Morning bunnies! My, you are a proliferate lot, aren’t you. Could you please stop hopping around and driving my poor hound crazy? One day she actually will catch one of you and I think all involved will be traumatized. She’s more of a lover than a fighter, but you bring her fine, hound instincts to a boil!!

Let’s get back to our roots, shall we? At least, the roots of this blog which is me, hacking my way through a pattern, overfitting as I go. Today I’m all about the Colette Macaron dress.

Like many of you bunnies, I’ve seen a lot of versions of this dress and in all honesty, hadn’t loved it. First, it’s a bit weird, right? I mean, it sort of reminds me of when girls wear strapless shirred-style shirts OVER tank tops so they can cover the bra straps. Not a look that’s easy to carry off, and I already look like I got dressed in the dark half the time… Also, that uber-high neck. Sigh. But last fall, Alana from Lazy Stitching did a version that looked great (with a super-duper two-part FBA tutorial- you can click to parts 1 & 2 from her reveal post!), then at Christmas Laurwyn from QuirkyPrettyCute made a version that I love with lace. And as if THAT wasn’t enough, Andrea at New Vintage Wardrobe did TWO super-cute Macarons… here’s my favorite one (it’s the red, I’m a sucker for a red dress!) I started to think about making one, but was still thrown by the strangeness of the strapless look with sleeves. Finally, co-worker Laura made HER version (alas, no photos) that was totally up my alley – the yoke and sleeves from cotton interlock, the dress from some fun Japanese fabric. For whatever reason, mixing the knit top with the woven dress makes the whole thing less weird to me and with just a few days left in July, I thought this would be the perfect July dress… And we JUST got a shipment of new fabric in the shop (Joel Dewberry. It’s awesome, y’all!) that had a granny print with giant orange roses that I fell in love with! Here’s my stack ‘o supplies – the print for the dress, the teeny yellow polka dot knit for the shoulders.

Converting a ‘woven’ pattern to a ‘knit’ pattern

You know how sometimes you get a great idea in your little bunny brain and tell it to everyone, and then realize that it’s not such a great idea after all?? Well, the Macaron with the knit top is sort of along those lines. The pattern is intended to be made from two coordinating wovens and throwing a knit into the pot isn’t as seamless as I thought it would be. I feel a bit bad because I KNOW I’ve peddled this great idea to customers at the shop (we have a full line of coordinating Oliver + S knits and wovens that gets me all hopped up on goofballs at the potential for mixing knits’n’wovens…) Anyway – had I just started off under my own steam I likely would not have thought of the whole issue of negative ease. For those who are unfamiliar. Ease is how much extra ‘room’ you have in your garment. Jeans (well, most jeans) don’t have a lot of ease – maybe an inch at most. Muumuus, on the other hand, have quite a bit of ease. When working with knits, garments will actually have NEGATIVE ease – so if your bust is, say, 40″, your fitted t-shirt will be 36″. That’s what makes it fitted. And that’s one of the main reasons it’s hard to use knits for patterns meant for wovens and vice versa. If the pattern is intended for a knit, it may be almost impossible to make from a woven as it just won’t have enough ease to fit you! If, on the other hand, you have a pattern meant for a woven (like the Macaron) and you make from a knit, you COULD just cut out the pattern pieces in your knit fabric at your regular size, but then you’d be missing out on utilizing the stretch of the knit fabric, and you’d like end up with something very, very baggy.

Lucky for me, co-worker Laura had already gone down this dark path. Part of the reason I love her version of the macaron is that her yoke area is super fitted (utilizing the stretch of the knit fabric) and she lowered the neckline (utilizing her brain, unlike me… when will I stop rejecting patterns because they’re too high necked and just lower the neckline??) Anyway, we talked about how she had gotten hers to fit so well and her fitting was all post-cutting – she resewed the seams ’till they looked the way she wanted them to and she lengthened the back darts to help out as well. That’s certainly an effective way to alter fit, but I figured since I was starting from scratch I could approach from a different direction.

The first thing I did was grab a pattern for a t-shirt that fits well and has a neckline that I like. Actually it’s this t-shirt, which is a bit looser than I had in mind for the yoke. I don’t like SUPER tight knits across my midsection, but I do like it tight around my shoulders…

Next, I started laying the pattern pieces for the New Look T over the Colette pattern pieces to get a sense for the difference in sizing. You can really see with the front piece how negative ease figures in to the drafting of patterns!

It’s really not an apples-to-apples comparison, as New Look uses the big 4 sizing, which runs ‘smaller’ than RTW, while Colette’s sizing is more comparable with RTW, but still… the green marks show the Colette size 18, the pink show the New look size 22. Also, note on the left how much lower the neckline is on the New Look T (the pink mark.) I lined up the center fronts and the shoulders and the New Look pattern piece more or less looked to be the same as a Colette size 14. Here’s a close-up.

