Parrots and Palms Mimi Dress

mimi dress

After the completion of my Mimi blouse I wanted to make another dress. I am always swooning over shirt dresses and actually bought the Colette Hawthorn pattern in the Spring. However, the muslin I made for it fit me atrociously and I didn’t really know what to do, so it’s been sitting scarily next to my sewing desk daring me to try again. With no pattern in mind I was looking for inspiration and I suddenly thought – why not make a shirt dress out of your favourite shirt pattern? And so the Mimi dress was born.

MimiParrotDress4To make it into a dress, I cut out a pattern piece that went from the notches at the waist and flared out in a straight line from there, following the curve as the waist comes out to the hip. I added a curve to the bottom so that the hem would be straight and notches to line it up with the blouse pieces.

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A quick note because I didn’t think about it until I started construction – if you’re using a pattern with a right way up then the yoke is not going to be the right way up on the front and back. On mine this means I have some upside down palm trees on the shoulder, but I don’t think it looks that weird – the collar covers part of it up anyway. Something to consider though!

For the construction I again added the collar and facing before sewing the side seams, which I definitely think makes it easier. Sadly I completely forgot to add pockets when I did the side seams, which I’m finding quite annoying. Wondering if I should add patch pockets? I also changed the shape of the collar to more of a square collar for variety. To get the pattern for the collar to be the right way up I cut the upper collar piece in two pieces with a seam at the back.

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The last deviation from the pattern was the facing. On both the Mimi and Mathilde patterns the neckline is faced with a piece of material that folds to the inside and is then understitched to stop it rolling to the outside. I don’t know what I do to clothes, but I can never stop this facing from popping out. I don’t think it’s particularly the pattern or my sewing because I find the same with shop bought clothes.

Anyway, this was especially bad with Mimi because it has a collar that should be on the outside and a facing that should be on the inside and I can never get them lying right without much ironing, so for this iteration I have not let it flap around. I reduced the width of the facing pieces by about an inch and then sewed it all together as per the instructions (don’t do what I did and forget to lengthen the front facing to the length of the dress). Once the facing was attached, understitched AND finished with zig-zag to prevent any more fraying nightmares, I topstitched it down. This doesn’t detract at all from the look of the dress because the part around the neck is hidden under the collar and the part down the front becomes a button placket of sorts. I would highly recommend this to anyone that hates having to rearrange their facings every morning. I’m considering hand stitching it down on my other tops and dresses.

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The fabric is a lovely polyester peach skin chiffon from Backstitch, which I thought would be very cute for the summer with its parrots and palms. Makes me want to lie on a tropical beach! The buttons were from my stash, originally from the bargain bucket of buttons in Masons. The colour of the buttons goes well with the parrots, so I’m pleased with those.

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Negatives: No pockets! Also, the polyester fabric has a tendency to stick to my tights or legs and ride up if I’m wearing a bag, so I have to be quite careful when wearing it.

Positives: I’m very pleased with this dress. It looks great with a belt for the office or without a belt on the beach. The fabric is really cute and lovely and airy for the summer

I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of my Mimi Dress “in the wild” at the Elan Valley in Wales. These photos were taken on my old film slr.

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A Cautionary Tale: Why You Should Always Finish Your Seams

Mimi Blouse Frayed Sleeve

So the other day I put on my beloved Mimi blouse straight out of the wash. I was happily going about my morning ablutions when Ben asked “Erm, what’s wrong with your sleeves?”. I looked down and to my horror the end of the sleeves were all frayed! Noooo! :(

Mimi Frayed Sleeve

Ben then proceeded to tell me this was a good thing.

Me: How is this good?? It’s all ruined :( What a disaster.

Ben: You can write about it on your blog!

Me: But…I can’t write about this! This was me being an idiot

Ben: So write about it? Make sure other people don’t make the same mistake?

I pouted and stomped off to find something new to wear, but here I am, writing about it. Don’t tell Ben.

The error I made was to assume that because a seam is going to be encased in fabric and therefore not visible, that it would be fine to omit the seam finishing step. This might be fine for a nice stable cotton, but the fabric I used for Mimi was drapey and easily frayed. It looked absolutely fine before I washed it and seemed stable enough, but clearly the washing machine was too much for it and it all starting sprouting out.

The step in question was the addition of the sleeve facing to the end of the sleeve. The facing has interfacing ironed onto it and is therefore nice and stable, but the sleeve hem doesn’t! When I sewed these two together I really should have zig-zagged over the edges like I do for all my visible seams. It would also have been a good idea not to have trimmed the seam allowances so much, perhaps that would have saved it without the seam finishing.

