You can imagine my delight, when Colette announced that they were adding to their range of knits. More stretchy dresses to love! The Wren Dress debuted last week, a charming mock-wrap dress with two skirt options, a gored slim design and a flowy gathered option. While it's something I would have auto-bought anyhow, Meg from Colette was kind enough to send me an advanced copy of the pattern, as part of the Wren Faire. Naturally, I was on that faster than Buffy on a vampire, Cordelia on a snappy put-down, or whatever Whedonesque metaphor you prefer.
My favorite part of the Wren dress is, hands down, the softly gathered neckband. It's a design element that ups the garment from the simple to the classic. As soon as I saw the line drawing, I knew a two-toned Wren was in my future, to make the most of that neckband. I love built-in potential for fabric mixing!
For this first version, I shopped my stash and came up with two beautiful wool knits, one full cut of a dusky rose jersey and remnants of a deep maroon, from last winter's Bonnie dress. The rose jersey has actually sat in my stash for ages, a victim of color doubts. While it's a shade I adore in theory, it's also a difficult one to pair with my complexion. To wear it alone, a ridiculous amount of blush is employed, or else I end up looking like the undead. (#normcorpse) With the deep, rich maroon as a buffer color on the neckband, however, it's sublime. The end result feels very winter-appropriate, the kind of dress one should wear on a snowy walk through the forest, with a coordinated berry pink cloak.
Not that we get snow in Waco. Or have very many forests, for that matter. Still...I quite like it.
Before sewing this version up, I did make a quick muslin to check the bodice fit. The Wren calls for fabric with at least 25% stretch, which my rose jersey just met. Any issues that cropped up needed to be sorted out in basic jersey first, before trying something with a closer fit.
As others have noted, the Wren does not resemble the block used to draft the Myrtle and the Moneta. The Wren pattern pieces are decidedly straighter, with a barely curving side seam. To accommodate my vast and wondrous bosom, I performed a Full Bust Adjustment on the XL, which added a curve to the side and lengthened the front bodice itself. Additionally, I raised and brought in the armscye, because I was getting a weird tenting thing from my arm to torso. These alterations were easy as pie, y'all. Knit FBAs are so easy to do that they feel like cheating!
As you can see from the pictures, I still have some light pulling on the bodice, which wasn't present in my muslin. I did a bit of post-construction troubleshooting to find the cause of this and landed on a front bodice that still needs more length. Knits can be so different from fabric-to-fabric, that these latent fit issues do crop up. For me, perfectly fitting a bodice usually takes a few rounds of adjustments. I muslin to a point I'm pretty happy with, try it in fashion fabric, then keep improving. It's always going to fit better than RTW, after all.
When it comes to construction, the Wren was really fun to piece together. I gave the instructions a cursory glance and they seemed sensible, especially for beginners, but I went my own way on a few things. To better preserve the neckline, I reinforced it with clear elastic, just as I did the shoulders and waistline. As always, I finished the hem with fusible stay tape, to prevent a wavy hem. All the seams were sewn on my sewing machine, with the trusty lightning bolt stitch, then finished with my serger.
There was one step that I went full on renegade with. Like the Moneta, the Wren has you gather the skirt by stretching and sewing the elastic. Y'all, I haaaaaate this technique. I know it's easy and super efficient, but it never works for me. My machine revolts; the elastic snaps. Other sewists perform it beautifully, but I've utterly given up. Instead, I like gathering knits with the dental floss (or embroidery floss, in my case) method. It's easier to control than the classic basting stitches method and gives nice, even gathers every time.
For me, the Wren dress is another winning knit pattern from Colette! The finished dress reminds me of my old dance costumes from high school, all wide, swishy skirt and nipped-in waist. It's such a feminine silhouette. I will definitely be making more versions of this dress, starting with this floral Lillestoff jersey, which I've been hoarding for months now. Hooray for more knit dresses!
There's more good news, however. If you comment on this blog post, Colette will enter you in a giveaway for their fabulous book, The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits. This is actually the same book that started my knit sewing adventures. If you're new to knits, it's the perfect resource to ease you into the techniques! Additionally, you can check out Erin's super cute animal print Wren and enter again on her blog. Thanks again to Colette Patterns, for letting me take this gorgeous dress for a spin!
Update: If you're interested in my fitting changes for the Wren, stay tuned! I'll post pictures and details of my adjustments, early next week.