Now we’ll compare backs – I was actually a bit surprised by this!

The Colette size 18 and the New Look size 22 are around the same size!! I would have expected to see the same difference with the front pieces as the back! No matter… moving on to the sleeve pattern piece…

Again, green shows Colette size 18, pink New Look size 22. There’s certainly a difference here! OK, it’s decision time.

Since I’m happy wearing a tight t-shirt and the knit pieces will only be at my shoulders, which are very narrow and wimpy, I decided to trace the sleeve, front yoke and back yoke pieces out using the size 14 lines for the most part. I still used the size 18 LENGTH lines – meaning that I traced the ‘top’ and ‘sides’ of each piece at a size 14, then extended the side seam lines down to the size 18 line on the bottom of the pattern piece (the part that will attach to the woven bodice.) I don’t have a particularly short upper chest area, just narrow. Plus, I was concerned that if I traced off a straight size 14, this would raise the bust apex up and make the bodice pieces not lay correctly! When I traced the markings, I used the size 14 notches for the sleeves, since I’d be attaching a size 14 sleeve to a size 14 yoke, but I used the size 18 markings where the yoke would attach to the woven bodice pieces, as I knew I’d be using at LEAST the size 18 for the bodice pieces.

Here are my size 14 yoke and sleeve pieces ready to go!

Analyzing the size 14 muslin

Let’s take a look at the muslin! I was smart enough to wear separates when I headed to work yesterday, as I knew I’d probably end up taking some muslin photos and didn’t want to have a dress on (ack! no skirt!) but I wasn’t smart enough to consider my craptastic $2 nasty knit muslin fabric was white when I put on my white tank. Sorry – it makes the photos a bit more difficult, but you can see the sweetheart shape on my upper chest where the muslin ends. I pinned the point in place as it was flopping all over the place!

So, as usual, I was too conservative making my choices. If you look again at the photos above, you’ll see that the New Look pattern fell between the size 14 and size 12 lines of the Colette pattern, but was probably closer to the size 12. The whole thing is pretty loose – you can really see that in the neckline area. And that neckline is really too high to be comfortable for me! I just HATE crewnecks! Also, this isn’t really a fitting problem, but the sleeves are designed a bit puffy which is a bit too little-girl feeling for me. I drew a little line on the left where my shoulder ends. Note how much farther then shirt keeps going before starting in on sleeves? Ewwww.

I matched up the shoulder seams of the muslin and the New Look pattern piece to see where the necline would fall – I don’t want to cut the neckline too low and have it erode the stability of the chest area (dip too low to the point on the center front.) Looks just fine to me, I’ll use the New Look pattern piece to alter my final pattern piece.

To figure out how much smaller I wanted the yoke I just grabbed in the center front and pinched until it felt comfy (as shown) then I measured how much fabric I was holding in my hand. It was right under 3″ total. So I need to remove about three inches from my pattern pieces. I took a look at the pattern pieces, and the size 12 cutting lines are about 1/2″ from the size 14 cutting lines. Since there’s four seam allowances involved (the 2 side seams, with 2 seam allowances each) this means the size 12 is 2″ smaller around than the size 14. I don’t want to overfit, so I thought I’d try a size 12. To test it out, I went back to my machine and resewed the shoulder and arm/side seams 1/2″ smaller. I also cut down the neckline.

Ah, much better (except that this muslin certainly enhances to bosoms, doesn’t it??? Obviously, I didn’t do anything to the puffy sleeves, and resewing the other seams just made ’em puffier, but the fit is better, I like the neckline and in general this looks like a good direction! Time to retrace and alter the pattern pieces…

I traced a new sleeve in size 12 and flattened the sleeve cap a bit. The green is the original, pink is new.

Then I retraced the front and back yoke pieces in a size 12 and traced the neckline from the New Look pattern onto the Colette pattern. Note that I didn’t take any ‘bites’ out of the shoulder – I left that intact, just lowering the neckline.

My yoke pieces are done, now on to grading the midriff and bodice pieces!

A short primer on sizing: FBA’s and Grading

Before I go any further we should probably stop and discuss a few concepts about sizing. I’m going to talk a bit about what an full bust adjustment (FBA) does and what grading is. At least, in my lexicon. OK, so a full bust adjustment will alter the bust area of your garment. It’s only needed on fitted styles (for the most part) and is only needed if your cup size is larger than the cup size the pattern was drafted for. Generally, patterns are drafted for a B cup, so if you’re a C or larger and you are working on a fitted garment, you might need to do an FBA. Grading, on the other hand, is increasing the size of the garment. For those of us who are working on the larger end of the pattern scale or who are different sizes on the top and bottom will have to grade to our size if the pattern doesn’t come in our size. I often have to do a FBA, then grade the waist and hips of a garment up.