So, now that I have this problem, how did I fix it? Yes, I think I have fixed it, don’t worry! There will be a fairytale ending. I unpicked the hand-stitching that was holding down the sleeve facing and turned it out so that the offending seam was revealed.  I then sewed the seam again, with a fair amount of seam allowance, and then I finished the seam with zig-zag stitch before hand stitching the sleeve facing again (after a bit of a tug to see if the fabric was holding). The sleeve is a little snug now, but definitely preferable to the frayed horror it was before. Fingers crossed it will survive the wash this time!

Lesson learnt, always finish your seams guys!

Paisley Summer Sun (Bear) Dress

sun dress

When summer comes around obviously all us sewists want is a floaty sun dress. I decided that after the success of using my bodice sloper for the Glastonbury Circus Dress I would have another go at self drafting. And so the Paisley Summer Sun (Bear) Dress was born.

Perfect Paisley Summer DressThis time I cut out the bodice exactly from my sloper pattern and the skirt I took from my Moneta pattern. For the skirt I cut out a size down since I didn’t want to gather all the way round and I also cut out sections on the front pieces for pockets in the same way I did for my Red Wool Skirt. I know Moneta is a knit pattern, but I figured that the pattern woudn’t be hugely different for a gathered skirt and I didn’t have any issues. I wouldn’t recommend using a knit pattern for a woven bodice though, because of the negative ease.

PaisleyBlueDress1PaisleyBlueDress3Construction was fairly simple. I sewed up the bodice apart from the left side seam. I always prefer putting zips in the side rather than the back – first, because it’s one less seam to sew, second, because the zip stays hidden under your arm and third, because I don’t have to contort myself to get dressed in the morning. Does anyone think there’s a benefit to having the zip in the back? I feel like there must be a big secret I’m missing? Maybe everyone else is just more pedantic about symmetry than me (I find that hard to believe).

PaisleyBlueDress7I then constructed the pockets and sewed the right side seam of the skirt together. I remembered reading in a blog post somewhere that a pattern was flattering because the gathering didn’t continue round the sides. Can’t for the life of me remember what the pattern was or where I read it, but they had a good point! So I only gathered a section in the front and the back leaving the sides gather-less and oh my were they right, you get the cuteness of the gathers without any fullness round the hips. From here the skirt and bodice were sewn together. PaisleyBlueDress8PaisleyBlueDress4To finish off the neck and arms I used bias-binding. This time I decided to make my own, which is actually a first! I have always been of the opinion this would be a fiddly pointless job when you can buy it in such an array of pretty colours and patterns pre-made. As is often the case, I was entirely wrong about this: making your own means the colours match, the fabrics have the same rigidity, you can choose your width AND you have a way to use up your fabric scraps. It’s win-win really! Obviously I’m not going to give up the anchor-print bias-binding in my stash altogether because it’s easy and is going to look extremely cool on the inside of a garment, but in future I will not reach for it without considering the self-fabric type first.

Once the neckline was done, I just had the concealed zip and the hem to do and voila! One lovely cool sun dress.

PaisleyBlueDress6Let’s start with some positives. The fabric is a lovely drapey cotton from Masons with a cute paisley interspersed with flowers; I like that it looks a bit denim-y. I’m really pleased with the skirt and pockets and with the fit around the bust. I also love the gathering not going all the way round, I agree that it’s really flattering (thank you mystery person and apologies for not linking you).

However as usual there are some negatives. You can probably see in a few of the pictures that the shoulders are just too big. This is giving some gaping at the front of the armhole and also means when I put a cardigan on over it, the neckline can ripple quite a lot. I’m not sure if this is because the fabric is drapier than the muslin used for the sloper? Maybe it was just me cutting out inaccurately? Despite the good shape around the bust, the whole of the bodice actually feels a little loose – I can’t tell if I’m just used to RTW dresses being too tight? For a summer dress I don’t really mind it being a bit airy, but I think I do need to make a couple of tweaks to the pattern. The other negative is the colour. Yep I know, it’s a lovely colour, that’s why I bought it! I just feel like maybe it’s not quite ME. I like bright, contrasting colours, so this leaves me feeling a little muted. Maybe part of the problem is that the only bright cardigan I have is blue, so I’ve been wearing this with a dark grey cardie and black tights most of the time. Perhaps if I brighten up the accessories (or if the summer will brighten up to accompany it!) I can learn to truly love this dress.

PaisleyBlueDress5Despite the negatives, this is a dress that I will definitely wear a fair amount and I’m looking forwards to making again. I think I’ve got the foundation for a wardrobe staple that I could end up sewing quite a lot.