Colette Laurel

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!

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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.

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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.

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My Laurel top, sewn in a lightweight voile featuring unicorns!

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