Highlands Wrap Dress for Autumn

Hello everyone! It’s been a while. I can’t believe that we are already in October. I had a great summer, sewing-wise pretty productive too. Everyone who follows me on Instagram will have seen some of the pieces I made: some clothes for my parents, some repeats of patterns I have made a couple of times before or muslins for future projects. But for some reason nothing that lent itself to a full blog post. This dress however does. It’s the Highlands Wrap Dress by Allie Olson / Indiesew and had been on my to-sew list since it came out; I bought it with the Indiesew Spring/Summer collection.

I even printed it out right away but then I got stuck trying to find the right fabric. Originally I had ordered the magenta viscose crepe that I used for my Ogden Cami but then I felt the colour was a bit too much (and now the dress is orange, haha). Over the summer, visiting my parents for a couple of weeks, I picked up some beautiful linen twill in a not-quite-white light pink colour (this was the before). While the colour wasn’t great, it had the most beautiful drape and I realised that it would be perfect for the Highlands dress. I also had the perfect occasion to wear it to, a wedding coming up next week. It was clear that white was a no-go and after some deliberation I decided that I wanted to go with a terracotta colour. However, I couldn’t wait for the dye to arrive so I had to sew it up with a thread in the colour of what I was going for, which was a little bit of a gamble.

Let’s talk about this pattern. I didn’t think I was a wrap-dress person and never felt the urge to sew one up until the Highlands dress was released. And it’s such a good pattern! I love that it is for wovens and there is something very modern about the shape and those little details, the high slits and the elastic at the back. I made a size 6 in the bodice and graded out to a size 10 in the hips. The construction was very straight forward and everything came together really quickly until I reached the mitered corners and was left with a weird not quite right angle. I then realised that I was using the old instructions, that have since been updated. It was totally my own fault because I had read the update back when it was published but completely forgot about it. In the end it doesn’t make a huge difference in the final dress so I didn’t even unpick to correct the error. The dress is closed with a button on each side and ties on top, which makes it feel very secure. Also the amount of wrap is pretty perfect, and I’m not afraid I could accidentally flash people. Overall the fit is great, especially through the shoulders and the skirt. There is some excess fabric around the waist but with this linen fabric I don’t mind it being a little bit loose. Also looking at the product pictures, the ease seems to be intended that way.

Finally, let’s talk about this colour. So, the dress was finished but was still waiting to be dyed. I had ordered some washing machine Dylon dye in terracotta but for some reason it got lost in the post. When I contacted the shop they promised to send another one, but the days before we had to leave for Germany were numbered. So when it didn’t arrive before the weekend I had to resort to plan B, which was a packet of hand wash dye in the same colour. Intended for probably half the amount of fabric I knew the dye wasn’t going to be enough to get the originally planned colour but I was willing to take the risk (I couldn’t go in a white dress after all). It turned out a bright orange with a terracotta undertone. It’s a gorgeous colour but pretty “loud”, at least for my standards. It is growing on me though and it feels very autumnal. So let’s see if I’m brave enough to wear it to the wedding or if I’ll over-dye it in a darker shade. In any case, this was a super fun dress to make and it’s lovely to wear.

It’s getting to cold for pictures in sleeveless dresses though, I guess that’s the sign to move onto cold-weather sewing. I just started a coat and am actually very excited. Happy autumn sewing!


The Wedding Dress

Let me tell you the story of THE dress…

My now husband and I got engaged in autumn last year and had a lovely private wedding (just the two of us and two witnesses that we borrowed from the hotel we were staying at) in beautiful Cornwall last week.

Like for many sewists, the question was to sew or not to sew my wedding dress. I was never sure if I wanted to sew my own dress. I thought it might be too much pressure to sew a wedding dress, which everyone will closely look at and which has to withstand a whole day of wedding activities. With everything else there is to organise for a wedding it might just be too much?Then however, we decided that we wanted to get married just the two of us, and since there was barely anything else we had to organise, I had plenty of time to sew a dress.

