Thursday, December 31, 2009

Au Bonheur des Petit Mains - Skirt with Twisted Drape (JHL08001)

My first review of an Au Bonheurs pattern! :)

I fell in love with this skirt when I first saw it on the Au Bonheur des Petites Mains website. However, there were a couple tiny problems. First, the pattern is sized 36-44 and I am not a 44. Secondly, I don't "do" a skirt with a fitted waist. But I just loved the drape/pocket detailing on this piece, so I figured I would make it work.

Once the pattern arrived, I traced off the skirt, enlarging it to a 46. I then converted it to an elastic waist which involved altering both the skirt and the drape. The pattern piece for the drape itself is large and comes as two pieces that you connect together. The drape is intended to be cut on the bias, but with my alterations the pattern piece was too large to put on the bias. Instead, I cut it offgrain as much as possible. If you look at the garment in the photo, it doesn't look like they cut it on a perfect bias either. :)

The fabric, folded back on itself. It's very different on the two sides!

My hand is inserted into the portion of the fabric that is double sided.

This fabric was a very interesting piece I found last summer. I folded it back in the photo so you can see that it is double sided. Or maybe I should say that the purple portion is double sided. The other areas are a single thickness. The fuzzy "trim" indicates where the double sided part of the fabric ends. Also, the dark stripes between the purple are semi-sheer. The reverse of the fabric is a very sophisticated and slightly shiny stripe. After much thought, I decided to use that side for the drape. Where the drape twists, you can get a peek of the purple before it goes into the solid section of the fabric. It's interesting, eh?

The skirt itself is made from a black woven fabric with a slight stretch and a black stripe-on-stripe.

This was very easy and quick to sew up. I have not put the pocket on it. I am not sure about the pocket on me. The pocket in the pattern is fairly small so if I did use it, I would be tempted to size it up a bit. What do you think?

I have enough of this fabric to make myself another skirt. I am conflicted. I think I will use the purple side, but I also love that darker side...

Edited to add: I did make the pocket. You can see it here and here:

French Sewing Glossary

I started this glossary in this post. I am pulling it out as a separate blog entry. I am continually adding to it as I use the Au Bonheur patterns.

Please let me know if you find any errors or come across any phrases that should be added. Thanks!

Last updated: 4/1/2016. Thanks to Bessie Crocker for clarifying several of the terms, particularly about different types of stitches!

