“Look at the lovely Japanese fabric I bought!”
“Why is it covered in wifi symbols?”
“It’s not! This is a traditional Japanese pattern, it looks like waves.”
“Radio waves? From the wifi?”
Last year I made a muslin of the Colette Hawthorn dress from Swedish Tracing Paper and it was a complete disaster. It didn’t fit at all and I had no idea why, so my Hawthorn pattern was cast into the back of my pattern stash never to be seen again. However, a combination of finding the perfect fabric for it at the Knitting and Stitching Show, being more confident at pattern alteration and having a few days free over Easter to devote to it persuaded me to try again. Look how she turned out!
The Pattern: Colette Hawthorn Dress
Described by Colette as a ‘curve-hugging classic that combines gamine styling with a flattering and feminine fit’, the Hawthorn dress has been on my radar for quite a while. I’m a sucker for a shirt dress and the flat collar gives it a slight twist which I think elevates it above some of the other offerings. I have quite a few patterns with gathered skirts, so I thought a smooth quarter circle skirt would make a nice change.
Part of the reason my last muslin was so off last time is that I am wildly across sizes on the pattern. My overbust is size 8, but I’m size 14 at the waist and hips. So, I traced out a size 8 bodice front and back onto parcel paper. I then performed a 1 inch full bust adjustment (FBA), adding in a bust dart. I made the waist dart smaller than the FBA called for in order to increase the waist size, shortened both the front and the back bodice pieces and added in a little width to both bodice pieces at the side seam. I sewed this up into a swedish tracing paper muslin and was very pleased with the fit. The only issue I had was that the armholes were too high up under my arms, so I cut this about an inch lower on the muslin and transferred this change back to the pattern. I then measured around the new armhole with a measuring tape and compared this to the different sleeve sizes and decided size 12 fit it best. So I ended up with a heavily modified size 8 bodice, size 12 sleeves and size 14 skirt. If you’re wildly off the pattern sizes and you aren’t happy to do a lot of alterations I would approach the Hawthorn dress with caution! That said, the fit has come out beautifully, so it was definitely worth the extra effort and I’m very pleased.
I found the construction fairly simple, having done collars and sleeves before. I opted to take the short sleeve from the top version and add it to the version 2 dress so that it would be nice and cool in the summer. The muslin had tight sleeves, so I let out a bit of the seam allowance in the final sleeve, which probably wasn’t necessary and has left them a bit boxy but I think it looks fine. I also added in-seam pockets and chopped a few inches off the skirt before hemming. This isn’t a quick and dirty pattern by any means – including all the pattern alterations and cutting out the fabric this took me the best part of three days, but I really enjoyed every minute of it. The instructions were clear and helpful throughout.
The main fabric is a gorgeous Japanese ‘dobby weave’ cotton, which I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show from the Japan Crafts stall, which was overflowing with tempting prints. The fabric somehow manages to be soft to the touch with a gentle drape, but also has an almost rough texture.
For the pockets I used a very cute Japanese cotton kindly gifted by my parents’ Japanese lodger (ありがとう ございます！). Look!! I have cats in my pocket 😀 The fabric actually came with a label on it that read ‘Kawaii!!!’. Anyway, I digress.
The final fabric is a koi carp print from my stash to make the inside look a bit more jazzy.
These buttons were also from the Knitting and Stitching Show, though I can’t remember the stall unfortunately. I think they’re absolutely gorgeous! So unusual. I actually bought them before the fabric and didn’t realise until I got home how lovely they looked together. Unfortunately this also meant that I didn’t really buy enough because I had no project in mind, which resulted in the buttons being further apart than they should have been on the dress.
What Needs Changing?
This button spacing has led to the main issue with this dress – there’s some gaping at the bust where there should be a button! This weekend I sewed on a hook and eye which is pretty much invisible and just keeps the fabric closed; it looks much better and makes me feel more secure. The only other issues were some spots where the fabric pleated a little on the skirt and armholes, but I think I’m the only person who will notice, so I’m not too worried. Perhaps the skirt should have been a size down to fit the waist better?
The Verdict (In Which I Gush Unreservedly)
I am in love with this dress!! I have never managed to achieve such a perfect fit on a bodice before, so I am very chuffed. I owe a lot of this to the Craftsy course I took last summer, Sew the Perfect Fit, which I would highly recommend (affiliate link, but I genuinely think it’s great) – you can see my blog post about it here. In short, I’ll be wearing my Hawthorn dress a lot and I’ll be making a lot more of them! I can’t wait to try the three quarter length sleeves with the cuffs.