Kathie’s back with another great review of a Colette Pattern. We absolutely loved her Macaron Dress and today’s Sencha Blouse also has that great “modern vintage” look. Learn more about Kathie in her introduction, and find her at Ramonster and Future Craft Collective. Kathie’s in the midst of writing a book with her Future Craft Collective partner Bernadette that will be out early 2011! Today she’s giving away the grey Sencha Blouse (below) at the Ramonster blog, so head over to win and then come back to enjoy her pattern review.

Sencha Blouse Pattern
Sencha Blouse from Colette Patterns
Description
From the booklet: Simple, versatile blouse perfect for creative embellishment, with deep tucks at the front and back waist for a loose but curvy shape great for tucking in.
Materials
Scissors, pins, yadda yadda, all the basics plus get ready to bust out that hand sewing needle, my friends, because this pattern asks us to (gasp) HAND SEW A HEM!!! Heavens.
Fabric Recommendations
Colette recommends “lightweight fabrics such as silk or rayon crepe, silk charmeuse, silk habotai, jaquard. Medium weight fabrics such as cotton poplin or light twill.”

I threw caution to the wind (that’s just how I roll) and went with a lightweight linen. I know what you’re thinking, “That girl is cray-cray! Linen? Is there NOTHING she is unafraid to try? I am in awe and utterly debilitating admiration of her willingness to push the boundaries of her, and by doing so OUR, collective creative consciousness.” Well, as for all of that, all I can say is, YOU’RE WELCOME. And also that linen wrinkles very very easily.

I chose grey linen because i was wanting to honor the simple elegance of the design by using a simple and elegant fabric that would let the pattern do it’s own talking. And also because I had it on hand. And also because I am told by friends who know things that grey is what all the cool kids are wearing. But mostly because of that elegance thing I was yapping about before.

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Front detail.

Overall Design 4 stars
Lovely and classic and simple. Simple being the key phrase here. Simple is a thing I struggle with in my own design work and yet I am unceasingly in awe of and in love with it.

The Sencha is another lovely Colette take on vintage styling. And as with almost every vintage or vintage-style pattern I’ve ever worked with, they are designed for women with, how you say, AMPLE JUNK IN THE FRONT? AKA: Ladies who have graduated from the junior department as far as bra size is concerned. Knowwhatimean? I am not that lady. We will leave it at that. Except to say that this blouse, as with almost every outfit I’ve ever worn*, would look awesome with boobs.

*Aside from the holy triumvirate of sports bra, dolphin shorts and knee socks- that, I can totally rock. You think I’m kidding.

 

Written Instructions 5 stars
In my humble opinion, Colette has mastered the art of the domestic pattern. Two words: PATTERN PORN. Starting with their website and continuing on with their packaging and presentation, through their written instructions and diagrams…. For those of us raised on 1970’s era simplicity patterns, where you SO WANTED to be inspired by looking through those big fat pattern books, but you couldn’t help but wonder how on God’s great earth a pattern company couldn’t manage to sew up samples of their own product that didn’t look like THEY’D BEEN SEWN AT HOME FROM A PATTERN? Can I get an amen?

Anyway, I find Colette patterns to be the salve for the open wound of bad pattern presentation and packaging that I was raised on. (A nod here to Burda. While not exactly fashion-forward, at least they made my 16 year old self feel edgy simply by asking me to add my own seam allowances. Ah, the sweet taste of dangerous European lawlessness.)

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Back detail.

But looks and packaging aside, the written instructions are also clear and simple. granted, this pattern is pretty durn straight forward and uncomplicated, but I’ve sewn on other Colette patterns and found them all (okay, both) to be well written.

Diagrams / Images 5 stars
There is almost a 1:1 visual diagram to written instruction ratio which, for visual folk like m’self, is helpful.

Pattern Pieces 5 stars
The Sencha pattern comes with three variations. There is one back piece, three different front pieces (for the three variations) and facings to match. And a tie, for the variation with the tie. Totally clear and simple.

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Front detail on dress modification, with tie.

Overall Level of Difficulty Easy
Tips + Modifications
Colette seems to have written their patterns with the assumption that many of their sewists will be working on domestic machines and not have access to a serger. While I think that that is a wise assumption for a pattern company to function from, I also feel that there are enough home sewists who do use sergers that there might be some nod given in the instructions for serging vs. straight stitching. Colette patterns are written assuming you will not be serging, which while it is easy enough to adjust this simple pattern into a serged seam pattern, I was surprised that they didn’t offer any seam treatment options at all. Personally, I can’t really hang with a raw edge. Even simply using pinking shears on a seam allowance before pressing it open scratches a certain itch for finishing that I seem to need to have scratched.

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Pinking the shoulder seam.

Another adjustment I made the second time I sewed the pattern was that they ask that you sew the side seams of the shirt up before turning a tiny 1/4” hem on the ends of the sleeves. A simple adjustment that would have absolutely no ill effect on the construction of the garment would be to flip the order of those two instructions and turn the 1/4” sleeve hem first while the garment is flat, then stitch the side seams up.

I also chose to add a strip of interfacing to the area in the back where the buttons (in my case, snaps) are placed for stability.

And lastly, apparently the folks at Colette think we’ve got nothing better to do than hand sew not only the sleeve hem (which, okay, I admit- looks AWESOME when hand sewn. Delicate, organic….. Just lovely and worthy of the precious additional time taken away from Facebook…) but also the back opening hem. DON’T BE FOOLED. You can totally machine sew this hem and you will do no harm to the integrity of your blouse. Do it. Break a rule. Go crazy.

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Hand-stitched sleeve hem.

Modifications: Instead of the sew-on snaps and/or buttons that the pattern recommends for the back opening of the garment, I went ahead and used pearl snaps. I have a giant industrial snap setter that makes using snaps…. wait for it…… A SNAP (harhaaaaahrararhahahahaaa i’ve been holding that one in FOR YEARS), so basically I haven’t sewn on a button since I got it. (Can you say lazy? Shhhh…. Don’t say it.)

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Back with pearl snaps.

This pattern would look awesome, however, with some old skool covered buttons. It’s beggin’ for them.

The pattern description states: “Simple, versatile blouse perfect for creative embellishment…” Which kind of makes you feel like a total loser if you opt to not get all up the the creative embellishment department. This, my friends, is a slippery slope and an area where I have the tendency to be a little, shall we say, heavy handed. I’m proud to say that thanks to a sharp and discerning eye (also known as procrastination and deadlines), I think I managed to keep the addition of a bit of hand embroidery firmly in the tasteful department. I’ll just have to work out my desperate-need-for-attention via overworking-textiles-till-they-die elsewhere.

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Embroidery detail.

The other modification I decided to try was to make this blouse into a dress just by adding 8 1/2 inches to the bottom. it kinda worked in translation, although had I the option of doing it all over, I would have gone with another few inches on the length. I’m a fan of seeing all these current cute-as-kitties shorty short dresses….. ON OTHER PEOPLE. *coughthunderthighscough*

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Dress modification.

Anyway, it was an easy modification. When cutting out the pattern I just added the (not enough) inches and curved the bottom in a bit. Voila.

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Shirt to dress.

Conclusion
Pattern porn + sweet vintage styling = utter satisfaction (with a french accent for dramatic flair, if you please.) Five stars!! (Insert fireworks and tearjerking classic country anthem here.)