  • avantbras - forearm
  • bâtir - to baste
  • boutons/boutonnières - buttons/buttonholes ("1 bouton pour la taille" = "1 button for the waistband")
  • boutons pression - snaps (the kind you press, or hammer, that show from the front, not the sew-on type)
  • les bretelles - straps
  • coté - side ("Fermer les cotés..." = "Close the sides..." or "...du coté plat de la poche..." = "... the flat side of the pocket..."). I also saw it used to describe a side gusset, on the tee pattern with the 4 hanging points that are tied into knots.
  • coucher - to place ("Coucher les coutures vers la poche." = "Place the seams towards the pocket.")
  • coudre - to sew
  • coudre à points de surjet - to serge (though it literally means "to sew back and forth joining stitches")
  • ceinture - waistband; also belt or sash
  • chevaucher - overlap
  • col - collar
  • col châle - shawl collar
  • coutures - seams
  • couture(s) du cote - side seam(s)
  • couture(s) de dessous de bras - underarm seam(s)
  • cranter - to notch
  • dessus - top ("sur dessus de poche" = "on top of the pocket", "dessus de manche" = "upper sleeve")
  • dessous - below or underside ("dessous de manche" = "under sleeve"); "dessous" can also mean lingerie (similar to "undies") or interlining
  • devant - front
  • doublure - lining
  • dos - back
  • droit fil - straight of grain
  • emmancher - to fit one part into another, often with a fiddly bit that needs to be adjusted, such as easing a sleeve into an armhole
  • emmanchure - armhole
  • empiècement - yoke. Note that in the directions for the skirt I made with the twisted drape, they refer to the drape pattern piece as an "empiècement." My French friend thought this strange. She said usually an empiècement refers to a sewn-in yoke, like on a cowboy shirt.
  • en piquant - (while) catching
  • éncarter - press ("éncarter les coutures au fer" = "press seams open")
  • encolure - neckline
  • endroit - right ("endroit con endroit" = "right side to right side")
  • endroit du patron - right side of pattern
  • endroit du tissu - right side of fabric
  • entoiler - to interface
  • entoilage - interfacing
  • entoilage thermocollant - fusible interfacing
  • entoiler - to interface ("entoiler les parementures" = "interface the facings")
  • entournure - armhole
  • l'entrejambe - inside leg ("fermer l'entrejambe" = "close the inside leg seam" (from ankle to ankle)
  • envers du tissu - wrong side of fabric
  • les épaules - the shoulders ("assembler les épaules" = "sew the shoulder seams")
  • double epaisseur - double thickness
  • épingler - to pin
  • faufiler - to baste
  • le fil - thread ("1 fil de couleur contrastante épais" = "1 [spool of] topstitching thread in a contrasting color")
  • finition - finishing
  • les flèches - arrows ("coucher les plis selon les flèches du patron" = "form the tucks according to the arrows on the pattern")
  • fond - background ("fond de poche devant" = "front pocket back", as in a front jeans pocket)
  • la fourche - crotch ("fermer la fourche" = "close the crotch seam (from bellybutton to bottom)")
  • le genou - knee
  • de hanches - hipline
  • haut - top
  • jupe - skirt
  • lainage - woolens ("tissu type lainage" = "wool type fabric")
  • laine - wool
  • lisiere - selvedge
  • liens - ties ("faire 4 liens" = "make 4 ties")
  • ligne de pliure - fold line
  • ligne de taille - waistline
  • largeur pied de biche - the width of the presser foot
  • maille - a knit stitch
  • maintenir - to tack (hold temporarily)
  • manche - sleeve
  • milieu - center ("faire la couture milieu dos" = sew the center back seam)
  • molleton - flannel or fleece—a fabric with some loft, perhaps a Pellon-type fleece or batting
  • les œillets - eyelets, as in the metal kind you press, or hammer ("Poser l'œillet selon repère du patron." = "Apply the metal eyelet where indicated on the pattern.")
  • ourlet(s) - hem(s)
  • pantalon - pants
  • la parement - facing
  • parmenture - facing
  • parmenture du meme tissu - self facing
  • parmenture de la talle - waistline facing
  • passepoil - piping
  • patron(s) - pattern(s)
  • des pattes de boutonnage - buttonhole placket (or tab) ("Entoiler la moitié des pattes de boutonnage" - "interface half of the buttonhole placket")
  • le pince/les pinces - dart/darts ("fermer les pinces" = "close the darts)
  • piquer - to stitch/sew (verb). While the Au Bonheur patterns use the verb "piquer" to indicate stitching, it seems to be a bit inexact. The actual translation of "piquer" is "to sting" or "to bite". "Piquer a la machine" = a machine stitch. The word for a particular type of stitch is "point".
  • piquer le bord - edgestitch
  • piqure de soutien - staystitch; literal meaning is "support stitch"—soutien means "support", soutien-gorge means bra, as in "supports the throat"
  • plaquer - flatten ("plaquer la poche" = "flatten the pocket")
  • les plis - tucks or folds ("piquer les plis" = "sew the tucks")
  • pliure - to fold ("dans le pli" = "on the fold")
  • point - stitch (noun)
  • point de croix - cross stitch
  • point de devant - running stitch
  • pointe de poitrine - bust point
  • poche(s) - pocket(s)
  • rabattre - to fold ("puis rabattre les plis" = "then fold the tucks")
  • rep - ribbing made from silk, cotton, or wool ("1m de reps pour les liens" = "1 meter of ribbing")
  • repasser - to iron ("repasser pour aplatir" = "iron flat")
  • les repères - marks ("utilisant les repères B et A" = "using marks B and A")
  • revers - reverse, as in reverse side of the fabric ("pull á col revers" = "pullover with reverse collar"). Also used to describe something that turns back on itself, such as a lapel, a cuff that is formed by folding back the sleeve hem, or a pocket that has a turned-down element.
  • scotcher - tape ("scotcher les pièces 6a and 6b..." = "tape pattern pieces 6a and 6b...")
  • le serre cordon - cord stopper (for round elastic)
  • simple epaisseur - single thickness
  • sous-piquer - understitch
  • surjet - whipstitch. While the translation for surjet is "whipstitch", most instructions using the term mean a serged stitch (using a serger or overlocker).
  • surjeteuse - a serger (overlocker)
  • surpique - topstitch
  • surpique nervure / surpiquées nervurées - topstitch the seam(s) close to the edge (edgestitch)
  • soufflet - gusset
  • tissu - fabric
  • tissu fantaisie - literally translates to "fancy fabric", but is used to mean "novelty fabric" or "contrasting fabric"
  • tissu souple - "supple" or "pliant" fabric - I think they mean knit fabric, but maybe drapey wovens as well
  • tissu uni - solid color fabric
  • triplure - underlining
  • valeur - amount or width ("surpiquer valeur pied de biche" = "topstitch the width of the presser foot")
  • veste - jacket
  • volant - flounce or ruffle
  • zip - zipper; this is not the "official" word for zipper, which is "fermeture éclair", but is used by these patterns ("le zip invisible" = "invisible zipper")

You might also check out this visual chart of hand stitches, or les points de couture.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Self Drafted -- Tank Top w/ Diagonal Seam (Flax)

The version I made. I inserted a greeting card into the in-seam pocket to show its placement.

