Colette Myrtle dress {pattern review}

It was about a year ago that my best friend started sailing lessons, looking for a new hobby and already fascinated with the sailing days of yore. Since I wasn’t in town, what did I do instead? I bought fabric, of course!

I purchased a few yards from Robert Kaufman’s Nautique Chambray collection and they’ve been waiting patiently for me to find some project or another for them. I have plans for a quilt at some point, but scraps will work for that. What to do with three yards of sailing vessels, though? Then it hit me… I need to make the Myrtle dress so I can teach it this fall.  I can try it out by making a sailing dress!

So that’s what I did.

myrtle making

Colette Patterns is one of my favorite designers and the fact that they are a local-to-me company gives them bonus points. How could I resist?!

Myrtle is designed for knit fabrics, but with plenty of ease and simple design, it totally works for woven fabrics as well. If you decide to go the woven route, make sure you choose something soft. The chambray works, but I will admit that it’s just at the edge of having a little too much body. Fabrics like rayon, faille, silk charmeuse would all work beautiful and have just as much drape as the knit. The chambray has enough body that I have to work the cowl just a little to make it not stand out on my chest (not exactly the best look!), so if you choose to go that route, pick one with some fluidity.

Like all the Colette patterns, the instructions are clear and straightforward. The primer is well-written and includes all the needed details for easy construction. Well, except for the waistband. This is where it got a little weird.

I tried to follow her instructions for using a woven, but I ended up doing it differently and wouldn’t even try it her way again. Sewing down the casing after inserting the elastic is more difficult than it should be. For beginning sewists, the frustration caused by that technique could be enough to set them off sewing clothes for a long time. Instead, sew the casing first, then insert the elastic.

myrtle waist

She uses a self facing for the front bodice piece, which works well, but I’m curious how it would look with a different fabric for the facing. I may try that at some point just to see how it changes the look.  The back is finished with bias tape and I just made my own with the same fabric.

myrtle shoulder

IMG_9116The skirt is originally placed off the fold, I’m assuming to save fabric, but I really despise back seams. They are too often unnecessary, as well as the zippers that you’ll find there. So I changed it.

I removed the seam allowance and marked where the seam line should be on the pattern piece then placed that on the fold. It worked perfectly and there is no seam to distract from the lovely sailing boats.
The seam allowance on the dress is 3/8″, smaller than usual because it was designed for knits. I increased the seam allowance to 5/8″ to work with french seams. Personally, I prefer the clean and neat look of french seams and use them all the time on apparel. I marked the additional seam allowance on each pattern piece before cutting them out. If you choose not to do french seams, you can serge the edges and leave the seam allowance as is.

My overall thought on the pattern? I love Myrtle! It was easy to make, fits easily and is flattering on this Mom body. The length is a little shorter than I’d like, so I’ll probably add an inch or two the next time. (I made the longer version, but it hits just above my knees and I’d rather it hit the middle of my knee.)

Last weekend I took it sailing with some friends down the Columbia River. It was perfect–the day, the dress, the friends.


Pattern Name: Myrtle by Colette Patterns
Time Required: 4 hours
Rating:  Beginner
Would I Make It Again?: Yes! I have plans for a couple more
What I Changed: The layout so I could get the back skirt piece on a fold instead of having a seam and altered the construction of the waistband.  I altered the seam allowances to allow for french seams rather than serged.


New to me, but far from new


I’m one of those few who sew for the challenge, which is why I love-love-love vintage patterns. Sure the illustrations are amazing and the styles impeccable, but it’s more than that. I can stare at vintage patterns all day, but when it comes to sewing one up? I’m in it to win it.

The problem is that patterns more than sixty or seventy years old are prone to having pieces missing. And as much as I love the challenge of sewing, there are few times that I love the challenge of patternmaking. So the incomplete ones sit in the pattern drawers for me to ogle and dream of someday devoting the time to draft a new bodice/sleeve/skirt panel for them. It just never happens.

But this beauty–she has it all: the primer, the envelope (albeit a bit battered by an unknown toddler) and every single pattern piece. Shout hallelujah! I’m making this baby.

From what I can gather, it’s from the mid-1940s and is the first of three Simplicity 2564 patterns. It retailed for 15 whole cents (slightly less than the Vogue pattern I just bought) when it hit the fabric stores back then. Back in my grandma’s teenage years.

That’s how old it is.


The pattern envelopes describes it as a dress that “has a “V” neckline, finished with draped revers in front. Short puff sleeves. The flared skirt has seam at the center front and is trimmed with patch pockets. Style 2 has shaped revers and set-in sleeves with turned back cuffs. Trimmed with rick-rack braid.”
Do you know what a revers is? I figured it was that piece they refer to as “collar” in the pattern. Which it sort of is, but it has a fancier definition.

Revers: The turned-back edge of a garment revealing the undersurface.

I’m totally going to fit this new word into conversation next week. Just watch.

And because it’s just so wonderfully vintage, guess what notions I’m going to need? 4-1/2 yards of rick-rack and, oh yes, a slide fastener. Unless, I decide I want to do sew-in snaps. Not likely.


So tonight I’ll start making a copy of the pattern, one I’m not afraid to pin. Make some adjustments, then put those old sheets to use and make a muslin of it. I think I might need to make a final version in one of the Stella Dots. But which one?