This is the last of the patterns in the Love At First Stitch book, which makes me feel like I’ve graduated from the beginners’ sewing course! It is a sleeveless dress with lined bodice, scoop neck front and back, and pleated skirt.
I wasn’t sure if the scoop neckline would suit me so decided to change it to more of a boat neckline at the front keeping the scoop neck at the back.
The instructions show you how to line the bodice but I also wanted to line the skirt for completeness, to try something new and to have the softer fabric against my legs. My blog post describes how I did this and the problems I encountered.
And of course, I added pockets. This is described earlier in the book, and follows the same method in their blog post.
I made a toile for the bodice knowing that the Megan dress earlier in the book needed quite a bit of adjustment. I’d heard some good things about the Palmer-Pletsch book Complete Guide to Fitting, so decided to try out their method of tissue-fitting. Having sometimes made several toiles before I had a decent fit, I was more than happy to try a method that only seemed to require one fabric toile, fitting the tissue or paper pattern closely first. This worked really well for me for the front bodice, the back was hard to hold in the right position and assess. Even if you don’t end up using the tissue-fitting method it is a brilliant resource for fitting adjustments, and I found it easy to search for the information I needed.
I cut size 3 which matched my bust measurement but this left me with a gape at the front armhole, telling me (or rather the book told me) that I needed more room for the bust. This was covered well in the book, describing how to add width and length and it worked brilliantly.
I had excess in the back though so was tempted to lengthen the back waist dart upwards, until I consulted the book again which said it might be better to size down on the back. Again this worked brilliantly, although I still ended up lengthening the back dart. I also needed to shorten the bodice by 3cm.
I learnt a lot from this fitting process. I have a small bust (A cup) along with a rounded upper back so it seemed counterintuitive to make the front bigger and the back smaller. Regardless I just need to remember to fit the individual pattern to me, the measurements are just a guide. The same bust measurement can encompass many different shapes, all of which will need different fitting adjustments.
In order to check where the armhole would lie, and whether the neckline looked OK I needed to cut off the seam allowance from the toile. I used the Clover double tracing wheel to mark the seam allowance that saved a lot of time and made it very accurate. See my blog post with video on how to use it here.
I lengthened the skirt by 3cm using the same method with tracing wheel and transfer paper.
After attaching the skirt to the bodice, the instructions recommend trying the dress on again to check the fit. Good thing I did as the waist was too big by about 4cm. I took this off the back seam which meant the checks would no longer be vertical down the centre back, but I felt the fit was more important. I describe in this blog post how I did this.
For the lining I used Wonderland Enchanted Leaves Plum Voile by Art Gallery Fabrics from Bloomsbury Square. It’s very fancy for a lining, but I fell in love with the fabric and yet couldn’t see me turning it into a garment as it is so lightweight. It feels like pure luxury inside this dress 😊
For the main dress I used Jacob’s Check from Merchant & Mills which is my first time sewing with linen. My impression of linen from seeing RTW items in stores was that it was slightly stiff and a little rough in texture. I was very pleasantly surprised that this linen was beautifully soft, didn’t crease ridiculously and had a lovely weight that I thought would hold the skirt pleats well. I adore florals but wasn’t sure if I would like it on this dress. This checked pattern still made it interesting enough and I felt it made it suitable for both casual outings and work.
And then I started sewing with it. Suddenly the checks were no longer an interesting pattern but a magnifying glass on every seam and dart that would be sewn. It was my first time sewing fabric with lines on and I wasn’t quite prepared for the amount of precision required.
The linen has a fairly loose weave, was quite bouncy and easily stretched so when the fabric was folded for cutting, I pinned it along the selvedge and across the top of the fabric matching the lines as best I could on both sides. This made for a good result - the front bodice as shown below was really symmetrical.
I was keen on pattern matching as much as I could, of course this was before I realised this would need to be on the vertical seams at the back of the bodice and skirt, as well as the horizontal seam between the bodice and skirt. I used the same technique as described in this post on the Clemence skirt. Ideally I would have had symmetry down the back seam, but I had decided to cut the edge of the pattern on one of the vertical lines thinking this would make it easier to line up the bodice and skirt pieces. Indeed it did, but with a seam allowance of 1.5cm on a pattern with 2cm checks, it meant that it didn’t quite work out. I also ended up having to adjust the waist towards the end so this further disrupted the checks anyway.
Sewing the darts
This was another aspect to pattern matching I hadn’t anticipated. I moved the waist darts on the back bodice so they were vertical and therefore ideally the horizontal stripes would match when sewn. I suspect it would have looked more flattering to have the back dart in its original position which is slightly angled towards the waist which would create the look of a narrower waist, but with the shifty fabric I wasn’t confident I could sew the darts at an angle symmetrically, and found it easier to match the horizontal lines. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s round the back and I can’t see it. I also ensured the bust dart was horizontal which it already was, to try to get the vertical stripes matching.
Tilly suggests not finishing the seams as they will be hidden under the lining but I used the overlocker on everything just in case as the linen had a tendency to fray. Plus, any excuse to use the overlocker 😊
I was slightly nervous approaching this because it meant another precision job of trying to line up the horizontal check lines. I started pinning the zip to one side of the centre back seam allowance. It didn’t feel that precise to me, plus the thickness of the fabric together with the zip tapes was quite bulky and it was making the zip wavy where the pins were. So I tried hand basting it but somehow it had shifted and I wasn’t happy with the height of the zipper stop.
Then I remembered I had some Prym Wonder Tape and used this to stick the zip to the fabric. This worked brilliantly. It dissolves when you wash it, but I managed to stick it to the edge of the zip tape slightly away from the line of stitching so I just pulled it off afterwards. It was brilliant for lining up the second side of the zip as I could just press to stick it down once I was happy the horizontal lines matched up. This is definitely something I will use every time now.
The instructions ask you to fold the hem up twice by 1.5cm but this would have been bulky with the linen. I decided to overlock the edge and then used a catch stitch. See, any excuse to use the overlocker 😊
I used the rolled hem foot as shown in my tutorial here on the lining. It’s such a quick and neat way of hemming. I tried the same on the linen but it started to stretch out. If the fabric was plain, I would have continued with it but it was showing on the checked lines and would have looked obvious.
A couple of cute labels from Porcupine Patterns give it that professional feel.
I’m so pleased with the fit of this dress, and with it being fully lined it feels really high quality and luxurious. The pleats add an interesting detail at the waist and give it a flattering shape. I would sew it again if I didn’t have hundreds of other patterns I want to try 😊
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