Original garment

Several weeks ago a DF (dear friend) asked me to create a pattern from a go-to top from her wardrobe. Made by Flax, it's a 100% linen sleeveless v-neck, a-line tank with a diagonal seam, front and back. Cut on the bias, it has a pocket inserted in the front diagonal seam. (I inserted a greeting card in the pocket so you can see its placement.)

It's a wonderful top for layering and she'd worn it so much it was starting to develop holes. This doesn't really matter too much if you are using it as a layering piece, but she wanted more tops like this in different fabrics. While it might look like a pretty straightforward top to copy, it was actually pretty fiddly. (And by "fiddly", I mean "pain in the butt." :) ) The bias coupled with the stress on the original garment, plus the diagonal seams made it fairly tricky. It requires four pattern pieces, not counting the binding on the diagonal seams, because the front and back armholes and neck openings are shaped slightly differently.

I decided to make it up for her as a Christmas gift. She had expressed an interest in experimenting with new fabrics, so I sewed it up in a lightweight black rayon-lycra interlock. Because it was a knit, I cut it on the straight of grain and omitted the binding on the diagonal seams.

Hopefully it will work for her. (I hope she is not reading today, because we haven't yet exchanged our gifts.) This version has a very different drape than the original linen top, but will still work as a layering piece. Meanwhile, I just might have to make one of these for myself. :)

Christmas Booty

I finally took a photo of the wonderful Christmas booty from my kids. (I only exchange gifts with my kids and one close friend.)

I think I did pretty well!!! DD1 went onto Amazon and ordered me three of Sandra Betzina's books. Yay, reading for those nights I have insomnia! Then she went to Britex and picked out two pairs of gorgeous purse handles. I have been wanting to make a purse or two, and now I need to find a design and some fabulous fabric. :)

DD2 knew I liked Threads magazine, so she bought me a two-year subscription. I love how she presented it, though. She took one of her gaming magazines, superimposed a (handmade) Threads banner, and then modified the photo with a silver sharpie. She put yarn and knitting needles in his hands where he had been holding weaponry (I like to knit too, but haven't been doing much lately) and she added a talk bubble that says, "I just learned how to do the backstitch." LOL

Then a friend on Stitcher's Guild was de-stashing her patterns and I bought a number of Sewing Workshop and La Fred patterns from her. I was planning to get them from her later, but as a Christmas surprise, she shipped them to me in time for Christmas. Such booty for shams!

Finally, when I had an opportunity to get the Threads DVD (almost all articles from issues 1 to 146) at the discounted price of $77, I jumped at the chance. I picked up the DVD on Christmas day, so it felt like a Christmas present! Yay, more reading for those nights with insomnia!! I haven't cracked it open yet.

What a great Christmas. ;)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Au Bonheur des Petites Mains - Long Raincoat (#1233027)

(First, can I just say how grateful I am to have this week off work? Also, at the moment, the kids are away skiing, so I can really sew around the clock, or until I need a nap. I go back to work on Jan 5th. BLISS! :) )

OK, a little update on my progress.

I have finished the muslin of the raincoat. I used a twin-sized floral flannel sheet that DD1 has banned from her bedroom. (She used to have a floral theme but has recently decided she detests floral.) It's pretty sad looking, so I will spare you the pictures. But here is what I have learned:

  • The 52 is very generously sized.
  • Some of the fashion details result in sewing through many layers in certain key points, such as the side pocket facing, or the sleeve seam where that gusset is located. I would not want to use a thick or substantial fabric for this reason. Using a lightweight waterproof nylon, or something along those lines, is much more feasible. They used a thicker "quilted" fabric in the lining (matelasse), which is how one can give the coat some weight and warmth. Another approach is to leave it unlined and it will be a fetching, lightweight raincoat. This is my plan. :)
  • The pattern seems to be pretty well drafted. The pieces go together well, as intended.
  • There is a lot of ease in the armscye. Enough ease that I think it is intended to sit right on the shoulder point, though the garment in the photo looks like a dropped shoulder. When I re-pinned the sleeve at my natural shoulder, it looked much better. It is not too much ease, the pieces fit together, but it is more than you would typically see for a dropped shoulder.
  • Even after raising the sleeve on the shoulder, the sleeves are too long. Not too unusual for me, because I have shortish arms. But, in this case, I like the longer sleeve because I plan to roll back the cuffs. (And it may be they were intended to be extra long for rolling.)
  • I like the sleeve gusset, though the instructions for the snaps on the sleeve gusset still don't make sense to me. The only way they might make sense is if they are using a regular, sew-in snap, rather than a press-on snap that shows from the outside of the garment. However, I wouldn't want a snap there because it would constantly open from the natural stress on the sleeve and you really don't want the gusset to be unsnapped. What I did was to attach the upper to the lower sleeve by using a small tab of fabric, inserted underneath (after the gusset was installed and the topstitching completed). Then, I abutted the upper and lower sleeve at the marked point (over where the tab was hiding), and stitched in the same row of topstitching (both sides) I had previously sewn. Not sure this makes sense, but it looks pretty much like the garment in the photo and I like it. :)
  • The pocket is very interesting. I would not recommend using a wide elastic, as it makes topstitching very difficult through all the layers. I used a scrap of 1" wide elastic to test the pocket because it was lying by the machine and it was about the right length. :) I will either use 1/4" elastic (as recommended by the pattern) or I will use round elastic with toggles (as shown in the finished garment photo). But I wonder why the casing is so wide for such narrow elastic.
  • The darts seem to be placed ok. The coat is large and they may need to be shortened, or even raised a tad. I have to think on it.
  • The front band instructions were just bad. The front band attaches to the right side only. You cut one piece and it has a fold line down the center. The instructions say to fold it right side together and sew three edges. If you did that, you couldn't possibly turn it right side out. Even if you left an opening, it would have no raw edges to use to attach it to the right side. So I sewed only the short ends, turned it right side out, and basted the long raw edges, then basted the whole thing to the right front of the coat. That seems to be the correct way to do it. The only way the instructions might make sense is if you were to sew along the fold line.
  • The hood is great. I really like this hood. It stays on well and is a nice size. (At least in my muslin.)
  • The diagram clearly shows the back hem is longer than the front hem. However, the jacket in the pattern photo shows the front hem is fairly long. It turns out the diagram is wrong and the photo is correct. The pattern pieces are shorter at the sides than at CF and CB. I think it looks a bit strange, so I may to reshape the front hem to be shorter in front, as shown in the diagram. Having said that, the raincoat is much longer than I expected. It's mid calf or thereabouts.
  • The waist elastic starts 7" from the side seam, goes around the back, and then extends 7" from the other side seam. I think this extends too far for my shape, so I plan to shorten it. I will make the final length/placement in the final garment.
  • The pocket is nice, though placed pretty low - I can't easily reach the bottom of it. I may move it up a bit, if there's room after the waist elastic is in place.

In a nutshell? I'm not completely sure about the fit yet. In a yellow floral flannel, the muslin looks a lot like a bathrobe. ;) I have a friend dropping by tomorrow and plan to get her opinion. I have not inserted the hem or waist elastic, which will change the shape significantly, but I will probably just wing it from here. ;)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Au Bonheur des Petites Mains

I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas had a wonderful holiday! For me, I ate such rich food for Christmas dinner and this morning (Boxing Day), that I haven't been able to eat since breakfast. (And it's almost 11pm!)

The last time I posted about these wonderful French patterns, Au Bonheurs des Petites Mains, I had just received three of them and had begun to translate the instructions. I even started a French-English sewing glossary (which I have been adding to). :)

I was primarily focusing on this raincoat pattern:

Which was the most complex of the three I had ordered. From my painstaking translation, I managed to learn that this coat has the following features:
  • A front zipper underneath a snap placket.
  • A back gusset, ending at the CB hem, which can be zippered closed.
  • Front pockets, which have a gusset along the curved portion of the pocket only (not along the straight edge of the pocket, which is sewn into the side seam). The pockets are gathered at the top with elastic.
  • Gussets in the sleeves at the elbows.
  • Elastic around the hem (excluding the back gusset).
  • Elastic at the waist, though not all the way around – it ends several inches short of CF.
  • A full lining.
I was able to translate the instructions, up to a point. There were some things I could not quite understand, so today I met with a French friend who knows how to sew. We laid out the pattern and went through the instructions, line by line. We did this for the raincoat pattern, as well as the skirt pattern. What I learned was this:
  • The name of the pattern company is Au Bonheur des Petites Mains. (I wasn't sure if this was merely descriptive text or actually the name of the pattern company.) I asked my friend if it really did mean "Good Times of the Little Hands" which is how it literally translates. (And which sounds a bit salacious to my ears. :) ) She explained that in the French couture houses, the dressmakers are called "Les Petites Mains", so a more accurate translation is "Good Times of the Dressmakers" or "Happiness of the Dressmakers" or something along those lines. Now that is a charming concept and I love it! :)
  • The instructions are sadly lacking, at times misleading, and certainly incomplete. I have heard this is not unusual for French patterns, since most assume that the user of the patterns knows how to sew.
Here are a few of the problems we found with the raincoat pattern:
  • The garment in the photo (shown above) clearly shows round elastic peeking out at the top-center of the pockets, secured with a toggle. However, neither the pattern, nor the supply list, make any mention of this feature. It calls for 1cm wide elastic for the pockets (between 1/4" and 3/8"). It does not mention round elastic or toggles. But it does instruct you to make a buttonhole at the top of the pocket, 4cm in (approx 1.5 inches) from the straight edge. However, it doesn't use that buttonhole. It instructs you to use the 1cm elastic, catching the ends at the sides of the pocket, and encasing the elastic. Also, if you want to use the buttonhole for a round elastic, 4cm is not the center of the pocket. It is very off-center, which does not seem correct if you look at the photo.
  • The garment in the photo also shows round elastic with toggles at the hem of the jacket. The instructions do not mention this but instruct you to use 1cm elastic at the hem, which is entirely encased.
  • The sleeve is in two pieces, a top piece and a bottom piece, and a gusset is inserted between them. You are then instructed to insert a small piece of elastic, joining the top and bottom, at four marked points (two on each sleeve). You are then instructed to insert a snap at this same location, to somehow join the top sleeve to the bottom sleeve. This bit really confused my French friend, who, after reading through it several times, advised me to ignore it. I will wing this part. :)
  • The fact that the garment in the photo uses a different fabric for the front band and the sleeve gussets is not mentioned.
  • The construction of the front placket was a little confusing, and it doesn't really explain how the separating zipper is installed. I am assuming this will become more clear as I work through it.
  • I found some minor errors on the pattern pieces themselves. For example, on the (American) football-shaped gusset for the sleeve, it says to cut two on fold, when it must mean to cut two – the piece has no straight edges to put on the fold. :)

