Biased

One of my plans for this year even before all the lockdown stuff happened was to do some more dress-making. I’m not a big buyer of clothes and in recent years many of my old favourites have got to the point where they are no longer wearable. Eventually fabric gets too thin to be repaired and has to be consigned to the rags.

Unfortunately, rather than being caught up in a whirl of creativity, I have found the lockdown stressful and draining, so haven’t done as much making as I would otherwise have achieved. However, I’ve now completed a second dress (first one here). I’m quite pleased with the end product, but it turned into something of a labour of love. I’ve done lots of dressmaking over the years, so am not too intimidated by a more challenging pattern, but it’s nice sometimes to go for a quick and easy make, which is what I thought I would do in this case. I selected a slightly unusual pattern that was cut in a single piece on the bias, so that it only had a single long seam up the back and two short seams at the shoulders. I had assumed that the neck and arm holes would be faced, but when the pattern said a single piece of fabric, that’s exactly what it meant. The suggestion was that all the edges were left raw, with just a row of stitches to stop them fraying – no hems, no facings, no binding. Since I had bought a piece of linen with which to make this dress, and since it does fray rather a lot, I was not prepared to make a garment that I feared would simply unravel. There was a bit of a throw-away line in the pattern suggesting that you could hem or bind if you wanted to, but that was it.

Anyway, not deterred, I made a toile, prototyped some pockets (like the ones on my Beatrice aprons) and ordered some bias binding. What I had completely forgotten to do was buy some thread that matched the fabric, and with no local sewing shops open and long delays on orders from my preferred online shops, I had to bite the bullet and do some top-stitching in the same colour as the binding (which I did have thread for). Once I looked at the pattern in detail, it turned out that some piecing together was required if the dress was to be possible in my size and in the width required:

Well, I would rather have known to buy wider fabric than to have to do this. Fortunately, my toile had revealed that I wanted the dress shorter than the pattern, so I was able to avoid the joining.

I cut the fabric, stabilised the edges (single row of stitches on the curves and round the bottom and overlocking the straight back and shoulder edges) and attached the pockets before joining any of the seams. I bound the top of the pockets, carefully stitched them on with my contrasting thread, noticed that I’d attached one the wrong way out (the one in the picture), removed it and restitched it, then bound the neck. Then I took hours and hours to bind the arm holes, including several attempts that had to be taken out, because the acute angle at the bottom was so challenging. In the end I had to tack the binding in place to get it anything close to neat, and even now it’s a long way from perfect. The neck was easy to bind and the closure is simply a button and loop. The bottom I hemmed using the contrasting thread.

I’m happy enough with the final version and it’s comfortable to wear, but I feel that the pattern description was incredibly misleading. Still, I love the fabric, the shape of the dress and the drape resulting from the bias cut. If I make it again, I’ll simply add seam allowances and line the bodice part, then top-stitch, which would be a very quick make. Oh well, you live and learn.

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25 Comments

  1. It looks lovely, and really suits you. I agree with all your comments though. I’m really pleased I tracked down the Betty Foster Master Pattern like I had in my youth, as it can be adapted to virtually anything.
    I used 2 old fleeces that were beyond repairing to make a sleeveless jacket thing for working in. Really pleased.

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  2. It looks perfect for this weather.
    I am always impressed with what you make.

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  3. Looks lovely! Must admit I was doubtful at the start of reading, thinking this would be too easy / good to be true. Great colours too.
    I had a surge in sewing at the start of lockdown. Now have a dress standing there for the last month that just needs finishing off but can’t muster the energy.

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    • I shouldn’t have been so easily seduced by the pattern blurb. Never mind, it turned out ok in the end and I do know what to do next time. I was going to cut out another dress (different pattern) this afternoon, but the heat is making me lethargic.

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  4. It sounds like lazy pattern writing – was it a freebie?
    It looks good on you though and a nice easy dress for floating around in on a hot day.

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  5. That is a pretty cool dress! Looks fabulous. I have some green linen I could do something with and that had not occurred to me! Nice edges, too.

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  6. I really like the contrast purple binding, but I can see it must have been a lot of work. Would there be enough material left in the ‘traingles’ to line the bodice?

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  7. It’s smashing, and really suits you. I like the idea of lining, though; if you do make it again, you can completely avoid the whole neck/armhole binding issue by lining the entire dress and turning it through at the neck opening. Another option is to bind the armholes before sewing the shoulder seams: you just fold the binding under at the very edge of the shoulder seam allowance. Do keep an eye on the back after you’ve sat in it a few wearings; linen does stretch and you don’t want a baggy bum after all that hard work. If that starts to happen, it might be an idea to line the back; you could catch the lining at the sides behind the pockets so it doesn’t show.

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  8. I like it – and the colour is beautiful šŸ˜Š

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  9. that’s really lovely. I can’t sew for toffee, so am extra appreciative. I really like the contrasting binding and stitching

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  10. It is a lovely dress and perfect for hot days or with something underneath for cooler ones so I imagine you will wear it a lot. I can’t believe anyone would make a dress and just staystitch the neck and armholes! Binding was clearly very fiddly so facing or lining sounds the best option but lining in linen might make it heavier, warmer and less drapey. I guess you pays your money and takes your choice. At least if you make another one you will be forewarned!

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  11. I would love to know what pattern you used. What a cute dress! Great job.

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