Thursday, 23 March 2017

Simply Sewing Freja Dress

If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention to the online sewing community in the last few months, then there's a certain pinafore/dunagree dress pattern that you'll be very familiar with. Part of me wanted to jump on that bandwagon, but the sensible part of me knows that I prefer dresses with more waist shaping, so I resisted temptation and kept an eye out for other pinafores instead. In fact, it may have become something of an obsession! Nothing seemed quite right though, until the Freja dress was included with issue 26 of Simply Sewing - the answer to my pinafore prayers!

The Freja dress was designed by Kirsty Hartley and was inspired by simple Scandi style. It has a bib bodice with waist darts (yay for waist shaping!), cross-back straps, wide waistband, knee-length A-line skirt and large curved patch pockets. It can also easily be made as a skirt by omitting the bib and straps.

For my version, I graded between sizes and used a 14 at the bust and 16 at the waist. The 16 would have also fitted me fine in the hips, but I chose to grade the skirt out from the 16 waist to the biggest size at the hem just to give the skirt that little bit of extra fullness.

I made a toile of the bib and waistband and the 14/16 combination worked pretty well, but the waistband didn't leave much room for tucking in a top. Because of that, for the final version I sewed the centre back zip with a slightly smaller seam allowance to give a bit of breathing space.

I also added an inch and a half to the straps because they weren't quite long enough for me. I usually need to lengthen bodices, but I didn't this time. The waistband possibly hits slightly higher on me than might be intended, but it looks and feels fine.

The instructions included with the pattern have accompanying photos and are very detailed and easy to follow. It's a fairly simple pattern too, so would be good for beginners, or it's a relatively speedy project if you've got a bit more experience.

The only thing I did differently from the instructions was to stitch the buttons straight through the straps onto the waistband rather than making buttonholes in the straps. That was initially intended to be a temporary measure to check that I had the buttons in the right position for me, but there's actually no need to undo the straps (as long as you don't mind putting the pinafore on over your head) so I'm going to be lazy and leave them as they are.

If I make another one, I'd think about using a regular lapped/centred zip in the centre back seam instead of an invisible zip. Generally, I prefer invisible zips but in my version of the Freja dress, it definitely feels like the zip has trouble getting over the bulk of the waistband seam. We'll see how it goes though!

The fabric I used is some turquoise stretch denim from Higgs and Higgs. It's excellent quality and a lovely colour, and I think it's the perfect match for this pattern - the slight stretch helps to make the pinafore really comfy.

The fabric looks great in real life but I feel I should apologise for the less-than-pristine state of it in some of these photos - apparently my camera managed to pick up creases that weren't visible to the human eye! And any marks you can see are the result of having been recently dripped on by a rain-drenched tree. I debated taking some new photos, but then I thought it would be better to show what it looks like in real life wear.

As you may have guessed by now, I really love how my Freja dress turned out, and I'd definitely make another.  I'm actually very tempted to order one of the other coloured denims from Higgs & Higgs for a second version - which one would you go for?

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Jennifer Lauren Gable Dress

Welcome to the second installment of my mission to make more knit dresses this year. I really love the Gable top that I made towards the end of last year, so when Jennifer Lauren released an expansion pack to turn the top into a dress, I snapped it up fairly quickly.

The expansion pack contains instructions for a gathered or a pleated skirt with pockets (yay for pockets!) - obviously I opted for the pleats, mainly because I wasn't sure how well this fabric would gather. It also includes different bodice pieces which are drafted to have slightly less ease around the waist than in the top, and are obviously shortened. All that, and the expansion pack is only a couple of pounds so, while I could possibly have drafted a skirt myself, I was more than happy to pay to have all the work done for me.

As I was happy with the size of my top, but knew there was a little bit of room in it to cope with the reduced waist ease, I stuck with the same size 14. I added half an inch to the bodice length and an inch and a quarter to the skirt length, which are both fairly standard adjustments for me (I'm about 5'9"). The bodice length is now just right, and the skirt length is great for this version but I'd possibly add a little more if I make a more summery version (i.e. one that would be worn without tights).

I did wonder along the way whether the pockets would be a bit small as they looked noticeably smaller than other pockets I've sewn. Maybe they're smaller than average because bigger pockets wouldn't hang as nicely in knits? As it turns out, they are definitely smaller but they are still perfectly big enough for me. If you like your pockets particularly deep though, then you might want to think about altering them.

Just like the Gable top, sewing the dress was a nice simple project. It was slightly tricky to get the pleats pristine because this fabric didn't press quite as crisply as some, but it wasn't much hassle.

Unfortunately my twin needle decided that it didn't like this fabric for some reason - I tried everything I could think of but it would only sew with the left-hand needle. Has anyone else had that happen? I tested other fabrics, and it sewed two beautiful lines on them, but it just didn't want to behave with this one. Odd!

Anyway, the fabric in question is some lovely royal blue ponte roma from Fabric Godmother. Thankfully I like it a lot more than my twin needle did! Based on sewing and its inaugural outing, it seems like a really good quality and was comfy and cosy to wear. I think it's the perfect option for a knit dress for the autumn/winter/early spring.

All in all, I really love this dress. I kind of feel like I might need to make myself a mini-rainbow of them. Although there are quite a few other knit dresses still on my sewing list, so maybe I should give one or two of them a try first!