I have measured the pattern and determined that a size 52 (the largest size provided for this pattern) should be adequate. The dart in the pattern even seems to be the right location for me. I have traced the pattern off and hope to start the muslin tomorrow. I can't wait to get started. I will keep you posted. :)

I want to give a huge shout out and a thank you to Laurence, my French sewing friend. Thanks so much, Laurence, for your patient help!!! (It's pronounced La-Wrans, with the emphasis on the second syllable which starts with that wonderful rolled French R in the back of your mouth. She speaks German, and "Architect", too. ;) )

Monday, December 21, 2009

Self Drafted -- T-shirt with Chains

A few weeks before Christmas, a project leapt into my mind, fully formed. It just appeared out of nowhere. This must be what it was like for J.K. Rowling when Harry Potter jumped into her mind while riding the commuter train that fateful day. Except my idea wasn't nearly as original, take 10 years to execute, or make me the richest woman in Britain. ;)

Back in September, I had been shopping in Bloomingdales with DD1, when I saw a top in the expensive, boutique department on the top floor. It was black and was printed, or silk screened, with long necklaces. Then, over the necklace print a few actual chains were attached. DD1 loved it, but with a very high price tag (approx. $100 for a t-shirt) neither one of us wanted to pay for it. I forgot about it (or so I thought).

Fast forward to early November, when I was shopping at the discount fabric store and my favorite sales lady had on a black t-shirt with chains on it. The chains (if I recall correctly) were attached in a bandoleer style, so some went from the left shoulder to the right hip and others started from the right shoulder and crossed to the left hip. It was very edgy and very cute and I realized that she had sewn it because I recognized some of the chains from their discount wall. I confirmed she made it, and complimented it, but forgot about it (or so I thought).

Fast forward to three weeks before Christmas, when an idea popped into my head to make a top along these lines for DD1. Don't know why I didn't think of it before, except that I don't generally think of sewing for anyone but me. :)

I went to the fabric store and bought a handful of jewelry off their discount wall. These were really cheap necklaces and bracelets, and I selected only very lightweight pieces (heavy chains would pull too much on the garment). Most of these peices featured flowers, or butterflies, or similar "uncool" charms, but I knew I could cannibalize them. I was mostly after the chains, after all. Some were $.25 each, some were $.50 and a couple were $1.99. So, for a few dollars, I bought a nice assortment.

The raw materials. A pile of jewelry from the discount fabric store.

I had the t-shirt fabric at home – a wonderful, buttery cotton jersey with lycra and a 4-way stretch. I used the Burda twist knot top pattern in a size 34, except I cut the front in one piece, omitting the front knot detailing. (I did this because I am cheap, lazy, and it was a pattern that I knew would fit DD1.) I had to cut it on the cross grain because this pattern is cut as a single piece from wrist to wrist and, even in a 60" wide fabric, it was not wide enough. I quickly sewed it up. (Being a dolman pattern, there are only four seams to deal with.)

Then the fun began. I dug my jewelry tools out from the garage (from the days that I made wire-wrapped jewelry) and I started to cannibalize the pieces I had purchased. I removed rhinestones, and loud flower charms. I pieced together chains, and added a few of the less cutesy charms back. I liked the back of one charm better than the front, so I turned it around. I wanted a variety of chains, some with little adornments – I wanted it to look like she had thrown on several necklaces. This was so much fun and reminded me how much I enjoy making jewelry. :)

I auditioned it on the top and lived with it awhile...

Auditioning the chains

After living with it for 24 hours, I decided it was good to go. I sewed the necklaces onto a small square of the fabric and created a sandwich with a second rectangle. I tried to snug the ends of the chains to be fairly close to each other.

