achievement unlocked: feminist cross stitch

I waffled on giving this project an “achievement unlocked” headline because I don’t know if it qualifies as a “sewing project” per se…So, as a quick browse through the archives will make clear, I haven’t been sewing a lot in the last few months. Especially since the whole cancer diagnosis, I’ve been pretty tired & having a fair amount of pain. Whether it’s actually related to the cancer, or the anxiety around the cancer, or the blood infection situation that I am still fighting off, or some combination of all three, I have been spending a lot more time in bed & lot less time with my sewing machine.

I’m in this Facebook group for crafty moms, & one of the women started a stitch-along for a cross stitch pattern. My mom did some cross stitch when I was a kid, & I have foggy memories of trying it myself when I was in elementary school. I can’t remember if I ever actually completed a project back then. Maybe a little bookmark or something, to earn a Girl Scout badge. (I would have thrown my own grandmother in front of a train for a Girl Scout badge. I am counting down the moments until Ramona is old enough to join up.) I didn’t really think about it again for thirty years, because most cross stitch you see is just really not my jam. Like wall hangings of Precious Moments characters with Bible verses. Um, no. I tried to get into embroidery a couple of years ago, because that seemed more “modern” & elegant. But it just didn’t work for me. It seems to require a level of visual creativity that is beyond my ken, & the “hip” ready-made patterns tend toward a rockabilly aesthetic that just doesn’t appeal to me.

This is the pattern that was chosen for the stitch-along:

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& here is what I produced:

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& now I am obsessed with cross stitch! It’s something I can do literally while I am laying in bed. It’s fairly easy to pick up & put down if a child suddenly summons you. The required supplies are very affordable–I bought everything I needed for this project for less than I’d pay for a single yard of fabric. & it sends me into that same flow state I get from sewing. I would sit there & stitch for an hour & suddenly come out of my happy stitching head space & remember: Jared doesn’t have a job. I have cancer. Trump is president-elect. Everything is fucking terrible but I just forgot about all of it for an hour.

Another thing I like about it is that it takes for-fucking-ever. Maybe I’m just really slow at cross stitching & I will get faster if I stick with it, but this sampler took me about forty hours. Maybe you are wondering how this could possibly be considered a good thing, when that is longer than it takes to make a pair of jeans from scratch. It’s good because lately I have kind of been wondering how many clothes I really need. I love to sew, & I love to sew clothes, but my handmade wardrobe is pretty full. I don’t really have any holes right now. I am able to dress head-to-toe handmade without even trying. Anything else I make right now would just be for the love of sewing…which is a GREAT reason to sew, don’t get me wrong. But I do stress sometimes about the expense involved. & the potential gluttony of having more handmade clothes than I could really wear in a month.

It turns out that cross stitch is a great way for me to express my stitch-y creative energy, at low cost, while I’m laying around in bed. Even complicated patterns are just a matter of putting the right X of colored thread in the right spot & building from there, which means it engages my attention just enough to be challenging & fun, without asking me to use visual skills I don’t really have. I can have hours of stitching fun without feeling like I am adding a mountain of material goods to my space.

I took some progress photos as I made this sampler, to share with the other ladies in the craft-along:

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The finished sampler is now hanging on my bedroom wall (even though Ramona asked me to put it in her room: “Mama, will you hang that in my room so it can be my most favorite decoration ever that I love so much?”–I declined only because she is in a big “all surfaces are canvases for my marker art” phase & I don’t want her scribbling on it during her quiet time) & I’m plugging away on a second sampler. I designed the new project by borrowing a pretty flower motif with a saying I didn’t love from another cross stitch pattern. I loaded it into Flickr & erased the text, & then added my own text & adjusted the colors a bit. I sent the updated image through an online cross stitch pattern generator. It’s pretty cool. It lets you choose the size of your finished project & it gives you lots of different options for how detailed you want your pattern to be. It gave me the choice of using anywhere from ten to seventy different thread colors (& it actually tells you exactly what colors you will need, which is handy). I went with something in the middle, & have been stitching away. I might try a portrait of Ramona next. I kind of want to do a cross stitched version of Ramona’s birth photo, despite the gore…

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Hard to believe that was almost four years ago. Her birthday is on Wednesday. When asked what she wants gift-wise, she says, “A circle, a triangle, & a square.” ??? I might just take her to the toy store & let her pick out a few things.

