The Ellis Dress – hacking up a perfectly good pattern!

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.

The Pattern:

So, onto my latest make, a great pattern by Merchant & Mills, the Ellis & Hattie Dress. I bought my pattern from Stitch 56, it’s thrilling to have a paper pattern, I rarely treat myself.

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.

The toile:

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.

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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.

The fabric:

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.

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Both sides of this fabric would work I think, shame I didn’t make it reversible!

The result:

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).

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It has a good amount of volume to hide all those wobbly bits!

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.

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3 darts at this side, can you spot them??
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I can’t believe my luck with the fit!

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.

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Loving my feature zip!
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I have even managed to wear this dress 3 times already!
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With or without?

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?

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