At first I was going to leave the top with raw edges (and told myself it was edgier that way), but in the end I did hem the sleeves, and the bottom, and I finished the neck with a strip of the fabric. I figured the top would last longer that way.

I sewed the ends of the necklaces to a scrap of fabric and then created a "sandwich" with another scrap. I let it pucker as I stitched the sandwich together – I liked the effect. I opened the shoulder seam and inserted the scrap in and hand stitched it together.

The end result:

I figured if DD1 doesn't want long sleeves, we can lop them to whatever length she wants, all the way to sleeveless.

After I finished the top, I wandered over to the Bloomingdales website. They had given me the idea, after all. If the link doesn't work, go to and then go to Womens and Tees, I was surprised out how many t-shirt styles they had featuring chains. If you page through the 10 pages of tees, you will see a variety. In fact, seeing those tops reminded me that the top DD1 liked originally was a BCBGMaxAzria design. (For me, I like that fringed necklace top on page 5!)

I then went to the Urban Outfitters website and found more tops with chains. I guess this top is right on-point, fashion-wise.

And if you are wondering why I am posting it now, before Christmas, it's because DD1 never, ever looks at my blog. DD2 looks at it now and again, but DD1 never. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Au Bonheurs des Petites Mains - report

They've arrived!

I ordered some patterns from Patrons de Couture on Dec 3rd, and they arrived on Dec 14th. A week and a half from France isn't too shabby.

I couldn't wait to dive into these puppies. I had no idea what to expect because the only other person I know who owns some, hadn't yet perused them. (That's not strictly true. I know someone else who ordered some after me, but received them first. However, she has less French than I do. :) )

This is what you get:

Each pattern arrives in a cardboard 3D "envelope" with quarter-inch sides and open on top, with a cut out window. Through the window you can see a small, black and white photo and the front/back line drawings of the garment.

The patterns are multi-sized and are printed on a thick white paper that you will want to trace off. The pattern pieces do not overlap. Different sizes are indicated by a different style of black line, so it will be easy to trace. There are minimal markings on the pattern - some of the markings are described in the text. Seam allowances are not included, but there are grainlines.

The front of instructions page, with the pattern paper in the background.

The back of the instruction page.

Everything else you need is contained on a single 8x11 piece of paper, printed on both sides, which contains:

  • A level of difficulty rating. My patterns are all two scissors out of four scissors. Thank goodness! :)
  • A small black and white photo of the garment, which is what you see through the envelope window. It's much easier to see details on the online photo, which is larger, and in color.
  • Small line drawings of the finished garment, front and back. It's impossible to make out fine detail on these illustrations.
  • A supply list, metric and in French.
  • Instructions, in French. (No illustrations.)
  • A two-columned table containing a list of pattern pieces, with cutting instructions for each. (No pattern layout or illustrations.)
I spent many sleepless hours last night translating the double-sided page into English. I am not completely done yet, but I had a Big 4 pattern nearby, and that was quite helpful. I also used online translators, and my pigeon French from high school. There are still sections that confuse me, but I do know some French speaking sewists, that I may pester at some point, if I can't figure it out. :)

I have been creating a glossary as I go. If you speak French and sew, maybe you can fill in some of the blanks? :) This is what I have so far:

I have moved the glossary to its own entry. You can now find it here.

I just noticed I have hit 40 blog followers. Wow, it is flattering that you want to follow me in my non mainstream sewing journey. :) I'll have to reward you somehow. I was thinking of writing a tutorial on how to draft the Burda twist knot top or a skirt flounce I saw in RTW. I wish I knew how to turn a pattern into a PDF file and whether it's possible to put a PDF file on blogger.

I didn't get any time to sew last weekend, which made me very grumpy. The holidays keep intruding, and they are lovely and all, but it can make shams a tad crotchety. ;)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Thanks to everyone for your comments on my polka dot jacket and tote bag. I really lucked out when I found that fabric at the discount fabric store. That place can be really hit and miss, but I have gotten some real treasures there.

A couple nights ago I completed my second tote bag. This one is for me me ME. I made this one a bit shorter and I used a different contrasting fabric on the bottom – it is a cotton flannel twill remnant from Britex and it's very soft, but sturdy. I also added a cell phone pocket on the inside. And that, is THAT, as far as tote bag sewing goes, for awhile. :)

I have a couple Christmas gifts in process that I can't post yet.

Meanwhile, have you heard of the Selfish Seamstress? Her fashion sense is completely unlike mine, but I enjoy her sense of humor very much. She often writes funny sewing Haikus. Who can't relate to this?

I hemmed for you once
And now you keep coming back
Like an infection.

