My Polka Dot Confection

Pattern: Self drafted version based of Colette Truffle
Fabric: 2 1/2 yards of rayon shirting (it has a really nice slubbed texture that isn’t shown in these pictures) and 1 yard of white cotton lawn
Notions: No, eliminated zipper
Time: once the first muslin, the drafting, and the second muslin were finished… 5 hours.

I’ve been in a bit of a sewing slump since my last wardrobe challenge ended. It’s strange not having a clear plan to sew from – I get so easily paralyzed by all the creative directions that I could take and I’m not nearly as productive as I’d like to be. I gave myself a week to just be but finally it was time to get moving again.

Since receiving my copy of the Colette Sewing Handbook, I knew that I wanted to make Truffle. It’s feminine and fun while still maintaining a crisp and tailored look.  I traced off the pattern in early January before I even had an idea of the fabric I wanted to use. However, the muslin showed that I had a lot to fix – a small bust adjustment, taking in the upper sides while letting out the waist, and shortening the bodice back length were the biggest issues but certainly not the only ones. I tried my best but I quickly become frustrated by the amount of work and decided to scrap the original pattern and draft my own instead. My patternmaking classes are starting again in February (I took a leave in November for our trip to Vietnam) and this was a nice exercise to get me familiar with the process again. The neckline could still be lower and wider but all in all I think I did a pretty good job at recreating the look.

Since I decided to leave out the back zipper I needed to leave about 2″ of ease in the bodice so that I could slip it over my head without help. I go back and forth on whether this was a good idea. I find that dresses without zippers get more use in my wardrobe. More than likely it’s the added ease and not the lack of zipper that sways me! That 1 1/2″ to 2″ gives me enough room to move around but I still feel gussied up because I’m in a dress. However, looking at the photos, I do wish that the bodice was more fitted and I don’t think the rayon helps. It definitely has a tendency to sag at the waistline whereas the muslin had enough structure to stay “up”. Or at least that’s what I think is going on. It’s certainly not something I had thought of when I started the project.

The sewing process was pretty uneventful. I started with french seams on the bodice lining but when it came to the self fabric the rayon shirting was fraying like crazy so I pulled out the serger. My serger has been on the fritz (I think there might be a short in the pedal) but it pulled it together long enough for me to put the body together. Since I eliminated the back seam, I needed a way to finish the armholes so I grabbed out Lynda Maynard’s The Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques and tried out her baby french binding. I’ve wanted to try it since I took a class from her last summer and I’m so glad I finally did. It’s similar to a turned in bias binding and although this particular go around isn’t perfect but I can see how easy and clean it could be.

So my forced creation turned out to be a success but it did nothing for my slump. Now that it’s finished I’m back to wondering where to go next.


52 Responses to “My Polka Dot Confection”

  1. It looks way adorable. Even more so when you spy the polka dot socks! That is well impressive that you drafted a version better suited for yourself. I would have marked the pattern a fail and pouted in a corner!

    • Thanks, love! In some ways I wish I had the patience to push through the original pattern. I would really like to better understand fitting commercial patterns but when there’s four major issues playing off one another it can be intimidating to know where to start.

  2. Adorable! I love the whole look! And those shoes . . . swoon! I’m really amazed you were able to eliminate the zipper and can slip this on over your head; I’m starting to suspect I might have big shoulders!

    Are you planning on doing a spring wardrobe challenge for yourself?

  3. Totally prec’! You know this pattern has me totally freaked out about hemming that curve on the overskirt- yours looks so perfect. Lovely!

    • I ran the overskirt’s hem through the serger and then folded twice to encase the stitching and it was a stable way to do it. I think a baby hem would also be nice on a lighter weight fabric. You should be just fine as long as you staystitch the curve!

