Sunday, 5 February 2012

Red and Black Macaron

Exciting news – I now have a Colette Macaron dress! My first Colette make and possibly my favourite Colette pattern along with the Beignet skirt. I love this pattern and the dress despite having so many problems with the fitting, the pattern and it being the main reason why I haven't posted anything for a month. This has been a bit of an epic and I can't believe I have a wearable dress at the end of it.

Here are the pictures.

Now for the (many) details!

I used some black and red fabric from the lot I bought from the retired seamstress. The black is the same fabric I used for my Plain Black (almost) Miss Chalmers' skirt. I don't know what it is, possibly garberdine. I had fun choosing a contrast fabric and went with this one because I thought the black and burgundy would go well together. The burgundy is a nice shade despite it not being the nicest quality fabric (ie not soft or luscious).

I ended up making at least 3 muslins. The first size I cut (a 10) was way too small despite my measurements according to those on the pattern envelope. This was annoying because I had traced out the size and made adjustments to make the waistband a bit bigger. I then traced and made up a size 12 with no adjustments but stitching a 1cm seam allowance everywhere instead of 1.5 cm. This didn't look right so I unpicked the muslin and stitched it up with a 1.5 cm seam allowance. This was the odd thing – the bodice and the skirt were fine but the waistband seemed totally wrong – way too small. I haven't yet gone back to the original pattern pieces to see if this was an error with the pattern, my tracing error or whether the pattern is designed to fit an exceptionally hour glass figure!

By this time I couldn't face tracing out yet another copy of the pattern and making up another muslin. Instead of going back to study the original pattern pieces and figure out what had gone wrong I decided to re-draft the waistband to fit which in turn meant adjusting the top of the skirt and the lower part of the bodice pieces to fit the widened waistband. My drafting skills to date have extended to making a Peter Pan collar, adding a pleat to my Petal skirt and drafting a slash pocket on my Miss Chalmers' skirt. I couldn't find any tutorials on lengthening and adjusting a waistband so I winged it. 

Obviously I don't recommend that you do this at home – go and buy a pattern making book or find a tutorial from someone who knows what they are doing. However if you want a good laugh this is how I did it. The waistband and the lower part of the bodice was about 4 cm too narrow. I therefore added 4 cm by letting out the darts. I also reduced the inner pleats on the skirt to 1cm instead of 2 cm. I also thought the waistband was too narrow for me so I lengthened it by around 1.5 cm. To draft the waistband I closed up the newly adjusted darts on the skirt and bodice pieces and held them apart by the distance I wanted and traced out the gap.

Not surprisingly the waistband hasn't come out very straight! Luckily you can't really see it in the black fabric. I didn't want a contrasting waistband anyway.

Now you would think after all this I would have made up the dress with no further alterations. Wrong! I had to make life just a bit more difficult for myself.

I wanted to alter the sweetheart bodice shaping. It was a bit too defined for my shape so I straightened it out a bit. It still has that curved shape. Here is a picture of the original pattern piece on top of my adjusted one so you can see how much I added back in.  (I have marked with a red dotted line where the original line was).  This of course meant a corresponding adjustment to the front yoke pattern piece.

I sewed the sweetheart bodice to the front yoke differently to the pattern instructions. Probably because of the curved seam, the instructions told you to fold under the seam allowance on the front yoke and press, using a line of basting stitches along the seamline to make it easier. This part is attached to the bodice front by a row of topstitching. Because I had smoothed out this curve I thought this was unnecessary so I attached this like I would a normal seam, with right sides together and the seam allowance pressed down towards the waist. I then under stitched the seam after clipping the curves and topstitched.

I didn't want to do the facing around the neck. I haven't done a neck facing before and I'm a bit nervous about them as I've read they don't always come out well. The pattern doesn't call for lining but I wanted to line the dress. I've done a lined shift dress before but wasn't sure how this would translate to a dress with sleeves. The sleeves on this pattern are made by cutting out 2 sleeve pieces per arm and then joining them at the lower edge and side and turning through. I wondered if this would make my sleeve too bulky plus if I was lining the dress I would want the sleeve to be lined. Here's what I did! I made a hem facing for the lower edge of the sleeve in my main fabric. I just traced out a facing piece from the lower part of the sleeve pattern piece. The hem facing depth is about 2 cm plus adding what I needed for seam allowances of 1.5 cm. I then traced out a lining sleeve pattern piece to make up the top half of the sleeve lining plus seam allowance at the lower edge of the sleeve. The sleeve hem facing and sleeve lining, once made up, end up being the same size as the sleeve piece.

