The Elephant Pleiades

As mentioned before, I am on the wider Minerva Crafts blogger team, which means I get offered free fabric now and again, in return for a blog post. September’s lot was a good ‘un and I found a dream fabric for a wedding Joey and I were going to in November. I’d always know I wanted to make my own dress, and had one in mind: the Pleiades 2 dress from French Poetry.

When it came to buying the dress, however, I changed my mind at the last minute and decided to go with the Pleiades 1 dress. Something about the drape and the flow just called to me, so I decided it was to be the one. This was despite having read a rather scathing account of this pattern on Instagram, as I was sure I could make it work. I decided to make the pattern up as a top using some spare fabric I have (it’s actually a cotton wall hanging!) to find out what, if any, adjustments I’d need to make.

I fell nicely into the size 10, although my waist (as always) was larger than the pattern wanted from me. Never mind, as it’s a loose drape around the waist I thought it worth a try. The pattern instructions show you what pages to print, using a schematic so that you can choose which bits to print out: a detail that I really appreciate, however you’re not given a list of what those parts are, so I’ve listed them here:

1. Bodice front*
2. Bodice back*
3. Skirt back*
4. Skirt front*
5. Sleeve piece for long sleeve or lantern sleeve*
6. Lantern part of sleeve
7. Hem for lantern sleeve
8. Sleeve piece for tied sleeve
9. Ties for sleeve
10. Tab for split in tied sleeve
11. Front facing*
12. Back facing*
Measurements are also given for the frill, if you choose to make the dress with the lower frill.

I decided to mock up the long sleeve as I was interested in fit, but I knew I’d probably make my final dress with the lantern sleeve (because it’s gorgeous!). That means I printed those pieces with an asterisk next to them, which was pages 4-20, 21-28, 30-32, 34-36, 39 and 40. Please note that this was printing in A4, the other printing layout was slightly different. Two additional pieces were required for the lantern sleeve, both of which sat independently to the pages that I printed for my top.

The fabric I used as a wearable toile was a soft cotton weave, which didn’t truly mimic the viscose I was using for my final make, but was close enough that it didn’t matter, or so I felt. The true fabric is utterly delectable Lady McElroy fabric, given by Minerva Crafts in return for a blog post. But I decided to split the posts in two, so here we can go into the nitty gritty of the pattern, and my other post will concentrate on the dress and the fabric. Back to the toile fabric. This had a circular mandala pattern in the middle, with handprinted (I presume) shapes around the sides and using this circle led to some interesting cutting out problems.

I decided to cut the front out on the fold to fit the pattern on, and indeed I am not 100% sure why the pattern doesn’t call for this anyway, apart from the fact that buttons may look nicer on a seam than just added as a feature? Who knows. The front facing is cut on the fold. I traced the skirt pieces out so they’re 9 inches long at the sides, and made no other changes. For the back pieces I cut them on grain as much as possible, but wanted a continuation of the pattern so it’s not perfect. And I had so little fabric left that one of the skirt pieces has a mismatched pattern.

Now the pattern: I started sewing this with trepidation and quickly discovered that the instructions aren’t up to much. There’s reference to ‘Option 1’ where there’s only one option anyway, some instructions are missed while others have no direction as to how to carry the step out. But, if you have a bit of experience under your belt you should manage okay. Things that turn a garment into a good garment were missed, such as understitching the facing, but in all it was easy enough. One thing, however, that I do really like from patterns is when they tell you which way to press the seam after finishing. This sometimes did, and sometimes didn’t – it’s possible that it’s only mentioned when it was important, but I do like that direction.

I used my overlocker to finish all the seams – the cotton is very fray-y and wouldn’t have lasted well otherwise, but I also didn’t want to spend too much time French-seaming a practice item. I actually really like the finished item, and feel it to be pretty and elegant. Although, I do have elephants marching over my boobs, so maybe elegant isn’t the correct word for this?

The one thing I am not totally taken with are the sleeve heads. The sleeve centre point, very cleverly, does not line up with the shoulder seam on the bodice, but instead several inches to the back. This is to push the bust gathers forward, so you can see them and the seam from the front, which is really pretty. But I did not manage to get the sleeve gathers even, with the effect that my left arm gathers are sitting at the top of the arm, and my right arm gathers are sitting to the back. Not sure what happened there. I am also not convinced that I suit gathered sleeve heads, and the armscye overall seems low on my arms, restricting movement (we had a good laugh about my skinny arm pits on a family zoom). As a result of all these misgivings, I gave serious consideration to swapping out the armscyes of the Pleiades to something that fits me better for the actual dress (you’ll need to read that post to find out what I decided, but do let me know what you’d do below!). The low neckline I like, the curve of the neckline as it comes around the neck is one of the best fits I’ve ever seen and I love the overall shape.

After stabilising the seams, the first instruction is to attach the skirts to all the separate bodice pieces. I thought this would just result in lots of pulling on the delicate neckline, so I deviated from the instructions rather and assembled the top this way instead:

  1. Stabilise bias cut seams
  2. Create gathers on front bodice, attach to back bodice
  3. Attach facings to bodice and understitch
  4. Sew together the two front skirt pieces
  5. Gather and sew onto the front bodice
  6. Sew on back skirt pieces
  7. Gather sleeveheads and sew sleeves onto top in the flat (sleeves are attached in the round in the instructions – why make things harder for yourself?)
  8. Sew side seams and arms in one pass

I tried on the top by safety pinning the back seam allowance together once I’d finished everything else and found to my joy that I could get it on and off without the need of a zip. The pattern calls for an invisible zip, so I quickly sewed the back together without any fastening, hemmed it and the sleeves and called it a day. Not before sewing a little ‘imperfect’ label in the back though, which makes me smile so much. Although I was initially surprised that the back skirt wasn’t gathered, it is clear from the photos and drawings of the dress that it’s not, so that was just poor observation on my part. I am slightly gutted about the unmatching pattern coming across the back of one back skirt panel (maybe I should have cut the two to match?) but I can’t see it and any onlooker will just have to get over it 😉

The sleeves are the biggest issue, not just for the reasons above, but also because of the shaping at the hem, and this is something to be aware of. Normally when the sleeve reaches the hem, the pattern will go wider, to mimic the shape of the sleeve so that you can create a turn up. This pattern doesn’t do this, and instead keeps getting narrower. I did clock this while cutting out, but it was already too late to make any changes, and I just kept going. It means I have had to put in a wee pleat to take up some excess, and when I come to make my dress I will definitely be thinking very carefully about the sleeve shape and application.

Overall, however, I think this is really pretty. I love it with jeans, it’s nice and relaxed with my morella trousers, I like it with a jersey top underneath for warmth, and I think it will become a handy top. Now… onto the dress!

Showing the excess underneath the arm. This seriously hinders movement, as shown in the next photo.
When I lift my arms, the whole top rises up, and I can feel the tightness across the back from the armsyce being too low.

Now… questions for you! What adjustments would you make? How would you make sure the dress was going to be perfect (I don’t have time for a second toile)? I am interested so please do leave a comment and let me know!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. newmanjean14 says:

    Love this top. Looking forward to seeing the dress version. How long will it be?


    1. Thank you! I am hoping I have enough fabric to make it slightly longer than knee length, but shorter than midi length!


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