Tag Archive: dress
This dress was kind of a beast. It was unwieldy and not very nice at times. It also kind of had a mind of its own but I mostly managed to wrangle it into submission with a lot of hand-stitching. But let’s start at the beginning. I had two main sources of inspiration for this […]read more
I am so excited to be writing this post today! Some of you may have already spotted the latest release from Tribe Patterns (the pattern line from the ladies at The Foldline); The Parker Collection. The line is designed by members of the sewing community and as the name gives away, this on has been designed by me! It is the second Tribe Pattern (the first being the Billie Collection designed by Rachel from House of Pinheiro). Rachel and Kate got in touch with me back in the autumn last year to see if I would be interested in working with them and of course I jumped at the chance! Designing my own pattern line has never been an ambition of mine and this remains a total one off but when the opportunity presented itself to work with two incredibly talented ladies offering to bring my design idea to life I’d have been silly to say no. It has been an amazing experience and is such a thrill to see the finished pattern. Rachel and Kate have done a fantastically thorough job and I can’t wait to see what you guys make with it!
There is so much to say about the design I don’t really know where to start. I was keen to come up with a garment that I would be excited to sew and wear and provided a canvas for creativity so everyone could have some fun with making it their own. The bohemian, seventies style has always appealed to me and I’m delighted that it’s so on trend at the moment. I was inspired by both contemporary designs and the lines of some of the late 1960s/early 1970s patterns in my vintage collection. I gathered up all of my favourite elements and had some fun drawing out different combinations. After pinging some ideas back and forth with the Foldline ladies we settled on a combination of dress and top which I adore. The panelled design provides opportunity for mixing prints, colours and textures and the pattern comes with the option for a plain sleeve or additional lantern cuff. Sleeves are huge this season (in some cases literally!) and one of my favourite elements of seventies style is the dramatic swoosh of a wide cuff so Rachel has drafted a bonus fluted cuff pattern piece which you can download for free here!
I wanted the design to provide a little bit of a challenge in the sewing as the projects I can get my teeth stuck into are the ones I enjoy the most. None of the steps should prove too tricky for anyone with a bit of sewing under their belt but the variety of techniques should keep more experienced sewers entertained. It’s not a quick sew as there are quite a few pattern pieces involved but if you can sew a princess seam, an invisible zip and set in a sleeve you can keep it quite straightforward. You can also opt to make the design more complex by adding embroidery to the centre front and back panels or including the lace insertion and trim. The instructions include step by step guidance on how to add lace into the seam between the lantern cuff and sleeve pieces on your machine and I think this may be my favourite thing about the pattern. It’s a feature that came up again and again in my inspiration pictures and I’m so delighted that we were able to include it. I’d love to play around with inserting lace into the seams between skirt and bodice panels and even maybe the waist seam.
You can recreate Rachel’s amazing embroidered version of the top with the embroidery template which is free to download from the Foldline pattern page or get creative and freestyle your own. The centre front and back panels are faced which not only provides a lovely clean finish to the dress but also makes them ideal to embroider as the back of your stitching is completely enclosed and protected. There are also ‘colour me in’ line drawings of both variations available to download which I’m definitely going to be playing with to plan future print mixed and colour blocked versions.
I wanted the design to be versatile and am really happy that I can see it being worn in every season. As I first came up with the idea in the autumn I was imagining it in rich, dark florals but now all I can think about is mixed pastel prints for spring. I’d love one in a fresh white breezy cheesecloth for summer and in winter I’d wear it in a bold solid colour layered with warm tights. Made up in different fabrics the lines of the design I hope will remain somewhat timeless and the dress in particular is something I can see myself making various iterations of for years to come as it is the kind of dress that has remained a staple in my wardrobe since my teens.
The dress I’m wearing here is actually my very first test of the dress (so please excuse the horrible pattern matching around the waist and slightly mismatched seams!). When collecting inspiration for the design at the very start of the process something I was continually drawn to was the mixing of two or more prints in one garment. It can be tricky to do but I started safe with both of these small prints on a black base and love how it has turned out. Both fabrics I bought ages ago from Maggie’s fabric stall in Lewisham who stocks end of roll high street dressmaking fabrics at the bargain price of £1-3/m. Perfect for testing. It’s almost a shame I’ve fallen so in love with the mixture of prints on this dress as they are the particularly nasty type of lightweight poly georgettes that I tend to run away from! The floral is slightly softer with a texture to it but the other is not so nice. I turned a blind eye to the quality and poly content at the time as I thought they would be ideal to test how the print mixing worked but now wish I’d held out for a viscose! However, worn with a cotton slip they’re not unpleasant to wear and as I knew from previous experience that these fabrics would pretty much melt when touched with a hot iron I kept it cool and actually had surprisingly little trouble handling either of them.
