Is there a pattern that, at some point, you have seen everywhere, and everyone seems to love it and be making it, but you just don’t quite feel it? Has that pattern ever grown on you?
I have to admit, when Tilly’s Coco pattern first came out, and took the sewing world by storm, and my blog feed was filled with an endless stream of Cocos, I wasn’t in love. I wasn’t just sure that it was for me. I just don’t tend to go in for looser fitting styles, and my attempts to overcome this haven’t turned out well, as I found out when I tried to make a Scout tee. Much as I can think that style looks nice on other people, it just doesn’t work for me, and there’s nothing worse than making something, hoping you’ll like it when you’re done…and then not! But I did like the idea of such a simple knit dress, and, to be honest, felt a little bit left out of all the Coco love that was going around!
There were a couple of versions of Coco I saw that caught my eye and made me think ‘ooh, maybe I could make this work’ – they were versions that had been made a bit more fitted. One of them was Marcie’s sleeveless Coco. Love this dress! So I pondered a bit, and eventually decided that I could make Coco work for me! That’s the joy of sewing isn’t it – if you like a pattern, but you’re not entirely sure about some elements of the design, you can tweak it so it works for you.
Finding fabric was a little tricky. Because Coco requires a heavier, stable knit, I really didn’t want to order online, without being able to feel the fabric. My usual haunts of Goldhawk Road and Walthamstow didn’t really throw up anything, so I went to The Cloth House on Berwick Street, which was one that Tilly recommended in her post on buying knits. I got lucky here, and managed to get two suitable Coco fabrics for £8/m each. I’m not entirely sure what kind of fabric they are, as when I asked the girl in the shop, expecting an answer like ‘ponte’, or ‘interlock’, I was told ‘knit’, and then I asked what kind of knit, she said cotton. At that point I gave up, and decided they would be fine!
The design of my Coco was also inspired by Lauren’s short sleeved version. I have plans for a long sleeved version to, but the short sleeves are great for this end of summer but not quite yet autumn time of year. Like Lauren, I originally cut my sleeves longer (I really had NO idea how long the pattern piece needed to be to make capped sleeves), and then, once I’d tried it on, cut another few inches off, to get them the length I wanted them. Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly how much I cut off, so I can’t transfer that back to the pattern piece for next time I want to make a short sleeved version!
I think a short sleeve cutting line/guidance would be a great addition to the pattern! Turns out Tilly has done one, I just didn’t find it, oops.
In order to get my more fitted Coco, I went down in the pattern size I cut out, but then actually took it in more once I’d constructed it. My measurements (34, 28, 37) put me as a size 3, but, looking at the finished garment measurements, I knew I didn’t want 4-4.5 inches of ease at my waist and hips. The bust only includes an inch of ease, so I decided to leave that as a 3, and graded down to a 2 at the waist and hips. Once I had sewn it up, I then took it in a bit more – I overlocked the side seams, and took off basically the width of the overlocked stitches around the bust, grading to about a cm more than that for the middle third of the side seam, and then back to the width of the stitch for the bottom third.
I love how easy this dress was to sew. I used my normal machine to sew the shoulder seams initially, and sew the sleeves on, but I then went over both of these with my overlocker to reinforce them and tidy them up a bit. For the side seams, I just went straight for the overlocker. The only slight issue I had was some of my seams not matching up – my sleeves ended up longer than the shoulder edge they were going into, and the hem ended up with the back longer on one side and the front on the other – no idea how that happened!
I *tried* to use a twin needle for the neckline and hems. Boy, did I try! But my machine was not playing ball – whenever I tried to use the twin needle, the bobbin thread didn’t zigzag across the bottom, it just pulled the top threads across instead, with the bobbin thread just running in a straight line down the middle.
I spent a good while trying to get it to work. I adjusted the tension – all the way up, all the way down, and everything in between, but it made no difference whatsoever. I feel like the bobbin tension needs to be lowered, but I have a top loading bobbin, and I’m not sure how/if you can do that. The instruction manual for my machine also doesn’t mention it. If you know how it can be done (Janome 525S), please let me know! I used twin needle stitching on my Lady Skater dress, and it worked fine then, so I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I turned to the internet, Twitter, and the Colette guide to sewing knits, but nothing I tried worked. In the end I gave up and just went with a zigzag stitch, and it looks fine, but it’s still frustrating!
When I zigzagged the neckline, it stretched out a bit, but Sonja told me to:
@makesewdo Steam it! STEAM THE BASTARD!
— Ginger (@GingerMakes) August 30, 2014
I did what I was told (thank you Sonja!) and managed to save it. It’s gone a bit wavy again after wearing it, so I gave it another little steam this morning (before wearing it again!)
What I love about this fabric is that the way it behaves made it so easy to hem the skirt and the sleeves. I folded them up at one point to the length I wanted them, and then the fold just easily followed all the way round, nice and level. I actually zigzagged these hems before I cut off the excess length – I figured it would make it much easiere to keep the folded over fabric in place if there was a couple of inches of it rather than just a cm or two. I then just cut off the excess when I was done. I debated when cutting out my pattern pieces whether I should lengthen the skirt a little, as I didn’t want it *too* short, but I decided against it, and actually ended up taking off a couple of inches off the standard length. Any longer than this and it just did not do anything for me!
The pockets were also inspired by Marcie’s Coco. I was in Sheffield a while ago and had some time to kill, so I googled fabric shops and found that Direct Fabric Warehouse was only 10 minutes away. When I first walked in, I thought that it was mainly furnishing fabric, but they had a little dressmaking section tucked away. It may have been small, but it was the best organised/labelled fabric I have come across in a shop.
I find that, so often, the way fabric types are named on patterns (with more ‘technical’ names I guess) differs dramatically from how the shops label them, and unless you are very good at identifying fabrics by feel, it can be hard to know what you are actually getting in the shops. But DFW had everything brilliantly labelled, actually using the terms that tend to be used on patterns. So I picked up the faux suede fot the pockets in 3 different colours (£8/m I think), some more Coco suitable fabric (can’t remember if it was ponte, doubleknit or interlock, but it was actually labelled!) for a good price (that I don’t now recall) and couldn’t resist a couple of really drapey fabrics (they are poly rather viscose, although they did have that too) for £2.99, which I thought would make fantastic Gabriolas. Unfortunately they don’t seem to list many dress fabrics on their website, but if you’re ever in Sheffield, I can recommend it!
By the time I did the pockets I was in a bit of a rush to get the dress finished – I started it after lunch on Saturday, and wanted to finish it to wear to a party on Saturday night. By pocket time, it had reached the time that I had been planning on leaving, but I was so close, I didn’t want to give up then! But I could feel myself rushing, and as a result I made a mistake or two (I may have almost sewn the pockets onto the back of the dress when I didn’t realise I had it on back to front when marking the pocket placement! Luckily I realised before I started sewing) and the pockets probably aren’t quite as neat as they could have been, but they do the job just fine!
And what do I think of my finished Coco? I absolutely love it! I have worn it pretty much non-stop since I made it, it’s so comfy, such an easy make (a dress done in an afternoon is a big achievement for me!), and looks great. I don’t often wear skirts this short, but it looks really cute! I wore it yesterday with my winter boots, so it’s definitely a great winter pattern too. To top off my Coco love, I had 3 comments on it within half an hour of being at work yesterday, which is always a good way to start a Monday!
As the song says, I know you’ll get to like it if you give it a chance now. That is certainly true, and I’m very glad I gave Coco a chance!