When I started the Wanderstitch blog a couple of years ago, I decided that whatever the situation I would bring not only the whole story but the damn honest truth too. Because that’s what people in real life get from me. (‘Blunt’ is often a word that gets used to describe me ?) I saw several blogs that focussed only on the finished item and said nothing at all regarding the hours of construction that went in. No mention of any pitfalls, tricky bits, or crappy fabrics. And it bugged me. What also bugs me is online forums where someone posts that they’re feeling a ‘meh’ about their latest make for legitimate reasons – fabric doesn’t suit/style doesn’t suit/fit issues… whatever – and you get a hundred people going ‘I think it looks really lovely!’ when really they’re thinking ‘yes maybe that’s not your colour love’ or ‘it makes your hair colour look dull’ or ‘you perhaps need to refit it around the bust’. Tell the truth, people. Because the sugar-coated lies do more damage than good. I’d MUCH rather one of you guys said to me ‘ooh I think that colour clashes a bit with your hair’ or ‘put a belt around that sack of a dress you’ve just made, it’ll look better on you’ than just say YAY IT’S AWESOME, because I can then step back and maybe go ‘oh yeah, I do look pregnant in that dress, pass me the belt pronto’. I think that honesty is genuinely always the best policy. Even if it hurts.
Which is why you’ll always get the truth from me ?
And there are some hard truths here for Trend Patterns, who produced the dress pattern I used for this weeks make. But if nobody ever says these things, how will they know? Who benefits if I keep quiet? No one, that’s who. They will go on producing terrible patterns and even more sewists will attempt the dress and fall at the same hurdles.
I don’t even know where to start with this dress.
Let’s start with the best bit – the finished dress. And even that’s a bit meh. **Full disclosure that I actually made this dress at the end of last year, but it never made it to the blog – and given that I have SO MUCH TO SAY on it, I felt it needed its moment**
I looked at this dress on the Trend Patterns website many times. and I just couldn’t make my mind up on it. Did I like it? The black lace version – yes. The flowery number with metallic pink frills? Absolutely not. The worst thing I’ve seen in my life.
I sat on the fence for a LONG time. Would it suit me? Dunno. Did it have the potential to look absolutely hideous? Hell yes, based on that awful sample that was displayed on their website. This is very unlike ANYTHING I have in my wardrobe. The shiny pink ruffles are totally awful. I did NOT want to spend all that time making this dress only to have it look like a 6-year-old girls dress-that-her-grandma-made-her-wear. I felt this unsure about the Republique Du Chiffon Suzon Blouse that I made a while back – something really drew me to that ruffle, but I was totally nervous about whether it would suit me. In the end, it kinda did, so surely there was potential for this dress to turn out okay…?
Then I saw Catherine / Threadsnips had made it, and hers looked pretty good. I think I needed to see it in plain fabric.
I went for it.
I actually really love the style of the dress – it’s not finished particularly great (for reasons I’ll come on to – at length – later) so I’m not sure whether it’s going to be refashioned somehow or donated, but I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. I like the boho vibe it’s got going on. Way out of my comfort zone on so many levels, but I like it.
So that’s the good bit.
Now, let me share with you the rocky, bumpy, turbulent journey that I had to take in order to get to the finish line.
The first step was to choose the fabric. Whilst I was tempted with a 70s style floral (and still am, a bit), I kept in my mind the vision of the hideous dress on the pattern website. So I decided to make a plain one. I figured that there was enough going on with all those gathers already, without over complicating things and potentially ending up with what was essentially a baggy, gathered curtain. After all, you know me and florals walk a very thin line.
Minerva Crafts supplied 3 metres of my choice of Art Gallery rayon, in tile blue (this one, if anyone’s interested!). Now blue isn’t a colour I wear very much of at all – I prefer warmer colours – but from what I could find online it looked like the title was a bit misleading and it was actually a turquoise, rather than a blue… so I took a punt on it, figuring that if it WAS blue then I’d just dye it. The pitfalls of online shopping, hey. Thankfully, the colour is turquoise and it’s actually really pretty.
As for the actual dress pattern, I paid £25 for the printed paper pattern. TWENTY-FIVE POUNDS. I could have had a pdf for slightly cheaper, but there was NO WAY I was going to stick together A4 pages for a dress that can take over four metres of fabric for the maxi version. Nuh uh, no way, big fat nope. (This was before I’d discovered Patternsy, but Threadsnips bought the pdf only to find that there was no copyshop/A0 version, so she was left with taping 55 pages together. Not cool). So I rather grudgingly shelled out the £25 for the printed pattern. This is the most I have EVER spent on a single pattern (bar a couple of vintage ones, but they don’t count right? They’re investments ?). The price *almost* made me not want to make the dress. I’ve not sewn a Trend Patterns garment before, so I didn’t really know what to expect, and this made me even more nervous. Would it be worth the £25?
Turns out it wasn’t. Not at all.
So the packaging isn’t bad… you get everything folded up inside a black bubble envelope – much sturdier than a paper envelope. The pattern itself is printed on white paper, slightly thicker than tissue but thinner than regular printer paper. Physically, it’s winning.
But the instruction booklet is horrific – there are misprints which have been corrected WITH TIPPEX. I mean, I’ve just paid £25 for this pattern, I expect it to be damn perfect. Also, One of the pattern pieces tells you to cut two of them, when actually you only need one. And apart from the fact that there are steps missing from the instructions for the sleeveless version, these kinds of things definitely should NOT be happening with something you’ve just paid £25 for. I mean, was this dress ever pattern tested or proofread? Based on all of the above I’m tempted to say NOPE.