I recommend reasonably lightweight fabrics with a nice drape for this design. You want some nice movement in the panels of the skirt and top as well as the sleeves and the cut of the bodice is quite relaxed so doesn’t require a fabric that will provide structure. Viscose challis, crepes, soft linens, cotton lawns and voiles are all great choices as would be light to mid-weight silks if you want a more luxurious feel. As long as you keep in mind the movement of the dress the world is your oyster really! If you are going to do some embroidery you’ll want something fairly tightly woven and not super lightweight for those panels to make your life a bit easier and also support the weight of the floss.
I used some black cotton lace I bought in John Lewis to insert in my cuff seams and also trim the hem. My lace had one straight edge and one scalloped which I made use of on the hem but whether yours has straight of scalloped edges is entirely your preference. The pattern recommends 40mm wide lace as this is the most straightforward way to keep your inserted pieces at an even width following the technique in the instructions (leaving you with about 1cm of visible lace) but if you’re happy to get a little creative you can use whatever width lace you like. Mine was just 2cm as I only wanted a hint of it around the hem and I simply used a very small seam allowance when attaching it to the cuffs. As this dress was a test of the pattern the method I used is actually different to the final instructions and you will end up with just one line of stitching visible just above and below the lace rather the two lines you can see in my photos.
I cut a size 8 which is pretty much spot on my measurements and am really delighted with the fit. I usually like quite a close fit around the waist and this has 4″ of ease but having that room in the bodice provides that that relaxed, bohemian, seventies feel whilst the princess seams still flatter the curves of the body. I like the shape through the back and bust and the shoulders fit neatly. It’s very comfortable and I absolutely have that seventies vibe of feeling free in a glamorous way while wearing it! I did shorten the skirt by about 3″. I’m 5ft3″ so usually end up taking a little off but I wanted more of a mini vibe with these prints. I also shortened the sleeve slightly, which is again a normal alteration for me but I know the instructions for the lace insertion have changed since then so the amount might well be different next time.
I love the height and shape of the neckline; I think it’s really flattering exposing the collar bone. The slit of the dress is slightly longer than the top and you have the option to add in a tie to hold this together or just for added decoration. I’ve used just two narrow pieces of ribbon on this version but will definitely be trying out some tassels on the next. You can either make your own from embroidery floss or if you live in London I’ve spotted a great variety of colours in just the right size in both Fan New Trimmings and Kleins. I had initially envisioned it with short tassels but the long ones on this dress are ace!
Being more creative with my sewing and trying out adding trims, unique details and mixing fabrics was one of my goals for 2017 and creating this design has inspired me to do just that. There are a whole host of ideas I want to play around with; I’ve had to start a Pinterest board to keep track of them all! First up is an embroidered cheesecloth version of the top but I’m interested in trying a version with sheer sleeves and also think it would be delicious in a rich silk/viscose velvet…perhaps lengthened to a maxi for some serious seventies glamour. If I can muster up the patience I might try a hand-sewn fagoted seam rather than the lace insertion technique. I can foresee a summer wardrobe with enough Parkers to wear every day of the week.
I hope the design inspires you to get sewing as much as it does me and that you enjoy making your own Parkers! Thanks so much to Rachel and Kate for the hard work they put into getting the pattern just right and for giving me the opportunity to work with them. It’s a dream I didn’t even know I had come true and I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out!
Viscose is one of my favourite fabrics for dressmaking. It can be a little tricky to work with but you can’t beat the drape and comfort and I love the way it feels cool and smooth against the skin. Unfortunately it can be difficult to track down in interesting and wearable prints so whenever I find some I pounce on it! This little gem I picked up from Maggie’s fabric stall in Lewisham which is a fairly reliable source for contemporary prints and fabrics as she stocks end of high street lines. If you live anywhere close by I very much recommend a visit, it’s usually pretty entertaining too! She’s based just outside Rolls and Rems and is usually just around on weekdays and the odd Saturday but check out her Facebook page for updates. I think this particular viscose was £2/m as most of the stall is; a bargain you can’t beat for the quality.
