Friday, 3 April 2015


Colette Patterns - Dahlia dress

Hello! It's Easter and I'm looking forward to eating lots of chocolate and relaxing with my family. I already know there won't be any sewing time as we're away visiting family most of the time - it's ok though, I've come to terms with it!. Today I bring you Dahlia...It's taken me a long, long time to make. But today I finally took the photos of the finished dress (some of them outside in the sun!) and this is what I have to say...

Boots are from Red or Dead btw

When Colette Patterns announced the Dahlia dress I immediately loved it. I hesitated buying it though, because it looked a bit more advanced than the beginner I am. In the end I caved - it does say beginner on the packet after all!

I was so excited when the pattern arriving and being able to follow with the Dahlia Sewalong too. But it'd kind of slipped my mind that we were about to redecorate our bedroom and we'd be going away for a week (this is before Christmas!) and I'd got some Christmas sewing to do, so I wouldn't have much spare time for selfish sewing!  I made a muslin - first a size 12, then re-cutting my second at a 10. This size seemed ok, fitting nicely around the bust and waist. The shoulders and neckline on the other-hand were a bit of a gaping disaster! I know that I'm not alone with this problem, but at the time there weren't that many reviews around. I hadn't anticipated so many problems with the fit, and being a bit of a perfectionist and a beginner meant that sorting this took a bit longer than I thought it would.

I wanted to get the fit right on the paper pattern, rather than tweaking the fit on the final dress. So to cut a long story short, I made five muslins, with various alterations - some worked, others didn't. Those that worked were:

  • A dart in the back bodice, an inch wide from the neckline tapering to nothing (also redrawing the original back bodice waist darts so they follow the grain). This suggestion was made by Devon Iott, host of the Dahlia Sewalong. This prompted me to check out her Miss Make blog post about the Dahlia pattern. It does have some useful pointers, so check it out if you plan to make this pattern.
  • Redrawing the pattern pieces for the sleeve and front bodice to incorporate a reduced neckline (also suggested by Devon on her blog). 
  • Redrawing the sleeve pattern piece to accommodate my square shoulders (which also helped to reduce the gaping for me). I did this by adding width across the sleeve at the apex of the shoulder (if that's even the right term!) - cutting and spreading the pattern, filling with tissue and taping back together.
  • I took in the sleeves too, as the muslin sleeves were huge.  

I also referred to the Palmer/Pletsch book Fit for Real People book quite a bit. I cobbled together my square shoulder adjustment for raglan sleeves by using a combination of methods for other sleeves (including other types of raglan sleeves where there is a neck dart, and where the sleeve pattern piece is in two pieces) as the suggestion in the book was that there wouldn't be a need for this type of adjustment with this sleeve (but maybe they had a stretchy knit fabric in mind???).

I have to say that at many points during the muslin fitting stage of this process I wanted to give up! I'm pleased I didn't, as I think the neckline fits really well now and I do really like my new dress.

The first muslin - neck line gaping.

Excuse the cheesy grin, I think the sun is a bit bright! 

The fabric is a lovely drapey rayon from John Lewis. I couldn't find it again when I went in the Leicester store recently, but I did see it on the Sewoverit website. I'm a bit of a blue addict. Most of my ready to wear dresses are blue and I've noticed this trend with fabric buying...going to have to watch myself and try to buy other colours!

I loved making the dress up. The fabric was great to work with. Not as hard to work with as I had first imagined being a crepe.  The neckline and sleeves are finished with bias binding. It's not so easy to make bias binding with this fabric, although it all looks fine after being sewn together. I just find the process (making and then using) a bit fiddly! More practice required I think.

Sleeve detail

Neckline detail

The actual making of the dress was fairly straight forward and I thought the Sewalong instructions, combined with the booklet were detailed enough for a beginner. the invisible zip was the only technique I really needed more help with than the booklet offered, but the sewalong was very detailed. It's great that the indie companies offer sewalongs. I do think I probably would have looked up more techniques on the interweb had this not have been offered.

Can you see the zip?! I thought I did pretty well, almost got everything matching at the seems.

I am particularly proud of the invisible zip - not bad for a beginner and I only had to unpick it once when I lost concentration and sewed slightly into the zip!!

My hand sewing is also improving. I've always known how to do it from being taught at a young age - I just haven't had much practise! This article on the Coletterie blog has particularly clear instructions and information about different hemming techniques.

Hand sewn hem

More cheesy grins with the sun in my eyes.

Unfortunately I may have been patient at the fitting stage prior to cutting my fabric, however I should have given more time to the fitting during the sew up of my chosen fabric. I should have tried the dress on more often during the making, basting it together...but I didn't and it was actually a little too big for me. I ended up unpicking the bias binding on the neckline (which I'd hand sewn), gathering up the back bodice a little along the neck and re-sewing. I also confess that I took in the right-hand side seam by half an inch. I was going to take it in on the other side too, but I couldn't bare to unpick my lovely invisible zip! It's probably a cardinal sin in the sewing world - but I don't think it's noticeable, do you?! 

Have you ever done this?

Hope you have lots of eating chocolate planned over the Easter weekend! And lots of sewing too (not jealous, honest!) xx

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