Any other cross stitch aficionados reading this?

the day after

I barely slept last night. I looked up election coverage after Ramona went to bed, expecting to wile away the evening enjoying a Hillary landslide. Obviously, that is not at all what happened. It’s just absolutely shocking. I know I live in a lefty bubble, being here in Lawrence, Kansas, but it absolutely blows my mind that so many people voted for hate: racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia…It appears that Hillary did win the popular vote, which is some consolation, but it shouldn’t have even been close.

I cried for the first time since my cancer diagnosis. If the worst happens to me, this is the world I am leaving my daughter? She’s growing up in a country that has never had a female President, where women got the right to vote less than 100 years ago. She’s growing up in a country with a President who was caught on tape bragging about committing sexual assault! She’s too young to understand right now, but by the time the 2020 inauguration rolls around (assuming we still have a country then…assuming that we still have a world then & haven’t all been vaporized in a nuclear war over a Tweet), she’ll be eight. That’s old enough to follow the news & start developing political opinions. I remember that I was seven years old when I learned about abortion & decided that I support reproductive justice. This was my first little taste of realizing that some things affect women in unique ways, & that some people think we shouldn’t have the right to make our own decisions about our bodies. It was when I realized that I was a feminist. Reagan was President then. I just wanted more for my daughter.

Thankfully, she’s too young to understand what’s going on today. She has spent the morning sneaking up & tickling me, pretending to have sleepovers with her favorite toys, & learning about Eid al-Adha (a Muslim holiday). Right now she’s getting dressed to go play soccer in the yard.

The first part of my cancer treatment has been scheduled. I’ll be going in for a cold knife cone biopsy in mid-December. Hopefully this will provide us with all the staging information we need to move forward, & hopefully this cancer really was caught early. In the meantime, I am STILL recovering from getting sick last month. I’ve lost 15 pounds, I’m perpetually tired & dizzy, I have no appetite. & that means I STILL haven’t been doing any sewing. I did try to leave the house on Saturday, but I had to have Jared come pick me up because I wasn’t strong enough to do what I had intended to do (go to therapy) or walk home.

I have a lot of projects cut out & ready to be sewn, & I have all the supplies for some others. I really want to make myself a hooded denim jacket with faux-leather sleeves–an extra layer to wear that is a little more interesting than your standard hoodie. I want to make myself some more jeans, because the first pair I made myself are way too big now. I want to make a flannel shirt to wear over thermals, & I’m tempted to adapt my shorty overall pattern into an overall dress, even though I don’t tend to wear many dresses or skirts when the weather is chilly.

But mostly all I have been doing lately is reading & watching TV. I’ve blazed through several seasons of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which I had never seen before. I watched the first season of “30 Rock,” which I had also never seen before. I haven’t had a TV in like twenty years, so there’s a lot of stuff I’ve missed. It makes me feel kind of shitty to watch so much TV, but I don’t have energy for much else.

Ramona’s birthday is at the end of the month. She’ll be four, & for the first time, she kinds of grasps the concept of a birthday. We’ve gone to several birthday parties since she started preschool, so she understands that a birthday party involves playing & cake. Therefore, she wants a birthday party. Unfortunately, she was born on the last day of November, which isn’t generally great weather for playing outside, & our house is way too small to host an indoor birthday party. There are various spaces available for rent around town: the indoor play center, the train depot, the gymnastics center at Rock Chalk Park, the nature center. But all are $100+, which is about $100+ more than we have to spare. Jared has floated a lot of interesting ideas, like organizing a scavenger hunt downtown, or covering the entire living room in butcher paper & letting the kids go crazy with tempera paint. It’s just a challenge to come up with something feasible that isn’t a ton of extra work for parents (since Ramona & her friends are not quite at an age that permits drop-off birthday parties).

I also had big plans for things I wanted to make for her birthday: pajamas, a new quilt, a big felt wall calendar like they have at her preschool. I’ll be lucky to just get to the pajamas at the rate I’m moving. I’ll have a second bite at the apple with Christmas just around the corner, but December is going to be difficult due to the biopsy (some people say they felt all better within a few days; others say it took them a full six weeks to heal) & because Jared’s family is all coming to Kansas to be with us. Which, don’t get me wrong, is a very good thing. Ramona can’t wait to see them, & I doubt I will be in any state to travel for Christmas so soon after the biopsy. But it will still be a lot of socializing & a disruption of my current heavy schedule of napping, panicking, & watching TV on the internet.

