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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My gift criteria = The Ida Clutch

My friend is having a birthday and a present is required! I think I have made a rod for my own back with this present giving business.  About 90% of the time, I make something.  My friends and family don’t expect a homemade gift but I do think that if I can make it, then I will.  I think a homemade gift sings of love and the precious commodity of ‘my time’.

Lately, I have made enough Sashiko zip wallets to sink a battleship, so a change was needed (for my sanity alone).

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I stumbled across this cute clutch bag pattern by Kylie and the Machine on Instagram. The Ida clutch was exactly what I was looking for.

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Image from @kylieandthemachine

I have been thinking about the gifts I make and have drawn up a simple criteria:

  • an easy make
  • only use fabrics/notions/patterns from my stash
Of course, this is not always possible but I wanted to give it a go here.
I started off this project by checking out Kylie’s website.  The Ida clutch pattern is free and easy to download from her site.  That’s one massive tick in the’ gift giving’ criteria box. So I printed it out and off I went.
There are fantastic instructions on her blog, the photography is great and the written instructions are very clear.  It’s an easy make (another tick). You will also find a whole section about interfacing the clutch, interfacing is key to the structure of this make.

The final part to my criteria is using fabric and notions from my stash.  I found it, the perfect fabric! The leftover fabric from a raglan sleeve top I made back in August last year.

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Check out my blog post “A synthetic dream!

It’s a Tessuti Fabric that I discovered on the remnant table.  It’s a monochrome nylon mesh fabric so it’s very textured as you can see here. A lovely tactical fabric for this clutch, it’s the perfect combo.

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(It also makes your eyes go a bit squiffy!)

As my criteria states that I needed to use what’s on hand, I had to be creative with the interfacing.  This is Kylie’s recommendation, a lighter interfacing to cover the outer fabric then a stiffer interfacing to cover the main body of the clutch.

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Image from: Kylie and the Machine
 I didn’t have this I used a medium interfacing to cover the outer pieces, then I sandwiched some heavy wadding and interfacing together for the body piece. This seemed to give it the structure it needed.  I also (possibly overcompensated) by using fairly heavy fabrics.  The Nylon mesh fabric has a synthetic textured structure (i.e. no drape or stretch) and for the lining I used a heavy dark denim.

I wouldn’t normally top stitch near the zip but I followed instructions and I am glad I did.  The mesh is really ‘bouncy’ and it is not a friend to the iron, so pressing is redundant.  The top stitching really helped it to sit flat next to the zip.

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Top stitching

I am always apprehensive of using a snap which was a requirement here.  I think the ones I have (of unknown source) are fairly poor quality, but I tested them out a couple of times. The fact that I was using such heavy fabric really helped me here. The snaps seemed to worked well and I have to say, they aren’t going anywhere!

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Zip: Who Says Sew

Finally for the zip, this is a new addition to the collection at Who Says Sew.  It’s a lovely YKK metal teeth zip with ring pull. The colour choice here was my only big decision; yellow, red or wine.  I think if it was a clutch for me then I would have gone yellow but as I kept reminding myself, it wasn’t! I went for the wine colour, it still gives it the ‘pop’ I was looking for.

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You can see how well the structure holds up here

I did have to alter the length of the zip slightly and because it’s a metal zip, a pair of pliers and a little tutorial by Makery was required. I will no longer be afraid of altering a metal zip, it was super easy.

So here it is…

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So yummy!
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Running away…

I see many more of these in my future, I may even resort to type and make a Sashiko version. Problem is, I don’t want to give this one away.  Let’s hope she really doesn’t like it!

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