Wednesday, 25 June 2014

BOGOF: Colette Sorbetto and GBSB Box Pleat Skirt

This post is about when it doesn't quite go as well as you hoped.

When I started sewing I expected to make things that sounded great in my head, but didn't work in real life, or just didn't turn out how I'd expected. I learnt a lot about fabric quite early on so this hasn't happened too much, but there are always exceptions.

These are both items I finished a while ago but wasn't proud enough of to blog, but I changed I mind. I want to share the highs AND the lows with you, so here we go. Please excuse my hayfever eyes.

Colette Sorbetto 

I'd been eyeing this pattern up for a while as a quick make, but didn't have a lot of love for the style. It looks boxy and poorly shaped in many of the versions I'd seen on the web, and a little tomboyish even. That's not me.

I think this may be partly down to it being a pattern that first time sewists pick up to try, being free and simple, it would make sense. When I discovered Mena's 7 days of Sorbettos I realised it didn't have to be this way - that it's a very adaptable pattern with loads of opportunity for customisation. So I customised!

I saw this lovely fabric in a local wool shop called Warwick Wools. They have a little haberdashery joined on the side which has recently started selling a small range of fabric, but it changes regularly and is very reasonably priced, they pretty much have new things in each week. This is a linen look cotton, if I remember correctly it was about £3 a meter and I only bought one. The white fabric for the collar was leftover from the hem detail of the Pastille dress I made earlier this year. It's a little thick, but it holds its shape well.

I decided to make the sorbetto from the off using this fabric as it was so cheap and required so little fabric and though I loved the colour I was aware it wouldn't go with much of my existing wardrobe. So essentially this is a wearable muslin.

I cut a 0 at the bust, grading to a 4 at the waist, skipped the pleat and added sleeves using the pattern from Claire's blog Sew, Incidentally. As you can see, the bust dart is far too high. The picture doesn't show it, but the top ends only about 2 inches below the waistband of the skirt. It's REALLY short, which is very strange for Colette patterns as I usually have to remove a good few inches from their bodices. It has a kind of 90's vibe at this length!

I was also a little silly and forgot to prewash the fabric so it's now a little uncomfortably small.

I've already started a second sorbetto in cream lace which you may have seen a few weeks back on Instagram, but I stupidly forgot to make the necessary dart adjustment. I also realised that the first time around (and the second) I forgot to extend the armhole seam allowance from 1/4 inch to 5/8 so I've bought more fabric and I'll just start over, since I snipped through a sleeve by mistake and have already trimmed more fabric from the armhole sleeves. Lots of silly going on.

Great British Sewing Bee Box Pleat Skirt

For those who can still remember the Sewing Bee, this is a skirt from the second series that came in the book. A friend of mine who is just starting out sewing found the book on offer and picked it up, so I had a nosy through and quickly came to the conclusion that it was terrible, especially for a beginner, and it would just confuse the hell out of her. The instructions are brief and misleading, and the order of the book makes absolutely no sense - the first project is a self drafted dress, on the same page where it tells you to stay clear of pattern drafting unless you wish to take a class on it! WTF? It quite upsets me that the book is suggested as a beginners resource as I can just imagine how many people have tried to learn to sew using it and have given up after unsuccessful results. She told me to take the book away and buy her a more suitable book in return, as I quite wanted to try out some of the patterns that came with it. I bought her the Colette Sewing Handbook in return, but if it had been out at the time I would have got Tilly's Love at First Stitch.

So, I knew I wanted to make this skirt as soon as I saw it on the show and it looked pretty straightforward. However I don't think I've ever spent so long on a project. The measurements were bonkers, and looking at them I realised that if I cut for my waist size and it sat on my waist it would barely cover my butt cheeks. I have a high natural waist, and I wanted to wear this on my hips as it appears on the model, so I cut a size 14. Considering if I bought this as a ready to wear item I would buy a size 8, possibly a 10, you can see that anyone larger than a shop bought size 12 would be sized out of making this skirt. It's totally daft. I then spent about 5 hours (seriously) pedantically measuring the pattern pieces because they were SO far away from the finished measurements it promised. I tell you, it was the biggest sewing headache ever! It would have been easier to just self draft, but there you go, lesson learnt!

Hello cat hair close up...

Let's talk fabric. This fabric was given to me along with several bags of fabric I found on a freecycle type site. It had a sticker on it telling me of the special kind of wool it was, but it's since been lost and I can't recall it's name. I have no idea how old it is or where it was made but I loved it as soon as I saw it and spent a long time waiting for the right project. I only had about a meter and a half, and it's very narrow, only about 80cm I think. This skirt literally squeezed in -  I could barely cover half a dozen buttons with the scraps! But alas - I chose wrong. The fabric is lovely, but it's not quite stiff enough to hold the pleats properly. I'm also worried it looks a little like a tea-towel!??

As it turns out, the size I cut is too big. It sits on my hips like I wanted it to, but it doesn't look right. It wants to be smaller, and it wants to sit higher. I don't know if I'll ever make these adjustments. I might see if I have a friend of one higher dress size who would like a handmade speciality wool skirt? Any takers?


  1. I found both of the GBSB books simply useless. So confusing!

    1. Yup - what I find strange is how many good reviews they have on amazon - I think people have reviewed it before they've used it!
      Just through twitter and instagram I've heard of many experienced sewists who have tried the patterns out and either made significant alterations or just scrapped the project. It's a real shame as some of the designs are really quite nice.

  2. I completely agree about the GBSB books, I've made a couple of things from them and had to do so much to make them work. If I was a beginner I would have been so disheartened! I actually really love your Sorbetto, the collar and sleeves are really cute on you! I had the same fit problems though, short, high bust darts and tight armholes but I think it's worth getting right as it would be a great base top pattern to customise like you say

    1. It's such a shame isn't it? Which patterns did you try? I'm going to refit the sorbetto as it's a great stash buster too, I can squeeze one out of about half a meter without sleeves! It's also really easy to draft collars, so might try some other styles, how about a v neck version with a wide 40s style collar?