I hope everyone reading this is getting through the day all right. Ramona observed, “Today is not a fun day,” & even though she doesn’t have a sense of the geopolitics afoot, I can’t disagree with her observation. We are moving into a situation that feels downright apocalyptic in some ways. I’m just trying to remember what Joe Hill said (& what I had tattooed on my wrist 15 years ago): “Don’t mourn. Organize!” I’m still mourning a bit though.

what does “in situ” mean?

Yay! Another post about cancer! I know most readers probably come here for sewing content. Hopefully, I will be back to the sewing soon.

But first, I need to talk about something kind of shitty.

I had my first appointment with the oncologist on Thursday. There were no surprises. She confirmed the diagnosis & reiterated the protocol for diagnostic & therapeutic steps. First up will be a cold knife cone biopsy “to rule out invasive cancer”. I’ll be put under “because no one is insane enough to do this while they’re awake” & she will slice a cone out of my cervix & examine it for cancer, to see how deep the cancer cells have penetrated. Some people with adenocarcinoma in situ stop there if it appears that the biopsy itself removed all of the cancer. This way, they can keep their uteruses & have more children if they like.

However, cervical adenocarcinoma can be sneaky. It can grow in a “skipping” pattern, so the outer edges of the biopsy are free of cancer cells, but cancer cells were still left behind in the body. This is what makes adenocarcinoma trickier to treat than its more common relation, squamous cell carcinoma.

& of course, if the margins are not free of cancer cells, that means there’s definitely more cancer lurking in there.

So my doctor considers a simple hysterectomy (removal of cervix & uterus) to be the standard treatment, even for adenocarcinoma in situ. Right now, adenocarcinoma in situ is my diagnosis. It is considered “stage 0,” & the oncologist repeatedly stressed the fact that the “in situ” part means it is technically a pre-cancer. I get what she’s saying: if it’s in situ, that means the cancer cells haven’t penetrated to the blood vessel level & there’s no chance it has spread. Adenocarcinoma in situ is apparently the one & only precursor to invasive adenocarcinoma, & it’s pretty much a guarantee that it WILL progress to invasive adenocarcinoma if I just kick back & do nothing. But at the end of the day, my feeling is, if I walk away from treatment for this “pre-cancer” missing body parts, I’m gonna go ahead & take the liberty of calling it cancer. #sorrynotsorry

There are other, more common types of cervical “pre-cancer” that can be successfully treated with cone biopsy, LEEP, or cyrotherapy. These treatments allow women to keep their uteruses & cervixes. Unfortunately, that’s not the kind I have.

We did talk about the possibility of stopping after the cone biopsy, so I could have another kid in a year or two. That’s not something Jared & I have decided that we definitely want for sure, but we’d been kicking the idea around. She said I would have to be closely watched (like, exams every two months), & that she still recommends hysterectomy once I’m done having kids. & that it’s really only an option if the cone biopsy comes back with clear margins. She also pointed out that I’m 37. Time would be a-wastin’ on the baby-having front even if I didn’t have this whole cancer situation happening. She was basically like, “Uh, if you’re gonna do it, do it now.”

I walked out of the appointment feeling pretty okay about everything. There were no real surprises, & I felt like she knew what she was talking about & was good at explaining things to me & making sure all my questions were answered.

But once I got home, I started wondering…is there a reason my diagnosis is adenocarcinoma IN SITU? Can they tell just from the testing they’ve done so far that this definitely is very early cancer, or is that the default diagnosis because those surface cells are all they have been able to access so far? She said the cone biopsy is diagnostic to “rule out more invasive cancer,” which is a phraseology that could be interpreted as, you know, “We’re doing that just in case, just to be on the safe side, but it’s probably nothing so don’t worry.” Had they actually seen something that justified that relaxed attitude, or were they just giving me the earliest possible diagnosis in the absence of more information?

So I called & asked. & the answer is: the “in situ” diagnosis is just the default in the absence of more information. Hopefully the cone biopsy will provide all the information they need to confirm the “in situ” staging, but it’s also entirely possible that it will turn up a more advanced cancer, which would require more radical treatment, such as a more extreme hysterectomy, radiation, &/or chemo.

