I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that I like things that are a little bit mad. Whether it’s bright hair, a crazy fabric print, or some killer shoes, I’m drawn to these things like a moth to the flame. It’s like my sensory dials have been cranked up to the max – if it’s not the craziest it can possibly be, it doesn’t get picked up on my radar.
This flows through to the things I create – I’m drawn to the loud prints and any patterns that are just a little bit outside the norm. My instagram feed is an in-your-face mashup of colour and patterns; which if you’re a pastels-and-neutrals kind of person then it might all be a bit too much for you. Hey, we’re all different. But that kind of thing feeds my weird-happy mojo.
From the front, the Belladonne dress by Deer and Doe looks pretty standard, and I came close to passing it on by as ‘just another dress’. But when I saw the back, I was suddenly very interested.
Deer and Doe are a French sewing pattern company, that produce patterns for a curvy hourglass figure (full hips and C-cup bust, with a narrow waist). You can get their patterns in either a printed or PDF format – if you want printed, they post worldwide for very reasonable shipping prices : EU €2.50 and worldwide €3.50. Standard 5/8″ seam allowances are included (yay!).
I’ve used several of their patterns before – and while I’m always pleased with the finished result, the instructions to get you there can be a little bit vague and require some knowledge to fill in the gaps. They are more like ‘guidelines’ than a step by step hand-holding. Don’t let this put you off though – their designs are really cool and totally worth the effort.
The pattern contains pieces for the cutout back and also a plain back – although, the cutout is so awesome I can’t imagine ever wanting to make the plain back version! The printed pattern comes with sizes 34 -46, whereas if you buy the pdf version you get 34 – 52. It’s given a difficulty rating 3/5, so I wouldn’t recommend this as your first ever dress but you’ll be fine if you’ve already got a couple of handmade garments in your wardrobe.
I am a size UK 10 and always cut a 38 in Deer and Doe patterns – and this one is no exception. Their sizing seems to be consistent across all their patterns which takes out some of the guesswork of sewing a pattern for the first time, and the should I/shouldn’t I have a practice run (which leaves more time for sewing other things!) I added a little length to the skirt though (I’m 5’5 for reference), purely as a personal preference as I prefer a slightly more modest length and don’t want to have to worry about flashing anyone walking behind me up the stairs at my local tube station. Nobody wants to see that before they’ve even had breakfast.
Those of you with eagle-eyes will spot that the back of my dress doesn’t look like the back of the dress on the pattern drawing – yep, I layered up the back pieces wrong. My bad. I only realised once I had sewn it all up and put the bias tape on – and to be bluntly honest I just couldn’t be bothered to unpick all those seams of I-will-destroy-your-eyesight-black-thread-on-black-fabric. Should anyone comment in real life that I’ve done it all backwards-like (which I’m sure they won’t) I’ll ask them to show me their totally perfect version or jog on.
I love trimmings, and when a pattern says you need copious amounts of bias tape, my ears prick up. Warning: extreme amounts of bias tape ahead…
The pattern actually instructs you to turn the bias tape to the inside, so that you can’t see it at all from the outside (the same way that you would bind an armhole) – but where’s the fun in that? Think of just how many combinations of contrasting bias tape you could have ?. I’m already planning my next one, and I’ve seen some really cool ones kicking about on t’internet.
Rather than just do the mirror of the instructions (i.e. you can see the bias tape from the outside but not the inside) I have completely encased the raw edges with bias tape – so you can see it from both sides.
Bear in mind though that if you want to go down this route of having exposed bias things will be a little different:
- The bias tape you’ll need will have to be 1 inch wide, in order to be able to fit around both sides of the raw edge – alternatively, you can use 1/2″ bias and only have it sit on the outside of the garment (I used 1″ so you can see the tape on both sides)
- You’ll need to decide what to do with the 5/8″ seam allowance on the shoulder/neck edges – usually this would be folded back underneath the bias tape on the inside, so if you instead wrap your bias tape around the raw edge, decide whether you want to cut away the seam allowance (to what would have been the stitching line) or leave it be. I left mine, I didn’t trim it – but I think that on the next one I make I will trim it off to make the shoulder straps a little narrower (the width they would have been, had I have followed pattern instructions).
I have bound all seams inside with bias tape too, because, why not? I bought a whole roll of the stuff so just went to funkytown with it. I may have perhaps gone a smidge crazy but it was like a tube of Pringles… once you pop you can’t stop. Anyway, it goes with the bias on the outside edges, so we’re all matchy-matchy.
The pattern is designed for an invisible zip, but those of you that know me will know that I don’t do subtle… why do something quietly when you can do it with pomp and circumstance and a brass band. Instead I went for an exposed zip with gold teeth – which worked a lot better on this dress than it did recently on my Chardon Skirt, read about that shambles here. (FYI regular readers: revamping of that skirt its currently in progress).
And because I just love piping so much and will use it anywhere I can, I went cray-cray with that too. The waistband and pockets were the victims here, but it breaks up the busy print of the dress quite nicely. Usually I would leave out pockets on a dress or a skirt, but as you can see the facing on this particular design I decided to leave them in and seize the piping opportunity.
I didn’t even bother trying to pattern match on this dress, because like so many other Alexander Henry designs the print on this is large-scale and there would have been crazy amounts of wastage. Unless you’re looking really closely you can’t see the seams anyway because they just get lost in the madness.
I really like the way this dress fits me – usually I have to choose sizes based on my bust measurement and then almost always take them in at the waist so I don’t look like I’m wearing a sack. But as Deer and Doe patterns are made for an hourglass shape already, I don’t need to make the adjustments – yay! The waistband hits at my natural waist too, which is always a win.
I’ve firmly decided that Zen Charmer by Alexander Henry is my absolute favourite fabric ever – I also made a skirt (again from a Deer and Doe pattern) and I have another dress being made from it in the works too. I’m not sure I’ll ever get bored with making things from it. And wouldn’t this look totally cool as a tattoo sleeve?! Now that I think about it, I do have a blank arm…
Coming up next week on the blog… my very first guest post! A light and floaty summer dress in an awesome palm print that’s all matchy-matchy with my hair ? Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!
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