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The Wilder gown has been a great hit this summer, I was seeing it everywhere in all types of fabric and on all types of bodies. I scoffed and initially thought ‘fashion victims’
I attended a local car boot sale and noticed one seller had some fabric hidden among various items of bedding and other clothing. Whenever I see fabric for sale in unlikely places like this, it makes my heart sing and at only £2 for just over 3 metres it was mine. I asked the seller what her plans had been and she told me she bought the fabric some time ago and never got round to making anything – I’ve got a few fabrics myself that could tell that sort of tale if they could talk, but they’ll be staying with me for now.
I like the fabric, not too boring, not too flamboyant, the sort of design you could wear in a large garment. Its some sort of man made stuff, light with a lot of drape but not transparent and something of a frayer. I had to admit that the perfect garment would be the Wilder gown, so £20 later a paper copy of the pattern arrived.
I chose to make the size L but given the amount of ease in this garment any size would probably have been OK. The pattern envelope recommended 3.5 metres of fabric and I didn’t have quite enough but as I am only 5’3″ and didn’t want to make a floor length dress, I hoped this would do, and it did, though with not much left over. I took about 2 inches off the length of the skirt rectangle pieces. That’s the beauty of this pattern, you can adapt it to suit the fabric you have.
The bodice pieces are not large and could be made from quite a small amount of fabric. The pattern tetris seems to give little waste. On the first day the bodice was cut out and sewn together. I tried it on and the fit seemed good though it was difficult to tell without the neck ties.
The second day I assessed how much fabric was left and made the first tier of the skirt and the tie. The pattern pieces give a tip to rip the rectangles rather than cutting them.
I tried this on a scrap piece of fabric and it seemed to work, and as my fabric was a slippy frayer I went for it with the ripping. Its actually seems more accurate and a method I’d use again but does require some courage. The fabric puckered slightly at the ripped edge but was easily smoothed out again by hand.
The gathering and first layer attachment were unremarkable and with the tie added now looked like a Wilder tunic
Gathering the final tier was a challenge. Its a lot of gathering to pull through one length of thread and I was worried that my thread would snap and I would have to start all over again.
As an exercise and for fun I used as many different seam finishes as I could think of. The bodice pieces were finished with zig zag stitch or overlock stitch. The skirt rectangles were stitched together with French seams and the gathered edges were bound, I also used binding as a facing for the hem to preserve skirt length.
Here is my daughter modelling the gown for me.
If I make it again, and I probably will, I would add about 1 inch to the bodice length as I think it would drape more flatteringly at that length, and would change the sleeves, maybe make them longer and have elastic at the cuff.
Overall I’m pleased with how this turned out and my only criticism would be that the sleeves join the bodice quite low down which means the gown lifts up quite a lot if you lift your arms up.
Although I’ve missed the boat for wearing this as a summer dress, there is plenty of room for vests and leggings underneath for warmth and winter wear.
This is how the model looked in a linen version of the Betty shirt dress from Love Sewing magazine. I made this up in a green gingham hoping that it wouldn’t turn out looking too much like a school dress.
The pattern is included in issue 68 of Love Sewing magazine, the instructions being in the mag and you download and print the PDF file from their website, and it’s designed by Fiona Hesford of Sewgirl.
This is how my version turned out.
The gingham was bought locally with this dress in mind. It’s 100% cotton, slightly thicker and softer than school dress fabric and the squares might be a bit larger. I specifically wanted to make it to wear on holiday in Greece so it had to be cool and loose and I loved the pockets.
The bodice design is similar to my previous make with no actual sleeve pieces so avoiding all those fit issues. There are no bust darts which concerned me slightly because the model appears to have a small bust and I was worried how this would work out for my body shape.
The skirt is softly gathered with patch pockets and has a shirt tail type hem.
I printed out the pattern pieces and mulled over which size to make.
The armholes were large, no problems there, the V neck looked about right too. I cut size 16 bodice, 18 waist and 14 hips, probably could have shortened the bodice length a cm or two and used a size 14 on the shoulders.
I wanted a dress which had a lot of room in it and that’s how the fit turned out.
