Well, goodness, it’s been a time! And I have missed blogging, I have missed making, and I have missed you, my lovely readers. It is nice to be able to pick up my hobbies again after a time of chaos, and . After a period of calm in our Air B ‘n’ B house in Strathcarron, we then had almost three weeks of living in temporary accommodations around the place – which was fun, but jings, it became quite disorientating after a while.
But now we’ve got a home. We’ve moved into our cottage on the banks of Loch Long in the Scottish Highlands and a new adventure begins. This is the first time we’ve owned a house, and with it has come some trials (hello, month with no internet) and many, many delights. It is wonderful to plot and plan and dream and from day one, this 120-year old ex-drover’s inn has been home.
So, I hinted at it above but a big part of my absence from online life has been the issue with getting the internet. Our new home is in a beautiful glen where unfortunately there is no phone signal at all. We were due to be getting broadband, but BT (our suppliers) were playing tricksy buggers and it was been majorly delayed. So until the connection was finally repaired, in the evenings we were very cut off, and when at work, we were (of course) working – so communication has been difficult and blogging has gone completely out the window. The following dress I made just before leaving Strathcarron, almost two months ago, and I love it. The words written below were written at the time and although I’ve done a little editing I haven’t changed the tense. Read on and enjoy. It’s lovely to be back.
I was desirous of something a little bit summery. Winter has gone, spring is here, and with it has come the sunshine. I also had time for one last sew in our current house, and though that spare times had been allocated to making another shirt for Joey, a lack of fabric put an end to that idea, and this dress was born.
This fabric was part of an order I made from Wild Orchard Fabrics a wee while ago. I was sure that this would make a gorgeous shirt for Joey (he needs a smarter one for online meetings), but he wasn’t convinced. When it arrived (I ordered 1.5m) I was delighted with it, prewashed it promptly and still thought it was to be shirt. There’s something about the crispness of the fabric that makes it very tactile, but the colours are also perfect: ecru and green that’s soft, calming and brings joy to my eyes.
Unfortunately, Joey has his own opinion too, and he felt it would make too formal a shirt – he wanted a shirt that he could just wear informally as well as in meetings – and I knew that instead it would make a gorgeous, loose gathered dress (a style which is, according to The Great British Sewing Bee (and much to the consternation of home sewists around the world!), called a buffet dress). I dithered. I had a week prior to moving: was starting a sleeveless dress silly?
What did it matter if it was?! – get to it! And so I did.
I chose the Maria Paula dress from The Fabric Store, having only just discovered the patterns. They are all free, have a good size range (this dress goes up to a 58″ hip, with 18″ ease), and although they’re all shown made up in beautiful linen, I knew that this gingham would work well: it’s crisp and very tightly woven, but drapes too and will be deliciously easy to wear in nice weather.
The pattern calls for 2.5 yards of fabric (approx. 2.3m) but I successfully made my size 8/10 out of my available 1.5 metres of fabric. I did this by carefully cutting each piece out individually (having checked to make sure there was room for them all) with the front and back bodice pieces on their own fold. The pockets were then cut out separately, and with the leftover rectangle I worked out the desired length of skirt (which was 16cm longer than the pattern allowed for) by holding the fabric up against me, and cut the belt out of the remainder, piecing it together from the remaining bits. The only compromise is that for the skirt I cut out two skirt ‘backs’, instead of using the wider front piece, so there’s 14cm less gathering than the pattern called for.
Once I finished it and tried it on, however, I was so disappointed. Something about the high neck, loose bodice shape, the gathers and the skirt length just drowned me. I needed to pack up my sewing machine the very next day, so decided to do a quick fix: the dowdiness came from the waist seam sitting too low, between my hip bones and waist rather than on my waist, and I figured that this was what was making it feel so heavy. So I did a cheeky two inch reduction in bodice length at the waist, using the same gathers as was already sewn in. It was fast, messy, and entirely unprofessional, but it immediately improved the dress and since then I have worn it loads.
I finished all the armholes and neckline with hand-made bias binding, and added a wee Kylie and the Buttons label to confirm that yes, I did indeed make this. As time was short, I just sewed up the neckline instead of adding a button and buttonhole, but I think I will sew on a button at some point in the future. I have some perfect wooden ones.
I was slightly generous with the skirt length and despite shortening the bodice length by two inches, ended up sewing in a very generous hem (a detail which I love), and I am so pleased to have gotten the dress out of the limited fabric. In the end, I have literally nothing left in terms of fabric, which makes this an almost zero-waste dress?
So what’s the verdict? I love it. The fabric keeps it’s shape well, has such a lovely tight weave and washes like a rag. It also doesn’t wrinkle terribly, just gains a nice crumpledness about it, rather than wrinkles. On hot days, it feels cool and after a swim, just lightly hovers over my skin without sticking. On cooler days, I love it with a vest top underneath, and a jumper or cardigan on top. I reach for it often, and feel utterly and completely like me in it.
As for changes, I think I will add in wee loops to hold the belt in place, as it does shift about, but recently I have been loving it untied too. And other than that, nothing. It’s a perfect summer dress, and may already be one of my most worn items of the season.
PS. If you’re in the UK, and in the market for some beautiful fabric, I can highly recommend Wild Orchard Fabric. All their orders are sent plastic free, they have solely natural fibres in their shop (no more discovering a lovely print to find it’s synthetic fabric) and the owner (Lottie) is just lovely. I absolutely adore all the fabrics that were in the order (soon to be showcased on the blog!) and will be buying more from this business.
And so there we are! I have worn this dress loads, it was there for our first barbecue at our new house; I’ve unpacked endless boxes which pranching about in it’s beauty; my boyfriend claims that every time I put it on I exclaim “this is my absolutely favourite dress!” and I think he’s right: it is. I love it and look forward to making many more post-Covid memories draped in green gingham.
By the by, you might notice some interesting tan lines in the photos – don’t worry, the burn wasn’t as bad as the pictures make it look, just a silly day at work wearing short sleeves, religiously putting sun cream on my face and neck and forgetting about my arms. Sigh… keep your skin safe in the sun, folks.