I highly recommend using a viscose for Nancy as you need the luscious drape and light weight to make the most of the swing of the style. Although actually making this up in a fabric with a lot of body could be really interesting and create a very fashion forward look! I adore this style but have found it a little tricky in the past. I have tried on many a similar RTW dress in my time only for them to look frankly quite maternity. I think the key to this pattern’s success where other dresses have failed is down to a number of clever design elements. Firstly the slim fit of the shoulder and sleeves balances the volume under the bust. If you had a raglan or dropped shoulder seam you’d loose all shape of the body and the overall effect would be too tent like.
Secondly the empire line waist seam running across the back means it fits fairly closely across the upper back which is much more flattering than the shape hanging loose from the shoulders. It skims your figure and gives you a little shape.
Finally most of the flared shape is provided by the front side panels which means less volume at the centre front and also a closer fit around the bust as you can see in the photo above. The shape swings out from below the bust not above it as it does with most trapeze dresses. These panels are an interesting challenge to sew, especially in shifty viscose. You can’t see it very well in this print but you have a fairly tight corner to contend with. It is tricky and requires a bit of patience but the instructions and photos make it as straightforward and accurate as possible.
The instructions are as great as I have come to expect throughout in fact; telling you exactly when to stay-stitch, finish seams and how to press. The only thing I did differently was to add in the step of under stitching my neckline binding before turning it under. This is a tip I picked up from Grainline Studio instructions and proves to be a pretty failsafe method for getting a clean edge. Getting even binding in a viscose like this can be difficult as it really stretches on the bias and shifts about so the width distorts along the length. Extra steps like under-stitching can really help.
One aspect I really enjoyed constructing was the centre back opening. I love this slit feature and have never tried this type of fastening before. The construction method gives you a really lovely clean finish that’s enjoyable to sew. If I’m honest now I’ve worn it more than a handful of times I’ve noticed that the hook and eye at the top is giving me a little trouble and keeps popping open when I’ve been wearing a cardigan or jacket on top as there is not enough tension around the neckline to keep it in place. I think I might change it to a button and elastic loop or I do have some scraps of the fabric left so I could get fancy and make a rouleau loop to match!
The circular nature of the hem combined with the malleable viscose meant it dropped all kind of wonky! The side panels in particular drop more than the rest of the dress as that edge is on the bias. I left it hanging for four days before hemming in the end and then made good use of my dress form to level things off. I think a shorter length works best to balance the volume of this style and after some deliberation cut 1″ off the shortest point of my wonky hem and turned it up by 1/4″ then 1/2″. I used the recommended 1″ hem on the cuffs.
I cut between the size 8 and 10 as I always do with Sew Over It patterns and can’t fault the fit, although of course all you really have to worry about with this one is the shoulders and lengths! I decided to use the version with the lower neckline as I thought a bit of exposed skin at the neck wouldn’t hurt to balance out the quantity of fabric in the lower portion. I easily got it out of 2m of my 150cm wide viscose and wasn’t being too careful so probably could have done with less at a push. I already had the hook and eye and thread in my stash so at £4 for a new dress I can’t complain! I see plenty more of these in my future if Maggie keeps me supplying me with viscose!
I was asked to review a new pattern from Simplicity, #8345, a new one from Ashley Nell Tipton. Simplicity describes the pattern as follows: “Ashley Nell Tipton bodycon dresses are sized for stretch knits… One and two-piece dresses have optional color or fabric blocking to flatter your curves. Straps are designed in two widths and…read more
I have a thing, apparently. If I like a pattern, I make it at least twice, in quick succession. There are many examples, but this is the most recent instance; the Bronx cowl dress (see first version, here).
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Heavens alive I love a shift dress, especially when they boast cool details or an interesting architectural silhouette. The latest
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As mentioned, the collar is self drafted, and for reference is 1.5″ deep. The flowery trim came from Sew N Sew in Belfast, and was £1 a metre. There was 2.5 metres left on the roll, so the lovely lady who owns the shop charged me £2 for the lot. It’s only 50p saving, but that kind of customer service is why I love that shop. I sewed it on by hand, which was time-consuming, but I love how it looks.
- I cut out the bodice in the main fabric and underlining,
- marked the back dart and front pleats,
- sewed the main fabric shoulder seams together and then the underlining shoulder seams together,
- sewed the collar to the right side of the bodice,
- sewed the main fabric and underlining together at the neck edge. Trimed, graded, clipped, pressed and understitched,
- hand basted the underlining to the main fabric within the seam allowance,
- sewed the darts and pleats.
I love this dress, and the underlining makes it nice and warm.
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