To check the fit, as always, I machine basted the bodice pieces together and tried it on. All seemed OK and at that point I realised the dress would pull on over my head, which meant I could sew the button placket shut an use some large buttons from my stash, last seen on a corduroy jacket.
The buttons would probably have been too large to fit in the buttonhole foot but as they were only there for show I just sewed them on and I doubt many people would notice there wasn’t an actual button hole.
I missed out the self tie belt, as am not a fan of belts.
This dress turned out to be everything I had hoped for in a holiday dress and it got worn for several evenings out to dinner on the Greek island of Paros. The weather was 20 – 25 degrees in the evening and not too humid which was perfect for eating outside.
This bodice design is devoid of any fit issues but does result in excess fabric around the shoulder area. Its not something that worries me too much and the extra fabric almost seems to fold itself into a bust dart shape quite neatly during wear.
I have a subscription to Love Sewing magazine and have started making some of the patterns. You always get 2 paper patterns, one of which is McCalls, but there are also 2 or 3 others which are PDF only from the website https://www.lovesewingmag.co.uk/ with the instructions being in the magazine.
Anyone can use the PDF’s for the price of your email address, and sewists with some experience could work out how to put them together without the instructions so I urge you to check them out.
This one from the recent issue 70 looked like my kind of style and I bought this cotton fabric from a local shop. The recommended fabric was linen. Stated requirements were 2.4m which was about right.
A medium weight cotton with spider webs – it was on sale and I suspect originally meant for some kind of childrens’ halloween costume. The actual colour is purple although it looks more like blue here.
The point of this dress is ‘learn a new skill, fabric covered buttons’. The button placket is not functional as there is a zip all the way down the back of the dress.
I printed out the 30+ pages of pattern and stuck them together. This was a big job in itself but using another tip from Love Sewing I held the pieces of paper up to a window and matched up the lines of the pattern pieces rather than cut off the edges of all the sheets. The accuracy of the sticking seemed to be improved using this method.
The sleeve is a batwing/dolman/grown on type, not sure of the correct term ie there are no separate sleeve pieces. The bodice has waist and bust darts. The bust darts didn’t print out properly but it was obvious by the shape of the pattern pieces and extra length on the front bodice that they were meant to be there.
I also find its a really good idea to take a close look at the fit on the model in the picture. The model will usually be slimmer and taller than myself so any fit issues I can spot on her will be the same on me plus some.
Areas to especially look hard at are the shoulders do they look dropped? ( I don’t like dropped shoulders), the how tight are the arms, how low is the neck, in this case I thought the bodice looked a bit long on the model and removed 1cm from the length of the pattern accordingly, I also made the neck a little lower.
Whilst knowing that making a toile is a good idea and have made them for some projects in the past, I mostly can’t be bothered. I do however want a good fit as much as the next person so my answer to this dilemma is to cut pattern pieces, erring on the side of big , machine tack them together, try on, and consider any appropriate fitting adjustments from the tacked garment before sewing together properly. In this instance I was able to take a further 1cm off the bodice length and move the bust darts points to the right place.
The garment construction was fairly quick easy and straight forward. I like the welt pockets and general style. The covered buttons were easy to make but they tend to blend in so if I hadn’t already made them I would have used a different contrast button instead.
As the buttons are purely a design feature I didn’t take any chances making potentially dodgy button holes and merely hand sewed the 2 placket sides together behind each button to make it look as if the buttons were securing it. I doubt if many people would notice the lack of actual button holes.
I am quite pleased with this dress, the cotton fabric means it can be worn in warm weather but as its fairly thick it will be trans seasonal as well.
This is my first ‘pattern review’ and I believe its customary to include some Q & A so here goes.
What did you like about the pattern? – Semi-fitted style, welt pockets, easy batwing sleeve which eliminate sleeve fitting issues, only a few pattern pieces, would work with a variety of fabrics and seasons.
What didn’t you like? – bust darts didn’t print out, no notches, sketchy instructions compared to independents.
What size did you make? – Bust 16, waist 18, hips 14
Fabric used : bought 2.5 m medium weight cotton, 22 in zip, fabric button backs
Modifications: Shortened bodice, lowered neck, didn’t make button holes
Would you make it again/recommend: I normally like to try something different but would recommend, I’ve worn it a few times and feel good doing so.