I couldn't find a tutorial anywhere on lining a dress with sleeves. Nor was there anything in my many sewing books. The only mention of lining sleeves was in the Colette sewing book which just said that sleeves aren't normally lined! Luckily I have a ready to wear dress with lined sleeves (and a sleeve hem facing) so I examined the inside. I could see how they did it. I thought it might be tricky getting into all those nooks and crannies with the sewing machine. Although it took a bit of time it really wasn't hard.

I've described previously how I line a sleeveless shift dress here (with the tutorial I used) and how I did the same thing when lining a shift dress with a Peter Pan collar. To complete the picture I describe at the end of this post how I lined the dress with sleeves. I imagine a similar principle is used for lining a jacket (something I haven't yet done).

I used a red lining which was part of the lot I bought from the retired seamstress. My chap thought the lining was funny – like a little dress inside my dress! It is worth remembering to think about lining as you're making it up. The lining and dress are wrong sides together in the final garment. I forgot this and ended up sewing the side of the dress which had the side zipper so had to undo it which was a pain because I had already trimmed the seam allowance.

Here's a picture of the lining.

I ended up using a lot of interfacing on parts of this dress to give it more structure. I interfaced (on the main fabric only) the sleeve hem facing and various other seams including: the neck edge, the shoulder seams and the place where the zipper tape would be. I was also going to interface the seams where the sleeve attaches to the dress but I got a bit tired of doing it. I've noticed this technique on ready to wear clothing. I cut out a strips of interfacing and placed it on the wrong side of the pattern piece at the seam in question. I cut out enough so that the seam stitches go over the interfacing. The idea is to prevent stretching and the seams breaking in places that might get a lot of pull:

I also interfaced the waistband to give the dress some structure and the hem (see below).

I tend to interface the zipper tape area as a matter of course now. It really does make the process easier to do. With this make I interfaced the lining at the zipper area as well. With a side zip the dress is a bit harder to get on and off so I thought this would reduce the risk of the lining getting ripped at the zipper. Again this made the attaching the lining to the zipper tape easier and I may do it again.

I was delighted with my side zipper. I used an invisible zipper and this has been my best one yet. (I just used an ordinary zipper foot and hold back the teeth with my fingers. I don't think it is necessary to use an invisible zipper foot if you don't have one). I followed the instructions for an invisible zip in the Colette sewing book. Sarai suggests that you machine baste the seam line first so you can align the teeth of the zipper with the stitches. I really liked this method and will definitely be using it in future.

I under stitched the lining to the seams at the following points: the neck edge, the sleeve hem facing (the inner edge where the sleeve lining meets the hem facing). A first for me was edge stitching (or top stitching) the lining to the zipper tape (after sewing the lining to the zipper tape) which I think will help prevent the lining getting caught in the zip.

Another first for me was pressing seams “flat then open”. I had never heard of this before reading about it on Gertie's blog post. It really does produce a nice finish and I will definitely be doing this from now on.

As mentioned above, I interfaced the hem before sewing it, to give it more structure and because I know from experience that this fabric does not press well when folded. My hem was 3.5 cm so my interfacing was around 4.5 cm (with the fold of the hem and interfacing at the 3.5 cm point). I used sew on interfacing because I like it but it does take longer.

I love the pockets but I think the pocket placement lines on the pattern are wrong. They have you place them too high up. I won't go into it because it will only make sense if you have the Macaron pattern. Suffice it to say that once you have sewn the skirt pleats you are not left with enough room to comfortably fit your hands through the opening. I can just about do this because I reverted to a 1cm seam allowance when doing the pockets, thereby adding a centimetre. The picture of the pocket placement on the pattern instructions does not correspond with the placement on the pattern. I noticed this before I made it up. I carried on regardless thinking it may work out but it didn't. Next time I will place it lower, somewhere which accords more with the placement on the pattern instructions.