Key to understanding an FBA is that it NEVER adds to the shoulder measurement, ALWAYS adds to the bust measurement and MAY add to the waist and hip measurements, depending on any shaping at the midriff (darts, princess seams, gathers or no shaping at all.) Many commercial and RTW designs are drafted for a B cup and I am a DD. Does everyone understand cup sizing? Cup sizes are determined by the difference between the torso measurement (taken from above or below your full bust) and your full bust measurement. SUPER generally, A cups have NO difference between torso and bust, B cups have 1″, C cups have 2″, D 3″ and DD and above are varied by brand. So, if one (not me) is of average build (meaning the hips and shoulders are balanced, smaller waist) with a B cup, she should fit most patterns as drafted.

Colette patterns, as I understand, are generally drafted for a C cup, so there’s already a little more wiggle room in the chest compared to a lot of other pattern lines. Sometimes, that extra room is enough for me to skip the FBA completely. The important thing with FBA’s is that they add room to the BUST area only, and there is a relationship between the size of your upper chest/shoulders and bust area. Someone could be a super teeny size 4, but with a large bust and still need to do an FBA. Alternately, if someone (like me, for instance) is on the upper range of the sizes, but with narrow shoulders, I might match the bust measurement of the largest size, but if I make that size it won’t fit well as the shoulders will be way too big.

So that’s what an FBA is for – getting the shoulders and bust to fit correctly. Now if you wear a larger RTW size, you probably will have to also GRADE your patterns. I wear a RTW size 20 and almost always have to grade a pattern, which is making the whole thing bigger, as my waist and hip measurements are larger than what the pattern lines offer. Again, if I was an average build with a B cup and wore a RTW size 20, I could generally take the largest size pattern and add evenely to the width and length to get it to fit me. But since I’m built like a snowman, I usually have to take a much smaller size (to fit my shoulders), then do an FBA (to fit my bust), then grade up to my size at the waist and hips.

Adjusting the bodice and midriff pieces

Back to the macaron. If I was making this from a woven, I would have done a traditional FBA to get it to fit. I probably would have started with a size 14, taped the yoke and bodice pieces together, done the FBA to the whole bodice at once, then untaped the pieces and went on my merry way (for great instructions on how to do an FBA on this dress, check out Alana’s posts – Part 1, Part 2) For a 2 part bodice like this, you have to do the FBA to the whole bodice at once so the yoke and lower bodice will seamlessly blend together when you’re done. Since I am working with knits, I sized the yoke for my shoulders and am relying on the stretch in the fabric to make the transition from the size 12 yoke to the size 18 bodice – I’ll be stretching the yoke fabric as I sew it to the woven to make it match it up correctly.

Next up, I had to see if I needed to do any additional grading on the bodice, midriff or skirt pieces. Since FBA’s add to the bust while keeping the shoulder/upper part of the pattern piece the same length, I knew I wouldn’t be doing any FBA moves at this point. The bodice pieces starts right at the bust – either it would need to be bigger or it wouldn’t, but it wouldn’t need to get gradually bigger from top to bottom like with an FBA. I checked out the finished bust measurement shown on the pattern envelope.

The finished bust is 47.5″ for the size 18 (note – the actual bust measurement listed on the size chart was 46″, meaning Colette allows 1.5″ of ease at the bust.) Bigger than my actual bust measurement, but not by much. There won’t be a lot of ease. Next I measured the midriff pieces to see how much room I’d have around my midriff at the size 18.

Once I measured both (leaving out seam allowances) I found the size 18 allowed for 39.5″ at the midriff. Again, very close to my measurements. I decided to trace the size 18 pattern pieces for the midriff and bodice and see how they fit. I knew they’d be close, but they might work. Here they are!

Analyzing the muslin – part 2!

So here we are! The bodice/printed pieces are out-of-the-envelope size 18. And I’m wearing them OVER my white tank top. I attached my ‘doctored’ yoke muslin from above just to get a sense of how all parts will work together.

Well, we already know we don’t like that puffy sleeve! Other than that, it’s a bit more snug than I’d like. There’s a bit of boob-mashing going on, although I like how it looks! Here’s the side and back view. Those are such cute sleeves, aren’t they?

You can see in the back photo that it’s pulling because it’s tight! My initial thought was that I’d just sew with more shallow seams, but then I remembered that there’s a zipper, and sewing with shallow seams means less seam allowance for attaching to the zipper. Pain. I ended up adding 1.5″ of total ease by adding 3/8″ to each piece by slashing and spreading. I also cut out the skirt pieces just a wee bit larger – the skirt is full so I normally don’t worry too much about that, but I wanted to be sure that it would meet up with the slightly larger midriff pieces.

So that, my bunny friends, is that! I’ve got the real dress cut out and we’ll hopefully be seeing it soon! Yay!

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