In terms of inspiration for the dress, I did my share of Pinterest browsing and wedding magazine reading. In the end though it came together quite organically without a concrete plan.

I knew that I didn’t want a wedding dress that I could only wear once and then would gather dust in a closet. I thought about doing a simple style dress and then dying it afterwards. I quickly realised though that I wanted to do separates, which I could wear individually and easily incorporate into my wardrobe.

Before settling on any patterns, I first went to buy some fabric. I find it easier to let the fabric inspire me rather than trying to find a fabric that matches my vision. While I didn’t think it was necessary to wear white at a wedding, I did decide to go with white, because I wanted to work with lace, and pretty lace is a lot easier to find in white than in colours. So off we went to Goldhawk Road on my birthday. I knew I wanted to work with nice quality fabrics. In the end I got some sand-washed silk, some dupion silk and some 3D floral lace. I had already ordered some lace swatches from a bridal fabric shop before our shopping trip and while they were gorgeous, they felt a little bit too fancy and formal. So when I came across this simple floral lace, I was immediately sold. All fabrics were in slightly different shades of natural white. I didn’t try to match the colours exactly to allow the dress a little bit of dimension.

The first element of the ensemble that I decided on was the slip dress in sand-washed silk. I had wanted to make a silk slip for ages to wear under some unlined dresses. For the pattern I used the Tessuti Sadie Slip Dress. It’s a simple bias-cut dress with a nice v neckline. I made a toile in some polyester lining in size S, graded out to an M at the hips. Overall it fit well, I only had some fabric pooling at the lower back. I tried to find out if there was such a thing as a sway back adjustment for bias cut dresses, but the only way I could remove the access was with darts (which the Sadie Dress pattern includes). As I knew that I would wear it under a skirt, I decided to leave them off and embrace the blousiness. I then moved on to my sandwashed silk. To make sure to not distort the fabric while cutting I used some spray starch to turn it less shifty. This worked reasonably well but was still quite a pain to cut out. To assemble it I used french seams. The neckline is finished with a facing which I cut with the pinking blade of my rotary cutter to avoid any hems showing through at the right side. Instead of the suggested spaghetti straps, I made slightly wider and less fiddly straps. Then I let it hang for some days before hemming it. To do this fabric justice, I did a hand-rolled hem for the first time and I must say it’s utterly satisfying. This might be my new favourite hand-sewing technique!

Next I had to decide on a skirt. I was contemplating different pleating and gathering versions, but in the end I realised that I wanted to keep the volume at the waist to a minimum. So the obvious choice was a half circle skirt. Funnily enough this was my first circle skirt ever. Luckily I found By Hand London’s Circle Skirt Calculator, which made it super easy. I finished the waistband with a white grosgrain ribbon which I stitched down by hand. The skirt is closed with an invisible zipper and hooks and eyes at the lapped waistband. Again I let the skirt hang for several days before levelling it. Originally I wanted to finish the hem with some gold bias binding to add a little sparkle. Half way through attaching it though I realised that the bias binding was too stiff and removed it again. To preserve as much length as possible I just serged the hem and folded it up once to attach it with invisible hand stitches.

Once I had the base of the dress, I had to decide on the lace top. To figure out what would work best I played around with the skirt toile and some top ideas to figure out how the shapes would work together. In the end I went with a dart-less loose crop top with a boatneck and bracelet-length sleeves. The bodice is based on a top I had in my closet and after trying some different sleeves, I settled on the sleeves from Lotta Jansdotter’s Esme Top from her Everyday Style Book which I shortened to the right length. This lace has a lovely scalloped border which I used for the hem of the bodice and the sleeves. The seams are all french seams, for which I removed some of the appliques to make sure the french seams wouldn’t be too bulky. The trickiest part of the top was definitely the neckline. Originally I wanted to finish it with some bias tape cut from the sand-washed silk scraps but somehow it didn’t look right. So I decided to mimic the scalloped hem by sewing a dense zigzag stitch around the neckline. To stabilise the fabric I used tissue paper. It still turned out a little wonky but some hand sewing and some appliqued flowers fixed it.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the process of sewing this dress. It helped that I was working with simple shapes and not too complicated techniques. In the end a lot of hand sewing went into this dress, but I really liked that (it gave me the perfect excuse to watch Project Runway). Overall I probably spent 5 days working on this dress (including the toiling) which in hindsight seems quite short for a wedding dress. Then again I didn’t sew a princess dress like some others do.