Logically, that all makes sense. & I understand why they didn’t spell that out for me explicitly. Even an in situ diagnosis is shitty enough without being told, “This could turn out to be a lot worse.” They don’t want to scare people. & you know, it IS scary. Adenocarcinoma is no fucking joke. The five-year survival rate for stage 3 is only 7%. (The five-year survival rate for in situ is 92%, I think, but that includes everyone who dies of anything.)

I’ve been bopping along telling people, “It was caught early, it sucks, but it’ll be fine.” As it transpires, we don’t know yet if it was caught early or not. & my early exams & symptoms are not super-promising. I’ve been positive for adenocarcinoma in biopsies taken both on the cervix & in the endocervical canal. The cervical lesions are visible to the naked eye. I have troubling symptoms that could be evidence of more invasive cancer, & even symptoms that could be related to metastases to the kidneys & liver.

I am trying not to catastrophize though. Everything could be okay. I just had to take a day yesterday to do nothing & feel sorry for myself while I divested Ramona’s trick or treat bag of its Butterfingers. I’m telling myself now that there is fuck-all I can do about any of this, & that nothing is to be gained by worrying. So I’m gonna try to just put all of this stuff out of my mind for now & go back to having a normal life while I wait for the cone biopsy (which will probably happen in early December). & that means SEWING! I actually let Ramona talk me into buying some fabric specifically to make her a set of pajamas–a departure from my general philosophy of not sewing for people who grow out of their clothes overnight. She chose a bicycle print jersey & I think I’m going to use it to make a little henley shirt & some jogger pants with contrasting cuffs.

uh…more on the cancer situation, to be honest

Thank you so much for all the well wishes on my most recent post. I haven’t had a chance to go through & approve/respond to everything yet, but I’ve read every comment & it definitely helped buoy me through those first few shitty days after the cancer diagnosis.

One thing I didn’t mention in that post is that I caught a blood infection from the biopsy. So, every four hours, for all of last week, I would spike a 105-degree temperature. I actually went to the doctor specifically to get some antibiotics for the infection, but our wires were crossed & she thought I was there for the biopsy results. “I didn’t want to tell you that you have cancer on the phone,” she said. So it didn’t even hit me right away because I was so focused on trying to get treatment for the blood infection. By itself, it was bad enough that I honestly thought I might die. My kidneys were actually starting to shut down. So to be walloped with cancer on top of that…Not my all time greatest week.

I did eventually get antibiotics & am on the road to recovery. I’m mostly better now. I’m just trying to build my strength back up after basically not getting out of bed for an entire week. I lost eight pounds in four days. A few more brushes with septicemia, & maybe I’ll fit into the Deer & Doe size range, eh? Ho ho, I crack myself up.

I also have my first oncology appointment scheduled for this Thursday. I have to be seen at the University of Kansas Cancer Center, because I guess cancer treatment is another one of those pesky medical predicaments I keep getting into (like giving birth to premature infants) that cannot be accommodated in Lawrence. Luckily, we were able to schedule it for while Ramona is at preschool, & Jared doesn’t have to work, so he can drive me & help be my eyes & ears at the appointment, since I dislike highway driving & all the information might be a little too overwhelming for me to absorb on my own.

The nurse who scheduled the appointment was all, “We’re sending you an information packet. It should be delivered on Thursday.” I am not unfamiliar with seeing medical specialists, so I was expecting your standard medical history to be filled in & brought to the first appointment, maybe a map of the medical campus, perhaps a pamphlet or two: “Fun with Cone Biopsies” or “Is Surgical Menopause the Right Choice for You?”

Instead, I received an enormous, personalized handbook. Like, the cover was actually printed up to have my name on it. This shit is perfect-bound & the cover was professionally printed with my name! There are full-color portraits & dossiers on my personalized oncology care team–not just some shit with the head of gynecological oncology’s name highlighted, but like, full names & photos of the nurse & receptionist who will be working specifically with me. There are full-page, full color anatomical drawings¬† specific to my cancer diagnosis. There is even information on a hotel the center works with, which provides free lodging to patients & their loved ones who have to travel more than 35 miles for treatment (hey, that’s me! The center is 43 miles from my house).

