Yee-ha and welcome to my blog!
In my Summer Sewing Plans I mentioned I wanted to make a gingham dress. My Aunty Adele recently gave me a blue gingham duvet cover and I was itching to upcycle it into something new. I originally planned to hack the jumpsuit pattern from The Great Britsh Sewing Bee Fashion With Fabric book as I thought the frill neckline would capture the country vibe I was trying to create. Below is a version I made for my friend Laura, which you can read more about here.
However, when the Simply Sew Sienna Dress arrived with my copy of Sew Now Magazine (issue 10), I simply had to make it. I fell in love with the sleeves and the sweetheart neckline and loved the idea of wearing it with my trusty cowboy boots.
I must admit, before I started I was a little apprehensive. I’ve amassed quite a number of Simply Sew patterns over the last few years because they are often included as a free gift with sewing magazines. Yet, I’ve only ever made one skirt after reading mixed reviews about the patterns in terms of sizing and the clarity of the instructions.
Sienna, however, was too pretty to resist and I’m so pleased I gave this pattern a chance. For, on the whole, I found it easy to follow and my fitting issues were no different to those I experience with most patterns. Thankfully, I’m getting better at resolving them now and one day I hope gaping backs will be a thing of the past!
One thing I always do now is check the finished garment measurements. Some ease is good but I like my bodices to be fitted as I think it is more flattering. In shop bought clothes I wear a size 12 but for the Sienna I cut out a 10 but blended this into a 12 at the waist. I didn’t make a toile on this occasion because I wasn’t too worried about wasting the duvet – plus I have enough left to make another dress if I choose!
Here is an awkward selfie of me testing the fit. If there is no-one around to help I use bulldog clips – it’s a lot easier and safer than pins. I am thrilled with the fit I managed to achieve.
The Sienna Dress is aimed at adventurous beginners and includes a number of useful techniques. These include fitting a concealed zip, lining a bodice, bagging out sleeves and inserting pockets.
Lining garments is a skill I’m still trying to perfect as most of the tops and dresses I’ve made so far have used facings. Linings give clothes such a professional finish so I really enjoyed practice this technique on the dress. I used the same gingham fabric for the lining, which worked well. I found the instructions easy to follow and I think it turned out okay, although my zip does not match perfectly at the top and does not lie completely flat 😦
Hopefully my hair will be long enough to cover that by next summer!
I was also really happy with how the neckline turned out but if I make Sienna again I will add some lightweight interfacing to the lining. This will just provide a bit more structure.
But as much as I love the neckline, my absolute favourite thing about this dress is the sleeves. They are so floaty and feminine, and much easier to attach than inserting a sleeve head. I finished them off by creating a rolled hem on my overlocker, which is such a useful technique. I may do a tutorial on this at some point if anyone is interested. As my fabric is quite thin, I also hemmed the main skirt this way.
The pockets are another sweet feature. You can see me trying to find them for photographic purposes below. At this point I will also mention the length. I am 5ft11 so the dress is above the knee on me but on girls of average height it will probably fall just below. I quite liked the shorter length for this dress as I think it looks good with my cowboy boots. I would probably lengthen the skirt for a smarter style though.
Like I said earlier, I’m pleased with my dress and enjoyed making it. However, there are a few things about the pattern I think could be improved . It is essentially a pattern for beginners but I felt a few helpful processes were left out of the step-by-step instructions. They are not key construction steps but rather useful tips to achieve a better finish. Things like stay stitching the neckline and clipping curves and trimming the seam allowances. Experienced sewists know to do this but beginners may not and these tasks can make such a difference.
I don’t want to sound too critical as I love my Sienna Dress but I thought this was worth mentioning.
I always like to give my makes a unique name and this dress is named after my favourite singer and idol Dolly Parton. I may not have Dolly’s amazing singing voice or figure but we do share a love of gingham!
Wise words from Dolly, I think you will agree…
– Make sure you measure yourself and check them against those listed on the pattern envelope. I also check the finished garment measurements as I don’t like too much ease. If using expensive fabric perhaps make a toile. For dresses like this you could even just whip up a toile for the bodice as the skirt is full anyway.
– If you have never inserted a concealed zip before I found this YouTube tutorial helpful. Click here.
– I suggest stay-stitching the sweetheart neckline to help it keep its lovely shape. Run a line of stitched 7mm from the edge (within the 1cm seam allowance) before you start sewing. I would also add some lightweight interfacing to the top of my lining if I made this again.
– If you are using a bold print, stripes or large checks try to pattern match across the seam on the front of the bodice. I was fairly successful with the horizons lines of the gingham but not so successful with the vertical lines – never mind!
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