Summer sewing: picnic dress

Gingham is in this season, I read somewhere during the flood of fashion week wraps. Gingham is in this season, I authoritatively told a colleague as we discussed his tie. Gingham is in this season, I thought to myself as I saw the new dresses coming in from some of my favourite stores. So, gingham is in this season (or possibly last season – I get a bit confused being backwards from the northern hemisphere) and what better way to showcase that than a summer frock?


The fabric is some kind of cotton (new year’s resolution: pay better attention to what fabrics you buy) I spotted in the home dec section of Lincraft while on a mission for more thread. Aha! I thought. Gingham is in this season and this gingham is not twee. Well, not too twee. It’s still kinda like a tablecloth you might use at a fancy picnic…


The skirt is from the Lonsdale dress because pockets (duh!) and I really love the shape. I cut it on a different grain angle than marked on the pattern because with the checks I wanted the straight-grain to be at the centre front and back. It possibly sticks out a little more at the side seam than on my first version, but not too much. I also cut a fair chunk of length off the bottom – like maybe 15cm – and as I did so, I remembered doing this on the red polka dots too. Note to self: alter pattern pieces.


The bodice is my first ever time drafting something from the bodice sloper I made during a Burda garment fitting course I did with my mother. I was very unsure about how it would go (scooped out the neckline, changed the armholes, split the front darts in two) but went crazy-brave and cut straight into the fabric. Result: I still had to take in the centre back a fair way (my husband is getting much more reliable with the pinning for fit) but after that I’m extremely happy with it. Will keep the pattern pieces for future use!

Bet you can't see my side seam...
Bet you can’t see my side seam…

My pattern-matching confidence was greatly bolstered by having read this Coletterie post on how to match up plaids and stripes. The advice to cut the waistband on the bias to give a bit of room for error was especially helpful. I decided it was most important to have matching at the centre-front of the skirt and bodice, and the centre-back and side seams below the dart (where the seams are straight) on the bodice. There was much drawing of lines on the pattern, extremely careful pinning and even a bit of basting, which I don’t normally do. But the end result was totally worth it.


There’s also *almost* pattern matching on the pockets but the fabric has loosened up a bit with some wearing so it’s not as close as when I first sewed it. Remember how I was obsessed with pocket seam finishes a while back? (These ones are French seamed, same as before) Since making this dress, I’ve been checking out the pattern matching on people’s RTW clothes. Some manufacturers clearly don’t care at all!

The pattern matching on the back was doing much better until I took almost 3cm off each centre-back edge


In a last-minute attempt to toughen the dress up a little I decided to sew my first ever exposed zipper. Google and friendly bloggers with tutorials to the rescue! It’s not as neat on the inside as I’d like (the bodice is unlined to keep it lightweight for summer) but I’m still pretty pleased. I wasn’t sure where the top of the zipper should sit so I didn’t cut the tape shorter at all and instead sewed a hook and eye at the neckline. I kind of like how the ends sit straight up like magic.


For pretty guts, I French finished the side seams of both bodice and skirt. At the centre back, I had enough seam allowance from having to take it in that I folded each side under twice so it encased the raw edge in itself and sewed (like how you’d finish a hem). The waist band is interfaced and has a matching one sewn on the inside, as per the Lonsdale pattern proper. I sewed the inner band to the seam allowance where the skirt and outside band were attached, then stitched in the ditch of the bodice seam to catch the top of it (hope that makes sense).


At the neck- and arm-holes I finished the edge with this cute bias binding I bought in Paris. I machine sewed it at the seam allowance then folded the whole lot over and hand-stitched to finish. It’s a bit stiffer than the dress fabric so the catch stitching has caused some rippling around the neckline in particular but I’m not too fussed since this is a casual garment. I like having the secret surprise of the flash of orange.


Finally, the skirt is finished using a rolled hem foot on the machine. I’m still getting the hang of this and there are a few bits (especially going over the bulky seams) where it’s not quite properly rolled and may need a bit of a trim after washing.

I sprained my ankle a month ago and still can't run, let alone walk in high heels...
I sprained my ankle a month ago and still can’t run, let alone walk in high heels…

I feel like I’ve been in a sewing frenzy lately, even if there hasn’t been much blogging happening. The #bpsewvember challenge on Instagram definitely inspired some planning and dreaming – and helped me find a bunch more sewing types to follow. My braining is turning over a few Christmas gift ideas too (yes, I’m fully aware it’s ridiculously close to the day) that will hopefully come to fruition. And then there’s been this Top Secret project…


Yup, that’s a queen-sized wedding-present first-ever quilt. I don’t tackle projects by halves (see also: sequin and silk ball gown). I consulted some quilting friends on Twitter, bought a very useful book, did some maths and set to. The front combines the couple’s favourite colours, merging and swapping in the middle. The back has a strip with bits from the front plus some scraps from bunting I helped make for their wedding decorations.


They loved it and I’m immensely proud to have actually finished something so huge (and am awoken to the marvellousness of a walking foot on the sewing machine) – but I don’t think I’ll be doing much quilting any time soon.


One thought on “Summer sewing: picnic dress

  1. whisperinggums December 8, 2014 / 8:43 pm

    Good for you for making the quilt Katina. Am very impressed. If the recipients ever change their mind about liking it, you know where you can send it. LOL!

    Good pattern matching on your gingham dress. I don’t think that fabric is at all twee.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s