& so much medical history to fill out, as well as pages & pages of informed consent forms. The University of Kansas hospitals are teaching hospitals, so they really want their patients to get on board with providing disease samples & stuff. They’re always looking for the next Henrietta Lacks, I guess. Let me tell you, I do not love having to sign a form acknowledging that I recognize that “medicine is not an exact science” & that “no one has made any promises about the effectiveness of my treatment.” Like, obviously I know that from a logical standpoint, but also obviously, when someone is treating you for cancer, you kind of wish they would say, “I know exactly what to do & it will definitely work & you will live to be 97.”

Also on that topic, there was a distressing amount of information on the hows & whys of setting up an advanced directive (ie, a living will). Oh, hey, mortality. I wasn’t really expecting to confront you until I was over 40, but I guess we’re gonna do this thing now.

I am also already hearing some pearl-clutching from people being all, “Don’t let them take your fertility!” (since the standard treatment for cervical cancer is hysterectomy). *sigh* My cancer hasn’t been staged yet, so I don’t know yet exactly what treatment will be recommended. It’s possible that I’m one of the very lucky ones whose cancer was caught very, very early & it can all be removed with a cone biopsy. It would still be challenging for me to become pregnant after that type of treatment, & any pregnancy I achieve would be more difficult & at higher risk of miscarriage. I would also be at higher risk of a recurrence & would require a hysterectomy once I was done having kids. That would be a best-case scenario as far as fertility goes.

If this shit is staged at anything above 1A1, hysterectomy would be the baseline treatment. Radiation &/or chemo could be involved.

I feel like maybe people get confused about this stuff because it’s not terribly unusual to have an abnormal Pap, & sometimes when that happens, there is some treatment, like LEEP. That shit is no fun, but it doesn’t compromise your fertility. Unfortunately, we are beyond “abnormal cervical changes” here. This is Cancer Country. LEEP ain’t gonna cut it. I still kind of can’t believe it, which is why I’m being a little silly & joke-y here. Did you know that only 30% of all cervical cancer are diagnosed in developed nations like the U.S.? That’s because women in developed nations have better access to cervical screenings so abnormal cells can be identified & removed before they turn into cancer. I’ve never skipped my Pap. I’m all about trying to keep that area healthy. I have a speculum tattooed on my arm, for crying out loud! But I got cervical cancer. I don’t know if there was a warning sign that was missed, a doctor that should have been more aggressive with treatment after an abnormal Pap (I’ve had a bunch), I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem real.

I have cancer.

I was diagnosed with cervical cancer today. It’s adenocarcinoma, & I’ll need a cone biopsy before we know stages or how invasive it is, but it’s definitely not great. I’m a little nervous, because my last Pap was normal (my ob-gyn did a colposcopy because I was positive for a high-risk form of HPV, & she saw some troubling patches on the colposcopy so she did a biopsy, which turned up the cancer deep inside the cervix). The cancer is so hidden away, I’m nervous about how long it’s been lurking in there. The standard long-term treatment is hysterectomy, so I guess conversations about why Ramona is an only child are about to get a lot more awkward. I’ll have to travel to Kansas City for treatment, because there’s no cervical oncology center in Lawrence.

All I can say is, if you have a cervix, don’t skip your Paps. & don’t let your doctor do a Pap without testing for HPV & especially confirming which strain you may be positive for. HPV is very common, but there are only a few that are linked to cancer. My doctor wouldn’t have found this cancer if she hadn’t typed my HPV & decided to err on the side of caution by ordering a colposcopy.

& if you have a child (of any gender), seriously consider the HPV vaccine. It’s a VACCINE against CANCER. I mean, come on! Even though cervical cancer is quite treatable when it’s caught early (& I really hope mine was), the treatment is pretty radical. I wasn’t planning to have another kid anytime soon, but it still sucks to have the option snatched away, & it still remains to be seen exactly what my treatment will entail or what the long-term consequences will be. If you can spare your children any of this, do it.

We need to talk about the Rue dress some more.

My plan for this post had been to whip up a second muslin, share some photos of what I’d produced & the changes/alterations/re-drafts I’ve had to make away, & basically just keep hammering away at how much this pattern sucks.

But then Colette let it be known through the grapevine (ie, telling Deepika over on Pattern Review) that they would be making an “announcement” about the Rue on “Tuesday”. I refreshed the Colette blog throughout the morning waiting for the news to drop, but it just kept showing me the news about the latest issue of “Seamwork”. (To which I say, no thanks. It’s bonkers that I don’t read “Seamwork,” given that I read constantly, sometimes three books a day, & will read anything I can find about sewing. But “Seamwork” just doesn’t hold my attention, & it’s a big ol’ nope on the patterns.)

