Even though I knew I would miss the deadline for #sewdollyclackett with my May Minerva make, it still felt current enough to make another dress in honour of the Sew Dolly Clackett challenge, out of fabric that is loud, bold and would materialise into a full skirted dress.
I picked this Blue & Coral floral print fabric eagerly from the Minerva website- attracted by the saturated unnatural colours, the bold photo-like florals and well, it is described as a medium weight 100% cotton (but warning peeps, I would actually say it’s light weight – like a voile) and appeared to me to be perfect for a full skirted summer dress. It’s a Michael Kaldor design, posh eh?!
I ordered the fabric, 2m, enough generally to sew a frock. When the fabric arrived I was delighted by it: it’s almost voile like, super fine and light. The colours are vivid and shocking ( my mum would hate it!), but the scale of the pansies was beyond my expectations: they are massive ! Recognising the importance of choosing a dress pattern that could carry off such a large scale print on my pint sized frame, I took a while to decide.
The Palavar of making a late decision on which pattern to use had me flustered.
But I had in mind with such a large scale print – I needed enough skin showing near my face – it had to be a style that owned the print, & didn’t allow the print to drown me in pansies on acid. I also fancied a swish-worthy skirt & had considered drafting my own circle skirt…. but in the end I opted for the By Hand London Flora dress – the faux front wrap low cut & sleeveless, fit the criteria I was looking for… a lot of skin on show in the bodice, yet this is a style that is incredibly feminine and so very Dolly Clackett ( she has made a few floras, naturally!). I was tipped over the edge by the Amazing Taracat’s version– the faux wrap which she added faux piping… I was hooked. I would revisit my piping past, not having utilised its awesome power to completely uplift a garment from pretty nice to fan-dab-ee-dozey for a while now.
I mentioned above that this fabric is posh, didn’t I? Using posh fabric has a good effect on me- I make toiles. So I made a bodice toile, hoping that I would be making that into another Flora. But the fit took me three toiles to get it right. I scoffed at myself – I used to be a “D” cup & here I was doing my first SBA with the help of the Colette Patterns Handbook (for toile 2) then enlisting the support of Fit for Real People for Toile 3. My traced bodice front was almost reinforced with scotch tape from all the cutting & slipping. The biggest irony? When I compared my new fitted bodice piece with the original By Hand paper copy – it looks as if all I needed to do was to go down a size & move the darts (for less perky bewbs – thanks Vicki Kate for that new spelling!) Now I don’t think the bodice is perfect- looking at the pics there are still some lines that I can’t tell are due to bad posture/ movement but I do think there is still work to be done!
So three toiles down I could get on with the sewing. I only had two metres and whilst I didn’t want to make the high low hem, I knew that others had said the skirt is quite short, so I cut the length of the largest size. The fabric was not quite wide enough to make the full circle skirt flare so I altered my cutting line, just reducing the angle that I was able to cut from the waist down to the hem. I didn’t think it would be that noticeable and there would still be loads of volume in the skirt, and there is.
So in making this dress I had to add extras that are not included in the kit- I bought piping cord and satin bias binding separately. The Flora dress is also designed with a lined bodice, so I had to bring in some lovely silk/ cotton that I bought from Goldhawk road into action, but to be honest, the fabric is so fine you would be better off lining it unless you wanted to exhibit your small clothes.
I used a combination of the pattern instructions and the online sewalong, which has some brucie bonuses. For example, using stay tape at the faux wrap neckline, works a treat.
Sure, adding piping adds a lot more effort to making this dress up, but it was worth it. I’ve piped the neck edges to highlight the pretty wrap overlap and also the sleeve line. I will write up how I did it in a later post on my blog as I took lots of photos. I am particularly pleased with the finish that I got under the arms where the piping joins , making up my own way to do it. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone has got an explanation for the proper way to do it!
The silk/ cotton lining was the perfect match, light and voile-like, but the two light fabrics together were not the best behaved fabrics to sew! Not the worst behaved either, they were just very fine and there are a few bias edges in this pattern with opportunity for stretching out of shape. For some reason my shell bodice came out about an inch shorter than it should have been, was that the fabric, the fussing with the piping or operator error, I don’t know. It means that the waist sits about two inches above my natural waist. And my skirt is shawt!
I also lined the skirt – as I said some kind of lining or slip would be needed and it makes it more special this way.
Let me tell you about the invisible zip!! Last time I wrote about invisible zips and how they either go in right first time or take three long winded attempts, Sophie-Lee commented to provide a very useful tip. So I deployed said tip this time, and you’ll never guess what? It worked first time!! So the trick is:
- sew the first side of the invisible zip like usual
- do zip up and mark where the waist seam needs to match on your next side to be sewn.
- position the zip with pins around where the waist needs to match and do the zip up and down a few times to check it’s in the right place
- sew using your invisible zip foot just the piece of zip that includes the waist seam matching about 1 or 2″ each side.
- do up zip and check to see if it matches, if it’s out, it takes far less unpicking!
- when happy with waist seam matching. Sew the rest of the zip, making sure the top edge of the zip matches with the other side.
When I inserted my zip, I also sewed it only to the shell, opting to machine finish the lining. I had assumed that this was the way to do it, but the by hand instructions allow you to sew the zip to the entire thicknesses of lining and shell, treating it as underlining. That would have been easier, but maybe not quite as neat. Doing it my way, you’d need to leave a couple of inches free when you attach bodice lining to skirt so that to does not get caught up in the zip insertion process. Once zip is done, you can hand stitch this extra bit of lining. Of course I didn’t do that at the time….
So I feel I had a real journey making this Flora up, but by golly it’s a keeper, and I will be making more. It’s such a pretty style, the stay tape on the neck edge is amazing, really securing and preventing the ever present ‘wrap gape’ worry. I still haven’t quite got the fit right as there is still some excess fabric around my less than ample bust, but luckily this is masked to a certain degree by the very loud and busy print!!
Yes, I had to shave off some of the skirt flare, but there is plenty to go around this time. Because of my problem with the front bodice coming up a bit short, I was eternally grateful for my dummy’s hem marker- I have no idea how I would have managed without it.
But seeing these pics just makes me crave the suntan I know I deserve. Come on sun! Come out at the weekends and give this badger some rays!!
To be clear, the kit that Minerva are selling only contains 2m of the awesome John Kaldor fabric, matching thread, and an invisible zip. Enough for a dress- you might need to find a bit of lining/ deploy a slip!