So with regards to the actual instructions, I was not a happy bunny. In fact, I was a red sweary bunny with steam coming out of its ears. It was an absolute shambles. I’m not sure I even would have expected this level of sloppiness from a pattern I was a first-round tester for.
But, I wanted to make the dress, so I (foolishly?) persevered.
In the same way that I couldn’t bring myself to stick the pdfs, I also couldn’t bring myself to trace all the massive (and many) rectangles of the pattern pieces. So I went straight in with the scissors and cut up my £25 pattern, hoping that I’d chosen the right size. Because I was sure as hell not paying out another £25 to make a different size. I mean, look at the size of the pattern paper…
Viscose might have been the right fabric choice drape-wise, but sanity-wise it was definitely the WRONG choice. It shifted all over the place while I cut it out, and gathering it up was painful. The pattern instructs you to gather each piece to a certain length, before attaching it to another piece. This to me seemed like the longest method in the world – I mean, who wants to keep shuffling gathers about until your panel measures 78cm across? Not me.
So I went with my usual method of attaching the piece to its partner and just gathering it down to the same width. If there’s a reason that they don’t tell you to do it this way, I didn’t find out what it was. I used a gathering foot for the first time – whilst this is faster than doing it manually, you’ve no control over the size it gathers down to, so you have to then do some rejigging and manoeuvring about to get the panel the correct width. Was the gathering foot worth it? Undecided.
The amount of gathering in this dress is really intense. I mean, if you’re thinking of making it, don’t underestimate the amount of work involved. IT IS A GATHER-FEST. You have been warned.
The instructions have you sew the dress together mostly on an overlocker, with 1cm seam allowance on the majority of pieces. Seam allowance is at least included… which I guess is something. There would be absolutely zero chance of me tracing all those pattern pieces to add seam allowance.
(Yes, I regret not buying turquoise threads for the overlocker)
I made the sleeveless version of the dress, and it all went sort-of well (if slow, due to gathering. Did I mention there was loads of it?) up until it came to finishing the armholes. I’d already attached the shoulder ruffle and was literally just putting the finishing touches when I realised I’d hit a bit of a wall. My armhole consisted of the raw edge of the bodice sides, at the underarm, and the overlocked edge of the shoulder ruffle. The armhole doesn’t form a circle going up and over your shoulder, in the same way that a sleeveless top would – the underarm bit is the same, but the ruffle is then turning that armhole 90 degrees to go out and round your arm rather than up and over your shoulder. So my planned method of bias tape wasn’t going to work, because I couldn’t work it around those angles. I stood and looked at it for a while, wondering what the best approach was. I couldn’t really come up with one, because whatever method I chose clashed with the fact that I was unable to turn in the raw edge of the bodice because I’d attached the already-finished edge of the shoulder ruffle. This was the gaping hole in the pattern instructions – they didn’t tell you how (or when) to finish the armholes for the sleeveless version. I mean, that’s a pretty big omission. In the end, I went with the bias tape, but its a bit of shambles.
The zip needs to go further down the side seam as well, because they have you place it right at the top but it would give a better finish if it was moved down a couple of inches and the side seam was sewn above the zip and up until the armhole, rather than the armhole being at the very top of the zip. That probably makes more sense with a picture:
You can see in the photo above that I managed to get the bias tape on the bodice section of the armhole, but couldn’t continue it around the gathered shoulder ruffle ? Yep, I just left it as it was.
You’re meant to put a hook-and-eye at the front neckline to hold it shut – the bodice is actually in two pieces, with a seam down the centre front:
But I thought a hook and eye might be a little uncomfortable against the skin. So for these photos, I sewed it shut ? A small decorative button on the outside might be a better option.
Although the rayon gives a lovely drape to the dress, it creases like an absolute bastard. I really don’t know whether I spent more time doing the many, MANY gathers, or ironing the bloody thing. I swear it creases if you so much as breathe on it. The dress hasn’t been through the wash yet, and to be honest I’m not sure I can face ironing it after it’s been washed. I mean, it’s basically going to come out of the machine as a massive crumpled mess, and I hate ironing. This is not a good combo.
This, for me, is a massive downside to the fabric – the laundry maintenance. It really (really) pains me to say it, but I think the best fabric choice for this dress is a drapey poly. Something that won’t come out of the washing machine all creased – because believe me, you do NOT want to be ironing this dress. You want to take it out of the wash and put it straight on.
Despite all the dramas with the construction, I actually really like the dress and I could see myself making a long-sleeved autumn version, perhaps in a corduroy (would that crease less, though, or be just as bad?!). It’s quite a mammoth project, so I’d have to build myself up to make it… and I need to figure out what to do with that armhole. Perhaps the problem goes away if you make the sleeved version. I’m still not happy about the quality of the pattern for the money though – I might even email Trend Patterns now and tell them about my experience, to see what they say. Because honesty is the best policy, guys.
But here’s all the photos for you to enjoy… the day we took these it was super windy (not ideal for a lightweight dress), and the sun flicked between so-bright-you’re-gonna-go-blind and winter-has-arrived. Joys.
Here’s me with my Marilyn Monroe tribute ✌??
Next week on the blog is round two of the Boxer Short adventure – after making the Comox Trunks last year, I’m back with some amendments and (hopefully!) improvements! ??
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