If you want a laugh, check out her blog. Her work is impeccable, even though she is fairly new to sewing. She attributes her skills to a wonderful teacher in the Chicago area whom I would check out if he was anywhere near me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sewing Workshop -- Plaza Jacket #2

Last August I bought a very interesting novelty fabric – a black chiffon fused with quarter-sized denim dots, making the dots very rigid but also taming their raw edges. This narrow fabric was more expensive than most at my favorite discount fabric store – I think it was $13 per yard – I did not know how I would use it, so I bought two yards. On one side of the selvedge there was a 4" strip (approx) of denim. I bought the beginning of the bolt, so there was another 8" of denim at the start of the bolt.

I loved the fabric's drape with the slightly fraying denim circles but, when I got it home, I was very perplexed by how to use it. I wanted to somehow frame the dots with the included denim, but was having trouble imagining the right pattern. I realized I needed more fabric for the type of design I was considering, especially given the fussy cutting I wanted, so I went back to the fabric store, but the remainder of the small bolt was gone. I asked and it turned out that they had another bolt they hadn't brought out yet. This time the beginning of the bolt had about 10" of denim – yay for me! I bought another couple yards from this second bolt and let the fabric sit while I auditioned patterns in my head. I finally narrowed it to two patterns – the Sewing Workshop's Plaza jacket and a cropped, funky Mizono from Vogue.

In the end, I decided to go with the Plaza jacket, and I tested that pattern out using a handwoven-like fabric. I tweaked the pattern to remove the fullness at the back and to straighten out the back hem so I could include the denim selvedge.

For this particular jacket, I also removed the self fold band from the front pattern piece and omitted the neck pattern piece. Instead, I used the full width available from the narrower piece of denim from the beginning of the bolt (it wasn't much) to make the front band, which is just a long strip, seamed at the CB. The front and back pieces were cut to use the full width of the selvedge to include that perfectly coordinating denim. I used most of the denim from the other bolt cut for the sleeves.

This fabric was not easy to sew or iron. Alternating every few stitches between insubstantial chiffon and the very rigid glued denim could have confounded a sewing machine, but my old Bernina handled it just fine. It was very difficult to turn under edges and iron open seam allowances – just pinning into the denim circles was very difficult and I had the pricked fingers to prove it. But I think the end result was worth it.

I am happy with how it turned out. It's fun to wear – I've worn it to Thanksgiving, DD2's Winter Concert, my sew group's holiday luncheon, and I plan to wear it several more times this holiday season.

Self Drafted -- Tote

My sewing group has a longtime tradition at their annual holiday gathering. Imagine 25 women or so, each bringing a gift, either purchased or hand made, and placing them anonymously under a Christmas tree. Each person draws a number (a higher number is luckier than a lower number) to determine the order of play. Person Number One selects a gift from under the tree and opens it. Person Number Two can either select an unwrapped gift, or she can take Number One's gift, and so on. If a person loses her gift to someone else, she can either select an unopened gift or she can take someone else's gift. (However, a gift can only be "stolen" once per round.) I first played this very fun game with this group close to twenty years ago – I had never heard of it before then. This game has become more popular in the intervening years and I sometimes hear it called Dirty Santa, though I have known it as Greedy Gift Grab.

I was very much looking forward to the party, but it took me awhile to figure out what to bring for my gift. Obviously, one wants to bring a gift that will hopefully appeal to several people, but I hadn't attended the sew group's holiday party for at least 16 years and felt a bit out of touch. Finally, on Black Friday, I headed to Britex to seek out interesting (and affordable) fabrics. Well, I had no luck with the affordable part, but I did fall in love with a home dec fabric at $40 per yard. I bought more than a yard, and a half yard of a coordinating fabric, and headed home to spend the evening figuring out exactly what to do with it. I have very few purse or tote bag patterns (I don't generally enjoy this sort of sewing) but I do have a purchased Sally Spicer tote bag that I like very much. I spent some time studying the tote bag and I finally decided to copy that. This bag is lined, has internal pockets, and is closed with a magnetic snap, which I wanted to recreate.

I went back to Britex on Saturday to get all the necessary notions for the tote (magnetic snap closure, heavy duty interfacing, polypropylene strapping, rayon grosgrain ribbon, seam binding). I had spent so much time at Britex on Friday, several sales people recognized me, or maybe they recognized my Olympia coat, (which one salesperson actually groped :) ), but I was able (for more money than I wanted to spend) get the necessary supplies. (Oh well, the kids don't need Christmas gifts. :) )

I matched the seams. :) The bottom fabric is home dec velveteen, interfaced with a stiff horsehair type of interfacing.

Shown here inside-out, it is lined with a black double voile from my stash, and there is a pocket secured between the straps on both front and back. The exposed seams, and the top of the bag, are covered with a rayon grosgrain ribbon, and the bag closes with a magnetic snap.

All wrapped up!

The holiday luncheon was a success and really fun. My tote bag was "stolen" something like ten times, which was fun to watch. I brought home a gorgeous set of handmade note cards.

