September 22, 2013

The Colette Zinnia (Part Two)

This is part two of my Zinnia post. If you haven't yet seen the photo shoot with Ratty and little b, be sure to check it out here.
The blue skirt pictured above was actually my second Zinnia, but I'm going to talk about it first because it's the one I actually did a good job on, and that I did (mostly) correctly. (Sorry, Kristen!) Then I'll talk about the first skirt I made, the actual test version and we can be all commiserate and 'oh god how embarrassing look at all the awful things that happened.'

I do like the pattern--it's quick and easy (fabric willing), but not so easy as to be uninteresting--but I made this second version in large part just to prove to myself that I could.

Zinnia's a pretty straightforward pattern. At least version 1--which I made both times--is. I'll walk through my impression of it and try to bold relevant keywords for ease in navigation, like I did in my Hawthorn write-up, though really I'm mostly going to talk about the pockets.

The pockets are, coincidentally, the first thing you do. Since these were about my kajillionth attempt at making Zinnia pockets (more on that later), I took lots of photos. In the interest of not having a massively long post with multiple full-sized pictures of, uh, a patch pocket, I've combined them into a quick and dirty little collage thing. (But feel free to ask if you want to see bigger photos with more detail.)
So here's how it goes, or at least what I did:
1) I've already basted the pleat. The facing (which is also interfaced--the pocket itself is not) has been pinked along the bottom edge and folded under.
2) Basically the same as the first photo, only now the facing's been sewn to the pockets. The left is actually the back view; right is front--I just haven't turned the facings yet.
3) This is hard to see. I sewed around the edges and used the stitching line to turn the edges under. Especially around the curved corners, I found this really helpful. Then I pinked all the raw edges.
4) At this point, the edges have been turned under and the facing turned down. Now the one on the left is the front view, and the right is back.
5) Pocket and flap pinned in place, ready to sew down.
6) And sewn on. It's almost finished here.
7) But don't forget to unbaste the pleat. The stitching at the top and bottom will keep the fabric in place, but now if you put anything in the pockets, the middle can expand outward as the pleat opens.
8) I noticed that in a couple of places, my raw edges hadn't been completely caught by the machine stitching. So I went back and used an invisible stitch to tack down the very edges of the pockets all the way around. This is what it looks like on the inside. I only showed part of the pocket so it'd be more obvious, but it's still hard to see anything.
9) This is the side of the pocket, pinched up so you can see the machine stitching I used as my fold guide. I guess I could have removed it once the pocket was in place, but it's really only visible if I do this, so I don't mind.
10) Finally, the pocket is complete. If you're still having trouble visualizing the pleat function (as I did for a while), this is what it looks like when there's something in the pocket to open it out.


After the pockets are on, you sew the skirt together. That's standard. Then the plackets. Then gather the skirt and attach the waistband.
One thing that reminds me of--this skirt doesn't call for any hand-stitching, unless you count sewing on the buttons. (And I suppose some machines even attach the buttons for you, so even those...) I deviated a little and hand-stitched when finishing the pockets, and then again on the waistband. That's partly because I don't hugely like the look of top-stitching, but mostly because I just think it's easier and ultimately neater to pin the inside of the waistband in place and invisibly sew it by hand, rather than trying to line everything up and having to worry about stitching in the ditch or whatever.

Top photo there is the inside view, with the skirt attached to the front part of the waistband, ready to be sewn by machine. You can really see how gathered it is here. In the bottom photo, I've already attached the waistband front; this is the inside view again with the inner waistband folded over and pinned down--this is the part I sew by hand. But that's just me.
At this point, I pinned the skirt up and let it hang on Annie Laurie for a couple days. It isn't cut completely on the bias, but there's a bit of a curve to the pieces--no, it's not just a big gathered rectangle. It did stretch a little bit, so that's something you may want to consider if having a perfectly even hem is something that concerns you. I did this before attaching the buttons so that in case I had to cut a significant amount off the front (I did not), they wouldn't be uneven.

