One of my favourite items of clothing to wear has to be dungarees. They are comfy, unrestrictive, and while they do pose some issues for someone that works outside (I have to take off my outer layers in order to use the toilet (tmi?)), they’re worth the effort, especially as we come into spring when taking off my jacket is a joy, rather than a chilly, wet experience. Another advantage of dungarees is that they’re interesting to make and easy to admire.
In fact, it was when Lia of the Pound Cake Sewing blog stated that she fancied making some new dungarees that I commented and we agreed to make dungarees in February, entitling our challenge ‘overall that 2020 nonsense‘… well, as you can see, I am rather behind with my dungarees, but Lia did make hers in the correct month, and her wonderful pair really got me thinking.
I’d been planning on replacing my Turia dungarees which have been well-worn and well-loved over the three years since I made them, but they are showing their age: my skills were less honed then, and the flat felled seams have patchily come apart leading to severe fraying. Pair that with the fabric getting thin (they have been worn a lot) means that I wasn’t particularly enthused about mending them, and thought a replacement was the way to go. But Lia’s pair reminded me that there’s many more dungarees out there than Turia and maybe it was time to try something new.
The fabric came first. One of the best things about Instagram (I’m there @heatherymakes) is that I’ve found small local fabric stores that I never previously knew existed. One of these is Sew Yarn Crafty, in Dunfermline, Fife. I love browsing Aileen’s selection, and it’s one shop I will definitely be visiting in person once the pandemic allows.
Anyway, there I was, one day in February, lazily browsing away, when I found The One, this gorgeous Sevenberry Kobe Twill. But she was out of stock. Quickly I emailed Aileen, and she sent a lovely email back about how she was restocking the fabric, and she’d try and get my colour (Oregano) in for me. Two days later I received a message to say it was on order, and once it was on the website, I ordered 1.5metres and sighed in relief.
When it arrived, however, although it was utterly beautiful in colour, super drapey and just all round gorgeous fabric, it was lighter weight than I had envisioned. So I knew then that I definitely wasn’t going to be making traditional dungarees and started the search for alternative patterns.
I first saw the Greta Dungarees on the Foldline website, and it was from there that I purchased the pdf. They’re designed by Made My Wardrobe, a new-to-me pattern company. They don’t use any of the traditional dungaree fixings, and instead the shoulder straps are secured in place both back and front, and there are ties to secure the waist, which folds over to provide room for getting in and out.
Eventually, on a damp weekend in March it was time to get started on my dungarees. This pattern has a good size range, going from a 33 inch hip (UK size 6) to a 52 inch hip (UK size 24). Checking the measurements and sizes of the Gretas, I fell into size 10 for my hips, and 12 for my waist (no bust measurement as they’re dungarees), but with an overlap for the ties, I decided to have a 20cm overlap at the waist instead of the prescribed 30cm in order to avoid grading – which means I made a straight size 10. I did, however, make adjustments for my height. I suspect I will normally wear these with a jaunty rolled up hem, but I do like to have options (which my previous dungarees didn’t have, being forever ankle length) and so decided to lengthen the crotch by 2.5cm and the legs by 10cm as they were designed with an inseam of 72cm, and mine measures 82cm.
Printing this out was a bit of a shock, as it was a whopping 50 pages of printing. The pattern isn’t layered, which means I was printing out all the sizes, although in the end this only resulted in 3 pages that I didn’t need and that will be reused for printing. What I hadn’t realised before printing out was the interesting pattern shapes, and the lack of side seams. It did take a while to piece all these bits together, but craftily they have two of the pieces spread over two sheets (of five by five bits of A4) and you then join these together after they’re cut out from the sheets. For the huge body piece, which includes the wrap around leg and part of the front and full back, this makes a big difference and makes it much less awkward to try and work with.
Once that was cut out, I retrieved my pre-washed fabric to give it an iron and got a bit of a shock, as I hadn’t realised that it was only 112cm wide! Which feels very narrow when you’re used to working with 150cm in width, but especially worrying when you’ve got a huge pattern piece such as the Greta has. In the end I had to cut on a single layer and piece the centre back on one side, but I don’t mind in the end – it’s become a wee feature that makes me smile. The fixing of this also helped me to discover just how nicely this fabric reacts to flat-felled seams, and I decided there and then to treat this fabric, and pattern, well, and put energy into creating something I was really proud of.
After making the straps, the next step is to put together the pockets. I loved making these. They are like a wonderful piece of origami – so clever, and unlike any other pocket I’ve made before. A word of advice though, you cannot actually see the front pocket piece once it’s assembled, and although I chose a really nice bit of flowery cotton, I would have been better using a scrap of something plain. That wasn’t made clear, and it’s really hard to envision how these pockets will look after finishing.
I decided to honour the effort I’d put in so far and bind the pocket edges, rather than finishing with the overlocker, and so used the same flowery fabric to make some bias binding and I am so glad I did. It just makes me smile. At this point, I was uncertain as to whether I should line the front or not as the pattern doesn’t call for it. My options were to do a flat felled seam at the bottom edge, which would hide the top of the pocket, as well as both bodice and leg seams. The alternative was to fully line it, a detail that I loved on my Turias. I kept the fabric I’d used for the binding close by, and tried to make the decision wisely.