Bonus feature : Tailor’s ham
I bought a t-shirt for £1 from a charity shop but once home it looked a bit shabby to make anything from. However I did fancy owning a tailor’s ham so I used the t-shirt to cut out some ham shaped pieces and stuffed them with the rest of the t-shirt fabric cut into small pieces.
It works well, job done.
I started with this dress from River Island. The fabric was a nice fresh green with white dots woven into it which made it on the stiff side. I could just about squeeze into it but it basically needed to go wider and longer.
I cut the dress in half just above the waist, including cutting straight across the zip so it could be re-used to close the planned skirt.
I opened the side seams of the now skirt and tried to find some useful fabric from the bodice area to make widening panels, there really wasn’t that much to work with so that even a narrow panel had to be made of two pieces.
Well that was the wider part sorted out so I now needed to work on the longer.
I find lengthening a flared skirt can be tricky to get right, and have opted for a ruffle in the past which is a neat solution but I didn’t think a ruffle would really work here I was just going for a plain band.
I examined my stash to see what I could come up with, the fall back option being denim but I also had a the remains of a bright red pair of jeans, the colour of which would have worked wonderfully had there been enough fabric but I had already used one leg (on a rucksack), so it had to be the purple jeans which were more or less intact.
The purple jeans also yielded a narrow waistband. I often hand finish fiddly parts, easier to retain control.
There was a part of the bodice, the side section of the princess seam, which looked a bit like an upside down pocket shape, so I added it as a pocket .
I bound the bottom of the skirt with narrow bias binding using fabric cut from a men’s tie – these are cut on the bias so the binding was easy to make. This may have been one flourish too many.
Here is the skirt on the hanger
And on me
I love sewing and refashioning its my hobby. I’ve tried no buying for a year and it was a useful learning curve. I am not ready to do it again, but my current position for is that I have enough clothes and don’t need any more yet my hobby is sewing – how to reconcile the two positions?
One answer I have given myself is to take the most unloved second hand items and refashion them, therefore enter this dress, reduced to £1 from £7 at a local charity shop. It’s not my size and I generally don’t gravitate to leopard print, but do like this blue version.
The fabric is a very stretchy 100% viscose knit, made in Turkey from French Connection, surely good for a t-shirt, no FBA required.
The dress was gathered with a belt from the same fabric, all the better for me to unpick.
After unpicking the belt gathering I draped what remained over myself and looked in the mirror – a t-shirt was definitely on. Not sure why this dress was so heavily reduced, it was quite nice as it was just too small for me.
At the start of this post I wanted to return to my refashion roots and not use any patterns but the truth is patterns have been tried and tested and likely to give a better result than anything I can do myself so I used a pattern https://www.itsalwaysautumn.com/the-easy-tee-raglan-sleeve-tutorial.html
as a base for the t-shirt. I like this pattern because the sleeves are in 2 pieces and are shaped over the shoulder.
I was able to cut the front and back using the original hem and side seams from the dress. NB as you would normally sew the side seams and under arm sleeves last on a raglan tee in one move, although I’d saved myself work in the side seam area it was more tricky to sew the under arm sleeve seams.
There wasn’t quite enough fabric left over to cut the sleeves so I used this contrast orange knit for one section – blue and orange are a perfect match right?
For the neckband I used the belt of the dress, it was the right width. I could probably have stretched it out a bit more but can live with it as it is.
The leopard print was considerably more stretchy than the orange floral and there was a lot of easing in to be done.
I recently signed up to patternreview.com and took advantage of one their free tutorials about easing in a sleeve – basically the technique is that instead of using gathering stitches you should always ease in using your fingers to manipulate the fabric. Watch the video to understand, explains better than I ever could.
I had enough leopard print fabric left to make the sleeves a bit longer using a piece from the cowl neck of the dress which as a bonus was already hemmed.
As what was the hem of the dress was now the hem of a t-shirt its a bit wide but I quite like it like that.
I do like this make, its so comfortable and an unusual colour for me.
