Tuesday, 15 October 2013

In Which I Obey The Spirit If Not The Letter

I'm not usually one for adjusting patterns too dramatically. I trust completely in the designer, have no faith in my own judgement, and always do what the pattern tells me to. So, a few months back I bought the Gathered Sundress pattern from Pattern Runway. I had to grade the pattern up a bit, as I am outside the size range, but other than that, I did as I was told. I made a wearable (hah!) muslin in my trusty polka dot cotton, and hated it! It was too short, too unflattering. What was I thinking putting gathers right at the small of my back just before my ample backside really gets going? And gathered cotton at the tummy? As if I don't have enough of a mummy tummy already. Bleh.

So the lovely teal coloured poplin I had bought for this project languished in my fabric basket, while I moved on to other things. But as I started summer sewing in earnest, I began to pine for its rich colour. So I went back to the drawing board.

Riddle me this: is a gathered sundress still a gathered sundress if you replace the gathers with pleats? Well, that's what I went ahead and did. I cut all the pattern pieces as usual, and put the usual gathers at the pockets. Then I measured the bottom of the bodice front and the top of the skirt front and used my mad math skills to figure out how many pleats and how deep they should be. I did the same with the back pieces and finished the dress as usual. Flat pleats, which spread gently at the rear are far more flattering on me than gathers. I put three at the front and six small pleats at the back - 3 on either side of the zip. Since having this epiphany, I have banned myself from making any more gathered waist skirts!

Sorry for this terrible photo! My beardy hubby was practically comatose with boredom when he took this, hence why it looks like he was flat on on the floor while snapping!

This dress is a pain to iron though, and wrinkles at the slightest hint of movement! I'm always at a loss as to how far down the dress to iron the pleats though! Can anyone enlighten me?

This pattern is quite easy to follow. The bodice is fully lined, and turning it can be a bit of a pain at the narrow shoulder straps, but nothing too bad. I had never sewn princess seams before, but did a pretty good job on them, especially since I didn't have a tailor's ham to press them. Once I'd done all my calculations, the skirt was a breeze to attach (three Kelly skirts made me a dab hand at this kind of pleat!) There is some hand sewing to attach the waistband on the lining, and I actively avoid hand sewing usually, but I bit the bullet and got to work. I lined it using a blue floral lawn that I harvested from my Crescent skirt - that skirt just didn't work on me at all!

Lining and bound seams
 The invisible zipper gave me a bit of trouble. On my polka dot muslin, I used the same method as the Cambie dress for installing the zipper between the lining and outer shell, which was partially successful, as the dress isn't fully lined like the Cambie. But when I got to this one, I had forgotten all about that method, and just followed the instructions, which hasn't given me such a neat finish inside.
I bound the seams at the centre back in navy bias binding, which worked fine with the relative stiffness of the poplin.

This dress turned out great, and it's had a lot of wear this summer and well into autumn - although it can be a pain to zip all the way up since I'm not that bendy! The problem I'm having now is that people keep commenting on how 'dressed up' I am. Which I take to mean, 'you normally look like a bit of a slob.' Wearing a dress isn't automatically dressy, is it? I feel vindicated that in my skirts and boots this autumn, I'm the only one who gets home with dry feet and legs - I used to hate how water would gradually soak up my jeans in bad weather, but now I'm toasty and dry all day!

The cost
Pattern: £6.50
Fabric: 3m at £5.60 p/m - £16.80
Thread, binding, interfacing: stash
Zip: £2.40

Total: £25.70

I think this is a good price for a wearable sundress. Dark teal with navy might not be the most summery of shades but it suits me down the ground, and despite the crazy wrinkles, I do love it.

I'm nearing the end of my summer sewing round up. Autumn hasn't been nearly as busy, because I'm studying again and preparing for a craft fair in November, but I am working on my second muslin for my coat, which I hope to have finished this month! Exciting!


  1. Emma, you always make it look so easy, what kind of patterns would you recommend for a beginner such as myself? :)


    1. Whoops! Just noticed I had comments! Sorry :)
      I'd recommend the Colette Sorbetto top for beginners. It's a free pattern, and helps you get to grips with some of the basics. Also, Sewaholic patterns are pretty accessible for beginners. I particularly like the Hollyburn skirt - nice and simple!
      Hope you find something to get started with - I'd love to see what you come up with!

  2. If I had made this, I would be very pleased. I agree that the pleats are more flattering than gathers, not that it looks like you need flattering, but maybe that's because they are successful! ;-)