Citronille pattern challenge, No. 116, Chloé

I am really thrilled that this post is part of a pattern challenge organised by Sew Mama Sew, in conjunction with Fiddlehead Artisan Supply.

I was one of several bloggers sewing up and writing about patterns from a French pattern company called Citronille. I would call my own grasp of French "conversational". So I can sort myself out with dinner and a glass of wine no problem, but I would struggle to follow the pattern instructions in these patterns without quite a lot of extra work... Step in Fiddlehead Artisan Supply, who are now selling these lovely patterns complete with written instructions in English.

Don't forget to check out the beautiful things sewn up by the other bloggers in this challenge, who have all been posting this week:

Michelle Morris of That Black Chic
Sherri Sylvester of thread riding hood
Tenille Brien of Tenille's Thread
Maris Olsen of Sew Maris
Ari Green of Max California
Marisa of thirtynine
Sara Johansen of the Sara project
Natalie Strand of Vegetablog
Diane Reafsnyder of Gator Bunny
Jessica Wright of Willow & Stitch
Kelly Donovan of Craftree

Sew Mama Sew    Fiddlehead Artisan Supply

"Sew Mama Sew are offering a chance to win a Citronille pattern of your choice, pay them a visit!"

I was given dress Pattern number 116, "Chloé", to sew up for this challenge (hooray for being my first choice!). This came with A4 instructions and full size pattern. I decided to sew it up in a cotton chambray in a lovely bird pattern, that has been wallowing in the my stash...

The promised English translation was included, as was a sheet of general French to English sewing glossary, which I thought was a really nice touch.

This was a fairly straightforward dress to put together. I made it up in the size 36. I would recommend reading carefully through the sizing notes, as the actual measurements may not be what you expect from the European size. I would wear "off the rail" clothes in a size 34 in a European, but I actually match the size 36 for this pattern. 

TECHNIQUE: Nap layout.

This is no new term for some, but it is an important one to get familiar with... The instructions suggested this dress could be made up in 110cm of 150cm wide fabric (for the size 36). This doesn't specify whether this is with or without nap. In essence, the nap on fabric is the texture or "fuzz" that may make it look different from one angle vs. another. The best example of this is velvet. If you don't cut all your pattern pieces lying the same way, they will shimmer differently when placed next to each other in the garment.

When you think about it, it is obvious that pattern creates the same problem. A flat, repeating, symmetrical pattern may require you to cut in one plane (across or along the fabric), but still allow you to technically fit your pieces in "either way up". 

My pattern was distinctly not symmetrical, so I was left ultimately with the choice of either trying to fit to a "nap layout" or just accepting birides flying in all different directions. 

Amazingly, I managed to squeeze the entire dress out of exactly 1 metre of fabric... including self-lining the bodice. The only exception is the underside of the straps, for which I caved and used plain white cotton. 

This was totally worth doing the proper way, as it resulted in birds flying serenely in the same direction around the dress, rather than all in a flurry...
MY HACK 1: Clean finish bodice.

This dress called for a lined bodice. In the instructions, the bodice lining bottom and back centre edges get slip-stitched to finish, but I deviated here to produce a clean finish, which I prefer:

After sewing the bodice top seam, clipping, turning right-side-out and pressing nicely... 

- Pin your skirt piece to the bottom edge of your bodice, right sides together, as if preparing to make the seam; if you like, sewing a slightly shallow seam using long tacking stitches, and remove the pins.
- Turn your bodice inside-out again, so the wrong sides are outermost.
- From the very bottom hem, roll your skirt piece as a single, long layer, like you would a piece a rug; tuck in right into the inside of you wrong-side-out-bodice, like hot-dog in a bun...
- Now bring the bottom edges of you bodice and bodice lining pieces together over the top, closing the "bun" over the "sausage", with the raw edge of the skirt piece still sandwiched in between. Pin. Seam. Trim and clip.
- Turn your crazy hot-dog the right side out again from one end or the other.
- Admire your handiwork!

MY HACK 2: Lowering the neckline.

I really wasn't that keen on the high, horizontal front neckline on this, once I had made it up. I re-stitched this with a slightly softer, V-shape, but then decided that wasn't the whole answer either. The final result you see worn below is trial number 3! This could definitely be experimented on further in the future.

I added piping along the top edge and straps of this dress, in a contrast navy to pick out the same colour as the little birds! I think this can also help give some structure to a top seamline that might otherwise buckle and sag if made up in a softer material like this cotton. 

Finally, I chopped about 7cm off the bottom of the skirt, to give it a slightly higher hemline, and took in the hips by about 4cm all around.

The strap attachment points are quite close together at the front. I would probably move these further towards the side seam in the future. 

Notes on the pattern pieces:

The different sizes were quite clearly marked. I found the hand-drawn lines a little "wobbly" at times and had to decide whether to stay true and trace them as found or smooth them out a little... I also noticed the grain line was missing from most pieces, although it is fairly easy to figure out. 
The centre back seams had a 2-3mm drift to them, presumably for a little more fit, which I often find more difficult to do justice to than a nice straight edge (when it comes to inserting the zipper and finishing the seam), so I straightened these out. (Stubborn).

The pieces have a 1.5cm seam allowance included, although I will admit that because of where they naturally fitted together at the side seams etc., I found myself seaming at about 12mm instead. Overall the fit was pretty good, with no major adjustments.

Notes on the English instructions:

The English instructions were very good and made reference to the relevant pictures in the original French instructions. I found that instruction 3 did not quite read as I expected, but what I did at this step as a natural instinct was just assemble the main and lining bodices at their respective side seams.

Overall impressions:

This was fun and easy to sew, and required very little fabric. I will probably experiment a bit more with the neckline, as I think this a sticking point for me with this pattern. 

I also think that the shape and style of this dress would really lend itself to being made one size smaller in a knit fabric... (watch this space)

Thanks for the opportunity to try out this new pattern company!


  1. The dress looks stunning on you - clearly it was worth making all those alterations. I think the strap placement looks good, actually. And the piping was an inspired touch! Well done.

    1. Thanks so much! Actually, looking through the final photos I think you're right about the strap placement... it just felt quite close together as I was making the dress up.

  2. The dress is fantastic! I love the bird print fabric, and the way you changed the neckline and added the piping. The final dress has a lovely fit and looks wonderful on you.
    I am intrigued by the "clean finish" on your bodice lining. I'm going to have to figure out that technique!

    ~Natalie from Vegetablog