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?

x

The saga of some giant ruffles and a summer shirt!

My nerves are shot to bits… I keep catching something in the corner of my eye and it’s…. a GIGANTIC ruffle!

What am I talking about? Well, I have been lusting over this pattern for ages.  It’s the Suzon Shirt from Republique du Chiffon.  I like their patterns, understated with a twist, my kinda thing.  So I put in an order with Stitch56 and bought the paper pattern.  I don’t often buy paper patterns, I am a ‘PDF-er’ so it was lovely to receive this sweet package, a cool kraft envelope, some lovely photography and basic instruction manual.  Nothing fancy, but that’s OK, I don’t need fancy, I just need a good pattern. Mmmmm…

OK, so where to start.  I made a toile.  I thought I should as I am short in the body and narrow across the shoulders so a few things could go wrong.  I chose the size 38 and graded out slightly to a 40 for the hips.

I am glad I toiled, there were problems.

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It was way too long.  So I went back to the pattern to find the shorten/lengthen line but there isn’t one.  I took a punt and reduced it by 6cm at the waist.

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The second issue was the bust dart.  It was way too low for me, sitting right under my boob. Thought I should nudge that up by 1.5cm.  Also the bust dart is very long.  It went way past my nipple point.  It was at least 2.5cm too long.  So I reduced the length and moved the dart.

The other issue I encountered, which isn’t shown in these photos is the ruffle.  As there are no notches on the ruffle to match to the yoke or the body it left me feeling kinda lost, I had about 4cm left over at one end.

So, the toile sat there on my dummy for weeks. I knew the answer, I just couldn’t bare to tackle it.

The answer was notches. Surely notches are necessary to ensure the right amount of gathering in each section.  I did what I had to do,  I decided to notch the ruffle, front yoke, back yoke, the front body and the back body.  Overkill?  No, I don’t think so.  It took me AGES to work it all out.  Time I would assume the pattern maker should have spent.  Am I asking too much?

With the pattern altered and notched I was finally away.  The fabric I had chosen is a joy to me.  It’s a lovely piece of brushed cotton from Fabworks in Dewsbury.  My Mum bought if for me when I dragged my parents there on my recent visit to the UK.  I say recent, that was back in June. I haven’t seen fabric like this before.  There are tiny threads of colour, like a thread splatter, on an off white cotton base. I just love it,  it is subtle but interesting.  Am I finally growing up?

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I decided to take the time to mark tailors tacks everywhere, with all the pulling of the gathers I thought that the chalk marks would be lost. Tailors tacks were a better option.  I used some floro orange thread just for fun. You can just see them sticking out here.

It came together fairly quickly after that.  The collar and plackets were relatively straightforward to add.  I should say though, if you like detailed illustrations at every stage, you don’t get them here.  There’s just enough to get the idea.

I was keen to try my buttonhole function on my Bernina 350.  I have made the odd buttonhole here and there but not a row of identical buttonholes.  It’s pretty awesome in that once it has made one it goes into auto and makes all the other exactly the same.  All you have to do is move it to it’s next position.  I am sure all you lovely sewers with great machines have had this function for years.  It’s a revelation to me.  I see many more buttonholes in my future.

The only issue with the pattern here was that there were no buttonhole markings supplied on the pattern.  It tells you in the instructions where they should go, but I like to see it marked on the pattern.

It worked out well in the end, even with all the work I put into it.  It’s not a beginners pattern that’s for sure.  It’s categorised as 2/4, so is that advanced beginners or intermediate?  But it’s the design that I love so I am willing to forget the effort involved.  Because I finished it a few weeks ago, like giving birth, you forget the pain fairly quickly because you have something quite beautiful to show at the end!

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Excuse the creases, I had been wearing it all day!
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It’s so soft that it’s like wearing my pj top
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It’s not a fitted shirt, it quite boxy in shape which works well to cover my tum
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The ruffles are a bit flat here, clearly been sitting down too long.
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The finger?  Well that’s another story….