A Well-Loved Denim Laurel

I find myself drawn back to denim over and over. Is it something in my distant past, I wonder? Too much of my adolescence spent dreaming of Jon Bon Jovi? Either way, I think that you just can’t beat a classic shape in a classic fabric. I made this dress almost exactly a year ago, and at this time of year I find myself wearing it week-in, week-out. The Laurel by Colette Patterns was my first paper indie pattern and was a Christmas gift last year from my craft-loving sister-in-law. I fell in love with the luscious packaging and the detailed instructions, and decided to try my hand at a simple denim dress.

Denim LaurelI diligently traced the pattern,  cut out a muslin and stitched up my first version in a US size 8. I wasn’t entirely convinced that the shift dress style was flattering to the more curvy figure. I mean, it’s kind of synonymous with the 1960s, chic, slender, boyish look. Not something that really springs to mind when I think about defining my style. I decided to have a crack at a simple pattern modification and took a few inches from the side seams from hip to hem. I did the same on my later Laurel, and I wonder in both cases if this made the dress pull a little across the stomach. It works better on this denim version as I foolishly took rather too many inches off the hem when cutting out the pattern to conserve fabric for my Colette Beignet skirt. So I think the rather short length and perkiness of the denim helps this version to sit better than the Liberty Laurel. I made bias binding for the neckline and sleeves from a vintage-y ditsy blue floral cotton bought during my quilting years from a Walmart in Texas!

Denim LaurelNow I’m a bit more confident with trouble-shooting fit issues, I think I’d be tempted to lower the bust darts by an inch. Gosh, even writing that down shows how far my skills have improved in a year. There’s no doubt that the Laurel is a versatile number. I’ve tried out the shirt version, which I also love, and will no doubt return to this dress version when I find some perfect spring-weight printed cotton. Wait……! I think I’ve got just the thing… cerise floral African wax from my last trip to Goldhawk Rd….

Hello Emery. I love you!

 

Emery Dress

Dear reader, I truly believe I’ve found ‘The One’!

Never in my wildest sewing dreams (and there have been some…!) did I ever think I would find a pattern that could result in a dress love-affair as perfect as this.

Emery Dress

It’s everything I wanted in a dress – feminine, figure flattering, yet modern and unfussy. The fabric is to die for: buttery, soft, and with a delicious weight to it. It’s a denim-linen mix from The Little Fabric Store – a gorgeous sewing haven on a cobbled lane in Louth. Thank goodness I bought big – there’s another autumn’s dress-worth left over.

In a short time, we’ve been through a lot together, Emery and I. As promised, I followed the FBA tutorial that was part of the Emery Sewalong. This was by far the best and most detailed tutorial I have found, with each step clearly explained. And it worked! FBA – flippin’ brilliant achievement!

Emery FBA

Emery FBA – white paper showing where room was added

I began with a size 8 pattern piece (US sizes, that is) and added 3cm. No sooner said than done, the ‘ladies’ found themselves in the comfort to which they deserve. However, the waist was too narrow so I graded up a size from the bust dart down to the waist and that did the trick. I seriously expected to end up with a heap of ill-fitting bodices on the road to perfection, but managed it in one, with a bit of unpicking and re-pinning.

Emery toile

Well the bust fits…

But as you can see, although it fitted well on the bust and waist, it was still too baggy around the ribs. So I went up a size at the bust and waist, and still had to take it in at the side seams. Confused? I still am! I’ve ended up with a fit that I’m happy with, but I wonder whether next time to start with a size 10 and see if it requires less fitting. Any thoughts?

Emery Dress

I didn’t want to hinder the drape of this gorgeous fabric so I omitted a lining, instead used bias binding on the waist seam for tidiness and to add strength. I finished the neckline with self-drafted facings.

It’s been a rollercoaster of a love affair – the highs of mastering an alteration, the lows of finding that it’s still not as perfect as I’d hope. Like any developing relationship there’s always a few issues to iron out. I’ve got a slight gape at the back of the neckline which I’ve found on other dresses I’ve made. I’m hoping to tackle it on the next version. But for now, I’m more than thrilled!

 

A Denim Beignet

Of all the items I’ve made of late, my Beignet skirt by Colette Patterns makes me the proudest. Despite the disasters that befell it, I think it looks really quite professional. But I’m not sure I love it! I mean, I love how it looks, but I’m not sure I love how it looks on me. You see, I’m not really a skirt person, yet something about the flattering lines of this skirt seduced me. I was mostly inspired by this gorgeous denim number by Tassadit of Rue des Renards.

A Denim Beignet

I had a metre or so denim left over from a Colette Laurel dress (unblogged, as yet) so this seemed like a good use for it. There’s something so satisfying about sewing in denim: It’s so well-behaved.

I have to confess that I’ve had this pattern for a few months but, as I’d been getting my quick fix from sewing garments in stretch fabrics, I was a little daunted by it. I was worried that the final skirt might not be very flattering due to the high waist (and my post-baby lack of one), and I couldn’t face making a toile of all seven panels and twelve button holes!

So I planned to fit it as I sewed, and it kind of worked. It feels a little wider around the hem than the pencil fit it’s supposed to be, but if I’d altered it too much it would have lost the style-lines created by the close fitting high waist.

 

A Denim Beignet

I used topstitch thread as decorative finish and to strengthen the seams and I found the buttons on my first visit to MacCulloch & Wallis, just off Oxford Street. What a treasure trove! I lined the skirt with a polka dot cotton lawn, and used denim for the facings to help it keep its shape. I omitted the pockets as in-seam pockets tend to add bulk where you least want it. I’ve also not added the belt hoops as it looked a little too cluttered with a belt on too. Do you think it needs them?

So where did it all go wrong? Well, I accidentally snipped through the lining when I was trimming seams and had to fix it with bondaweb. Then I wasn’t sure how the length would suit me, so I had to wait until it was finished to decide to shorten it to above the knee, by which time the lining was too long and needed taking up too. That’s why the buttons go right down to the hem! All of this could have been avoided if I’d used the shorten/lengthen line on the pattern before I cut the fabric. Hmmm, the pitfalls of not being able to try before you buy!

Buttons from MacCulloch & Wallis

Buttons from MacCulloch & Wallis

Overall, it’s taken me three weeks from pattern cutting to finishing. It’s probably the most complex garment I’ve made so far, and a testament to finding fifteen minutes here and there to sew the next stage. I’m ridiculously proud of it, but I only hope I’ll wear it as much as it deserves.