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Summer dress

May 28, 2012


colette crepe-2.jpg
We’ve had some glorious weather over the last few days, sunny and pretty warm. I’ve been trying to spend as much time as possible outdoors, but even working at my desk is made much more pleasant by the wide open windows next to me. Today I started my morning in the park, having a little photoshoot with the help of a tripod and remote control – oh how interesting I looked to strangers (or weird? I’m going with interesting). It was worth the looks though, because now I can share my new dress with you.

The pattern is Crepe from Colette patterns, and I was initially less excited about this one than some of their more complicated designs, but when I saw this print I knew that the simple pattern would be perfect for it. The fabric is from sweet Lizzy House’s Outfoxed line. Quilting cotton isn’t usually recommended for clothes – it’s either too heavy or too lightweight for most garments and doesn’t generally drape very well. However this one has a nicer hand than some others I’ve seen and I changed the pattern a bit and added a full lining in cotton lawn which adds a bit of body.

colette crepe-5.jpg

Every dress should have pockets! I detest the idea that such useful things might ruin the lines of a garment (understandable in extremely smart or formal clothing, but otherwise ?!) and the assumption that women always have a cute little bag to carry our things in, our hands I suppose should always be neatly arranged? Anyway, yay pockets! The fact that I sewed them in so you can see the wrong side of the fabric is a little less yay, but let’s call that a design feature, not to mention the fact that if you’re close enough to see the inside of my pockets you probably don’t want to start criticising my sewing. The same goes for the hem, if time was not an issue I’d sew every hem by hand, and blind hemming on the machine always seems disappointingly uneven no matter how much I practise but really – it’s fine until you’re 6 inches away so I’m trying to accept the fact that it’s not as perfect as hand stitching.
colette crepe-8.jpg

For the lining I followed this order of sewing (it should say sew the armholes with right sides together before turning though). It takes more fabric and a bit more work, especially as I’d be thrilled if all of my sewing pieces came pre-cut, but I like that linings mean no fussing with facings that won’t stay in place and that all the seams are enclosed. If I make this again I’d be tempted to repeat the lining, even if it wasn’t important to add weight to my garment fabric. Although I barely followed them because the lining changed my process quite a bit, the instructions seem nice and clear – the pattern is rated beginner and that seems fair. If you’re totally new to dress / garment sewing I’d also recommend getting a good reference book. Even if you’re not a beginner I’ve been finding the Colette Sewing Handbook a useful source of easy to understand advice, especially on alterations.

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Crepe is a wrap dress, but unlike most it wraps in the back. Personally I’ve never had good luck with wrap dresses fitting because they tend to gape in the front so this seemed like all of the comfort and simplicity benefits of a wrap without that issue. Excellent, you’ve got to love any garment that you can adjust before a feast! I was torn on whether to use a contrasting fabric for the ties, and honestly even after looking these photos over I’m still not sure. On the one hand I’m not sure what colour I’d use and I like the different directions of the pattern but on the other I’m worried that it looks to be busy and contrast would be neater. What do you think?  If you’ve ever spent more than a few minutes in Scotland you’ll know that it can be rather breezy, I’m seriously considering adding snaps at the bottom corner of the skirt overlap before the weather changes.

colette crepe-7.jpg

Most sewing (and knitting) patterns, especially those from the big pattern companies are graded for a B cup in each size. Colette patterns are a little curvier, graded for a C cup, which I’m not except on the rare occasion that a particular style fits better in a 30 band than a 32. Given my last post about bra sizing it’s clearly false to try and describe proportions so neatly by cup size. I like the approach given in this Vogue patterns guide, essentially divorcing the cup size of your bra with your cup size in terms of pattern proportions and I think it’s a helpful starting point for choosing a size and planning alterations. Every body is different however and there is no substitute for making a muslin for each pattern you want to make and learning what fitting issues you’re likely to have through experience. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a relatively fast, practical way to make a test garment for knitting. I suppose at least that it’s easier to rip out a badly fitting knit!

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Since my bust, waist and hip measurements are 3 consecutively larger sizes in this line I thought when I first started working with these patterns that I should make a size larger than my bust and reduce it there. However, that didn’t work out so well, the upper bodice was much too large. Recently I made Jasmineand for the muslin of that I cut a size 4 for the upper bodice, grading to a 6 at the waist and 8 at the bottom edge. Additionally I removed some length between shoulder and waist, spread in 3 sections between armsyce, above bust dart and below but didn’t alter the bust shaping in any other way. It worked out really well, and I’ve since finished a blouse from that pattern that I haven’t yet had a chance to photograph, so I basically repepated that on this dress. It fits well and it was satisfying not to have to make any alterations to my muslin from the paper. After wearing it all day though I’m wishing I’d left a little room in the armholes – possibly by widening the part that cuts in towards the centre of the chest (that will make sense if you’ve looked at the pattern pieces!). It’s not so much that it doesn’t fit as that I don’t like being able to feel the edge of fabric at my underarm – and it could allow for a little more motion. These issues though are probably entirely my fault for taking length from the armhole. Overall it’s one of my favourite garments I’ve sewn, sometimes simplicity is just perfect.

colette crepe-1.jpg

When I first saw this photo I wasn’t sure about it, it didn’t seem like a girly enough pose for the cute dress. But it grew on me until it became one of my favourites, I do love the idea of being strong and sure while wearing a cute dress I made with my own hands that fits my body and my life.

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After taking the photos I was so glad that I didn’t have to rush back inside and onto the computer. It’s an unfortunately rare occurrence that the knitting I’m doing for work is simple enough for reading but I just happened to have some in my bag and could spend a little longer in the park. The idyll was spoiled a little when a dog stole my yarn, but he was cute and getting it back more or less intact meant the whole thing was pretty hilarious. But watch out for cute dogs in the park they might be a knitting menace!


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