Ankara Etta dress and Panda Hawthorn Dress

Two dresses in one post!

The other month I sewed a wax print Ankara dress in such a horrendous rush that I ended up stupidly stressed out about it. But I am pretty happy with how it came out:

Despite numerous late nights sewing, and a lot of patience and understanding from my husband (thanks P!), I very nearly didn’t finish it in time for the wedding I was making it for. I was hand stitching at 11pm the night before! And there is a lot of sloppy work on the inside that I’m not totally proud of. So I swore never to sew anything on a deadline ever again.

But then of course… I had another wedding to go to this summer. And wouldn’t it be nice if I could make a dress for that too…?

I bargained with myself that if I didn’t finish it a week before the wedding, then I’d buy myself a dress as a treat instead. But HEY LOOK, I managed it with a week to spare, and entirely stress-free! Behold my Panda Hawthorn:

I have made a Hawthorn before, but the bust darts came out so nipply that I only wore it once and I felt ashamed the whole day long. I think I still have things to learn on the pointy dart front, but I’m much happier with how these turned out.

I lowered the bust dart points so they were below my apex, and then I also sewed them to a point about 1/2″ below that and then tapered gently to the real end. This, plus a hefty helping of steam, made my panda darts less pointy. Still not perfect, but much less distracting.

Things that went wrong making this dress:

  • I ignored the print when cutting out the pieces, and ended up cutting a new front bodice piece so the pandas were more prominent. Lesson: think about print placement even if you think you might want a random distribution.
  • I made a collar and then ended up cutting an entire new set of collar pieces because I wanted more pandas. There are pandas on both sides of the collar now ūüźľūüźľ
  • The darts initially came out nipply again so had to redo them at least three times.
  • I sewed all the skirt buttons on half an inch too high and had to redo them! I am really good at sewing buttons now.
  • I bias bound both armholes before realising they were pinching my underarm. I tried to get away with only redoing the bottom and not having to use more binding, but it was a hot mess of tucks and puckers. So I unpicked both armholes and refaced them both with fresh tape.

Removing the bias binding from the armhole

And the things that went right:

  • Gosh this is a lovely fabric to work with. It’s Lady McElroy Panda Retreat cotton lawn, and it’s lush. It presses well and doesn’t crease too badly by itself. Shame it’s so ¬£¬£¬£
  • The pattern is easy to sew and the instructions are clear. A very fun sew.
  • I feel good wearing this thing. I love the silhouette, I love the print, I love the fabric, I love the buttons. It feels very me!

Despite all the adjustments and do-overs, I really enjoyed making this one. I never felt frustrated once, which I wouldn’t have expected if you told me how many things I was going to end up doing twice. The repetition felt like iterative development – each time I did something again I knew it was getting better and better.

The wedding that I made this dress for was yesterday, and it was a wonderful joyous day (congratulations T & L!). I even met a new sewing friend (hi A!) and we talked sewing and cats all through dinner. Superb.

I can also confirm that the Hawthorn is a good dress for dancing the night away in. Not that I really make a habit of that!

Finally, my panda dress made its maiden voyage at a very timely moment – I learned at the wedding that two twin pandas have just been born in Belgium! Fingers crossed for those little beasties. The twin pandas on my collar are now dedicated to them.

Dress: Colette Hawthorn

Size: 2 throughout

Alterations: lowered bust dart by 1″, lowered armscye by 3/4″

My measurements at time of making: full bust 35″, waist 28.5″, hip 36″

Outfit Along and Sewing Update

Hey… that’s not a sewing project!

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This wool is for the Outfit-Along¬†which I’ve impulsively decided to take part in. If you’ve not heard of it,¬†this event runs for the months of June and July,¬†and to take part you have to knit one garment and sew one garment to make up a whole outfit. I’m going to be making the official OAL patterns –¬†the Zinone knitted lace top and the¬†Hollyburn skirt – but you don’t have to go with those as long as you make a whole outfit.

I haven’t knitted anything proper in about a year – the last serious¬†knitting project¬†I made was a baby blanket for my niece last June. I’ve¬†been musing about picking up my knitting needles again as¬†I don’t want to lose the skill, so when the¬†OAL popped up on my blog feed the other day, the timing was perfect. Plus, I already mentioned that I have another Hollyburn skirt on my sewing plans. There was no way I couldn’t sign up!

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I’ve already made my gauge swatch, and it was bang on first time, which was nice. If you’re not a knitter, you might¬†not know what a gauge swatch is. Basically,¬†if two knitters knit the same square¬†using the same wool and the same needles, the finished square¬†may not come out the same size. This is because different knitters have different tension, meaning they may hold their wool more loosely or tightly as they sew – it’s really down to¬†personal preference as to what feels good when you knit.

Therefore, before starting a new knitting project, you always have to make a gauge swatch – a test square – to calibrate your particular tension against what the knitting pattern expects. Otherwise you might end up with¬†a top that’s 50% bigger than it’s supposed to be! If your sizing is a bit off then you change the size of your needles and try again. Lucky for me, my gauge swatch was just right. I’m going to chuck it in the washing machine and see if it can cope, because let’s face it, I’m too lazy for hand-washing.

Anyway – that’s enough about knitting –¬†what about my sewing projects?¬†Well –

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This week I finished a Bettine dress in this¬†gorgeous teal filigree¬†fabric from Chinatown. I absolutely adore¬†it – except for the small fact that the hem of the skirt is far too narrow and I can barely put it on! Why didn’t I learn from my previous Bettine?¬†Totally¬†gutted. I’m not giving up on it though – I’m¬†going to buy¬†some more of the fabric to replace the skirt with a slightly differently shaped one. I’m also thinking¬†of putting a side zip and waist band onto the¬†old skirt so I can wear it on its own.

And this is what’s on my sewing table now:

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Hawthorn cutting chaos. I still haven’t found a way of cutting out fabric that I like. I used to pin the pattern pieces to the fabric and then cut around them, but I always ended up shaving a bit of the pattern piece off. So now I draw around the pieces and cut them after, but it’s extremely tedious and it’s hard to draw¬†accurate lines with¬†tailor’s chalk. What’s your favourite way to cut fabric?