Colette patterns seem to be the biggest deal in the indie pattern world, and so I feel a bit out of touch to admit this is my first – and very happily successful – foray into a new branch of the sewing community. Courtesy of a Seamwork magazine subscription which I won from the “Sewing the Scene” Challenge last year, I have had the availability to now try out independent pattern companies and see what they are all about. This year’s Independence Day celebrating gave me the reason to whip up a dress from a Colette pattern and finally dive right in!
FABRIC: a soft 100% cotton twill in blue and white stripes, remotely similar to ticking, with a chain stitched red border design along one selvedge. This fabric was a JoAnn exclusive release.
PATTERN: Colette “Hazel” sundress, no. 1021
NOTIONS: One zipper, lots of thread, and a little interfacing
TIME TO COMPLETE: This dress was made in about 8 to 10 hours and finished on July 4, 2019.
TOTAL COST: The fabric was rather pricey, even with a discount – which I why I made things work on only two yards. The dress cost me just under $30.
Sarai Mitnick, the founder and Creative Director of Colette Media, started Colette Patterns in 2009 because she liked vintage patterns but found them difficult for beginners to work with. This particular pattern has a lovely modern hint of mid-century vintage, which I played up through the fabric I used. I was inspired by the occasional extant piece of 1950s clothing which has Scandinavian-style folk embroidery. Also known as Swedish weaving or “Huck”, the distinctive red and blue heavy embroidery – in patterns of the well-known eight pointed star or the more floral motifs of the more Germanic people – was extremely popular in the 30’s, tapering off through the 40’s. Due to the thickness of the huck material, this embroidery style was primarily done on kitchen towels and linens, but it is a weaving style in which the thread never appears on the back, making it perfect for garments too, once decorative dish cloths began to be replaced by the mechanical dishwasher.
I realized after my dress was done that in my efforts to make a patriotically red, white, and blue American dress, I channeled a vintage Scandinavian-inspired style. But, hey – we are a country of immigrants, a nation merged by our diversity and desire for independence, so I don’t think the irony is out of place. After all, I was appropriately sewing with an indie pattern for an Independence Day celebration, but I was wearing a vintage “West Germany” necklace and vintage-inspired flats from the Australian “Charlie Stone” shoes. Freedom is universal.
I keep seeing the phrase “patterns that teach” associated with Colette patterns, and so I saw this as a nice base pattern – something to add to and customize to one’s own level of skill or preference. Along that line, I tweaked the details slightly to add in a fully lined the bodice and also try out a new method of pleating. Overall, though, I found the pattern to have great shaping and curving not seen in the “Big 4” patterns, clear directions, and sizing that runs on the small side. It was just enough of a challenge yet not impossible to make for as amazing as it looks. I think it was nicer than the “Big 4” patterns and yet not as good as Burda Style, in my opinion. I’m glad I didn’t have to pay full price and yet I don’t think I would have felt that I overpaid if I had. I’m not used to Colette patterns but I do like them enough to start picking out my next one!
The big things this pattern has going for it is the front bodice, the dramatic way it makes the most of a border print or a striped fabric (or both combined, in my case!), and the way I can still wear a normal bra under it. So many sundresses need some special lingerie or something sewn in to support a woman’s assets, and this one is such an appreciated, effortless piece the way its wide straps and their placement worked out perfectly for me right where the pattern markings were. When you can follow a sundress pattern’s strap markings to the letter and it works out well, I’m impressed.
I went up a size in this pattern (because it’s better to be safe than sorry) and tailored it in slightly for a perfect fit. As I mentioned above, I also added a full bodice lining to keep the fabric from being see-through and cover up most all the seams. The facing pieces for the neckline were cut instead as the interfacing ironed down to the inner edges. About 5 inches were added to the original length of the pattern, and I also cut the skirt as one whole seamless piece, eliminating the side seams. I know this left out the opportunity for side pockets (unless I do a welt or patch style) but that’s okay – I decided to make this the day before the 4th of July, so I just wanted simplicity. I widened the straps by ¼ inch and used an exposed zipper rather than an invisible one as called for. Finally, I made the whole dress come together using only 2 yards. For my first time trying out a new pattern company, I sure wasn’t afraid to go rogue on many details!
My biggest source of pride in this dress is actually the waist pleats. The pattern called for a simple overall gathered waist, but why go conventional when there are other more complex possibilities yet to be attempted?! I kept the center front and center back of the skirt flat because I think that is nicer over the tummy and bootie, but the rest of the skirt was knife pleated at every large stripe. Each large stripe was folded over about ¼ inch deep to meet the nearest small stripe. This process took me just over an hour in itself, mostly because I did one side wrong at first, but the finished look makes every minute worth it. It is detailing like this that makes me and others so love vintage styles besides keeping past fashion highly sought after enough to be going up in value. If I can bring a taste of that into my own sewing than my time is well spent.
I have seen several examples in their mailer leaflets (at right is one) of how JoAnn Fabrics thought of using this fabric and they were throwing me off at first. I didn’t like their examples enough to try but I also had the hardest time deciding on using this Colette pattern for it…and I’m so glad went for it! This dress really made me feel comfy yet festive, bright without being flashy, and proud of the quick work I put into it. I do have a good chunk of the dress’ fabric leftover and I’m debating now between a purse or a little bolero to make out of it. Decisions are the most fun, inventive, yet stressful part of home sewing. Whatever I make, it’ll probably be much like the dress, though, in the way it was a happy experiment and a sudden ‘go-for-it’ type of decision. Here’s to fun in the sun and more creative sewing!