Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The tweed ride dress (Colette Laurel)

It's bike month! Which is a very important month for me. I suppose you could say every month is bike month, but where I live May is when things really get happening and I love watching the tradition as it has grown in our community.

The tweed ride is one of my favorite events to participate in and each of the three years it has happened in SLO, I've made something new to wear. This year it was the Colette Laurel.

The fabric I chose were 2 items that I've had around for years. The underlining I used was a pretty blue supplex fabric that I bought at an employees only sale at Kokotat when I worked there 12 years ago. The main fabric was a (fairly) loosely woven fabric that I picked up in Portland several years ago, with no real plans for it. The manner in which I acquired it and my bad memory prevent me from being sure what it is made of. It smells a little like wool (hot, wet, kind of doggy) when I iron it, but it didn't shrink when I washed it, so I think it's just some cotton. Not sure.
So, I've just been bringing it out and admiring it every few months with no clear direction for how I wanted to use it, when suddenly everything collided into inspiration:
The Laurel contest + the tweed ride + the fabric = and I knew what I wanted to make.
I think a big part of the inspiration was the sleeve suggestion on the Laurel Pattern, I imagined it on the hem and I knew I had to make it.

I've yet to make a Colette Pattern with complete success. Don't get me wrong I LOVE every one of them, but the shape is somehow different than I am. The Laurel was a good choice for working out the differences between me and the pattern, mostly because it was so easy. I made 4 muslins, which sounds like a lot, but with only three pieces (or 5 with sleeves), they each came together really quickly.
And honestly, I didn't need to make that many. Probably because they were so easy, I allowed myself to get that picky. In the end I bet I could've made a straight up size 10, lowered the bust darts, and increased the back darts but instead I did this:
  1. Cut a size 6 and graded out to a 10 at the hips
  2. Cut a size 8 and graded in at the waist, graded out to a 10 at the hips
  3. Modifications above + lengthened the bodice by 1/2 inch midway between the neck line and the armpit, thus increasing the size of the armholes and lowering the bust darts. - Incidentally, this one fit nearly perfect and I will use it when I make a sleeveless or cap sleeve version in the future. but all that extra length across the chest was weird once i put the sleeves on.
  4. Mods from number 2 + removed the lengthening from number 3 + and lowered the bust dart to the size 12 dart and then let out the side seams by 1/4 inch at the armpit and the back seam by 1/4.
By that last one I was probably delirious. I actually couldn't tell after I put it together if I cut it out on the fold line or on the back seam line (I had traced the pattern onto tracing paper) so it's possible that if i had cut it out on the fold line but put a back seam in then I had actually made it too small, hence the adjustments.
Who knows!? I was completely insane by that point.

I also tried 2 different sleeve arrangements because I'm not really a fan of the gathers at the top of the sleeve. I settled on a combination of softening the sleeve curve and shortening the top of the sleeve, I still had to gather a little but not enough to really show.

What the fit boils down to for me is that I have to be able to ride my bike in it, and the three quarter length sleeves make it so it has to be a little wider across the back than it would be if it was sleeveless or short sleeved.

Bonus craft:
Last year I made some corduroy pants for the tweed ride but I only wore them for the ride. They were a little too big, the fabric too thin for me to want to wear regularly. So I made them into these shorts to wear under the dress!

The pattern is Simplicity 3850, which is a Built by Wendy "Built by You" pattern. I think it is out of print now. I made them in size 18, because that almost matched my hip size but was too large in the waist. I graded the waist to a 16 but I think I'll make some other changes to the pattern before I try again.
For reference the size 18 corresponds to the size 12 Colette Juniper pants which I really want to try soon.



  1. very pretty dress! I started reading your post and thought "she can't mean SLO as in San Luis Obispo!" I grew up and lived most of my life in Lompoc...now in the high desert of NM (past 12 years)...miss that ocean! :o) Again, very pretty dress! LOL

    1. Thank you very much! Yep, the ocean is still beautiful. It's a good place.