The Dressmaker’s Dress

Hi there!

Sorry things have been quiet here for the last week, I was absolutely wiped out after last weekend’s Sew Up North.  I had the most amazing day, but found it utterly exhausting, both mentally and physically.  I’ve mentioned before how hard I find meeting people; I don’t think it’s that uncommon amongst sewists, to be honest, it can after all be rather a solitary pursuit.  And so, whilst I genuinely loved the day and one of my main reasons for wanting to set it up in the first place was to meet people, I find it tiring in the extreme to be so far outside my comfort zone.

Anyway, please don’t take that as a bad reflection on the day itself, merely commentary on some of the quirks of my personality.

What I really wanted to share this evening was the dress I made for the event.  I can’t overstate how pleased I am with this one, I absolutely LOVE IT!

It started out with the fabric.  I am, of course, supposed to be on a fabric buying ban, but when this beauty popped up on Fabric Galore’s Instagram feed, all willpower fled to the hills. This, of course, is why fabric sellers have IG feeds, I must be their dream client!

As you can see, this was a few months ago.  I’ve had the fabric pre-washed and good to go for a while now, just waiting for the right pattern to match it to.

I originally thought of it as perfect for a shirt dress, but then my #sewtogetherforsummer first dress didn’t go as well as I’d have liked, fit wise, and I wanted to make something out of this for Sew Up North.  I don’t think anything else would have felt right, knowing this was waiting in the stash!

And then, light dawned.  This retro-feeling, glorious fabric is the perfect match to the By Hand London “Kim” dress.  Obviously we’re talking the full skirted version here, not the tulip skirt.  And to my surprise, the sweetheart neckline I originally wasn’t keen on is now my favourite version.

Despite having put a little weight back on since last summer, I decided to risk cutting from last year’s version of the pattern, which is blended between sizes 8 and 12.  Let’s pause to appreciate the daftness of that, shall we? I have a 36″ bust, there is no way a size 8 anything should fit!

I sewed the standard 5/8″ seam allowance, and on the neckline, I marked the fabric with the SA before sewing.  This time, I did this slightly differently, in that instead of measuring 5/8″ down from each edge and allowing them to meet at the point where they would, I measured the 5/8″ straight down from the point of the sweetheart neck and then free handed the SA’s down to that point.  That gives a much more pronounced shape to the neckline and I was worried that it might flash some bra, but it’s fine!

However, despite my slightly larger size, the bodice fit was not exactly amazing when it came to putting the zip in.  In fact, it was way too big.  I was not pleased, desperate not to have wasted this glorious fabric, but I managed to get a surprisingly good fit by taking a very large SA down the back zip.  It worked ok, but before I cut another one, I will remove some width from the centre front bodice, which will also help move the straps further in on the front section.

The biggest seam allowance is under the lining; imagine how big that is when it’s this big part way down the skirt?!

The pattern calls for a fully lined bodice, so I bought some really light weight cotton lawn from Minerva which was absolutely perfect.  This fabric feels most like a quilting cotton, if rather more smooth and soft, so I didn’t want to add any extra weight to what is definitely a summer dress.

I made some changes to the skirt, which I’m really pleased with.

First off, having never been the biggest fan of the gathered waist on any dress, I decided to try out a technique I’ve seen on IG a few times, which is to form pleats using the tines of a fork to manipulate the fabric.  There’s a By Hand London post that mentions it too.

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My new favourite sewing gadget!

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To be honest, I wasn’t in the least confident this would work, so I first pinned the side seams and centre front before starting pleating from the outside in, pinning rather than sewing as I went.  And it makes the best pleats ever!

The fork I was using left me with a flat panel at the centre front, which I like; I think it’s quite flattering, and just fit the back skirt to the bodice perfectly. Result!

The other change I made was simply to add in seam pockets, for which I nicked the pocket pattern piece from the Cami dress and guessed how far down the side seam they should sit.  I firmly believe that, fabric allowing, all dresses should have pockets big enough for your mobile phone! How else will you get that perfect selfie whilst out?

Speaking of which, the photos in this post are largely courtesy of Hila, who it turns out has an excellent eye for blog photo locations (why does this surprise me in any way?  Have you seen her gorgeous photos?)  And did you know that the corridor outside the ladies toilets in John Lewis has the most amazing lighting?

Bizarre but true!

So the dress was a total success; worn with my Tatty Devine pinking shears necklace, it was the perfect outfit for a meeting of sewists; what could have been better?  It reminded me how much I love this pattern.  I’m easily swayed by the lure of the new and shiny, but there’s a reason for the tried and true pattern in any sewist’s arsenal and I definitely need more of these!

I’m not the only fan of it either; Laura of Cotton Reel Studio also turned up in a Kim dress, and there was a shop front full of sewing machines, so who could resist?

What tried and true dress pattern is your favourite for summer stitching?

Becca x


14 thoughts on “The Dressmaker’s Dress

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      1. My husband already worries that I’m some kind of kleptomaniac because I’ve squirrelled away such a weird collection of household objects in my sewing box (masking tape, beeswax, protractor, Blutack, all the scissors ever, a plectrum…). Now I need a fork in there too! Lovely dress – great work on the pleats and the fitting.

        Liked by 1 person

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