My Colette Peony dress in tartan felt very appropriate for taking tea in Bath

The first item of clothing I ever made was an a-line skirt from Burda, sometime in 2005. This was the summer I was given a sewing machine by a friend’s mum, rescued from the rubbish tip at school. It was a fairly basic Janome, but it did as asked (with a little coaxing), and had the advantage of being the same model that I learned on. Since that summer I’ve gradually increased in confidence around making clothes, though it’s still rather trial and error. One day I’ll get around to having some lessons in pattern alteration and even cutting – until then, it’s all about improvisation and crossing my fingers!

I can’t remember when I first stumbled across Colette Patterns, but it was truly love at first sight. These patterns are a dream to make, packaged beautifully and very easy to understand. Their slightly retro edge really appeals to my sensibilities and the clean lines are very flattering.

The first Colette pattern I bought was Rooibus, made initially in a wonderful strawberry print fabric (below left) given to me by a lovely friend, Caz, as a birthday present. This is my go-to dress for any occasion, and it gets a lot of compliments.

However, it is a little loose, so I then made another version a size smaller (um, and bought a fresh pattern to do so, as I am too lazy to trace pattern pieces and prefer to just cut them straight out – fine if you don’t need to make multiple sizes, expensive if you do!). This is made from Anna Marie Horner fabric (above right), purchased with a voucher present from ace friend Lauren. Fabric gifts really are the best thing ever.

One thing I have noticed about these patterns is that I tend to come up a size smaller than the sizing charts indicate. However, I do like my clothes to be closely fitted (anything too baggy and I just look huge).

Top sewing tip 1#: Measure, measure, measure! And think about what kind of a fit you’re looking for in your garment. Really you should make a muslin first (this is a mock-up of your garment in a fabric you don’t mind wasting), but my impatience/lack of time usually means that I don’t this and just improvise as I go along. Admittedly my second version of any item is usually better than the first!

I also made a third version of Rooibus, from a curtain found in a vintage shop on Brick Lane.

Following on from Rooibus, I attempted Chantilly. This didn’t go so well. I had some misgivings about the suitability of the shape for me, and they turned out to be well-founded – all those gathers just didn’t flatter my short and curvy frame. Oh, and I messed up the gathering too, so it’s rather lopsided. For now, the almost-finished piece will stay in my ‘re-purposing’ pile until I think of another use for it.

Next up, Ginger! Love, love, love this skirt. Fabric for the first version is a lovely light wool gifted by my mum this Christmas, the second a charity shop find (mentioned below), with added piping. This piece just feels so nice to wear, fab for office wear, the nipped in waist being paired with a fitted cardigan to channel my current style icon, Bel Rowley, Romola Garai’s character in The Hour (hmm, slightly wishful thinking going on there…)

And finally, onto Peony, a gorgeously wearable dress in both short and long sleeved versions. I again made the mistake of cutting a size too large for the first version, but I think it actually works quite well with a loose look, especially cinched at the waist with the cummerbund belt.

The short-sleeved version is cut a size smaller and fully lined, made from a piece of fabric bought for £7 in a second-shop scrap bin (and there was enough to make another Ginger from it too)! I have a feeling I’m going to wear both of these all the time.

Colette Patterns also have a forum, a blog and some great tutorials. Check them out – you might fall just for them too.

Advertisements