The final dress was perfect for the occasion. It was fancy enough to say wedding dress but simple and practical enough for our low-key celebration. The fabrics were a joy to wear and the skirt was perfectly swishy. I love how the silk skirt looks different in each picture depending on where the wind came from (and wind there is plenty in Cornwall).

Here some of the details:

  • Fabrics: Sand-washed Silk (UK Textiles), Dupion silk (Goldbrick Fabrics), Lace (Classic textiles); all Goldhawk road; estimated costs £130
  • Haberdashery: Silk thread, zipper, hook and eyes, grosgrain ribbon; all Minerva Crafts, estimated cost £15
  • Shoes: Clarks
  • Dried Flowers: English Flower Farmer –> highly recommend them, they have gorgeous flowers and perfect service
  • Engagement and wedding ring: Goodman Morris

In the end we decided to take our own wedding pictures. My pictures were all taken by my lovely husband (who had lots of practice thanks to this blog). The couple pictures were taken with a tripod and self timer. I love how they turned out, this gorgeous yellow colour was everywhere in Cornwall and turned out to be the perfect back-drop.

Oh, and we had our own fluffy white wedding cat who wanted to be in all the pictures. So here is a picture of a cat. You’re welcome!

Simple Silk Dress

Hi everyone, I can’t believe that this is my first proper blog post of the year! Where did time go? Apart from being super busy, I’m currently working on several garments that need muslining and I don’t have any final garments to show yet. So this little dress is the only thing that I actually made this year. I probably finished it a month ago but thanks to the rubbish weather in the UK I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of it until today. The good thing about that  is though that I have already worn it quite a bit and I can attest that it’s love. It’s exactly the simple versatile dress that I was looking for.

First let’s talk about this fabric. It’s one of the fabrics that I picked up on Goldhawk Road on my birthday. The seller called it sand-washed silk satin and it has the most amazing weight and texture. While it feels luxurious to wear, the irregular structures in the fabric make it look quite casual. Thanks to it’s thickness, it’s the perfect fabric for a dress. It machine-washes and presses beautifully and is almost wrinkle-free. I took these photos after travelling with it to Colombia (it was perfect for the unpredictable weather in Bogotá) and haven’t ironed it since, I just let it hang for a day. I love fabrics like that!

As for the pattern, I used the same as for this orchid-print dress, which was basically the wearable muslin for this dress. It’s a slightly hacked dress pattern from the French sewing magazine fashion Style N°9, which I’ve now realised is just a translation of the Dutch KnipMode magazine (June 2016 edition). I only made minor changes to the pattern compared to the the last dress. I widened the neckline (which is finished with a facing) slightly and slimmed down the sleeves a little bit. Instead of the elasticated waist I added a draw string from the same fabric. I love how it looks and I like being able to wear the waist looser if I want to.

The back of the dress has a centre seam with a keyhole detail at the neck and a simple slit at the skirt. It’s not the most sophisticated version of a vent, but I love how the tip stitching detail of the keyhole is mirrored in the vent.

All in all, it’s quite a simple dress, but I love it. It’s super versatile, I can wear it to work with a blazer and more casually with a cardigan. In case you are not a fan of sewing magazine patterns, I think this dress could be easily recreated with Marilla Walker’s Maya Dress pattern.

Oh, and the necklace that I’m wearing was my 2017 Secret Valentine Exchange present from the lovely Rachel at Freckle & Co. Isn’t it the perfect match?