Colette Myrna and the Sewcialite Soiree

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Hi guys,

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything because I’ve had a full-on time away from my sewing lately.

In September, my son started school for the first time and that’s just a whole new world, not only for him but for my husband and I too. So many forms to fill in, letters coming home all the time, mum’s Whatsapp group to keep up with. It’s really much more than I imagined.

We also then in November and December decided to get the builders in, to re-configure our kitchen. Again, all your spare time is taken up with refining details about when the skirting boards are going to get done, or what colour paint do we want in the kitchen and things like that. It’s gone fairly smoothly, with a few little bumps in the road along the way, but it’s looking beautiful now.

So glad to be back in the kitchen and not using our little makeshift kitchen in the living room any more. We had to wash the dishes in the bathroom sink upstairs and had to have large containers of water in the living room to fill the kettle and use for things like cooking pasta. It was all fine but took so much time. Now we have a dishwasher and we don’t know ourselves any more! hehe

But sitting in amongst all this work were two really lovely events that I had, to keep me motivated. A friend’s wedding was one of them and then the Sewcialite Soiree was the other. This was a day of sewing ladies like myself all getting together for a lovely afternoon and evening of just getting to know each other better, held in my very own city of Bristol, UK. It was arranged by my very good friend Sarah from Like Sew Amazing, Jen from Gingerellaj on Instagram, who I spent time getting to know at the Sewing Weekender in August, and the fabulous Stitch Sisters, Rachel and Nikki. It was a chance, for the first time, for Bristol local ladies to get together and learn about who also sews in our area, but also for people from further afield to come and see Bristol and to put the city on the sewing map a little bit.

Firstly afternoon tea was held during the day, in case anyone couldn’t make it to the evening do. This was a chance to eat lots of lovely cakes, drink tea and chat about sewing. I mean. Does it get any better than that?

Then in the evening, we had a function room all to ourselves and we all had a chance to show off a lovely outfit that we’d made and have a good ole boogie. Sarah’s partner Alex is a singer-songwriter of considerable talent and he spent the evening DJing and also singing himself. The dancefloor was always occupied!

I got chance to spend some time with ladies I’ve already met at the Weekender and other events, such as the lovely Charlotte from English Girl At Home (who was enjoying not being the organiser for a change!) but also meeting new ladies who I didn’t already follow, or who I’ve only stayed in touch with a bit on Instagram. So at the time of getting our tickets, a lady from Scotland called Agnes reached out and said she was coming down on her own and might not know anybody. There she was and we had a great laugh. Also with her was Lucy from geetpetite22 on Insta. We sat together at the afternoon tea and hit it off straight away. Then of course, there were ladies like Joy from pinkcoatclub, who is just a fabulous energizer bunny who lights up any room, and I finally got the chance to spend a bit of quality time with Kealy from voiceofacreative. I had been hoping to catch up with her at Sew_Brum but with everything that was going on at the time, I didn’t go. I was really gutted that I had to make the decision, but sometimes some things just have to give, don’t they? I’ve also not been to choir much this term. New year, new start, less to do at home with kitchens and stuff, so here’s hoping for more time to enjoy life and my hobbies.

So onto the main event then, which is what I wore. For my friend’s wedding, I knew I wanted to make a Colette Myrna. I downloaded the pdf as soon as it first came out. I loved the shape of it as soon as I saw it. I wasn’t sure if it was going to suit my shape. But it actually flatters me very well.

I bought the hat first, from Joanna Violet Millinery on Etsy. I asked her to also send me a swatch of the fabric that I could take around shops with me and she kindly agreed. I didn’t have much luck in the bricks and mortar shops near me, so I sent off for 10 different swatches from different online fabric stores. Some swatches were lovely but not right for this project. But one came out on top and proved to be perfect.

The Ava hat from Joanna Violet Millinery

Construction of the Myrna looked daunting because it called for making 4 metres of continuous bias binding. I bought a few gadgets to give this my best try. Some varying sized bias binding maker tools and I also hunted around and found a couple of different methods written about in blogs at good ole Closet Case.

I haven’t been able to find the blogs again, so can’t link them, but they had two methods, the main bias binding method that lots of people follow and then a variation that helped you get it continuous. I tried the latter method first but it was troublesome for the fabric I was using. I was using a twill crepe from Minerva crafts (really touchably soft and opaque too – perfect!).

If you were working with cotton, then it irons immediately and you’re guaranteed for that crease to stay. With crepe … not so much… You have to find a sweet spot with your iron between having it hot enough to make it even crease at all, but not SO hot that the fabric shrivels up and melts! If you don’t get that fold, then it all just pops out the other end and lies flat again! I had a piece of the fabric to test the iron on each time, to check I wasn’t going to melt the main garment!

The other thing I found with the continuous method was that it gave me some instances where two seams met at a right angle and for a nearly two inch stretch, it would be lots of extra fabric behind the seam allowances. These did NOT want to fold under the iron at all!

So when I went to the classic method, everything was lying in one direction so I didn’t get any seams that were too bulky. Great – worked beautifully after that. Fast forward to when I needed to use this binding though and I had a good metre and a half left over. To say I wasn’t impressed, after all that effort, was an understatement!

Then I went to cut out my fabric and again I was told I would need roughly 4 metres. This is a picture of the pattern pieces laid out. There is even a gap amongst the pieces, as two of the skirt panels are cut four times instead of the usual two. Look at how much leftover fabric there is! Come on Colette, really? There was almost enough to make two dresses. I checked and re-checked the fabric requirements thinking maybe I was looking at the maxi length version, but no. This was for the knee length.

All of this said, once I got into construction proper, life was good. I really enjoyed putting this together. I decided that due to the fabric being heralded as Queen Fray from the planet Fray, that I would do french seams for as many seams as I could. I worried that at times, I was making them a bit bulky and that it would show through when ironing/wearing it. Especially around the fitted bodice part around my middle. But I needn’t have worried. Once it was made and I was wearing it, I forgot all my concerns. I do think I probably took a bit too much into the french seams at times but I love doing them so I’ll keep working on making them finer in the future.

The upside to crepe is that doing gathers and basting stitches, that you pull out later, just works so smoothly, as the thread just slips through when you want it to.

This dress was the first time I got to properly use the hemming attachment on Lena, my dress-form. The last skirt I made was the Deer and Doe Fumeterre and I had a go at using it. But the skirt was so long I had to put Lena up on books and it was a bit awkward. So I only partly used it. This time I used the attachment to pin around the skirt, while Lena was on the bed and I was sat on the floor, so that I was eye level with the hem. I then put the dress on with the pins in to check myself. Lena can’t really replicate my imperfect posture – she’s lovely and upright – so I wanted a proper visual check too. What I did was leant my phone up on some books a few inches from the ground, at the level of where the skirt finished, and filmed a video of me slowly turning around in it. Just one unpinned bit and an area near the front that was slightly longer. Quick and easy and not relying on anyone else to be there. Hubby was around but I just like to use my own discerning eye for this.

Both the Fumeterre skirt and this dress look really well aligned when I wear it.

And that’s it – a truly beautiful vintage dress. It took me a long time to do, around a month from starting the bias binding to finally hemming her, simply because I was snatching small snippets of time each week. An hour here and there when I could. But it was worth going slowly, not panicking and getting it right.

The photo in front of the Mercure Hotel wall mural was at the Sewcialite Soiree and then the photo including the hat was at my friend’s wedding. It’s definitely love! ❤️❤️