Book Review and my Taffy Blouse!

I am a devoted follower of Sarai Mitnick from Colette Patterns. When she announced on her Coletterie blog that she was having a new book coming out, I immediately put it on my Amazon wishlist (my birthday is in November, so perfect timing). Imagine my immense pleasure when F+W Media sent me a copy of The Colette Sewing Handbook to review on my blog!!

And here’s something for you too! A discount on a book! Purchase the book here for the discount:

Get FREE shipping and 35% off The Colette Sewing Handbook now! Visit the Martha Pullen Online Store and use promo code COLETTEFREE to get your exclusive discount.
Fine print:
Offer valid until 11/30/11 at 11:59 PM EST and is valid on standard shipping to US addresses only. International shipments will cost extra. Please note that Sew Exclusive kits are non-returnable. Martha Pullen Company reserves the right to correct pricing errors.

The dress depicted on the cover is also a pattern in the book: The Pastille Dress

Sarai has really outdone herself on this book. In addition to the book containing 5 clothing sewing patterns, about $90 worth in patterns, the other half of the book is helpful information about sewing, fabric, and how to make garments for yourself. Now, I’ve read other sewing books, and they always have the obligatory portion in the front about the basics of sewing, etc. We’ve all seen them. Usually I flip past these, as they can sometimes be no-brainers, but I found in this book, all the information was invaluable, and all accompanied by clear photos.

Pattern #5 from the book: The Licorice Dress

I was especially intrigued by chapter 5, which discussed altering a pattern. Have a small chest? (check) There’s a couple pages on how to make adjustments to your pattern. Sway back? Long torso? Large Waist? There are detailed steps for each telling you what you need to do to each of your pattern pieces before you begin. Maybe it sounds complicated (it’s not), but this can all be very helpful and save you a lot of headache later on when you sew everything up and realize that it does not in fact fit your body.

Another pattern from the book: The Truffle Dress (so feminine and pretty!)

The book builds on the informative chapters, and sprinkles in the sewing patterns where appropriate. For example, before you start on the first project, the Meringue Skirt, you have already learned how to prep your fabric, cut out the pattern, sew darts, install a zipper, etc. Each pattern in the book grows more difficult, giving you confidence on your learning and sewing skills. If you have never sewn clothing before, with this book, now you will be able to. If you’ve visited my blog in the past, you know that I am big on encouragement in a project; the only thing stopping you from sewing your dream project is your doubt! You can do anything you try…sure, you might hit a stumbling block or have to use your seam ripper, but anything is possible!

The special thing about all the Colette Patterns is that they are very well-written. I have long been frustrated by commercial sewing patterns (Simplicity, Butterick, etc.). I have been sewing for several years, but they often make me scratch my head, wondering what I am supposed to do next. I think Colette Patterns take a lot of the guesswork out of sewing. The illustrations match the instructions, and they are laid out in simple language, taking you from beginning to end of each step.

An example of the clear step-by-step instructions in the book

The top things that I’ve learned from this book are the chapters on fabric (what to use, how they fall on your body, etc.), and I also learned a cool new technique to make bias tape, which I used when making the Taffy Blouse! By making a small little origami unit (as I call it), and using chalk to line up your bias, I turned a small square of fabric into enough double fold bias tape for my entire project! I was pretty impressed by how easy it was compared to how I made bias in the past.

Two of the patterns from the book: The Taffy Blouse and the Meringue Skirt

Whew! I could probably talk a lot longer, but thank you for making it this far. 😉 Now on to the piece that I made from the book, the Taffy Blouse. This was the 4th project in the book. I picked it out because I thought it would be a great everyday piece for me to wear, and also (I’m not going to lie), because there were only 3 pattern pieces to cut out (top front, top back, and the sleeve). Eh, it’ll be a quick sew, I thought. Well.

Fabric – First of all, I chose a sheer fabric (although with some weight). I have only used sheer fabric once in the past, and it was straight cuts, so nothing to get uptight about. Sewing with sheer fabric is difficult. In hindsight, I probably should have used a spray stabilizer, to make it easier to handle, but I sometimes have breathing issues, so I didn’t want to use it. For the bound edges (neckline, sleeves), I used a china silk in purple. At first, I was worried that it might be too blah, but I think the purple solid was the perfect complement to the polka dots.

Pattern Pieces –  There were 3 pattern pieces, the front of the blouse, the back of the blouse, and one for the sleeves. The sleeves are very wide, which is what gives them that nice, delicate hang around the shoulders. The front pattern piece also has markings for the darts, which are easy to sew. The pattern instructions call for you to tie off your darts rather than backstitching, which makes them lie smooth, especially with a sheer fabric.

Illustrations/Instructions – I don’t think the instructions could have been any more clear. Basically, you sew the darts on the front, then attach the front and back at the shoulders, baste on the back ties, then sew on the sleeves, the sides, then bind everything.

Normally, I try on clothing many times as I’m working on it, but because of the nature of the fabric, I had a hard time doing so. It probably would have gone smoother had I made a muslin first. You can probably see by the photos, but my blouse ended up being an off-the-shoulder version, which was a fitting issue that I could have adjusted via the pattern pieces before I cut my fabric. I think I like it, it’s a little more skin than I would like to show, but it wasn’t a total disaster, I would still wear it.

I do like the binding on the sleeves and the neckline a lot, so I decided to add it to the bottom of the blouse as well instead of hemming.

Conclusion – Obviously the pattern was very well written. All the little missteps were my own. Even though the sheer fabric was tough to work with, I’m not sure this particular pattern would end up quite as well with something different…it would probably have to be another fabric with a lot of drape. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the top, I definitely learned a lot in making it, and sometimes that’s the biggest point of a sewing project. 🙂

I’m definitely looking forward to making the other pieces of clothing from the book…I believe the Licorice Dress might be next, so pretty!!

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