I was given several boxes and bags of old fabric to hunt through by an aunt, and keep whatever I liked. Amongst it I found a gorgeous peacock tones hexagon print. It sat in the cupboard waiting for the right project, as all fabrics do. And then I noticed Colette's range of patterns. I've bought three dress patterns - the Laurel, the Rooibos, and the Peony. It took quite a while to narrow it down to just those three!
The Laurel is a beginner's pattern and not having used Colette patterns before I thought it would be a good place to start, to get a feel for what changes I might need to make on the more advanced patterns.
As you can see I made a sleeveless version, partly because the fabric I used is quite stiff and wouldn't really have lent itself to sleeves, and partly because there wasn't enough fabric for them anyway.
The pattern is really easy to follow, and for any fiddly bits you may not have done before, there are links
to tutorials available on the Colette site such as putting in zips, making bias binding, and hand sewing slip stitches which are great (but time consuming) for catching hems and the final seam of bias binding.
After making a toile (muslin) to test the size and fitting I made a few adaptations:
1. Because the fabric was so thick it needed taking in quite a lot at the sides. If you use a light weight cloth as the pattern recommends, it will just fall and and flare just very slightly (true to the vintage 60s / 70s shift dress shape). If you ignore the instructions like me and use something thick, it hangs like a tent. So I took in the side seams and it became a much more fitted version than the original shift dress design. I read a lot of blogs about making the Laurel dress and it seems people often take in the sides to some degree but it's a matter of personal choice I think (and fabric).
2. The dresses are designed for a C cup and advise you that they have a snug fit. They are not wrong. I drafted the next size up (as suggested in the instructions), slimmed the bust dart down a bit, and there still isn't much wriggle room. (My next one will have another size up again and a yet more slimmed down dart). But that's a result of us all being a different figure, not that there's anything wrong with the pattern. It's not something I've seen many other Laurel makers comment on as being a common problem.
3. I made my own bias binding in the same fabric for the neckline but doing it with such thick fabric was very fiddly and not the smoothest or flattest effect. So for the armholes I used thin ready made stuff in a matching green. It felt like cheating but really no-one will ever know or care but me.
4. I did not make this adjustment but will when I use it next time: there is some gape at the back neckline. To correct this I'm looking at including either a back shoulder dart or a back neck dart. There are some really useful tutorials for this here, here and here. Quite a few Laurel makers also commented on back gape, though it wasn't clear if that was in the body of the back (in which case you could widen and / or lengthen the back darts?) or the neckline like mine.
Also I have read many blogs where the Laurel pattern fit people just great as it was, so don't be put off trying it. The best way to learn is just get stuck in!
I'm really pleased with how it turned out, and look forward to having an excuse to wear it soon.