Warning – this blog post is a cautionary tale of when fabric refuses to bend to your will. Read on….if you dare.
When Sara emailed me about being a part of the Dress up Party series I thought, “Great! Having a deadline is just the kick in the butt I need to tackle a semi-challenging project.” What was that semi-challenge project you might ask? It was making a Colette Hawthorn. Now I hear you thinking, “Heather, that’s not a challenging pattern. Except for maybe the million buttonholes and you can get your Frog assistant to do those.” Right you are, except for getting Frog to do the buttonholes. He was curiously out of town during that part of the project. No the challenge wasn’t in sewing the pattern, or even fitting the pattern, it was in tweaking the design to suit me.
You see I was never going to sew a Hawthorn. When it released I took one look at it and thought, “Nope, not for me. That collar would be a disaster on my body.” Then a bunch of my sewing friends made this pattern and they All Looked Amazing in it. Really all of them. Could I have been wrong about Hawthorn? I do like a shirt dresses after all, maybe my collar prejudices should be set aside in favor of trying new things. So I bought the pattern and crossed my fingers that it would work out.
After subjecting the pattern to my standard fitting adjustments, I muslined up the bodice and tried it on. Excited to see how “amazing” it would look, I ran upstairs to the full length mirror. Ta Da! I look……like a full grown woman trying to wear her 8 year old’s dress. Damn it, why do I always have to be right. Just once I’d like a delicate collar make me look elegant. Instead they make me look like I have a side hobby in Japanese porn. “OK, OK,” I though, “Just calm down. You have drafting skills to fix this. You just need to change the collar shape and drop the neckline a bit.” Yes, yes, I can do this! All I need is drafting supplies, a truck load of chocolate, and frog to smack me on the head when I get distracted. So we started playing with the pattern and three muslins later the collar looked like it would work. Hooray, now it’s finally time to cut out the real dress and have some fun with this project! I pulled some fabric from the stash, a purple eyelet with large embroidered flowers and Frog agreed that it was a fine choice. We had no idea that it had other ideas about being sewn up.
In hindsight cotton eyelet probably isn’t the best fabric choice for a pattern with a collar. I probably should have left it in the stash for a collarless dress and used one of my 20 pieces of cotton sateen. Instead I blithely cut out the dress sure that the hard part of the process was over. And things did go well at the start. The bodice pieces sewed together easily and the change to the skirt length looked great. It was when I started working on the collar that everything went sideways. Between underlining, fusing and sewing, the collar took on a ripply/bulky look that was the epitome of “Becky Home-Ecky” I kept thinking, “It just needs to be graded and pressed. All that will press out. It will be fine. FINE.” So I pressed and pressed, put the whole dress together and pressed some more. I pressed so much that the whole room heated up and I had to de-petticoat myself. Surely that pesky collar was finally up to my sewing standards now. Nope. If anything it looked worse than before. Finally I admitted to myself that the whole collar had to be removed and with a heavy heart got out the seam ripper. I might have utter a few colorful metaphors when dropping it into the trash can.
Collar issue finally “resolved” I went on to do some on the fly changes to the neckline shape. Around this time I noticed that the bodice seemed be bigger than before. Well this is odd, after 3 muslins I was pretty sure the bodice fit great. Frog thought we should just chalk it up to fabrics behaving differently and move on. He had a point and since the armholes weren’t finished making a fitting adjustment was easy. I took in the entire bodice 3/8″ and once again the bodice fit well. After that change we pushed through to the end, drafting up a lining, sewing it in and then tackling all the buttonholes. (Side note -This was a total nightmare with eyelet texture screwing with my otherwise trusty Bernina buttonhole foot.) Now that that dress was pretty much all done I tried it on again and Surprise!…..the bodice was too big again. WHAT? Froggie and I looked at each other in horror….is this fabric growing every time I put it on? Yep, I’m about 99% sure this eyelet gets slightly bigger with every wear. Unless the lining reins the “enlarging” then the dress will surely resemble a small camping tent by the end of the summer. Sounds like my son will be able to go camping in the backyard after all. Blergh.
Hawthorn from Colette
Both fabrics were from my stash
Cotton eyelet as the main fabric.
Cotton voile for the lining.
1. Made standard 1/2″ forward shoulder adjustment.
2. Increased upper back width by 1/2″ and added dart to shoulder.
3. Shortened waist dart 1 3/4″.
4. Lengthened skirt 4″.
– It got glossed over in the main body of my review, but I’ve fully lined the dress. To draft the lining I used most of Jen’s jacket lining tutorial. However the I did not add any extra width in the armhole area or lengthen the lining. Instead I shortened the lining hem so that it would hit about 1 1/4″ inches above the self hem.
– In hindsight an all-in-one facing around the armholes would look better than being finished with a different colored lining.
– The buttons didn’t photograph well. They are a light lavender and are the best thing about this dress.
– In all these photographs I’m wearing a petticoat under the dress. Hawthorn’s skirt sweep fits one without any trouble.
– My neckline modification is very simple change to the pattern. From the button band area measure down 1″. Mark a line 1″ into the pattern. Then connect the edge of this line to the circle area of the neckline. Cut this area away and then make the same change to the facing.
“I like the texture. What kind of flower is that?” – Then I found that he’d already spent 5 minutes on google images trying to match the fabric to a purple flower pictures.
My Final Thoughts
You can probably tell that this was what one might term “a traumatizing project.” I’m giving this dress the stink eye right now. Stupid fabric, we were supposed to be friends. I’m also asking myself this question, “If the fabric had been a docile sateen would I consider this a successful modified Hawthorn?” Hmm I’m not sure. Without a collar it’s a rather bland garment. My gut says that I should have gone with my original reaction to the pattern and just enjoyed looking at it on other people. Oh well, sometime’s you get the bear and sometimes the bear is a grumpy eyelet that just wants to be a tent. Froggie says cheer up, we’ll have the most fashionable tent ever. Now pass the s’mores.