Some while ago I saw the Laurel Dress by Colette Patterns made up in chambray in The Eternal Maker and decided it was exactly what I needed. I already had the fabric – bought to make a jacket, then transferred to the possible pile for a Brumby Skirt but still sitting on the shelf. I chose Version 2 with pockets (always pockets for me if there’s the option!).
My intention was make the dress to take away on holiday but I ran out of time and left for the Cotswolds with it looking like this. I knew I was being too ambitious (I only started it the day before we left and I still had washing/ironing/packing to do).
At this point I was most concerned that the armscyes seemed worryingly small and that there was an annoying crease down the centre front which was already there when I bought the fabric. I’d hoped it might wash/press out but of course it hasn’t.
I was also concerned that, despite of the small arm holes, I had cut the dress too large even though I measured myself properly (I hate doing that!) and picked the corresponding size. I decided to carry on regardless. I think this must be a hangover from my childhood when I was always told that I would grow into things – but I never did! I remember heading off for my first day at secondary school wearing a gaberdine raincoat which nearly reached the ground. It still did at the end of the fifth form and I was also wearing the same blazer. The only reason I got replacement skirts/shirts/jumpers was because they wore out and I’m pretty sure I had the same hockey/netball culottes right the way through – although that was probably partly because I did everything I could to avoid wearing them. Whoever thought culottes made from something resembling hessian were a good idea for running up and down a hockey pitch in the freezing cold?
Back to the Laurel. I know from reading other people’s experiences that inserting the sleeves can be a bit of an issue but I didn’t find this too much of a problem, although there was a moment when I thought perhaps I was putting them in back to front – my notch cutting was rather poorly executed! I was very lazy and only used one row of gathering stitches on the second sleeve (instead of the recommended three) and that one was a bit more tricky so I should have done as I was told. There is no noticeable puckering which I’m pleased about and once the sleeves were in I realised the fit round the arms was more than generous so I’d worried unnecessarily.
I followed the sewing tip in the instructions to use a cardboard template for the patch pockets and this made all the difference. I’d already read about this method on Linda’s blog, Remake, Remodel, Recycle, so I knew it was the right thing to do because everything she does turns out so well!
Onto the neck and sleeve binding. I didn’t have enough fabric to make my own bias binding and I don’t like the stiff feel of most ready-made bindings. I decided to splash out on this lovely Liberty version from Clothkits but once I started to sew it in I decided that perhaps it wasn’t the look I wanted and maybe I should just turn it inside. Having looked online this seems to be what some other sewers have done. Since then the binding has been in and out like the proverbial fiddler’s elbow with the final decision being IN. On reflection I think a more robust binding would have worked better with the chambray and I would prefer the neckline a bit higher which would be achieved with the binding on show. I think the faffing about has also stretched the neckline slightly which hasn’t helped.
I’d never done double darts before but the ones in the back worked perfectly first time and give a lovely shape. I was a bit nervous about snipping the centre of this dart because the fabric does fray quite easily. I had a bottle of Fray Check which I’d never used so decided to give this a try. My first attempt to snip the end of the nozzle off was unsuccessful, the second resulted in a opening that was far too large and consequently a bit of a mess on the fabric. Thankfully it all dried out OK and although the fabric does feel a bit crispy in that area it will probably improve with washing.
I really like the length of the sleeves, although they could be lengthened for a more wintery version and, although I say it myself, the concealed zip insertion was almost perfect. Well, the best I’ve even done anyway and it was a long zip with more margin for error!
The fabric looks different colours in these pictures – they were taken in different lights. The actual colour is somewhere between the two. The thread in the photo is Gutermann’s jeans thread using ‘bi-colour optics’ whatever they might be. It really does blend in well so I decided to stitch the hem by machine to save time. I should have ironed the dress before putting it on Doris – and I’m not sure it is really her style!
When I tried the dress on before pinning up the hem it did feel slightly frumpy so I decided to take it up quite substantially. I’m wearing it to work today – it works with a scarf and a cardigan – two important requirements for me as my office has a 1960s heating system which is somewhat variable. I’d forgotten how much I like wearing dresses – so much quicker to get ready in the morning! I’m also wearing some fancy cable knit tights which you can’t really see in the photograph. I bought them in an independent department store in Malvern called Brays while I was away. This is a proper old-fashioned shop where they still write out receipts on a machine with a pull down handle and all the lingerie is stored in those gorgeous glass fronted units.
I wrote this post before coming to work. It is now lunchtime and after a morning’s wear I’m even happier. The dress is so comfortable I’m not sure I will go down to the next size! I will just make a slight adjustment to the shoulder which is marginally too wide and I’ll sort out the neckline so it is more fitted. Apart from the official pattern variations I can see lots of potential for personalising this dress – changes to the pocket, embellishment etc. so I’m very glad to have tried it. I’m wondering if it might just work as a party frock with this fabric – a printed silk which I got for £4 a metre. I’ve already used a corner of it for a couple of zipped purses but there’s plenty left.