After I trued up my hem, I attached the buttons. They, I will admit, are my favorite part of the skirt. They're vintage Czech glass, little white flowers with blue edging. They're from Knittn' Kitten (where they have the best buttons). I bought them at least a year ago, with no idea at the time what I'd do with them, but I couldn't pass them up. I mean, really--aren't they super cute? And the blue linen seemed like the perfect match.
Note that the pattern does call for ten buttons. I only had eight (and I added a few inches in length, too) but the fabric is light enough that it stays together just fine with only these.
I do, however, have two snaps at the waistband. The top one is to help the waistband lay flat rather than pulling at the button, and the bottom one is the result of an aesthetic choice (lack of buttons had nothing to do with it). I don't like how it looks when skirts have a button directly below the waistband with different spacing than all the others, so I spaced all of mine evenly along the length of the skirt. Thus, I did need the bottom snap to keep it lined up correctly and all the way closed. Probably if you put your buttons where they're meant to go, you wouldn't need to do that (but maybe you'd like to anyway, just for the added security). I don't know.

And that's about it. I machine rolled the hem, and called it good. I haven't actually worn the skirt yet, and now I'm afraid the weather's already gotten to wet/cold for it, so I may have to wait until spring.

The original green crepe skirt, on the other hand--it's very lightweight and would wear just fine in high summer weather, but it also looks very suited to fall/winter, at least in my opinion. Now that it's finally done and fixed, I really like it, and will probably wear it a fair amount, but oh my god it gave me fits.

I think my frustration was magnified by the fact that the Zinnia is a beginner pattern. I kept thinking, wow, can't I even manage to sew up a beginner pattern with a basic gathered skirt? But lest anyone despair, I'm about 99.99% sure that all the problems I had with my first version were due to my unfortunate choice of super-unstable nightmare slither snake fabric from hell.

If I had a subtitle just for this fabric, it would be: I learned this the hard way so you won't have to. Unfortunately, I don't know exactly what fabric to tell you to avoid. Most of what I use is thrifted, and I'm terrible at fabric identification, so unless it's still got the tags... At one point, I attempted a burn test that made me think it might be a polyester blend, but burn tests are always pretty inconclusive for me. Later, my mom and grandmother both suggested it might be rayon, and now that I think about it more, it seems like it might be. A very loosely-woven, badly-behaved, imitation-crepe rayon. (I hope all rayon is not like this.) Or rayon crepe? Is that even a thing?

Anyway. It was my fabric causing the problems. Not the pattern or instructions. Those were, as is standard for Colette, excellent.

Okay, I did have some trouble with the pockets. Yeah, a great deal of that trouble was caused by oh my god the fabric (bizarrely, actually sewing it wasn't difficult at all. It was just everything else. Even when I drenched it in enough spray starch to stick it to the floor (also known as my cutting area) it slid and stretched all over the place). And I'm guessing that the directions that puzzled me have been fixed since June--because they were still the test version. I think what happened is that the pocket style was changed, and the directions didn't quite get all the way updated.

I mention this only because I want to explain why the green pockets look different from how they're supposed to. (The blue ones look correct because I simply ignored the written instructions and made them look like the accompanying illustrations. I think it says a lot about the quality of the instructions that I was able to make proper pockets just by looking at the pictures they included.)

Here is the course of the green pockets. I doubt this will be helpful to anyone who's sewing, but if you'd like to follow along with the utter disaster...
1) This is when I made the pocket exactly as directed (or at least as I interpreted the directions)(which I now suspect is no longer as directed). Using 12 pins, I managed to get it relatively into place on the skirt. And trust me, it took a lot of work to get to this point.
2) This is what the same pocket looked like after I sewed it on. Yeah, apparently I needed like 48 pins. And way more stabilizer.
3) This is actually attempt three. I removed the first attempts quickly, but before I tried this, attempt two had me lining and interfacing the whole pocket prior to making the pleat. That didn't go so well and I didn't take a picture. So then I decided to try making a pocket that, from the outside, would look like (I thought) it was supposed to, but have a different internal structure. Instead of facing just the top edge, I lined and interfaced the entire pocket back.
4) And this is what the fully-lined pocket from photo 3 looked like sewed on. Much better. Totally wearable.
5) Then I washed the skirt. And it came out of the machine with the pocket looking like this. (The color did not change--it's just the light.) It's not ironed, obviously, but that seemed kind of beside the point since a big chunk of the pocket edge was unraveling.
6) So--attempt four--I took off the ravelly pocket (the other one was fine), opened it up, resewed it with a bigger seam allowance in the problem areas, and put it back on. The re-sewn version, with the more rounded edges, is on the right. I actually wore it like this, hoping they were still close enough in size/shape, and I really doubt anybody noticed the difference, but it was enough to bug me, so after one wear, I wound up unpicking everything and just leaving them off. I suppose I could have redone the other pocket, too (since I actually prefer the more rounded pocket to the rectangular one), but by that point, I'd really had enough.