In the end I did. Although, I had so little lining fabric left that I needed to piece it too, but it was really worth it. On the finished dungarees there’s not one exposed seam – all are flat felled, with the exception of the inseam, which is French-seamed. I am really proud of the finish on this make. Sometimes the extra effort absolutely is worth it. I added a Change Maker UK label to the back facing, and thought it to be the perfect finishing touch.
I did have a moment of doubt just after I’d sewn up the front crotch and tried them on. The whole dungarees just seemed that bit narrow, and so when sewing up the inseam I made the French seams ultra small, which although this makes a small difference, is very much appreciated as they are narrow fitting. I discuss this further below, but never mind, it is what it is, and there’s absolutely no way I was unpicking any carefully sewn flat-felled seam to try and regain some millimetres. They are wearable, I can bend, crouch, jump and sit in comfort, so maybe it’s just a shape I am unused to.
Now, I am afraid there are some negatives about this pattern. I was frustrated to not be able to find any proper explanation as to why there were long ties, and not-so long ties – what was the intended difference between them? It was only much later on, when I’d cut out the not-so long ties, that I realised it was in how much you were meant to wrap the ties around your body while wearing the dungarees. The ties I’ve cut are only meant to tie either at the front or the back; the long ties are meant to wrap right around before tying either at the front or back. That would have been handy to have that referred to at the cutting out stage. Saying that, I can tie these shorter ties right around my body, securing them with a knot, rather than a bow, and this is my preferred way of wearing the dungarees.
Secondly, and much more seriously, there was a pattern piece that just didn’t fit. And I’ve come to the conclusion that this was an error in the pattern. The piece in question is the facing for the back. This hides the strap attachments and adds stability to the back. Also, because of the ties pulling the back piece around, without a facing there’s a high possibility for seams to show (which can be unsightly). So, hence the need for the facing at the back.
Normally a facing piece will be smaller than the piece it attaches to, if it is different at all, so that the seam line is pulled towards the facing, creating a really nice finish on the right side. This pattern piece was larger than the back piece at the top, and smaller at the bottom. What does this mean? It means that the designer couldn’t even make sure the angle of the side piece was the same on both pieces.
And how to fix it? I sewed it all up with a 1.5cm seam allowance around the back piece. The facing ended up with an almost 3cm SA in places, so I had to draw my correct line of sewing on with chalk and follow that. I didn’t trim the facing until I was done as I needed to check what I was doing was right (it was). To add insult to injury, the notches that mark where the shoulder straps attach didn’t line up either.
Thirdly, (and I should have picked up on this at the time), there is no mention of angling of the straps so that they curve around your neck. If straps are set in vertically, as the pattern calls for these to be, they drag both the front and back out of shape, as the straps need to twist to balance on the shoulders. If sewn in at an angle, they sit neater. This, as I say, is something I should have picked up on and didn’t until it was far too late and you can see the pulling on both the front and the back in the photos. (I did make a mistake here, in that I didn’t sew on the straps right at the edge of the bib – this has led to a 5mm overhang on each edge which I may go in and redo and some point. And you can be sure that if I do, I will be angling the attachment!)
The fourth thing is really unfortunate: the incredible pockets? Well, they’re too tight to be of much use. There’s not enough ease around the hips and this probably comes from being wrap around – there’s just not enough shaping to allow for the hips and bum. Normally, when you have a front leg and back leg, the curve of the outside seam provides room for these body parts, but here the pattern is very straight up and down (again, you can see this in the photos) and the knock on effect is that the pockets are pretty restrictive. Which is a real shame, as they, and the dungarees as a whole, are an incredible design.
I think this is the first time I have been quite so scathing about a pattern. I do still appreciate the design, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be wearing and enjoying these a lot. But I would say approach this pattern with your eyes wide open, be aware that you may need to make changes in order to end up with a finished item you’re pleased with, and if you’re curvy, you might want to size up to allow for hip and bum room.
I have reached out to Make My Wardrobe with my comments above, and received the reply that they “have had over 4000 people make this pattern both at in person workshops and independently and no one has ever encountered any of these issues before”. Unfortunately, it only takes a glance on Instagram to see that more straps than just mine pull, and I’ve seen other reviews that comment on the lack of room in the pockets so I would take that response with a pinch of salt. They deny that there’s an error in the back facing pattern piece so who knows why mine was so large in comparison to the dungaree back. I am not wasting any more energy trying to figure it out!
So, to sum up, there are a few things to be aware of with this pattern. But I have learnt a lot from this pattern – namely to trust my instincts and take my time – and will wear these dungarees a lot even if I won’t be inclined to use this pattern company again. This beautiful fabric is star of the show, and I highly recommend you go and check out Aileen’s wonderful collection of fabrics. The more I worked with this cotton twill, the more I admired it: the colour is so deep and warm, it takes a press beautifully, and sews up like a dream. It feels sturdy, but has that lovely lightness that I wasn’t expecting at first. It really is a gorgeous fabric, and I am very much looking forward to seeing it age and relax as I wear these dungarees.
As I say, this is the first time I’ve actually been so critical of a pattern. It’s not pleasant to be picking holes in someone’s hard work, but there we have it. And now, I am going to shrug this review off, and go and walk up the river. We saw a pair of grey wagtails last time I was up there, and I hope to do so again today.
Cheerio just now!
Also worn with my Azaire top by Gather