I decided to cruise over to the Rue sewalong page to see if there were any back-asswards new constructions tips over there for me to laugh at. There were not, because the sewalong has been suspended! This is where Colette dropped their big news: due to “customer feedback” (ie, blistering disgust across the internet), they are redesigning the Rue to drop the cross-bust style line below the bust (like in Sarai’s infamous plaid Rue), & they are also apparently doing something about the armscye & sleeve issues. People who have already purchased the Rue will be re-issued new pattern pieces for free in the manner in which they bought the original Rue. I bought a paper pattern, so I will be receiving paper pieces in the mail. They’re saying PDF customers can expect to receive their new pieces in about three weeks, & paper customers are looking at six. The sewalong will pick up again at the end of the month, starting fresh with bodice alterations relevant to the new draft.

So! On the one hand: good! They’re “fixing” the problem. People who have already purchased the pattern will be receiving corrections automatically, & people who bought paper to spare themselves the trouble of the PDF format will be getting paper corrections, which is a nice (& undoubtedly expensive) touch. I’m especially glad to hear that they’re addressing the armscye. In my journey with the Rue pattern thus far, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that 85% of the problem is a shitty armscye/sleeve draft. Yeah, the curved style line hits in a weird place, but that’s fairly easy to address, even for a relative newbie. But even experienced sewers shy away from making major changes to sleeves & armscyes.

But there are still some problems.

  • Right now, the announcement of a fix in the works is only available on the sewalong blog, in the “errata” buried on the Colette website, & on the Rue pattern page. (Sales of the Rue are suspended until the new draft is available.) Colette is making a big fuss about how they want to be “honest & transparent” with their customers…which means that they could really do themselves a favor by including this news on the official Colette blog. It would also be nice for them to send it out to their newsletter subscribers, or at least as a mass email to the customers who bought the Rue. (I’m one & I’ve heard nothing, so…)
  • The sewalong post with the announcement has been closed for comments. I get that maybe they don’t want to risk getting dog-piled over an issue they’re trying to resolve, but closing comments doesn’t really scream “honest & transparent” to me. Maybe that’s just my bitterness as a person who has had comments deleted by Colette mods speaking.
  • This announcement is also the first time they’ve copped to the fact that there’s an issue with the armscye/sleeve. If you have some time on your hands, you can scroll through the posts about the Rue, both on the sewalong & on the official Colette blog, & find many people asking why their muslins have gaping, draglines, etc at the arm/sleeve. You can scroll through the “tester” photos (actually just dresses made for promo; no “testing” was done, & nothing against any of those bloggers–they didn’t know they were going to be handed such a shitty pattern) that Colette promoted so heavily right after the pattern release, & you will see lots of problematic fit issues around the shoulder (to say nothing of fit issues around the bust, because people were given a poorly-drafted pattern with odd style lines & no sensible garment shaping & told to sew it on a tight deadline with no guidelines concerning fit or alteration). Some of the most successful Rues so far have been the result of the sewer choosing not to include sleeves at all.

Here’s the original Rue armscye shape:

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This shows how oddly square & shallow it is (as well as how narrow the shoulder is). This is the size 12 armscye, which ostensibly accommodates a 37″ high bust (like mine). & yet, the front armscye is only 5.5″ deep from seamline to seamline. That is more than inch smaller than the depth you’d expect to see on a size 0 pattern. The shape also does not seem to be designed for the ball-shaped socket that is the shoulder joint, & you can see that whatever shoulder slope may exist would be the product of the fabric being forced to twist to the side to meet front & back at such a squared-off angle.

Above is one of the sample dresses from the official Rue release. It was smart of them to use that fabric. People responded really well to it, & it plays up the opportunities for showcasing design elements by cutting different pieces on the cross-grain or bias.

It also serves as a good illustration of the shoulder/armscye issue. Look at the way the stripe runs vertically down the middle of the bodice, but fans out toward the shoulder on a more diagonal line starting at the center of the bust. There was a lot of curiosity & speculation about how that effect was achieved. Multiple pattern pieces for the upper bust? Some sort of interesting dart that manipulates the grainline?