And, honestly, I think the skirt works better without pockets--at least in the fabric I used. They (in all of the different attempts) were too heavy and messed with the drape.

When I first got the pattern, that was one of the first things I thought of. Well, I worried a lot about what fabric to use--it needed to be something strong enough to support patch pockets with flaps and a button placket closure, but also light enough to hang properly for the style and gather into a waistband only about one-third the length of the skirt pieces. In retrospect, the green fabric was a bad choice--it's light enough, easily, and it even manages the buttons well enough, but the pockets just weren't right.

I think the pockets work a bit better on the blue skirt. The fabric is still light, but it's a lot crisper, less floaty, so they don't destroy the drape the way they did with the green stuff. However, you can see in both the top photo and the one on the mannequin that they do still break it up a bit. Not enough that I'll remove them, but if I make this pattern again, whether to leave them off will be a serious consideration.
Okay, let's wrap this up--back to the buttons. Again, I really like them. They're covered. They're cute. I think they make the skirt look quite dressy (which is another reason the pockets are better off gone). Also, after I took the above photo, I added a snap and a hook and eye for stability (similar to what I did with the blue waistband). The topstitching is in black, which keeps it from being entirely too dressy (not intentionally; I was on a deadline and black is what I had). The instructed method for the hem finish was an utter disaster with this fabric (but come on, what wasn't an utter disaster with this fabric?) so it's simply machine-rolled. I'm happy with it now, though, and that's the main thing.

Finally. I'm told these flowers are zinnias.

Project details: (I wrote these right after finishing each one, so they're kinda out of date in places.)
Fabric: Hunter green crepe, possibly rayon?, from SCRAP, 2 yards for $4.00
Pattern: Colette Zinnia (1027)
Year: 2013
Notions: 9 half-inch covered buttons from two kits in stash, $1.04 (really. One set was $1.00, one was $.50, and I have four left).
Time to complete: Ugh, I don't even wanna think about it.
Made before: No
Make again: Yes. Even if only to prove to myself that I can.
Sewing soundtrack: Started off with my summer playlist for a while, then went through the latter half of the Fs, then some more...
First worn: Not yet. It actually feels really summer-appropriate, but doesn't look it at all.
Wear again: Now that I've fixed the hem, yes.
Total cost: $5.04

Fabric: Light blue linen from SCRAP, 2.5 yards for $4.75
Pattern: Colette Zinnia (1027)
Year: 2013
Notions: 8 half-inch Czech glass buttons (vintage) from Knittn' Kitten, $2.80
Time to complete: ?
Made before: Yes
Make again: Probably not this version (at least not with the pockets) but I might try the pleated style at some point. And I do like the buttons. Just... not really into the pockets, even when they do work.
Sewing soundtrack: Sin Fang
First worn: Not yet.
Wear again: Yes, though probably not for much longer this year. It's really spring/summer-only.
Total cost: $7.55


  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences with sewing this skirt. I'm actually looking forward to it! Love the buttons on both skirts!

    1. Thanks for reading--and hope some of it will be a help if you sew up the skirt!

  2. The skirt is really cute, despite the troubles you had with the fabric! I've sewn with rayon many times and never had as many issues as you have described, so I think either you have a poorer quality rayon but from what I can see it does look like a poly blend crepe or something like that.

    1. Thanks for commenting, and ooh, let's hope you're right. I'd love to use proper rayon sometime in the future (when I can afford it), but if it's anything like this... Ultimately I'm happy with the skirt, but that fabric ordeal isn't something I want to go through again.