Sunday, 9 September 2012

Playing with the Queen of Darts, knowing it aint really smart...Colette Hazel vs the B cup.

Since I started sewing this year I've had my eye on the Colette patterns.  Not sure what it was - possibly the good reviews they got, the cute booklet packaging they come in, the names they give their patterns or the soothing seafoamy green/blue colour of their website.  Either way I knew I wanted to sew one of these patterns and it was the Hazel that I decided to cut my teeth on.  Finally with spring hitting the southern hemisphere a unique summery dress was in order and Hazel has that in spades. 

The Hazel is promoted as a simple quick and easy dress to put together.  It has a interesting V seamed bodice with side panels cut on the bias that opens up your creative options into stripes/plaids or repeating patterns in fabric.  The skirts is described as a 'dirndl' style skirt with in seam pockets.  You can easily translate your stripe/plaid/repeating pattern theme down into the skirt or use a border print fabric.  I saw one review on Patternreview that achieved a chevron effect across the bodice and down into the skirt.  The final sale point on this pattern is the word 'BEGINNER' blazoned across the front which lulled me into thinking this was going to be a quick weekend job to put together.......I should have read the fine print! 

The one key (more like critical life-defining soul crushing) point about the Colette patterns are that they are made for the C cup woman.  While I occasionally like to play dress up, put on my super padded bra and pretend that I have cleavage that you don't need a microscope to see, the reality is that I am definitely in B cup territory.   This is not normally a worry  - hey, no sagging to worry about here, no super metal support contraptions are required to keep them in position and I am in no risk of being hit in the face when I go running.   But when it comes to the Hazel pattern this was definitely an issue.

So with all patterns I started with reviews from my sewing peers.  Patternreview has 13 reviews for the Hazel pattern.  Majority of the reviews make little mention of SBSBA (small but sexy bust adjustment as I like to call it), I think LizJaneB was the only one to have issue with the bodice fit....I should have paid more attention to her review!.  The main gripes/wins coming out of the reviews were
  • the dirndl skirt sucks.  Shapeless plus the gathering gives you that oh so flattering frumpy look around your waist.  Most used another pattern for the skirt  - the bodice is really the reason for making this dress
  • the pockets are awesome!  but if you are really gungho on pattern matching the fabric in the skirt you might want to skip them.
  • the straps are not wide enough and strap placement takes a bit of work
  • difficult to wear a bra underneath with strap guessing this one won't be an issue for me.
So I began this journey 3 weeks ago with my pattern, a $10 sheet set from K-mart that yielded nearly 4m of cheap nasty polyester fabric and made my first muslin up.  I think I made the entire bodice from half the pillow case. 

The end result was not surprising - yes the dirndl skirt is awful.  I have no idea who this looks flattering on.  Am guessing if you want to use the gathering effect you should iron the gathers flatter then a pancake before sewing skirt to the bodice - this may eliminate the pouffy effect that I achieved in mine.  The bodice was OK but not great - I tightened all the seams up really tight to get it to sit right which meant that I could only wear it for about 10 minutes before oxygen became critical. The straps were way too wide.  I liked the pockets but they sat too high up for me to comfortably get that slouchy hands-in-pocket effect.

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"When are you due?", or just a really crappy skirt design???

With  practice dress done I moved on to the the final dress.  I had a navy/white strip fabric that I got on special at Lincraft a few months back.  I contemplated using it for the entire dress but remember the lady behind the counter getting dizzy from trying to measure and cut the fabric out and figured it may be a health risk to go out in public with that amount of stripeage.  Instead I went for the stripes in the bodice and went for a solid navy blue for the skirt.

These were the list of changes I made to the panel
  • I moved the pockets down a couple of inches so that they started at the top of the thigh
  • I shaped the front and back skirt pieces so that they curved towards the waist
  • I did 2 pleats on either side of the front skirt piece and 3 pleats on each back piece.  I used the bodice dimensions as reference to work out the size of pleats required. 
  • I lengthened the skirt so that it would be knee length.
  • I took out 1/2" from the back side panels to accommodate my sway back
  • I reduced the size of the straps to 1" wide
The end result was almost perfect.  I loved it - with the strips going horizontally across the bust to give illusion of there being possibly something there, the blue skirt with its shaping and pleats worked perfectly.  Pockets were in extra slouch position and straps looked in proportion to my shoulders.   My invisible zipper placement was awesome (I think if I could walk backwards in the dress I would, just to draw peoples attention to the fact that the waist seam was lined up perfectly).  There was just one big BUT....and it was a very pointed yet lumpy but.  The bodice darts gave me that madonnaesque effect of having laser beams shooting out from the bodice.  An extremely pointed look.  It was also quite saggy.

Apart from lumpy effect at top of bodice you can see the hypnotic effect of the stripes....even the camera looks like it got dizzy!!

This is what I spent the last 2 weeks doing......trying to figure out how to do a SBSBA on the Hazel pattern.  The bodice pattern is what makes a traditional SBA difficult and I think that is why Colette haven't yet done a tutorial on it despite lots of people asking for one.   In my searching I have come to following conclusion:
  • Treat the pattern like a princess seamed bodice first and do an adjustment for your bust based on this.  Adjust the slope of the curve on the front side panel piece (I took 3/8" out of mine).  If you are lucky this might be all you need to do.
  • Find your bust point on the front panel piece and move the dart (the dart sat to high for me in the end)
  • Do a SBA on the front panel piece.  I did the reverse of the FBA for the Hazel that was on the Symon sez blog.  I took 3/8" from my front panel piece.  This also reduced the size of dart but not by much.  This made the bodice sit flat at the top of the bodice for me.
  • Finally - get rid of the dart or as much of the dart as you can.  As soon as you start adjusting this pattern the bust seam moves closer and closer to the bust point and the size of the dart makes it awkward in this position.  Alternatively rotate half the dart down so that you have a second dart coming up underneath the bust. 
  • All of these adjustments makes the front panel shorter so make sure you match up the front side panel piece and adjust its size if required. 
The end result......not perfect.  I am calling this my wearable muslin.  But after making the 3rd front bodice piece I just didn't have the energy to go a fourth time.   The bodice fits much better and the pointed effect is almost gone (still having issues on the right side).  For me I think it would be better to remove half the dart from the pattern along with doing the SBA in the front panel piece and front side piece.  But that will be for next time and there definitely will be a next time. 

So in summary
Pattern:             Colette Hazel (1021)
Fabric:              Stripy cotton from Lincraft
                         Quilters cotton in navy from Lincraft - is also excellent lint and cat hair catcher
Instructions:      lovely.  Easiest dress to construct.  I would recommend that you insert the
                             zipper into the bodice before the straps.  In fact if you are not a C cup I
                             would do a temporary insertion of zipper into bodice before sewing to the
                             skirt to test the fit.
Modifications:    Choose another skirt pattern or change it from a dirndl skirt into one with
                              pleats.   Add some shape to it by curving in towards the waist on both front
                               and back panel
                              Reduced the straps to 1" wide.  If you have narrow shoulders do this to
                              make them look proportional.
                             Moved the pockets down
                             Front bodice adjustment for SBSBA.......simple to write but in reality was 2
                             weeks of frustration
Conclusion:       I now know a lot about darts.  I know how to move them, how to rotate
                             them, how to remove them and add them in and also how to hate them with
                             a passion!! 
                            This was a good learning experience dress.......and having a public wearable
                             dress at the end of this has just been a bonus. 

Blog Title reference: Queen of Hearts, by Hank Devito

1 comment:

  1. Your finished dress looks great. It was certainly a tricky bodice to alter!