how many.

Once I got the sleeves to fit, I was ready to start sewing. Initially, I wanted crepe back satin for my dress. Since it had taken me so long to decide on a pattern, I didn't have time to order dress fabric online. This would have afforded me the opportunity to order some really nice fabric. Instead, I had to shop at Joann.

I purchased the polyester crepe, satin and lining from the Casa Collection, a collection of fabrics that coordinate and are dyed to match. It made sense to me to use it as Joann's crepe-back satin offering left much to be desired.

I'm not a fan of 100% polyester. Poly blends are okay. I thought about just using cotton lawn but I wanted my dress to be a little more dressy. This was almost my first foray into sewing evening wear. I hope to avoid that trip in the future.

The polyester crepe was a pain in the ass to work with. I used cotton thread and Microtex needles yet it still puckered and pulled. I used a press cloth and starch to tame it. That worked sometimes. The lining and the polyester satin (I used this for the belt, collar and cuffs) weren't nearly as terrible to work with.

There were many little hiccups along the way that contributed to my melt-down:
  • the crepe being a wayward child most of the time
  • trying to trace darts on slippery lining fabric
  • static cling
  • the fabric puckering around the zipper
  • the collar being off by 1 inch on the back of the dress
And for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to attach the lining to the invisible zipper. The Colette Sewing handbook had a whole page on how to do it. It just didn't make any damn sense. It was like it was missing a step. I tried a Google search and came up empty. I even had a book on linings and it was no help.

This almost broke me. I grabbed my dress and in a fit of rage, I threw it across the room. After I calmed down, I figured it out on my own. I hemmed that damn dress and declared it finished.

Colette Licorice: I win.

This is a simple dress to sew. I just complicated the process. It is a beautiful dress and the pattern was great. I like the dress and will probably make it again sans collar and sleeves.

I've learned to plan ahead so that I can order better fabric. Polyester is annoying. I'm not a fabric snob, but damn.

I shouldn't be so focused on having it fit perfectly. After all my efforts, it still could use a few tweaks.

Next time, I will start work on my New Year's Eve dress in October.


  1. It looks great! I definitely prefer your sleeves they were worth the extra effort!

  2. I think I like your sleeve better than the one that was made for the dress. The original is too wide, imho.

    I've only made 1 Parfait dress and I, too, piped the waistband. The trick to the zipper is to make sure that the cord in the piping isn't in the seam. In other words, if you make the piping yourself, cut the length that you need, then push back the fabric to expose the cord on both ends, then cut off the amount of your seam allowance. You should end up with the cord stopping within the piping casing right at the seam and only have the casing potion sewn in the seam allowance. This way the zipper doesn't freak out when it tries to close at those points. And when you make your piping, use satin rattail cord rather than the piping cord that they sell at JoAnn's or whichever fabric store you frequent. The rattail slides nicer in the fabric and makes it easier to cut off the seam allowances.

  3. thank you so much jen! i couldn't figure out what was going wrong with the zipper. i took another look at it and sure enough, there is cord in the seam allowance. i will fix my dress today! thanks :)


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