THE DRAPERY BLOG: Pattern Reviews & News (click 'filter' for categories)
Vali, the new dress/top pattern from Pattern Fantastique, was one of those patterns that knocked everything off my to-sew list as soon as it was released. Nita always has a clever way of focussing on an exaggerated element in her patterns, and this time it’s the elasticated puff sleeve. Friends, this is one significant sleeve. Paired with a fitted yoke and flared bodice, though, it all balances out nicely. The dress iteration sports some nice looking pockets, too: tick, tick and tick.
The Vali includes sizes 6 to 26. I measured between sizes and sized down based on the fit of other PF patterns I have made. Really happy with the fit! There’s a lot of helpful information about how to achieve best fit in the instructions.
The Vali is rated as intermediate. There are definitely some fiddly parts to this sew and some assumed knowledge.
Something I always enjoy about PF patterns is that Nita has you do all the preparation up front. It goes beyond the usual application of interfacing, to things like constructing ties and preparing all gathered pieces to exact measurements. Sure, sometimes you just want to get into the meaty bits, but sewing the garment happens satisfyingly fast once all of this is done. Be warned, because this is a detailed sew, there is a lot of that preparation up front. This is a beautifully finished garment, too, so hat tip to Nita for making us do all of the boring but necessary bits first.
That said, there were a few times that I felt confused by this pattern, particularly around the construction of the yoke and its facing. First, I sewed the wrong end of the front neckline facing to the back facing (total user error, I should have checked the direction of the neckline curve before sewing). But it was where the neckline facing (piece F, for anyone playing along) joins the rest of the facing where I just couldn’t get my head around the instructions or diagram. Again, this was possibly user based, but I ended up pinning/basting it in two different ways, then laying it face down on the preassembled yoke to see how the two parts fit together. One (to the left of my mid-construction photo below) fell short by 5mm, the other worked, so I used that method to attach those two pieces. If you’re confused too, I definitely recommend basting. It’s a beautifully shaped yoke, and well worth the effort!
My other Vali related drama was with the hem. I felt the top was a bit long for me so decided to take a bit of length off; measured it on myself and against another similar top of favourite length. Despite measuring twice, I cut off too much hem and the top was too short and looked unbalanced. Sensing that this might be the black shirt of my dreams (spoiler, it is), I took to with with the seam ripper and replaced the bodice (so sad, I will do something with the leftover linen, also thank goodness we had a massive roll still from the same dye lot.) Anyway, please learn from my cautionary tale. Hem length can really make or break a garment.
|Shop mirror selfie, please excuse mirror that needs a clean.|
A couple of small modifications
I reinforced the seam where the split yoke at the front meets the bodice/skirt for strength, and hand stitched the two yoke fronts together at the base where they meet the bodice so that the turned up seam wasn't visible. I also squared off the hem and shortened it slightly.
I’m so happy with my Vali; it was totally worth the extra time and self imposed doubling back. Black shirt of dreams indeed.
- Fiona xx
The Mary White pattern is a recent release from UK's Merchant & Mills. It's slated as Intermediate skill level and described thus: "A loose fitting dress or top with front and back pleats, side in-seam pockets (dress only), breast pocket and a sailor collar. Perfect attire for any board walk."
Merchant & Mills is not (as far as I've seen) forthcoming about the origin of the pattern's name. A quick internet search revealed a Dr Mary White, prominent Australian Paleobotanist who died in 2018, and a Kansas schoolgirl of the early 20th century, daughter of a journalist and subject of a 1977 movie about her life and early death from a horseriding accident. Your guess is as good as mine. *EDIT* thanks to our lovely friend Dorothy who remembered that M&M had answered the query a while back - it's a lifeboat!
I'm drawn to the sailor collar, but wary of the exaggerated look that brings to mind Popeye or Princess Di in the early 1980s.
However I trust Merchant & Mills to keep it classy. So I selected our soft washed Lithuanian linen in 'Honeysuckle' and went to work on the top (the dress version is simply lengthened straight down, with added side seam pockets).
As usual with M&M patterns, the sewing process was full of satisfaction, with notches lining up beautifully, sleeves easing in nicely and so forth. However, I did find the front pleat quite a head-scratcher. I got there in the end, and it was partly my fault for making chalk marks (which became hard to discern) instead of the recommended tailor tacks. Next time, I'll take the time to tailor tack properly.
