So following on from my Shirt Dress Planning post, I printed the Penny dress pattern from Seamwork/Colette which it turns out that we already had downloaded as Nikki had started making one for herself a few years ago. Miraculously I downloaded and printed the pattern one night and cut and taped the pattern the next morning! Which is surprisingly fast for me at the moment as I have just had so little motivation to do anything lately…
After having the pattern cut out I set out to find out how much space the bodice would actually take up, because I can calculate the fabric needed for the skirt easily but the bodice can’t be done on a calculator, I actually needed the pieces. If I was to have a full circle skirt like I am thinking I would need about 5 or 6m of fabric for this dress which really adds up, considering I set my fabric searches to under £20/m…
But after Process of Sewing’s zero waste gore skirt came up on my IG feed I was reminded that actually, I can make a full circle ish skirt that takes up FAR less fabric. Cue some scribbling on paper and a calculator and I have a plan that uses much less fabric ish depending on the width of the fabric. But I would like to try out the fit before making it for the wedding so I scrabbled around in my stash and found some calico (or calico ish fabric) from IKEA that I could make a muslin from.
I started with the bodice pieces and after cutting them out and pinning them together to really crudely check the fit I realised the fabric was a bit thin, and since ultimately I would like this to be a wearable muslin, I cut a second set of the front and back bodice pieces to make it fully self-lined. I was surprised how well the bodice fit me straight out of the packet, considering the number of modifications I have to make to some patterns. Since the Penny pattern is designed to be sleeveless or have short sleeves I needed to use the sleeves from somewhere else and chose the Rachel Shirt as I already had this cut out and it is the same designer which would increase the likelihood that the two would match without much modification. I cut a straight size 12 from both patterns but modified the sleeves to have more width in the bicep/elbow area, leaving the sleeve head and cuff alone.
I am very happy with how well these two patterns went together, and there were only small modifications needed for the “real” dress. Most importantly I needed to add a bit more width to the bodice, it was fine for wearing but sitting in it for any length of time was a bit tight, and sitting is an essential part of any wedding! But for this, I reduced the size of the seam allowance since I find 1.6cm seam allowances very big anyway and added 1cm to the side seams at the waist, grading to nothing at the armscye. I also reduced the length of the bodice at the CB, which is a standard adjustment for me, it initially looked like I wouldn’t need to do this but once the waistband was on it was obvious that I actually did. I also lengthened the waistband to account for letting the bodice out a bit. I also added belt loops to the waistband and made a belt out of the canvas fabric which I think is a lovely finishing touch, and wonderfully useful when you come to photograph the dress and the waistband button falls off!
Excuse the tiny corridor selfies but these are the only photos I have of the muslin at the moment. I actually really like this dress as it is, but a full-length cream dress is just asking for trouble, especially where I am concerned. I am planning to natural dye this dress at some point in the near future, and because of this, I bought some 100% cotton thread to sew this muslin up with so that it would also take the dye. I have not decided what colour it will go yet, but I do have some woad seeds so maybe it might possibly end up blue.
As you can see I put pockets in the skirt (essential for any outfit but 100% so for a wedding!) but in the mockup, they are a) too high and b) too small. What is less easy to see is that this is a 10 gore skirt where one of the panels is made up of two gores with a vertical seam in it so that I could use the whole width of the fabric. I put these 1/2 panels on the side front intending to connect the pockets to the vertical seam for more stability, but the pockets needed to be wider than the panel at that point so they are only connected at the side seam and waist seam. But this style of half-panel would work well for patch pockets.
Here you can see my absolutely fantastic pattern Tetris, even if I do say so myself. I am super proud of this. I got a cuffed long-sleeved collared dress bodice, waistband, 2x 1m long skirt facings/button bands, self-fabric belt, belt loops and pockets out of 2m of 140cm wide fabric and the 1m long full panelled skirt out of the other 2m of fabric. I need to round up all of my scraps and see how much there is, but it is a very small amount! I do have to admit that some of the pattern pieces, like the cuffs, are cut on the cross-grain but this fabric is pretty much identical on both sides and in both directions, which is lovely for a tight layout but not so great for ensuring you don’t sew things on back to front!
I ordered 20 x 11mm forest green shirt buttons from Totally Buttons which thankfully matched really well with this Forest Green Soft Canvas from Pound Fabrics that I made the dress from, and since I was going to have to sew so many buttons and buttonholes I chose to do it all on my sewing machine. Thankfully this machine has a really good inbuilt automatic buttonhole function/foot, all I did was turn the stitch length down quite a bit to make the buttonholes look more “complete”. The buttonhole foot has the ability to change the size of the buttonhole based upon the actual button, but in hindsight, I probably should have opened it out one more notch as they are a little tight. Since I didn’t have any fraycheck I coated the back of the buttonholes with GemTak before cutting them open with this fantastic little chisel that we had just inherited from Arthur’s Grandfathers tool shed (along with most of the rest of the tool shed!). My machine can also sew buttons on, it does take quite a bit of manual work, but a lot less than hand sewing. But I will get a button foot before doing the buttons on the muslin. This function will sew between two buttonholes so I did have to take the dress out and rotate it through 90 degrees and re-insert it to sew all four buttonholes. I also ran the cycle twice for each set of buttonholes as I feel like it doesn’t do enough crosses but I do like the fact that it will stitch in the same place multiple times to “finish” the stitching. PS masking tape is fantastic to hold the buttons in place when sewing them on!
Here are some photos of the “finished” dress, again tiny corridor selfies but I now have fancy photos that you may have seen on IG but will have their own blog post. Also, who is with me in thinking this bodice combination would make a lovely cropped jacket? And check out how well this lovely purse, that I found in a charity shop a number of years ago, matches the dress! It has the ability to have a shoulder strap added (that can fold inside the purse when it’s not needed) but the chain is missing, so I need to find some to add to make it even more versatile.