Nope. Just a shitty draft. The armscye is so shallow & squared-off that the fabric is just pulled off-grain at shoulder point, radiating the distortion back toward the bust where the tucks create play in the fabric (as well as excess fabric across the chest, just looking for someplace to go). This causes all kinds of gaping & bubbling at the back & underarm. & the issue is exacerbated when you fit the poorly-drafted sleeves into the armscye.

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Here’s the Colette sleeve cap. Rather flat, isn’t it? A flatter, wider sleeve cap can work quite nicely for a garment with a more relaxed fit through the shoulder. But the sample photos & line drawings make clear that this is a garment with a fairly fitted sleeve. A fitted sleeve with a sleeve cap this flat will just pull, causing draglines across the sleeve & around the armscye. Which is exactly what you see in pretty much every Rue floating around online so far.

I’m glad they have FINALLY copped to this being an issue, & that they are planning some kind of fix, but the dates they are giving people mean there’s not really going to be any time for thorough tests of the new draft. & there’s also the question of whether we can truly anticipate a well-drafted solution from the same company that let this mess out of the workroom in the first place. Once you understand how the garment is constructed, the fit issues are obvious in the sample photos, & yet, somehow, everyone involved with this release was like, “Lookin’ good! Let’s roll!” All I can figure is that they either decided it was good enough & that they had enough fangirls that any criticism could easily be dismissed, or they really didn’t see the problems until scores of irate sewers pointed them out. Neither option is good.

Now I have to decide if I should keep plugging away with my own fixes or if I should cool my heels until mid-November when the new draft is due to arrive. I did go out & buy fabric for my billionth M6696 yesterday. Maybe I’ll whip that up & give myself a mental health break from the Drafting Murders of the Rue Dress.

& PS–Thanks for all the thoughtful comments on my last post!

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We need to talk about the Rue dress.

Part one.

The Rue dress is the most recent release from Colette Patterns. They billed it “a return to vintage” after a long string of bland, ostensibly more “modern” patterns. It comes with two skirt options: an unadorned straight skirt, & a multi-paneled full pleated skirt. It has two sleeve options: a cap sleeve & a three-quarter sleeve. The neckline is scooped both front & back, & the most compelling detail is in the front bodice panels, which curve across the bust & meet in a V at the center waist. Where the panels meet the upper bodice, there are tucks over the bust.

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This pattern could have been a smash. Long-time Colette fans have been missing the vintage design elements that had been so prevalent in early releases after slogging through lumpy pencil skirt after shapeless pinafore after after basic knit tube skirt. (Seriously, the Mabel? If you’ve been sewing consistently for more than, let’s say, two years, & you need an $18 pattern to make that skirt, you have bigger problems that we can address here.) To say nothing of the “Seamwork” offerings. The big selling point with “Seamwork” patterns is that they can be whipped up in three hours or less: sew your own throwaway fast fashion. Be your own sweatshop. They look like they were each drafted in three minutes or less. Lots of shapeless rectangles.

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What is this even? It’s kind of like a weird hat for your boobs. I don’t think the hem band for this official sample garment is even finished.

Lest you read these opening paragraphs & conclude that I am nothing more than a Colette hater, let the record show that I own the Colette book & have sewn from it. The Crepe dress was one of the first dresses I ever sewed for myself. & yes, I own the Rue pattern. I paid for it with my own money. The Colette aesthetic is overall a bit more sticky-sweet & pastel than I prefer, but if you can get past the bland color palette, often unfortunate fabric choices, & twee styling decisions, there are sometimes appealing elements there. I pictured the Rue in a casual, hard-wearing textile that would result in a comfortable, practical transitional weather dress with interesting style lines. Something I could wear to volunteer at my daughter’s preschool, with all the paint, playground time, messy eaters, & baby goats that entails (really, the kids are sometimes visited by an adorable baby goat named Tango!), something that is just as comfortable as jeans & a tee, but is a little more elevated style-wise.

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Tango, posing with one of Ramona’s teachers.

This vision was predicated on my hope that a pattern company as successful as Colette would actually know the first thing about drafting patterns. Alas. The Rue pattern is a complete mess.