  4. Oh it’s lovely Lizz. The fit looks great in the photos and I love the fitted yet floaty style. The polka dot fabric is gorgeous too! x

  5. Lizz – It’s awesome. I’m so impressed by how casually you mention that you drafted this yourself and the whole thing only took you 5 hours. Seriously, you’re a superstar! It’s cute and feminine and probably super easy to wear, no? Those shoes and necklace go so well with it. By the way, the fact that you are able to stand outside in a sleeveless garment makes me so jealous it’s not even funny – it’s cold in Toronto!

    • Well, before you think I’m too amazing that total is just my sewing time. The drafting and muslins definitely took longer! But thank you, that’s really sweet of you to say.
      I’ve lived in this seasonless environment for ten years now and I forget what a true winter is like! I’m certainly not running around like this all day long but it’s warm enough to take off my jacket for ten/fifteen minutes without suffering.

  6. So many spots – I love it!! The skirt on this dress is adorable…as are your shoes and socks!

  7. Look at you! This looks fantastic! And congratulations on not giving up when the pattern proved frustrating and figuring out the drafting yourself. I love the whole look.
    I hear you about the sewing slump – will you be organizing another challenge for yourself?

  8. wow, it totally looks like you used the pattern. i LOVE your whole ensemble as usual– it’s a party! those socks!! are they made of stocking material??

  9. Great job at reacreating the pattern – I envy your patternmaking skills!
    Needless to say, I adore the fabric. Shoes and socks are the cherry on top.
    I’m sorry about your slump. Why not plan a spring wardrabe to keep you going?

  10. Awwh, your dress is darling! I bought the book for that very pattern. It’s such a great design. I love your styling, too. No summer wardrobe plans?

    That’s interesting that you find it easier to work from your own sloper than make changes to an existing pattern. I’ve considered that since most of my sewing time is used messing around with patterns and making muslins that don’t fit. Hmmm.

    • Thanks, Stephanie. I love the version of Truffle in the book – it’s so stunning on the model!
      I have an idea that I’d like to do for May/June but it’s a little early to start so I’m thinking something small until then would be a good idea.
      I think I find it easier to work with my sloper because the fit issues are in the 1/8″ to 1/4″ realm whereas, for example, the Truffle pattern had 4″ of vertical excess in the back! When you’re talking about that big of a change it has an effect elsewhere that you have to work through on a second muslin. I just wonder when I have four or five major pattern changes to make, what do I begin with? I still struggle with smoothing out my lines and producing the necklines that I envision but these things will get easier with practice, I’m sure.

      • I have found that it is best to make length adjustments first-they are usually the easiest fitting issues to recognize-then move to the circumference adjustments. I always work from the top of the garment to the hem and tackle the most obvious fitting issues first. Minor issues are easier to recognize once the big ones are eliminated.

        • Thanks, Alexandra! I really appreciate your input on this subject. When would you do a bust adjustment? Before length adjustments? Do you make one adjustment per muslin or will you stack them together?

        • I would do the length adjustments first, the most important being waist length adjustment for proper position of the waistline. Then check the shoulder slope. This is the angle of your shoulder line from the base of the side of your neck to your shoulder bone at the top of your arm. Everyone has a different shoulder slope and it often differs between our right and left side. If the shoulder slope needs adjustment, you will see diagonal drag lines (wrinkles) showing on the front and back of the neckline/shoulder area. Bust fitting would be the next most important area.

          I would try to do as many adjustments on each muslin as you can easily recognize. If you’re not sure how one adjustment will affect another, just do one of them and test again. I know many people don’t like making test garments, but it’s a really important part of the process.

        • This is such a huge help, Alexandra! Thank you!

      • omg! 4″??? that’s excessive. i haven’t traced out that pattern yet, but i’m planning on doing so in the near future. thanks for the heads up. i’m going to start working on my sloper too.

        thanks alexandra! that’s really helpful information.

  11. It looks fantastic! Well done!

  12. How pretty! What a perfect spring dress. I do’nt have Colette’s new book, but me thinks I should go out and buy it now.

