Thursday, 19 September 2013

In Which I Am Seduced By A New Pattern

So there I was, happily sewing up all my planned summer garments. Broderie Anglaise picnic blanket skirt? Check! Origami Crane Violet? Check! Kelly Skirt - 3 times? Check, check check! When all of a sudden, browsing sewing blogs idly, a new pattern from Colette pops up, screaming 'make me!' (Obviously not their newest pattern, but this was during the summer, remember?)

That's right, the Hawthorn dress completely derailed my careful sewing schedule, and, as a result, I made one or two clumsy errors when making it :( That'll teach me to bite off more than I can chew. I'm not usually keen on shirt dresses, maybe because RTW offerings are usually a bit on the stiff side, but something about the Hawthorn seemed different. Maybe it was the way it was styled in the photos, or maybe it was the interesting and relatively delicate collar. I just knew it had to be mine!

All these photos are headless because I've just gotten over a really stubborn ear infection and it shows all over my pasty face!

I already had fabric in mind for the Hawthorn. I had added a beautiful orange cotton lawn to my eBay watch list a while back, waiting for the perfect project to warrant buying it. (I got it here, and have bought several other fabrics from this seller too, and they are all gorgeous!) But I was totally unprepared for how soft it was. It was the softest, most fluid fabric I've ever worked with, with a beautiful drape. I was excited to wear it. I was not excited to cut it. This sucker slipped and slid all over the place! I cut it out on our wooden living room floor and used every tin and jar we had in the house to weigh down the layers. And yet ...

The cutting was where I went wrong, I think. Without tooting my own horn too much, I did a pretty fine job on the construction of this dress. The cutting, not so much. So, the back panels of the skirt were shorter than the front, by about 3/4 inch. The button stand from the waist down ended up being too narrow on one side - I think because the skirt piece at the front was cut slightly too narrow. And the collar was too short and didn't meet up to the points on the bodice (I've heard this was a problem several sewists had, so I'm not sure if it was a case of misinterpreting the pattern?)

You can see here how the collar is about 1/2 inch too short on each side.
That being said, I was able to pull together a wearable dress from the midst of my mistakes, probably thanks to my careful construction of the rest of it. I wore it when I went for afternoon tea with my Nana in Belfast, on what turned out to be a surprisingly warm day, and I certainly appreciated the soft, lightweight fabric then! I decided to add the sleeves from the top version of the pattern to my dress, hoping to give it some more versatility into autumn, but I'm not entirely sure that they aren't too long. I was aiming for pretty and vintage, but I think I'm steering more towards frumpy and old-fashioned here. I may shorten them at a later date, when I haven't got so many works in progress.

The pattern instructions call for a hook and eye at the waist, and for some reason, I have never been able to install a hook and eye properly. They always outfox me. So I left it without, hoping that the belt I intended to wear would do the job (if ever a dress was screaming for a belt, this is it!) I had planned to attach belt loops, but ran out of steam and didn't bother. Well, after wearing the dress once, I realised I definitely needed some kind of closure at the waist, as it kept gaping unattractively, and my belt kept sliding up (I need to put an extra hole in it.) When I got back from Belfast, I simply added another button there. It's not the most elegant fix, but the aforementioned belt covers most of the ugliness.

I cut a 14 in the bodice, then graded from a 14 at the waist of the skirt to a 16 at the hips. This is a pretty regular adjustment for me. I also cut a 14 at the top of the sleeves and graded to an 18 at the bottom, as I like to have loose sleeves with plenty of comfortable movement. I also added in seam pockets, as I thought they would be useful, but I've since had a rethink on that. In this soft, drapey fabric, anything in the pockets causes unfortunate lumps at the hips (which, let's face it, is the last thing I need.) Also, they tend to ruin the flow of the side seams a bit. If I were to make it again in poplin, I might add pockets again, but I don't think they are a necessary as I had first thought.

What has it got in its pocketses? Nothing but handses, as it turns out!

Once again, all my seams are enclosed, even the sleeves and side seam pockets (I used this tutorial to French seam the pockets.) There are a few messy parts inside, mostly where the too narrow button stand on the skirt joins the bodice, but nothing fatal. I used delicate shell buttons, which I think were the right choice for this dress in this fabric. I'm planning on getting a white cotton slip to wear with it (I super mega loathe those awful 'anti-static' polyester monstrosities), so as I can get some use out of it during the autumn, as I really do love it. With boots and a cardi, it is definitely a summer make that turned out to be more autumnal than expected!

This make cost slightly more than my others, so let's take a look.

Pattern: £12.50
Fabric: 3m at £6.50 p/m - £19.50
Buttons: £4.20
Thread and interfacing: stash
Total: £36.20

Sheesh, that seems quite a lot!
Will I make it again? Probably. I think a sleeveless version of the dress might be in order when spring comes around again, and I'm toying with the idea of making the top. I'm not totally convinced by peplums - not only do I feel it will seriously date my wardrobe, but I don't think they're flattering on my pear shape figure. Perhaps if I mix and match the bodice pieces with the bodice of the Violet, I'd get more satisfying results.

Has anyone else made the Hawthorn? What do you think of the top version?


  1. I have the exact same fabric! Been meaning to make something suitable autumnal but haven't got round to it yet...Your Hawthorn looks great!

    1. Haha! That's the second time we've bought the same fabric - you got the origami crane patterned stuff too, right? We must have similar tastes in fabric and prints. Great minds!

  2. Emma, this is beautiful (and is another version that is making me come round to this pattern). I LOVE the fabric. The colour is lovely and are they birds or planes? Your collar looks fine. If you didn't point it out, it wouldn't be obvious that it's short, and the sleeve length is definitely more vintage than frumpy. I think you've done an excellent job. And the shape really suits you.

    1. They're planes! I thought it was a nice change to all the bird prints out there at the moment :)

  3. The drape looks great and love the subtle yet awesome print. You've made some really nice fall pieces (loved the wine Kelly skirt!). I've wanted to make the peplum but have the same fears as you... if I don't have it hit my waist and drape well, I fear it'll make my hips bigger than they are. Side question: where are your boots from? Very cute!

    1. Thanks! I got my boots online at simplybe. I always have to buy wide calf boots and they have a great range. I love getting new winter boots :)

  4. Your Hawthorn looks fab! I love the fabric.