Overall I am really happy with the dress. It still looks like a Macaron despite all the changes I've made. After all the fitting changes I made the bodice has ended up being a little bit big at the back where the bodice back yoke meets the bodice lower back. My dart change didn't effect this area so this is how it was designed. If I want to change it in future this will require another pattern alteration. This hasn't affected the fit at the bodice front at all. I have noticed other sewers having fitting problems with the back of Colette patterns. They seem to be roomy at the back. This is a “maybe” to change on my next make as it is not something that it noticeable from the front.

The skirt and waistband are a little big now but I actually don't mind as it is nice to have some ease so you can move around and sit in the dress easily.

One fitting alteration I think I will make on the next one is to the length of the shoulders. They are a bit narrow and once the sleeves are on there's not much ease up there. I did muslin one of the sleeves and didn't notice this at the time. I think all I need to do is add around 1 to 1.5 cm to the distance from the neck to the edge of the shoulder. The underarm is fine, it's just the top that is the problem. I suspect this alteration will also need a corresponding alteration to the sleeve piece as well but I'll look into this.

I do want to make another Macaron. I think I have to strike while the iron's hot on this one. If I leave it I will never make another one! I also want to go back and look at the original pieces again. This may mean another long delay before I have a project to post. This is the downside of doing projects which are more complicated. I did a lot of skirts last year which didn't require much alteration. Dresses are a bit different. Because of my shape they inevitably take a bit longer to fit. I want to try and get my dresses as good as my skirts so if they take a bit longer so be it!

I've got to start the muslin for my mum's pencil skirt soon as I will be going down there at some point. I'll do my next Macaron first and then start on that. After that will probably be the Renfrew top and I would like to make a wrap cardigan at some point.

If you're still reading by this point – thank you! This has been a bit of a long post. I'll close now and leave you with the instructions to attach the lining. Happy sewing!

Instructions for attaching lining to a dress with sleeves and a sleeve hem facing

My instructions for attaching a lining to a sleeveless dress are here (with the tutorial I used). I slightly altered these instructions to add a Peter Pan collar to the same dress and these instructions are here. Lining a sleeved dress is not too different. Using the same pattern pieces, make up the same dress in the lining fabric. Make up the dress part of the lining first but make the the following change to the dress lining before attaching the lining sleeves.

Don't stitch along the whole length of the shoulder seam on the lining fabric. Just stitch enough to let you attach the sleeve lining to the dress lining and press open this part. I sewed about an inch and a half along the shoulder seams of the dress lining starting from the shoulder. This leaves about 2 to 2 1/2 inches of the shoulder seams un-sewn. Attach the sleeves lining pieces to the dress lining. (I forgot to add – this applies equally to the main dress shell. So you're just sewing enough of the shoulder seam on the main dress fabric to attach the main fabric sleeves).

These instructions assume you have made the hem facing for the sleeves in the dress fabric. I think I would always use a hem facing if I was lining sleeves as there would be a risk of the lining peeking out if it went to the edge of the sleeve.

I attached the sleeve hem facing to my dress fabric sleeves.

I then attached the neckline of the dress to the neckline of the lining, right sides together I used the same principle here as for lining a sleeveless dress. So I sewed a long the neckline but stopping short of where each shoulder seam will be by about 1 inch to an inch and a half. Turn through and press the seam into place. I under stitched the lining to the seam allowance and topstitched along the edge as well. You can do either or both. I always do both (where I am topstitching as well) as I read this is what they do in couture. If I'm not topstitching I will always under stitch the lining.

With the right side of the dress facing you, reach with your hand in between the dress and the lining up to the shoulder seam that you need to sew. Starting with the main dress fabric, pull out the shoulder seam the way you came, just enough so that you can comfortably stitch it on the machine. Press open the shoulder seam and repeat with the shoulder seam of the lining fabric. Press open the shoulder seam. Then do the same thing with that bit of the neckline that needs sewing. I managed to do all this on the machine and that under stitched and topstitched this part of the neckline.

