Wait, come back… it’s not another recipe post. This one is for the Taffy, not taffy. :~)
My book club’s selection in June was The Colette Sewing Handbook. This book is designed as a garment sewing school… it gives lots of lessons and tutorials, then presents five projects throughout the book to practice and build upon the skills you’re acquiring. Sarai Mitnick, the author as well as the owner of Colette Patterns, structures the book around what she calls The Five Fundamentals: A Thoughtful Plan, A Precise Pattern, A Fantastic Fit, A Beautiful Fabric, and A Fine Finish. She starts with some sewing basics and then gives more detailed instructions within each of these fundamentals. I especially enjoyed reading the Thoughtful Plan section — she shares some fresh ideas on inspiration, editing, strategy, and even creating your own croquis. (Alana from Lazy Stitching has a great post about that last one.)
I found the teaching aspect of the book to be exceptional. She presents very clear guidance and lots of photos, as well as illustrations or line drawings when it’s helpful. Also a huge bonus, the book is spiral-bound, so it’s easy to lay open beside you to follow along with the steps! (Oh, for the day that it’s unnecessary to highlight this trait because all books with projects are spiral-bound…) If you are familiar with the Colette blog, Coletterie, the quality of instruction will come as no surprise — exemplary tutorials (primarily technique-oriented rather than projects) appear there regularly.
In our book club meeting, we all agreed that the book was excellent from an instructional perspective. There were mixed reviews on the popularity of the projects, but most of us liked at least a couple of them. My particular challenge is that my wardrobe is definitely on the casual side, whereas Colette patterns tend to be a bit more spiffy. But that’s just one of the beauties of sewing… where Collete saw a beautiful bias-cut blouse made from silk chiffon, I saw a knit top in embroidered cotton jersey. ;)
OK, to be fair, I did set out to make this top a little closer to the published design. I pulled out a stashed piece of rayon challis and went to work. I’m not going to try to recap fully what happened over the next couple of hours. Long story short: shifty fabric, three attempts to cut one pattern piece, starch, repeat, umpteen four-letter utterances. Rayon challis can be difficult to cut on the straight grain — I don’t know what I was thinking. It’s a good thing I was working against the deadline of my book club meeting, or all thoughts of making the Taffy might have gone right out the window with what was left of my sanity. My eyes strayed to my knit fabric stash shelves… oooh, that could work…
Clearly, I did lots of things differently from the original design. Aside from my fabric choice, which of course meant that I cut on the normal grainline rather than the bias, I finished the edges of the sleeves and hem with a serged rolled hem. I bound the neckline with self-fabric cut on the crossgrain — this was my first time doing that with a knit, and I loved the result.
What surprised me was how few changes I made otherwise. First of all, the awesome drafting-for-a-C-cup that is standard with Colette Patterns, combined with my knit fabric choice, meant no FBA was needed for these D-cuppers. I made no changes to the darts either. The neckline is wide but I like it, and it stays in place well. I didn’t even add length, which I *always* do. There are a few minor fitting changes that I will make for the next version, especially to the shoulder/upper chest width, but nothing that will keep this top from being worn. A lot.
OK — about the sleeves. When I first decided to make this pattern, I thought I might like to reduce the fullness of the sleeves. I tried getting my mind (and scissors) around how to do this but was stymied. Then I thought I’d just make the top sleeveless. But I finally decided to attempt the sleeves as designed, thinking I could always remove them and finish it sleeveless if I hated them. The first time I tried it on after they were attached, I thought, “Wow, that’s a lot of sleeve, but it’s kinda cool, it might work…” And every time I looked at them after that I liked them more. My husband liked them right away. And now I love them and want to make another Taffy, which I thought was very unlikely at first, specifically because of the distinctive sleeves. My point is, after reading and hearing several other experiences, it seems as if this is a common reaction/path. So maybe the pattern’s tagline should be: “Yes, the sleeves are wide, but just try it, you’ll love them!” Haha.
I already have another Taffy in progress, this time from a very drapey lightweight cotton/rayon jersey. It may turn out to be a chalked-up learning experience because of said fabric choice. But it may be awesome. We’ll see…