There is a section where facings are sewn to folded pieces of the front bodice, and in case it helps anybody, I offer the following as additional guidance in the second part of Step 13, where I found the diagram difficult to interpret:
|Right front bodice (view of wrong side), interfaced neck facing above inner workings of the pleat. Fold both out away from the bodice.|
|Pin top of pleat to bottom of facing.|
|Sew across, the full width of the facing.|
|This is how it looks once folded back against the bodice.|
I love it when a sewing pattern really challenges my idea of styles I like to wear. Wrap dresses were not something I'd considered for a long time. So I was surprised when the Hannah Wrap Dress from By Hand London caught my eye, and kept playing on my mind.
And what do you know - I love it! Hannah pairs beautifully with our washed Lithuanian linens. I used rich teal-blue 'Atlantic', one of our new custom-dyed colours. In this fabric the Hannah makes me feel well-dressed but not overdressed for everyday wear.
NB: BHL patterns are only available as PDF, and I purchased this direct from their website. It's a large print job: four A0 pages mostly filled by the three skirt pieces, or a bunch different files for A4, because you can choose between three sleeve options. I printed the bodice and short sleeve at home to make a muslin before I committed to the full dress, then needed three A0 pages printed to complete the dress. It was worth it in the end though!
I made several fitting alterations to the bodice, through the course of two muslins and the finished dress, but they were exactly as I might expect given my personal shape. I think the pattern is very nicely drafted 'as is'.
After the first muslin I lowered the bust dart and made a narrow shoulder adjustment. Then after constructing the final dress I could see another area for improvement, with an excess of fabric in the upper bust/armpit area. This sat much better when I pinched a bit out towards the shoulder point along the shoulder seam. So I did a bit of unpicking and took a wedge out of the back shoulder, an inch at the shoulder point tapering to nothing at the neckline - a bit of a dodgy sloping shoulder adjustment. I made a pleat at the top of the sleeve to take in the resulting excess there. If I was to be really picky, I could have gone a bit further with this shoulder adjustment. Don't mind the low quality mirror selfies and mid-reno room... you may find the fitting demo useful!
I also shortened the sleeve, which made it better proportioned for me. The skirt needs no adjustments since it's just three big rectangles with lots of gathers. For me, with many patterns it's a tossup whether to choose a smaller size based on shoulders/high bust and make a full bust adjustment, or choose a larger size and then adjust the shoulders. I'm happy with how this one worked out in the end!
The skirt wrapover is generous and has you covered unless it's super windy (Bunnings carpark I'm looking at you!). The bodice wrap also feels fairly secure and I don't feel the constant need to check and adjust for coverage. I love the weight and swishiness that our washed linen gives to the skirt. Pockets are excellent, although a little difficult to find sometimes within the gathers. Extra shaping is given to the bodice with darts coming from the waist at front and back.
PATTERN: Hannah Wrap Dress, By Hand London
FABRIC: 100% linen, washed/softened, made in Lithuania - Atlantic (145cm wide, 2.5m)
SIZE: 16 in the original B-cup range (I dithered over which range to purchase because the curvier sizing also started at a 16 but my measurements seemed to fit this quite well)
ADJUSTMENTS: lowered bust dart, narrow shoulder adjustment, sloping shoulder adjustment, shortened sleeve
COMMENTS: I'm a wrap dress convert! Love it.
- Jane xx
Sometimes a pattern can creep up on you, do you know what I mean? You’re making the things you need, sometimes getting distracted by shiny new patterns and fabric. Then, out of the blue, an old pattern that has never caught your eye before suddenly… does.
So it was for me with the Roscoe Blouse pattern. Released in 2015 and ahead of its time, probably, with its big sleeves and gathered volume. Great with jeans, good for work or not-work, pairs well with linen and other light, drapey cloth. Um, why hadn’t I sewn this before?
The beauty of making an older pattern is the volume of information available about it - and the almost unanimous message about the Roscoe is that there is a lot of ease. Referring to finished garment sizes on the pattern, I went down 2 sizes from my measurements. Yes, it’s supposed to emanate that oversized puffy, pirate shirt vibe, but I prefer the fit of these things to have slightly less volume. And there is still buckets of comfortable ease in this.