    I love that book, Lynda Maynard’s Couture Sewing Techniques. The picture quality is one of the best that I’ve seen in a sewing book, I wish she would put out more volumes of it. How cool that you took a sewing class with her! I’m quite envious.

    The shoes, the socks oh my! 🙂

    • Thanks, Liz! I’d imagine it can’t be easy to write a book – especially one that is both technique and pattern based. I think Sarai did such a thoughtful job on balancing this and her technique sections stand on their own. I think it’s worth having and I can see you using many of the patterns in there.
      I know there weren’t the best reviews of Lynda Maynards’s book but it’s one of my most used references. The binding section in the front is worth the price alone! The biggest complaint I’ve heard has been the title (the term “couture” when most of the techniques are closer to rtw standards) and the second half of the book. I think the publisher is probably behind both of these because the techniques in the back are pulled straight from The Dressmaker’s Technique Bible. Also, looking at my Amazon link I noticed that they aren’t selling it new… strange. Is it out of print already?
      Although at the time the class was a bit beyond me, it was a really great investment. Lynda brought in most of the samples from the book including the underlining examples – these were amazing to see in person and something that pictures alone can’t express. I feel really lucky that she’s local.

  13. this is amazing! the polka dots – the socks – the swoopy little skirt. just lovely. The waistline doesn’t look droopy to me – but if it feels droopy to you, I wonder if you could just tack in a little ribbon waist stay on the inside?

    • Thanks, Eunny! I’m so happy with the way it turned out. I realize I’m being really picky about the bodice fit. The droop isn’t coming from the waistline itself but rather the bodice fabric drooping over the waistline. Do you think a ribbon waist stay would help this then?

  14. You look gorgeous!! I LOVE those shoes! And congrats, fellow non-smiler, on your cute little smirk ;o)

  15. I love your truffle! There is something so sweet about polka dots, the fabric is lovely. I have only seen one other version of this dress and it really has such a nice style. You are lucky to be able to do without a zipper, my shoulders are just to broad, no wiggle here.

    I love your styling too, so well done!

  16. I loved that design, so feminine but not to girly if that makes sense. That’s really cool you sellf-drafted it! It looks lovely!

  17. Thank you for posting this!! Your dress turned out so nicely, and it’s especially helpful for me cause I was gonna make this one from a rayon too – nice to see the drape is just right! 🙂 How did you find the lawn for the bodice lining? Do you think something stiffer would have helped make it feel more fitted?

    I have Linda Maynard’s book on my wish list, sounds like a good one 🙂

  18. I love that ruffle, the way it ripples! (On the bias?) It’s such a fun, unexpected detail. I also find that when I’m making that many changes to a pattern that I might as well start from scratch. Especially in bodices because my torso is so short and I also have to do the small bust adjustment. Slump-wise, I like having challenges but it’s nice to be able to step back once in awhile and just enjoy (or think about) making or any of my creative pursuits without feeling pressured by them. Sometimes those muscles need breaks…

    • Amy, you make a really good point about slumps – sometimes your consciousness needs a break. There’s something like it that I observed in college (I studied theoretical linguistics). When I had a particularly difficult problem to solve, I would step away from it (sometimes overnight – sometimes longer) and sure enough when I came back to it, I was able to solve it. It’s like the brain worked it out in my sleep. Often when I learn something new, I’ll have waves of productivity and I always remind myself that these lulls are my brain organizing and working through the pieces alone.

    • Oh – and yes, the ruffle is on the bias. It’s a really nice detail, isn’t it?

  19. How darling!! Polka dots galore. Love the dotted socks and your shoes are so pretty!

  20. Wow, I love it. So so adorable. The perfect amount of retro and feminine, while still being very trendy. I am always impressed by your talent.

  21. Very nice, the ruffle looks just perfect and I love the dots! And those SHOES! I love them! Where did you get them/what brand are they?


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