My handmade wardrobe – Hydrangea print maxi dress.

This is another of my holiday makes. The pattern is The Lily dress by Cotton and Chalk that was free with Simply Sewing magazine. I have to admit I probably would not have bought this pattern, mainly because I don’t tend to wear maxi dresses or sleeveless dresses but … holiday + free pattern + this awesome fabric, kind of fell together and was asking to be made.

The fabric is lovely, it’s a stretch viscose by Lady McElroy. When the fabric first arrived I thought there had been a mistake because at first sight it is clearly a woven fabric, looking very much like a regular light weight woven drapey viscose. I had ordered a stretch fabric, imagining I was ordering a knitted drapey viscose. When I unpacked the bolt I found it stretched a good 35% stretch. Exactly what was required by the pattern!

I was keen to try working with this fabric. Sadly this print has now sold out and is also discontinued on this fabric base, but I do have a few other prints left on this base cloth which are all really lovely and really great to work with.

The construction of the dress is really easy. I made a toile for the bodice because I know by now that having a big bust always means fitting is required, even though its a soft, easy fit. I only needed to make minimal adjustments, mainly raising the armhole so that my bra didn’t show, the rest I was able to adjust from the side seam.

The one part of the pattern I wasn’t sure about was the lay-plan. The skirt is cut on the bias. I’m not really sure why, as the skirt has an elasticated waist and I wouldn’t say it relies on the bias cut for the shape. I followed the pattern and I left the dress to hang over night before hemming to let it drop, which it did. However I feel like the weight of the fabric makes the seams look slightly distorted. It would perhaps have worked better in a knitted stretch fabric.

The style has a tie belt, which I made using matching fabric, a simple way to conceal the waist seam and finish the style. I used clear swimwear elastic around the neck edge and the armholes to add a little bit of elasticity at these points. Also to ensure a snug fit over the bust area. Its a great trick worth knowing about if you sew with jersey fabrics a lot. It will make sure you have neat necklines and armholes on tops and dresses. Patterns often say to turn and stitch a narrow single or double turned hem. Its really easy to get a wavy neckline if you stretch the neckline even ever so slightly. With swimwear elastic you can simply overlock it on the edge giving it the tiniest bit of tension as you sew and then turn and stitch a narrow zig zag or twin needle single turned hem. The edge with fold naturally along the inner edge of the elastic, helping you get a nice neat and even edge.

Overall I am really happy with this dress, it feels really comfortable to wear and I am in love with all the gorgeous prints and fabrics from Lady McElroy.

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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