I cut 2.3m of this 145cm wide washed linen in Deepest Blue, but for the size 10 I used 25cm less - though you might need the full amount in a directional fabric. I also ended up taking 6cm off the hem for my 5’6” frame (more on that later), so could have got away with cutting just under 2m.
Nothing to report here, this came together with no dramas. The pattern is drafted beautifully and the instructions & diagrams plentiful and clear. If you don’t like making/distributing/pinning gathers - well, there’s a bit of that - but not excessively so.
While this weight of linen (170gsm) is lovely for a top or dress, I think this top could work well with something even lighter weight for super hot weather. A cotton seersucker, voile or Liberty Lawn would be peak light & floaty.
A couple of other things
After looking at these photos I’ve come to the conclusion that, in retrospect I’ve taken too much off the hem. Makes my choice of KATM label somewhat ironic, but I still think I’ll get plenty of wear out of this. Also, not with the blue jeans - too much blue! - but the opportunity to take a photo presented itself in a small window on a blue jean day.
View C, dress with frill, also looks appealing in the same way that the Wilder Gown is - swishes aplenty!
We’ve just taken delivery of a bunch of True Bias patterns, so the Roscoe Top & Dress can be found here.
- Fiona xx
It's worth mentioning that, as seen above, the pattern includes a plain short sleeve as well as a shift dress with optional front seam pockets. There's potential to get plenty of long-term value out of this pattern, beyond the very 'now' statement sleeve. The other option given is a stitched-down neck facing (which I chose) or a bias tape neckline finish.
To make the most useful shop sample I sewed a straight size 14, as corresponded most closely with my measurements. If I had been making for my own wardrobe I would have dropped a size or two to better fit my shoulders, and then used the downloadable C or D-cup front bodice that is offered for this pattern on the Closet Core website (instructions on how to access are in the pattern). Hurrah, the full bust adjustment has already been done for us! I really appreciate this option on a pattern.
I used our washed Lithuanian Linen 'Diane Keaton' which is a great mid-blue, with a check that's subtle enough to not require a huge amount of thought about pattern matching. I just made sure the grain was nice and straight and centred well on the fold.
The pattern is designed with quite a lot of ease (a good 6.5" in the bust), and the finished garment measurements are very helpful in selecting a size.
The back shoulder pieces are a feature on every view of the pattern and whilst they seem to serve no practical purpose (there is no extra shaping built in), I like them! Perhaps the topstitched seam there provides a little extra support for the sleeve volume? (You can see a smaller size across the shoulders would definitely help for me here.)
The sleeves truly are vast, yet the volume is tamed a little with the tapered 'cuffs' which are fully self-lined, giving them a clean finish and swingy weight.
The dart coming down from the armhole is unusual in modern patterns, and it was one of the first things I noticed about the Cielo when it was released. It works perfectly well and it's nice to see a variation on the standard dart. I'm a fan of vintage patterns from the 1960s and their variation in panel and dart placement to create bust shape is fascinating. I welcome it back - more please!
The thing I'm not so sure about with this pattern is the size of the armhole. It's exaggerated a little in my version because this size is a bit big on me, and possibly because the washed linen can sometimes 'grow' a little. Partly I guess it is to accommodate the volume of the gathered sleeve. However the armhole is the same size for the plain sleeve, too. I think it's a style choice (it's described as 'boxy' and 'roomy fit') but I am wary about that shape of sleeve and armhole on me. Just my two cents' worth in case anyone reading has similar sleeve issues!
All that said, it occurs to me now that the dress, made sleeveless with this armhole, would probably make a good pinafore for wearing with shirts or t-shirts underneath. Imagine it in denim, with those front in-seam pockets, and some great topstitching. Yes!
Note also that the top is, as described, 'semi-cropped' and the hem is not deep so check the length for your own preference.
For more information I found the blog posts by Lara (Thornberry) to be very helpful regarding sizing.
This sample is in the shop and customers are welcome to try it on.
Pattern: Cielo Top and Dress by Closet Core
Fabric: 'Diane Keaton' washed 100% linen, made in Lithuania
Size: 14 (to better fit me I would choose a size 10 or 12 with C or D cup bodice)
Comments: A lovely example of the dramatic sleeve trend, if you can pull it off, and there are plenty of examples of people looking great in the Cielo. Roomy fit, sizing down may be an option. Large armholes, see notes above.
- Jane & Fiona