On the hanger
And on me
On my quest to find curtains for making a Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dungarees dress, I bought 2 suitable candidates and these are the other ones, bought from Geranium in Marylebone.
They are rather old fashioned and faded, and the fabric is quite definately curtainy but is the right weight. I sought advice from the charming American lady behind the counter and the other customer in the shop ( a young woman). Both were quite sure that these were the perfect curtains to make a dungarees dress from so I felt left with little option but to buy them.
I took them home and gave them a good wash, then made the dress from the other striped pair I ‘d bought see previous post and photo below.
I did like the pattern and didn’t leave it long before the second dress was started.
The pattern instructions are that you cut the front and back sections into 2 pieces then sew them back together with a faux flat fell seam. I missed that bit out and cut the front and back sections in one piece because I didn’t want the strong pattern running down the curtain to be interrupted by a seam.
I cut out 2 large pockets intending to sew them onto the front of the skirt, instead of the bib, but the pointed bottom shape of the pocket didn’t look right so replaced them with plain rectangular pockets and some partial pattern matching.
Well this fabric may have problems with its appearance but under the needle I have never worked with anything better, it was an absolute dream. It cut out like a piece of quality writing paper, there was virtually no fraying, ironed beautifully and there was no need to use interfacing. The whole construction was easy peasy, until it came to the buttonholes.
I had bought some pottery buttons in Scotland specifically for this project and they were on the large side so my buttonhole foot was working at full extension and this may have been a factor . The practice buttonhole went well, the first buttonhole went well, but by the second and final buttonhole the foot was having a wobbly. It either wanted to go too short or too long. I unpicked the buttonhole multiple times, and am sure that with any other fabric the attempt site would have been a total mess, but this curtain could take anything thrown at it.
In the end I had to finish the buttonhole by hand.
Here is the final result on the hanger.
And in the park
I think I actually prefer this dress to the other one.
I bought this curtain from Oxfam at Earl’s court for £5.99. Strictly speaking I think the price should have been for the pair but the assistant wanted to charge me £5.99 each curtain so I just bought one as it gave enough fabric for my project.
The project was a Tilly and the buttons Cleo dungarees dress which requires a denim weight fabric so I thought a curtain would be ideal.
Of course not all curtains are suitable and they were actually quite hard to source as a lot of charity shops did not appear to have any on sale, however sometimes if asked, they would bring something out of the back room for me to look at.
This particular curtain was a good quality one from Debenhams , fully lined with a lightweight plain polyester cotton fabric.
The curtain fabric is 100% cotton, it has a herringbone type weave. Washing instructions were dry clean only so I bunged it straight in the machine on my normal cycle and there were no ill effects.
There then followed and extended and relaxing time of seam ripping, which I actually quite enjoy, to separate the lining and tape. Once this was done there were immediate concerns about the suitability of the fabric. Although reasonably thick, once removed from the lining it seemed much more floppy, and this pattern requires a fairly stiff fabric.
I had a think for a few days then came up with the solution of interfacing the whole thing. This would also mean lining the whole thing, suddenly this project was not so quick and easy. There was a suitable lining fabric immediately to hand, which was the curtain lining.
I had studied the finished garment measurements and made a size 6. The design of this dress means there are no fitting issues as the top is just a bib and the hip area is loose.
The pattern is printed on paper rather than tissue which makes cutting out much easier. Both front and back are cut out in 2 pieces then stitched together as a faux flat fell seam, and although I can see this would work well on denim, and could save fabric, I didn’t think it added much to my version.
There are several pocket options and I chose the large front bib one.
I was concerned that after using interfacing all over the main pieces it would end up too stiff, and with the added lining be too warm to wear, but its actually OK and has worked quite well.
Because it was lined, there is no visible hem which was pleasing, I don’t think I will be scared to line again in the future.
I had already bought some buttons and while I don’t think they especially go with the fabric, decided to use them anyway.
Overall its been a good result, slightly tight at the knees when I’m walking but if I’d gone with the optional front split that wouldn’t have been a problem.
I’ve already got another pair of curtains waiting for the same treatment. This second pair is more curtainy but won’t need lining.