Like I said, I’ve sewn two Colette patterns in the past. Both were sewn when I was pretty new to garment sewing & didn’t really know much about either how garments were supposed to fit, nor how to change garments to fit properly. Neither dress is really worn anymore. I am fairly close to the Colette block. I’m short-waisted, flat-butted, & large-busted (a D; Colette drafts for a C). My body shape is an apple-ish hourglass. My measurements put me in the upper end of Colette’s original unexpanded size range.

The Crepe dress I sewed was irritatingly short-waisted. The waist seam rode above my natural waist & was exposed when it was supposed to be covered by the waist tie. No amount of futzing with the ties, making the wrap tighter or looser, solved the issue. I probably should have done a bit of an FBA on the pattern, but I didn’t realize that at the time, & for all their talk about offering “patterns that teach,” they still confoundingly fail to include high bust measurements in their size charts. You can extrapolate if you know what “drafts for a C-cup means,” & if you know that they draft for a C-cup, & if you know you will achieve best results on most dress/shirt patterns by choosing a size corresponding to the high bust & altering from there as needed, but the pattern didn’t include any of that information, hence leaving me, as a fairly inexperienced new sewer, with an ill-fitting dress that didn’t get nearly as much wear as it should have. The cut on sleeves also fit oddly under the arms (a bit high & tight) & the crossover wrap in the back was too low for my personal preferences.

The other Colette pattern I made was a modified version of the Licorice from the Colette Sewing Handbook. I did my best to overlook the atrocious fit of the blue dress on the model, & I abandoned the futzy collar & shortened those awful leg of mutton-inspired sleeves into a short puff sleeve. The result was essentially a shapeless sack with a constrictive armscye & ludicrously wide neckline. It languishes in my closet.

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I just don’t understand how that blue thing is an official sample photo.

Obviously, it’s the rare pattern that fits straight out of the envelope. & I am well-aware that I have a figure that consistently presents a few fit challenges. My high bust & waist measurements always put me in radically different sizes. I have a pretty pronounced swayback. I don’t mind making fit adjustments. I don’t love making muslins, but I’ll do it for sure. I even enjoy making style changes, rotating darts, all that good stuff. I love a sewing challenge, I love learning new things.

The Rue dress is not a sewing challenge. It’s just a disaster. Colette has said that the curved panels on the front bodice are just “style lines,” & the tucks at the bust are “decorative”. There are no other darts or anything else to provide shaping to the front bodice, & the basic physics of how fabric is manipulated would indicate that the tucks exist for shaping. They’re the equivalent of darts. But Colette is doubling down on their insistence that the curved “style line” should fall 1″ below the bust apex on the larger sizes (like mine). That means the tucks radiate upward beyond the apex & release their fullness over the sternum, smashing down the bust & creating baffling & unflattering lumps across the upper bodice. This is a look that would work great for a woman with boobs on her clavicles, but for the rest of us, it’s a mess. It would work much better to place the curved seam below the bust, with the tucks releasing their fullness just below the apex. (Not over it! When questioned about this on the Colette blog, Colette HQ keeps saying that the tucks release “over” the apex, which is a really great way to get a lumpy bust fit & a gaping neckline. Does anyone over there actually know how to sew?) For reference, there’s a 3.5″ difference between my bust apex & the wire line of my bra. This will differ according to bust size & tissue distribution (some woman are fuller at the top or the bottom of the bust, which is why two women who wear the same bra size might not have the same bust point if they were to draft themselves bodice slopers).

& then there’s the armscye/sleeve issues. This is already a long post, so I’m going to have to turn this into a series. I just can’t fit everything I have to say into one post. I’m thinking about all this because I am determined to put the work in & see a) if I can make the Rue work, & b) what exactly is involved in making the Rue work. I am only one muslin in so far, but I have already lengthened both the upper & lower front bodices to drop that style line & get the bodice down to my (unusually high!) natural waist, changed the placement of the tucks (& converted them to gathers), redrawn both the front & back neckline, widened the shoulders to actually cover my bra straps, straightened out the back center seam (it was weirdly curved & caused a hot mess of bubbling across the upper back), completely redrawn the armscye to make it fit a human arm & drafted a fresh sleeve from scratch, shortened the skirt 3.5″, & swapped out the side seam pockets for curved side-front pockets. I’ve been keeping an eye on the official sewalong, which is telling people to choose a size based on the WAIST measurement, which is just straight up gobbledygook.

Stay tuned for more excoriating commentary, coming soon…

 

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