I think it’s fair to say that I have taken the idea of ‘slow sewing’ to a whole new level. I am not entirely sure this is a bad thing, I think that churning out make after make is, I suppose, probably as bad as fast fashion. So the idea of slowing down and really choosing my projects with care is probably a good thing overall. Problem is, it doesn’t quite satisfy the maker in me. Food for thought.
It was the neckline, darts and sleeves of the Ellis version that really won me over. But I did hesitate initially, the skirt part, it’s just not me. I am not keen on a gathered skirt, it just adds volume where I don’t need it. So, I decided to hack up a perfectly good pattern and make it my own.
I decided to extend the bodice of the Ellis and make it into an slightly A-line dress with inseam pockets. I also wanted to add in an exposed zip which meant I needed to alter the back by adding a yoke. Starting point was this toile.
A couple of issues emerged. Firstly, the shoulder seams were way too big. I notice on the original shots from Merchant & Mills that they don’t sit right on the shoulder of the model. They were way too big for me though, so I decided to remove a couple of centimetres.
I have altered the shoulder seam before on a previous make. I had to add width to the shoulders on my Frankie dress, here’s how I did that. But for this dress I needed to reduce the shoulder seam so I reversed the process. I drew a diagonal line from the shoulder seam to the arm hole and then slit the pattern (leaving a few millimetres to allow for the pivot). I then reduced the seam by 2cm and then trued it up. If you try this at home, remember to do this to the front and back!
I also felt that the neckline was too high so I reduced it, again by a couple of centimetres.
I decided to add some length to the sleeves. I just wanted them a tad longer to cover my elbow. Finally, I changed the back yoke, mainly to accomodate an awesome zip that I wanted to fit here. I lengthened the yoke accordingly.
I bought this fabric at FabWorks on my recent visit to the UK in June last year. Yep, it’s been sitting in my cupboard staring at me for a whole year. It’s a fantastic fabric. A heavy and slubby cotton in a dark inky blue. The fabric works either side, but I preferred the darker option. I would love to say that I remember the fabric specs, I always think I will and then never do.
This all sounds easy and quick, and yes, to someone concentrating on it for a stretch of time it is. But, I tackled this piecemeal, in mini pockets of time. The ultimate slow sew. After a few weeks of tinkering away, I made it and I really couldn’t be happier with the result (even if my forced smile below suggests otherwise).
I am super pleased with the fit. The top of this dress is perfect and I think it suits my shape. The darts give it a lovely shape. The only issue is that the fabric is so textured that the darts vanish a bit. I really liked the top stitched darts on the Merchants & Mills version, I did consider this but chickened out at the last minute.
The back of this dress turned out much better than I expected. My initial plan was to reverse the back yoke and have the white side of the fabric exposed. But, when I was sent this zip by Who Says Sew it just had to be part of the dress, it worked so well. The original pattern calls for a button closure so I had to work out the addition of the zip. It wasn’t too difficult but what I did fail to do (think piecemeal sewing and not concentrating) was consider how to finish the top of the exposed zip.
In the end I had to remove some teeth, I used a little tutorial from Makery to help me with this. I then unpicked the facing and sandwiched the zipper tape between the facing and the dress. It was super fiddly and but I managed to get a (fairly) clean finish with the machine and some nifty hand stitching.
I can see another Ellis in my future, it’s really a lovely pattern. The instructions are clear and well executed. I am looking forward to hacking up the Hattie version in the summer. Watch this space.
There is only one gripe I have with this make, this time it’s down to me, not the pattern. I added the inseam pockets far too low down the dress. When my fingers hit the bottom of the pockets, my arms are almost straight. I also feel that the pockets are adding volume just where I don’t need it. At this point, the pockets are still in, but I am sorely tempted to remove them just to slim the silhouette down a fraction.
What do you think? With or without pockets?