As you know I’ve really been trying to be more practical in my sewing, and while it’s a good feeling to (very very slowly) fill my wardrobe with versatile dresses- I’ve been finding it a bit soul destroying. Strange right? But I’m being so strict about the fabric composition, spending hours and hours trying to source the perfect fabric online that I kind of killed the thrill of sewing. So when I thought of making a frilled leopard print dress I decided to give myself a break and run with the idea! I went to Walthamstow and found this poly fabric (bleurgh, I know) which was the perfect shade for me. It’s funny, I never realised how difficult leopard print would be to find for me! So many of the prints had too much of an orange tone to go with my skin colour (almost blends into my skin and makes me look like I’ve actually got weird leopard spots).Here’s the sketch of what I had in mind. I knew exactly which pattern I wanted to use for this dress and jumped into my very first By Hand London pattern. I know: first?! Where have I been?
I’m not gonna lie, after I started I had a major episode of mid-make doubt creeping in. Being a ‘solids’ girl, delving into the world of printed fabric was quite something for me, especially animal print! I was super close to packing it in thinking it looked a little too Pat Butcher for me. Well needless to say, I’m so glad I powered through and just carried on sewing. I love the finished dress even if the fabric was a little bit tricky to sew with (bleurgh, poly). I’d taken myself out of my comfort zone but in a good way.
So on to the pattern review…
Sizes: UK 6 / US 2 up to UK 20 / US 16
Type: PDF only (if you don’t like printing and sticking patterns together, I used the fantastic Patternsy to get mine printed! Really quick service, cheap and they move around the pattern pieces to reduce waste and the patterns fold up super slim).
Fabric: I used this fabric from Walthamstow. I had less than the recommended fabric but managed to squeeze it out with cutting the pieces out on the flat rather than on a fold.
Sizing and fit: So this is where I would suggest you make a toile. Just doing a tissue fit and measuring across the pattern pieces I knew I was going to need to do some adjusting. I used the finished measurements and from those I figured the best fit would be for me to go for a size 12 at the bust, 14 on the waist and 16 on the hips (just to give me extra ease that I like at the moment around my hips.) I also need to do a broad back adjustment do traced the body and made the adjustments. After I spent a good while doing that, for reasons unknown I decided to abandon ship and just cut a 14 at bust and waist, grading to a 16 on the hips. The end result means that I’ve got the perfect amount of ease on the lower half, but actually the shoulders are a little big and I probably could have done with cutting it to a 12 with a broad back adjustment or a straight 14 without broad back adjustment. I’m not too fussed because I’d rather it be a little loose than it be too tight (I hate feeling like I’m going to hulk out my clothes!)
The major bit of pattern adjusting I had to make was a full bicep adjustment on the sleeve. Oh my days, was that sleeve tiny! I couldn’t even make it go around my arm. Bicep adjustments have become a bit of a standard fit issue I need to contend with, but even more so now post-partum, so it wasn’t something that daunted me but if you are going to make this, thats definitely something I would check out. They’ve got a great tutorial on how to do it too!
Construction and instructions: This is a really simple dress to construct! The instructions are great and they have a sew-along to go with the pattern! WIN. The only bit that fills every sewer with dread is the gathering. Oh gathering. Why are you so mind-numbingly long? From the double thread method, to the floss/cord method. It doesn’t matter what method you use to make it ‘easy’. IT IS ALWAYS A FAFF. And when you finally get around to gathering it…you then have to hem the blooming metres of fabric! But gosh, aren’t the results worth it?
Also this reminds me, maybe I should break out my gathering attachment for my overlocker, or even my sewing machine?
Adaptations/hacks: The great thing about this pattern is that there are so many options! You can have a plain body or frilled dress, sleeves or no sleeves, frilled sleeves or no frilled sleeves. I cut the maxi length dress but cut my frill shorter by 10cm (so it was 30cm in length) to give me the perfect midi-length. I also took out the centre back keyhole opening- I checked and could fit the dress over my head easily without an opening.
Tips ‘n’ tricks: When it comes to tricks and tips I don’t think there’s much to say about the pattern itself (apart from the fit tips). With the fabric I used (which was as annoying to sew with as you’d expect from a poly crepe, read: SLIPPERY AS AN EEL COVERED IN OIL) I would suggest you 1. cut fabric on the single layer 2. use a rotary cutter 3. hand baste tricky areas- curves, sleeves, before you stitch it up. 4. use a walking foot (seriously, if you don’t own one- please invest!!) 5. make sure you’re using the right needle.
The other things I did to make my life a little easier was overlocking all my seams (that fabric frays!) The thing about overlocking is that I find on the curve (convex) it stitches tighten the edge up so it folds up for hemming that tiny bit easier. To get a narrow hem on a curve I like to do a narrow overlock (the rolled hem version), then fold up and hem. Being a bit of a shortcut taker, this tends to mean I can just hold and sew rather than press and pin all the way around (which with a frilled gather circle hem would drive me insane!)
I know I say this with every sewing project but I love this dress. It’s one of those dresses that instantly makes you look ‘made’ when actually took you the whole of two seconds to pull over your head. Every time I’ve worn it I’ve felt so much more put together than I really am, and that- with the a 7month old- is no mean feat. I style it with a skinny black belt, boots and of course some red lippy. This is definitely going to go in my ‘to make again’ pile of patterns and I’m itching to make another By Hand London pattern now… you’ve guessed it: The Rumana Coat!