The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation



Croquis – cro·quis
[kroh-kee; French kraw-kee] noun, plural cro·quis [-keez; French -kee] a rough preliminary drawing; sketch.

And that’s just about says it all – so that’s all for today’s post!!!


No, only kidding.

Kristen, one of my subscribers, had an interesting dilemma over the weekend, and using a croquis is a great way to solve it.

But what the heck is this thing and why is it so helpful?

Basically it’s an outline of your body, warts and all, so that you better see how something is going to look on you – without having to make it up in all the variations you want.  You simply erase one variation and try another.

Using this method, you can easily determine the look you’re after, and using this croquis for Kristen will help figure out how she can  make her dress to look the way she want.

First we took a picture of Kristen in a dress she was fitting.  This really was very quickly done to give her an idea of what we needed, however I recommend you put on a pair of leggings and a closely fitting knit top (and then I recommend you delete the file, empty your trash, reboot and burn any copies of it that may have been printed out!!!!).  But it’s all the curves and silhouette that we want that will make this croquis work the best for you.  But for a quick look, this photo will work.

And now you can see I’ve traced around the outside of her bod.  (I’m using CorelDraw & Corel PhotoPaint on my computer to do this, but you can easily print out this picture and trace around the outside then copy or scan it into your computer and print out as many as you need).

So here is Kristen’s croquis – and remember this isn’t exact (her waist is a lot differently shaped here) than she really is, but it’s enough for us to figure out our problem.  And what is the problem?

She wants to do Butterick 5602, and she has a great print for the dress and a great solid for the  trim, however not sure how much print she has, and may need to make the band at the bottom of the pattern (she’s going to combine the sleeved version on view A).

So how big can she make that band and still look right – or in proportion to the rest of the garment.

A quick sketch with the croquis can do the job in very smart time.

So what you can see easily  is that the thicker band isn’t all that exciting.  It doesn’t so much take away or is totally irregular as the other version (to the left) just looks so much better – more right and more in perspective.  What I did do is put a larger band on everything and not use the thin one according to the pattern.  Since Kristen has a lot of the contrast solid trim, making all the bands is a practical solution. (A construction note at the end of the post.)

No cutting out fabric.  No measuring and fitting garment.  No sewing it all up.  Just a quick sketch and the problem is very quickly solved.

And you DO NOT NEED TO BE AN ARTIST to do this, just have a good croquis.  That means a good tracing of a realistic view/photo of your body.  This only works if the croquis is very close to the shape of your body.  Please, please don’t get discouraged or think you can’t do this.  What you’re doing is putting the croquis under some thin or tracing paper and trace over the outline of the croquis.  This is literally like making paper doll clothes for your croquis, only the paper doll will be you!

If you have a very pronounced sway back or other side view figure shape, then you may also want to do a side profile version of your croquis too, however for most folks, the front view works great.

A couple of other notes here:

  • When you do this, be sure and leave room for ease.  Your hips and waist will not fit skin tight so don’t draw them that way.
  • You know not to move around the croquis while you’re tracing it…..I thought you did, but just in case!
  • Pencil doesn’t scan or photograph well, but ink does.  I draw with pencil so much better (maybe you draw better with ink – and that’s OK too), so I draw out what I want then go over it with ink so I can scan and photography it.  You can do shading and other graphic decorations
  • Kristen has a very professional position with a very important company (she’s a well-respected person for Devon Energy) where she works.  She’s not a bow type person, so I didn’t draw the bow on here.  She’s more interested in a dress that she can be comfy in and at the same time look professional.
  • Toward that “professional” end:  I would advise Kristen to do two croquis, one with her flats (probably more casual shoes) and one with her heels which is what she wears to work.  These are TWO DIFFERENT looks and require different perspectives and proportions (remember how we short folks all love to wear heels to make us seem more in proportion to those tall models?!!!)

OK so go out and create one of these little gems and solve a lot of problems easier than you thought!


Construction note on Butterick 5602.

A very effective and sharp way to finish this garment with this trim is to line the full dress and sew the lining, dress and facing (at the neckline & hemlines of the dress & sleeves) onto the garment, then roll the seam back ever so slightly so that the lining does not show, and top stitch the seam, then turn the trim edge (in a rounded trim like this I would baste on the 5/8″ or seam line) and press the turn on that 5/8″ and pin lightly (just barely ticking the dress & lining fabrics) and top stitch in place.

Another wonderful tool here is using a joiner foot which guides right along the edge.  You can get a topstitch literally on the 1/16″ which looks so professional as well as sharp and clean.

This makes an effective and relatively easy way to finish off the dress.  It’s totally lined, and yet when you top stitch this trim on this way, it anchors it so it doesn’t show, because I always like to leave a little easy – about 1/2″ – that means the lining for the dress & sleeves is about 1/2″ longer than the dress, but as you anchor (with the top stitching of the trim) you anchor it so that ease falls down above the trim stitching line.

You almost feel like you’re cheating – but you’re not, cause it looks very nice.

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