Tuesday, November 8, 2011

en francąis!*

I’ve been waiting so long to share this project, I hope you’ll forgive me the gratuitous photos. In the spring, I ordered a few very special patterns all the way from France. They were unlike any patterns I've seen, particularly Dorotheé. The charming vintage sweetness of the teeny poofy sleeves, the gathers, the inverted pleat and the very short hem seemed to me quite special indeed.

I am completely smitten with Citronille. Such lovely designs! This one was beautifully drafted and came together easily. I was a little confused about where to place the gathers exactly, but worked it out. I like that it has a generous placket with just two little buttons. It goes easily over baby's head without buttoning all the way down the back. I plan to use this construction in the future. The instructions are in French, but if you’re an experienced seamstress, you can probably work it out from the diagrams alone.

I had a few years of French in college and I had to be able to read a fair bit of French for research purposes in grad school. That experience was enough to get me through the pattern instructions, though I still had to look up quite a few words. After all, when you’re researching early 20th century literature, sewing jargon isn’t on the vocab list. Industry specific terms are usually hard to find in your standard dictionary, and I had to rely on my sewing experience and make a few guesses.

Figuring this out is fun for me. I like languages because I like learning about other people and their ways of doing things.  One of the things I always tried to get my students to understand – way back in that other life when I was a language teacher – is that languages are inextricably bound up in their culture. You don’t get one without the other. Translating one language to another is not like balancing a math equation. It isn’t just a question of substituting our English word for the equivalent word in French. Sometimes there is no equivalent and sometimes the same word has a different cultural meaning. Sewing in French reminded me just a little of my years in Europe. Things were in some ways the same, but also very diffent.

Back to the dress. The only thing I changed was to self line the bodice. For help, I referred to the Puppet Show dress pattern. I hand stitched it into place. I used French seams and bias bound the armscye seams. Gosh, I should have shown you the inside! I hand stitched the tiny bracelet sleeve cuffs and the hem. I don’t think I’ve ever accomplished such a lovely dress in my life.

The fabric is cotton lawn by Moda from the Regent Street collection. It is as beautiful as the pattern. I made a very deep hem to help the fabric drape nicely. Shell buttons came from the LYS. They are rather simple have a slightly imperfect handmade charm.  These pictures are from a photo shoot with George Aubrey Photography for her one year portrait.

Have you tried foreign language patterns? French? Japanese?

*At my eldest’s preschool graduation, the kids sang the Yellow Submarine in French. After each child’s solo, the music teacher sang, “all together now, en francais!” and the group sang the chorus. There were 30 kids, so we heard the song over and over. And over. Consequently, “dans une sous-marin jaune” was stuck in my head for at least a week right around the time the patterns came in the mail.


  1. Oh my goodness, can that be any sweeter!!! The socks, the red shoes, the chubby legs, it is perfection!!!

  2. Her dress is beautiful! Her chubby legs are perfection!!

  3. Thank you so much! The legs are scrumptious, aren't they? They're sadly already losing their chub as she builds muscle.

  4. Melanie: Your little girl looks just like a Citronille doll! Such a perfect outfit for her.

  5. Thank you, Erin! What a lovely compliment.

  6. gorgeous dress, gorgeous photos, gorgeous babe! i still haven't worked up the courage to sew with a foreign language pattern, but seeing them made up definitely makes me want to try it. the dress is so perfect (and i wouldn't mind seeing the inside!) - great job!!

  7. Thanks, Gail! It's lots of fun. I've started paying more attention to the German and French on my Simplicity patterns just to keep the vocab in my head. I may have to try Japanese next - now that would be an adventure.

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