by Roisin, one of our sew make believe members
I bought a sewing machine a few months ago with the intention of teaching myself how to sew. I adore dresses and the idea of being able to make my own was very appealing. I have made a few now, and by far the most successful ones have been the ones I have made in the past few weeks using patterns from an independent US company called Colette. Colette Patterns came to my attention through reading various sewing blogs, and I was smitten by the cute vintage-inspired designs and the interesting detailing on the patterns. Colette do ship to the UK but luckily I found that the fantastic UK based Sewbox stock Colette patterns. I ordered two: Ceylon and Rooibos.
I was very excited when the patterns themselves arrived because they are beautiful! Each pattern comes in a booklet, which makes the whole process of following the instructions much easier. Rather than having photographs of the finished garment on the outside of the envelope there are diagrams of how the garment is constructed. This proved to be very helpful during the making of both of the dresses.
I started with the Ceylon dress. I spent a while deciding what colour I’d like to make it in and eventually bought some lovely bottle green cotton from Fancy Silk Stores in Birmingham. I didn’t take measurements before I went, just guessing that two and a half metres would be enough. I was lucky that it was, but I’ll be more disciplined next time! As Colette is an American company their garments are measured in US sizes, so I had to take some more detailed measurements before I started cutting my fabric.
Another thing that is worth keeping in mind is that their patterns are drafted for the more buxom among us, so if you’re smaller than a C cup you’ll probably need to do a small bust adjustment to their patterns. This didn’t affect me, and it is really nice that their patterns are more generous in the bust – as ready to wear dresses are often very skimpy in this area!
It took ages to cut the pattern pieces out because there were so many, but once I got started on the sewing itself it really didn’t take very long. All of the blogs I had read about Colette patterns said that the instructions are easy to follow, and they really are. I am still very new to sewing and there were a few techniques that were new to me, such as stitching a curved seam and inserting sleeves. However, the instructions took me through everything step by step and the only difficulty I ended up having was with my machine, not the pattern. My sewing machine is lovely and it has a fully automatic buttonhole foot, but the instructions on how to use it are not helpful. This dress has 16 buttonholes, and it took me some time (and a lot of swearing at my machine) to figure out how to do them. Still, once I worked it out, it was really easy!
One of the nice touches in the pattern booklet is that there are suggestions for ways to customise the dress. One of them was to use fabric covered buttons, which I did, and I’ll follow some of the other suggestions when I make this up again. After my Ceylon success I was very keen to get going on the Rooibos. I bought some cotton poplin from Royal Fabrics in Leamington, and decided to make the facing out of some cotton I had left over from another project. Again, cutting the pieces out took some time but this dress came together even more quickly and I finished it up in a day, in good enough time to wear it to the Button Necklace workshop that evening!
I’ll definitely make some more Colette dresses in the near future. For one thing, it gives me a warm and happy feeling to support an independent pattern company, and it really helps that the patterns are so adorable! Sewing these dresses has been a real boost to my confidence as a novice seamstress. The simplicity of the instructions combined with the great design means that I have two really professional and finished looking dresses that I’m proud to have made.
Issue 21 of Sew Hip has an article all about the Colette patterns if anyone is interested in reading more.