I bought the Colette ‘Laurel’ pattern quite some time ago. I’ve made a couple of tops, which were pretty successful, but for some reason I had never got around to making the dress. I suppose it’s just a case of ‘so many patterns, so little time’. Or maybe I was waiting for just the right fabric…
I’ve had a bit of a sewing dry spell recently. I managed to make a few summer dresses before a very sunny family holiday. But when I got back, real life just seemed to take over for a while. Entertaining children for those last 2 weeks before school begins, planning the first Stitch Club project, and the added anxiety of my Mother being rather unwell.
Yesterday, I decided it was time for some very selfish and absorbing ‘me’ time, and I decided a simple shift dress would provide a non-too-taxing return to the sewing machines. The fabric I chose to use is a Michael Miller extra wide cotton sateen, which I think is called Tumble Blocks. I purchased it a few months ago from The Village Haberdashery. I think it’s probably meant for quilt backing, and I never (really, I mean never) sew garments with any kind of quilting fabric. Usually they are just too stiff, but I took a risk on this as TVH posted this fabric somewhere with a comment indicating it actually had a nice drape. Well, I was pretty pleased to find this to be true. And as it’s a ridiculously wide fabric, I made the dress from a metre of fabric, with some left over.
Every blogger and her insta-cat has probably blogged about Laurel so I don’t imagine there is too much I can add. During the making of two tops, I had made slight bodice adjustments to eliminate back neck gape, and also to lower the bust darts a little. When tracing off the dress version I simply lined up my bodice pieces on the dress pattern sheet and blended things together with a new tracing. As I can easily slip the tops on and off without fastenings, I decided to take a risk and omit the back zip, cutting on the fold after removing the seam allowance. I also addressed an issue with the sleeves. On my sleeved top, I find arm movement feels a little restricted. In addition to this, there is an unnecessary amount of ease in the sleeve cap, making it a serious chore to set in the sleeves without a few undesirable tucks. To fix this, I just made the front armscye a little larger. It seems to have done the job – the sleeves were easier to manage, and the result is more relaxed.
It’s really time to stop the waffle and offer up some photos!
I’m really pleased with the fit of this dress. Perhaps it would be more flattering if it was a little more fitted, but then I would have to put a zip in and I really love how quickly this dress can be put together by keeping things simple!
Well, kind of simple. For the second top I made, I had drafted a simple neck facing, so I used that again on the dress as it gives such a nice finish. In fact, this dress is all about the finish, so deceptively simple, shall we say? I’m a big fan of hand finishing as it just gives such a clean and polished looking result. The hem is finished by hand, and for the sleeves I made self-fabric bias binding which was machined for the first attachment, but then I sewed the turned under edges by hand. You can see the clean sleeve finish below – and also note that the bust dart is still a little high! I’ll also mention here that I took a few centimetres off the sleeve length on a whim, with the rotary cutter.
I’ll definitely make a few more of these – a fail-safe shift dress pattern is a pretty good thing to have to hand. From here, there are so many simple (and not-so-simple) flourishes and hacks to try. A woven top without the fiddle of fastenings is also a real gem – the Laurel top has a lovely fit to it.
So here’s to a return to sewing. I enjoyed making this dress immensely and after a few weeks without sewing it was amazing to realise how much the sewing process brings to my life: calm, focus, creativity, purpose and pride to name a few. Well that’s fodder for an entirely different blog post.