Wifi Hawthorn Dress

hawthorn dress

“Look at the lovely Japanese fabric I bought!”

“Why is it covered in wifi symbols?”

“It’s not! This is a traditional Japanese pattern, it looks like waves.”

“Radio waves? From the wifi?”

“….”

Last year I made a muslin of the Colette Hawthorn dress from Swedish Tracing Paper and it was a complete disaster. It didn’t fit at all and I had no idea why, so my Hawthorn pattern was cast into the back of my pattern stash never to be seen again. However, a combination of finding the perfect fabric for it at the Knitting and Stitching Show, being more confident at pattern alteration and having a few days free over Easter to devote to it persuaded me to try again. Look how she turned out!

hawthorn dress

The Pattern: Colette Hawthorn Dress

Described by Colette as a ‘curve-hugging classic that combines gamine styling with a flattering and feminine fit’, the Hawthorn dress has been on my radar for quite a while. I’m a sucker for a shirt dress and the flat collar gives it a slight twist which I think elevates it above some of the other offerings. I have quite a few patterns with gathered skirts, so I thought a smooth quarter circle skirt would make a nice change.

hawthorn dress

Hawthorn dress

Pattern Alterations

Part of the reason my last muslin was so off last time is that I am wildly across sizes on the pattern. My overbust is size 8, but I’m size 14 at the waist and hips. So, I traced out a size 8 bodice front and back onto parcel paper. I then performed a 1 inch full bust adjustment (FBA), adding in a bust dart. I made the waist dart smaller than the FBA called for in order to increase the waist size, shortened both the front and the back bodice pieces and added in a little width to both bodice pieces at the side seam. I sewed this up into a swedish tracing paper muslin and was very pleased with the fit. The only issue I had was that the armholes were too high up under my arms, so I cut this about an inch lower on the muslin and transferred this change back to the pattern. I then measured around the new armhole with a measuring tape and compared this to the different sleeve sizes and decided size 12 fit it best. So I ended up with a heavily modified size 8 bodice, size 12 sleeves and size 14 skirt. If you’re wildly off the pattern sizes and you aren’t happy to do a lot of alterations I would approach the Hawthorn dress with caution! That said, the fit has come out beautifully, so it was definitely worth the extra effort and I’m very pleased.

Hawthorn dress

Hawthorn dress

Construction

I found the construction fairly simple, having done collars and sleeves before. I opted to take the short sleeve from the top version and add it to the version 2 dress so that it would be nice and cool in the summer. The muslin had tight sleeves, so I let out a bit of the seam allowance in the final sleeve, which probably wasn’t necessary and has left them a bit boxy but I think it looks fine. I also added in-seam pockets and chopped a few inches off the skirt before hemming. This isn’t a quick and dirty pattern by any means – including all the pattern alterations and cutting out the fabric this took me the best part of three days, but I really enjoyed every minute of it. The instructions were clear and helpful throughout.

hawthorn dress

hawthorn dress

The Fabric

The main fabric is a gorgeous Japanese ‘dobby weave’ cotton, which I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show from the Japan Crafts stall, which was overflowing with tempting prints. The fabric somehow manages to be soft to the touch with a gentle drape, but also has an almost rough texture.

For the pockets I used a very cute Japanese cotton kindly gifted by my parents’ Japanese lodger (ありがとう ございます!). Look!! I have cats in my pocket 😀 The fabric actually came with a label on it that read ‘Kawaii!!!’. Anyway, I digress.

The final fabric is a koi carp print from my stash to make the inside look a bit more jazzy.

hawthorn dress

Hawthorn dress

hawthorn dress

The Buttons

These buttons were also from the Knitting and Stitching Show, though I can’t remember the stall unfortunately. I think they’re absolutely gorgeous! So unusual. I actually bought them before the fabric and didn’t realise until I got home how lovely they looked together. Unfortunately this also meant that I didn’t really buy enough because I had no project in mind, which resulted in the buttons being further apart than they should have been on the dress.

Hawthorn dress

What Needs Changing?

This button spacing has led to the main issue with this dress – there’s some gaping at the bust where there should be a button! This weekend I sewed on a hook and eye which is pretty much invisible and just keeps the fabric closed; it looks much better and makes me feel more secure. The only other issues were some spots where the fabric pleated a little on the skirt and armholes, but I think I’m the only person who will notice, so I’m not too worried. Perhaps the skirt should have been a size down to fit the waist better?

hawthorn dress

The Verdict (In Which I Gush Unreservedly)

I am in love with this dress!! I have never managed to achieve such a perfect fit on a bodice before, so I am very chuffed. I owe a lot of this to the Craftsy course I took last summer, Sew the Perfect Fit, which I would highly recommend (affiliate link, but I genuinely think it’s great) – you can see my blog post about it here. In short, I’ll be wearing my Hawthorn dress a lot and I’ll be making a lot more of them! I can’t wait to try the three quarter length sleeves with the cuffs.

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.

MimiParrotDress6

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.

MimiParrotDress7

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.

MimiParrotDress3

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.

MimiParrotDress8

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.

MimiParrotDress1

MimiParrotDress2

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.