Next year, I will definitely plan my gift much earlier!!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Burda World of Fashion -- Knot Front Top (#111 from 5/2004)

Years ago I compulsively bought Burda sewing magazines and never once made a pattern from one. Those magazines are long gone, along with my entire fabric and pattern stash from back then, but last August I saw this post on Ruthie K's blog and I loved that Burda top with the twist. So many twist tops position the twist at the fullest part of the bust which creates a plunging neckline. Even with a cami underneath, this is not a good look for me.

So when I saw her blog entry, I asked Ruthie which issue contained this pattern. After learning it was Burda World of Fashion (WOF) May 2004, I was on the hunt. Ebay had no copies, but I managed to get a copy when Patty B, on Stitcher's Guild, was clearing out her back issues. Thanks so much, Patty!

Even though this pattern comes only in sizes 34 - 40, I was not daunted. I figured if I could see how it's made, I could draft it in my size. So, when DD2 needed a black outfit for her winter concert, I decided to make this top for her. I traced it off in a size 34 (my first time tracing a Burda multi-line pattern!) and made up a sample. You can see on the photo that the top has a front slit under the knot and, yes, it went well below the bra, so I sewed it up higher. Other than that, it was perfect so I made it up for her in a wool jersey. (This pattern requires a thin knit with good drape.)

Note that the back and the upper front of this top have no seams. I believe that is why Burda only offers it in small-ish sizes. Even in a wide fabric, I had trouble cutting out the back and upper front pieces because the fabric has to be wide enough to span the body, from wrist to wrist. Luckily my daughter has short arms or the sleeves might have ended up as three-quarter length, and the dress code for the concert required long sleeves. I list some possible ways to overcome this limitation below.

With that one caveat, it is very easy to draft this top in any size. I was planning to do just that, when I noticed a pattern released from Butterick last week: Butterick 5429. This top is the same design as the Burda top, except that it is sleeveless. Again, this makes sense given the fabric width limitation. Butterick can offer this pattern for all sizes because they have avoided that issue. However, if you want to add long sleeves to the Butterick pattern, you could do one of the following:
  • Attach the sleeves separately (so they would be dropped sleeves).
  • Extend the armholes to create a dolman sleeve (like the Burda pattern) and convert the back pattern piece to use a CB seam and the upper front piece to use a CF seam. (Although adding a seam on the upper top piece would add undesirable bulk to the knot and the wrong side of the seam might show, so be aware of this.)
  • Cut out the back and upper front piece on the cross grain of the fabric. This only works if the knit has 4-way stretch.

Pattern Review has some very helpful reviews of this pattern, though I didn't think to look them up until I had finished the top. Some sewists refer to this design as a raglan sleeve, but it is actually a dolman sleeve.) I still may draft this in my size (rather than buying the Butterick pattern), because I have a dolman top I drafted for myself that fits well. I definitely wouldn't want it as tightly fitted as the original Burda design. :)

Anyway, here's the finished outfit:

I'm sorry it's so hard to see the top, but that's black for you. She is wearing the skirt I made for her from the same pattern I made for myself: the pencil skirt with flounce I blogged about a couple days ago.

The performance was great. My daughter plays the vibraphone in the orchestra, but we also heard the chorus, the guitar class, the drumming class, the world music class, and the jazz ensemble. They performed in a church near the high school where the acoustics were amazing!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Pattern Company -- Au Bonheur des Petites Mains

Woot! Edgy new patterns from a new (to me) company in Paris. A friend sent me this link and I admired the patterns then moved on. I couldn't see buying untried (and unreviewed) patterns in a foreign language, and incurring expensive shipping fees, as much as I liked the look of them. But try as I might, I couldn't get these designs out of my mind and I decided it didn't matter what the patterns were like, or whether I could understand the instructions (if they even exist, I have no idea).

Check out the Patron de Couture. It turns out I still have just enough high school French to get me into trouble. (Note: Acheter, meaning "To Buy" is the equivalent of the Add to cart button. ;) )

Here are some of my favorites:

Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard. :)

Once my order was complete, I used Yahoo's Babelfish to translate the final message. The translation said:
Your bank card was accepted. With the happiness of the small hands was informed.
Yes, it's early Christmas for shams!!! :)

Self Drafted -- Pencil Skirt with Flounce

Last October, I saw a skirt similar to this at a boutique for over $100. This skirt is fairly easy to draft – the pencil shape is a simple rectangle and the pattern piece is then divided into two with a diagonal seam. The flounce is added to the bottom pattern piece. The top has a casing for elastic.

The bottom pattern piece, showing the flounce.

I first made it for myself in a drapey black knit. I didn't bother to hem it but used the selvedge of the fabric. I made it a second time for my daughter in a black wool jersey to wear to her winter concert. (photos to come)

I am wearing this with the sweater I bought from one of my favorite designers -- Jane Mohr (Dressed to Kill) at the Artistry in Fashion sale. The darker areas on the sweater are actually mesh and you are seeing my black TeaGarden T underneath.

And here is the one I made for DD2:

This is an easy one!