Sunday, November 13, 2011

just ducky

There are no end of boutique children’s patterns in the quilt shops these days, but few of them really turn my head. I sew mainly with Oliver + S patterns because they’re the gold standard or with Simplicity because they’re easy and predictable. For basics, I turn to the big four when they’re on sale at Joann and for something special I know Oliver + S will be worth every penny. I like tried and true proessional patterns so I don't run into too many problems.  But once in a while, it’s nice to try something different. Enter Clever Charlotte.

The unique style of Clever Charlotte caught my eye a few months back. Sophisticated and urban, yet utterly appropriate for children, these are the kinds of styles I see on the city playgrounds and in the high end boutiques downtown.  And since I have Society Hill tastes on a South Philly budget, I was definitely interested in recreating those looks myself.   The whole concept appealed to me, from the imaginative mascot and whimsical bird names to the ready to wear styling. I also like the instant gratification factor of their totally complete kits. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes get fed up with the amount of time I waste tracking down supplies when I could actually be sewing. The whole operation looked well done, so when Erin offered me a pattern to try out, I jumped at the chance, even though my baby won’t grow into their patterns until next year.  I’m pleased to say I was not disappointed. 

This is the new Eider Tunic in size 2T, modeled by a friend who loves dress up. I haven’t worked with two year olds in a while, so I borrowed a trick from Gail and hid a few treats in the pockets for little Kass to find. She does look a little like a sweet duck with a puffed out white breast, doesn’t she? (OK, I admit. I’m not a bird girl and I had no idea what an Eider was until I looked it up on Wikipedia.)

A few presentation details for those of us who are picky: The pattern is packaged in a re-sealable pouch, which is nice for storing your traced pieces, notes, fabric scraps or whatever. It is the same size as traditional patterns, so you can store it easily.  The pattern is printed on heavier weight tissue that will hold up to repeated tracing and re-folding. The instructions are geared toward new sewers and explain steps in detail. What I liked most was the extra tip to use a piece of cardboard as a pressing aide for the yoke.  I love learning new tricks and hope other patterns offer similar skill building opportunities. I would appreciate a line drawing on the package so I can more easily see the design, but maybe that doesn’t matter too much.
The pattern pieces fit together perfectly without any problem. The yoke is a bit tricky to get perfect, but curved pieces always are.  I found the instructions for the sleeve hem a little unusual, so I attached the bias hem a more typical way, with the seam stitched together and the raw edges tucked under.   I sewed the yoke last to avoid changing my thread back and forth. Also, I basted the yoke opening to make the seam easier to press, then picked out the basting.

The yoke finishes itself nicely and I finished the rest with – you guessed it – French seams.  (Maybe I should have named my blog “I heart French Seams.”) At the underarm, I press seams in opposite directions to reduce the bulk where they come together. I clip the French seam allowances very close to the stitching before the second pass and I’ve never been troubled by bulk.  I wouldn’t have done those raglan French seams on anything heavier, but the lawn I used here was lightweight and very prone to fraying. You may recognize the fabric. It’s the same as for Kitty’s French dress, in black. I bought whatever I could find of this lawn. The yoke is a soft linen cotton blend from my stash and the tie is satin faced ribbon.

The only alterations I made were pockets. I felt even a tiny girl needed pockets but didn’t want to interfere with the design lines, so I tucked them in the seams.  What I’d do differently next time is to self face the yoke or at least use a featherweight fusible. I used what I had on hand and it’s just a little too stiff around a small person’s neck for my liking. On the other hand, I stitched the pintucks into the interfaced piece, which gave them lovely definition. You could pintuck beforehand for a subtler effect.

I styled mind closely to the pattern package this time, but I can see lots of other possibilities. It would be so snuggly in a pinwale cord. You could try corded pintucks or eliminate them and use a print for the yoke. A Christmas red with a white yoke would be wonderfully festive, but in a grown up modern way.  You could do various things with the waist tie or leave it off and shorten this to a blouse.  How about trading the sleeve pintucks for gathers and finishing them with a bracelet cuff?
So I find Charlotte quite clever indeed!  At the top of my wishlist are the Finch shorts and the Kestral coat. What will you try?

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