I then tackled joining the bottom of the sleeve lining to the top of the hem facing. The seam allowance here will be enclosed so you are attaching the top of the hem facing to the bottom of the sleeve lining right sides together. Again with the right side of the dress facing outside I reached in with my hand between the dress and the lining out to the sleeve and grabbed the seam I needed to sew. I pulled it through the way I came just enough to sew it comfortably on the machine. If this is hard to follow think of it like this. A sewer might look at a complicated finished seam like this and wonder how on earth they get the sewing machine in there, or even a hand to hand sew it. The answer is it would be impossible to do this without grabbing the seam they want and pulling it through the nearest available exit (which could be the bottom of the skirt or in my case the hole where the side zipper is) enough so it can be sewn. It's a bit like one of those “ah” moments. None of these seams were hard to sew.

Once I attached this seam I understitched the lining of the sleeve to the seam allowance at the top of the hem facing. This effectively looks like topstitching at this point – here's a picture.

Next up is securing the seam allowance at the shoulder seam of the dress to the seam allowance of the shoulder seam on the dress lining. I did this by getting a strip of fabric measuring about 1.25 inches x 1 cm and hand stitching one end on the shoulder seam allowance on the dress and the other end on the shoulder seam allowance on the lining. Here is a picture.

I used a bit of red tape that some new tea towels came wrapped in, cut in half. This wasn't the best choice of fabric as it frays really easily. The ready to wear dress that I copied this from used a bit of the lining fabric folded over a few times and secured in place. That would be a better fabric to use in future.

Next up I secured the lower part of the sleeve. I did this by hand tacking the seam allowance on the hem facing to the seam allowance at the lower edge of the sleeve. I haven't photographed this as I can't make head nor tail of it look at that area now. All you're doing is joining by hand sewing the seam allowances in the armpit area on both the lining and the dress. Just a few stitches on top of each other a few times to preventsthe area from moving around too much when you put it on.

I then sewed the zipper side of the lining up to just below were the zip ends. I then machine stitched the lining to the zipper tape and hand stitched the parts at the top and bottom of the zip which are difficult to machine stitch.

I made up a new pattern piece for the skirt lining which closed off the pleats slightly, to reduce bulk in the lining. You don't have to do this and you can use the same skirt piece as the dress.


  1. Thanks for sharing your tips for lining a dress with sleeves! That's really helpful information. The Macaron is a great shape for you! I really like the way that you smoothed out the sweetheart neckline-- it looks more sophisticated and less novelty this way. The photo of your dress turned inside out made me think that this dress would be lovely without the sweetheart yoke altogether-- it's such a nice silhouette that it would be pretty with a plain bodice, like your lining.

    1. Thanks gingermakes! I thought the instructions would be helpful as there doesn't seem to be much available out there. I agree about the shape of this dress. I've always liked it and there's something about the pockets I love. You're absolutely right -the shape of the dress and sleeves is a feature in itself without the contrasting yoke and shaped neckline.

  2. Katy, this post is epic! (It's reminding me of mine :-)) I think the dress looks beautiful on you. What a gorgeous colour combo. The pockets are obviously perfect and it fits so beautifully in the shoulders. I love it!

    1. Ha ha! Yes I've re-written War and Peace here. Thank you so much. I'm so pleased with it and I have to say it has a lot to do with this design. I usually struggle to get good photos of my makes but nearly all the pictures of this dress came out well. I should be wary of trying to top this one with a second make!

  3. This dress looks awesome and it really suits you. I love the harmony of the two colours. And a great, comprehensive post of course!

    1. Thank you! Praise indeed having just seen the lovely dresses on your blog!

  4. Oh my goodness, I'm a little late in commenting but this dress looks fabulous. I'm the same as you - Beignet and Macaron are by far my favourite Colette patterns. However, I find Macaron is one that more often than not is ruined for me by the fabric choices. This is such a beautiful exception, you really hit it out of the park. I also like how you made the sweetheart shallower, I might keep that in mind if and when I get around to attempting this!

    1. Thank you ms modiste! I'm looking forward to starting the Beignet - your version is awesome. You're right about fabric choice - I was conscious of this when I made it. It definitely needs a stable fabric and the lining made this even more stable. I think the altered sweetheart and the sleeves are my favourite parts - my chap suggested I make a tailored top out of the top half which I think is a great idea. I hope you get around to trying it!

  5. Your macaron is lovely! I'm seriously making on this year. I must! Great job! and thanks for all the tips.

    1. Thank you! I love the Macaron - I look forward to seeing what you do with it!