When I first saw the new Colette pattern, Hawthorn, I gave a little squeal, a semi circle flared skirt is very much my style, the neckline is modest for my rather bony décolletage and having had such a positive experience with my Bleuet shirt dresses (here and here) and with the further incentive of a sew-along it tipped me over the edge and I ordered it straightaway from Village Haberdashery. There was a delay waiting for snaps to arrive but now I have finished it and felt very much like a lady when I pinned my hair up, put on my wedges and twirled in the sun.
The fabric choice for this dress is critical, it needs to be lightweight enough to swish and swirl, but not see through- I didn't want to line it- so I chose Liberty Lawn. The tiny apple print is a one way pattern which is always an extra challenge with large half circle skirt pieces but I played around with the layout to make the best of the fabric. The Coletterie sew-along fabric choice post is very helpful and I did order samples from Croft Mill, which has great dress making fabrics before settling on what was already in my stash. My fabric has a frisson of transparency- just enough to make sure my underwear is a light and blending colour but not enough to make me fear standing in bright sunlight.
I added side seam pockets using the Burda Theresa dress pattern from last summer's dress making, I've got to have pockets whenever I can. You can see how they disappear into the seam in the swirl shot below and also where the uppper back bodice could do with an extra press!
I have done a lot of dress making this summer so my skills have really sharpened up , there is nothing like lots of practice to make dusty techniques come back to life. I started with a bodice toile as I have a very small bust and Colette patterns are cut for a C cup. I traced off a bodice in size 2 graduating to a 6 in the waist as I like a lot of ease there, especially in a shirt dress. Swedish paper is the only thing that keeps my sanity when doing fittings as it is always a little leap in the dark when you start cutting and taping darts. I did shrink the width of the waist dart and increase the length so it reached the nip (you know where I mean) as this works best for me. The key factor for me is to measure the waist either side of the dart and make sure this stays the same after I have sliced the dart. The bust adjustment post at Coletterie was very detailed and it was worth taking time on this even if it was over 30 degrees C as the end fit was excellent on the front bust and I didn't need to change the back darts.
When I added the side pockets I consulted the trusty Readers Digest Guide to Sewing which always has some nifty tricks- although they tend to be time consuming ones. When I sewed the pocket facing/linings onto the side seams I used a scant 5/8" seam allowance, almost a 1/2" just to give a little room for the seams to roll back and hide the pockets completely in the dress. It worked treat!
There was a heatwave in the UK whilst I was making this so I knew long sleeves were out of the question- although I want to try a plaid version for winter complete with plackets and cuffs. I had tried the short sleeve in the toile and it fitted well but wasn't quite ladylike enough and sleeveless leaves me feeling a little too exposed so I opted for a cap sleeve following the superb drafting instructions from Jenny Gordy which gives it additional fullness and a neat bias binding finish around the lower armhole and the sleeve edge. I added gathers to make a gentle puff effect and so the sleeve would hug the upper arm for wearing a cardy (lets be realistic, in Britain a cardigan is never far away), and I was very happy with the finished effect.
One of the biggest pleasures of dress making is adding the little touches that would never be in a shop bought dress, seam tape on the inside waist edges, adding a french tack to hold the facing gently to the shoulders, french seams at the shoulders and sides- it all makes for a very neat inner and a more durable garment as ultimately my dresses ends up in the washing machine frequently over the summer.
I did have a few glitches and struggles, mainly with the collar and this was noted by other sew-alongers in the flickr group. The collar facing along the front neck was 1/4" longer than the collar/dress it is attached to. I didn't notice this in the toile as I hadn't stay stitched or interfaced so there was more give in the fabric but I did have to get creative and notch the short section to trim. I think I would do the collar in a single section next time too. It uses the fabric more efficiently in 3 sections but I think it would lie a little better if made in 1 piece. I took a lot of time with interfacing, (so tedious, but worth it) and used a lawn cotton fusible. I also used a narrow double turn hem following Gertie's method which is always my preference for a swirly skirt and I allowed time for the hem to drop because of the bias before I trimmed it level.
And a few more realistic photos: our garden is really a tiny yard so there was a little shifting around in the photo session (ably lead by my daughter) so you can see the dress moves around easily in more every day activities!
- Colette Hawthorn pattern- size 2 bodice, SBA, graded to Size 6 waist/skirt
- Additions: side seam pockets, cap sleeves with bias trim
- Replaced buttons with lightweight pearl snaps bought here ( I will do a separate post on these)
- Removed a 1/4" from inside front bodice shoulder seam to stop gaping at the front
- Eliminated the seam on the back skirt as the fabric was wide, so cut as 1 piece
- Narrow turned hem
- Liberty Lawn fabric
- Gutermann sew-all poly thread
You can see other Hawthorn's here, are you tempted to make one?