Monday, August 17, 2015

Linen Floral BHL Flora Dress

When I was looking to make a dress for a wedding this summer, suddenly I understood why so many bloggers rave about By Hand London patterns. I had a really hard time choosing... I very nearly made a floor length Anna dress, but I just couldn't find the right fabric for it. I nearly had a gorgeous blue silk chosen, but when I saw the dress my mother was going to wear I noticed it was exactly the same shade, and I wasn't feeling like fielding comments all day long about how much we looked alike!

Then I saw the second view of the Flora dress and fell in love. I just love a good wrap dress (even a faux one). Bonus: no alterations need to make it nursing-mom friendly!

I also was dying for an excuse to purchase this digital print linen from Emmaonesock. The color palette just appealed to me and I love the texture of a nice linen. I'm also in love with it since the pattern emulates a narrow depth of field, with some flowers appearing sharply in focus against more blurred flowers in the background.

I was, however, really worried about having a wrinkled mess. A few light wrinkles provide a lovely texture, but I really didn't want deep creases forming at the waist and bum. I couldn't find anyone who had made a Flora dress in linen to be my guinea pig, so I did just about everything I could think of to keep the wrinkles under control. Before washing, I pressed with lots of steam... it might just be mythology, but some people seem to think it might help set the sizing into the fabric. I then washed it and dried it in a hot dryer, to soften the overall hand. More pressing, then I underlined the entire dress. I did this partly to help with the wrinkling, and partly to give the dress a little more body and structure. I was going to use silk organza, but my local shop didn't have any on hand so I came home with a cotton organdy. I was a little skeptical, but it was easy to work with and seems to have done the trick. I especially love how the skirt falls-- a bit flouncy, but not like I'm wearing a petticoat (and I did consider this also, could have been nice if I had decided not to underline the skirt).

Instead of using twill stay tape, I sewed elastic into the top edges of the wrap bodice, using the same technique that Sew Buzy Lizzy used on her blog. I sewed a channel by sewing the lining to the seam allowance and inserted a length of elastic about 1.5 inches shorter than the length of the channel, then secured it at the shoulder and waist. My thinking was that the elastic would allow bust access for nursing, while also helping to hold the bodice close to the body. It works pretty well... not much gaping, and nursing was a breeze.

I had to make a few alterations to the pattern. My bust size falls between a 12 and a 14, but I decided to go for the smaller size since I think the wrap bodice would look better a little tighter. I graded to a 14 at the waist, which was actually a bit of a trick since the bodice pattern wasn't nested. I traced off both the 12 and the 14 then did my best to capture the width of the 14 at the waist. I also found that I needed to add a bit of length to the front of the bodice to keep the waist seam level. Perhaps because I chose the smaller size, I had to move the bust darts (up? I can't remember which way). I didn't change the volume at all, but I just changed the angle so that the darts would point the the right place. I did all of this with a muslin of the bodice to check fit.

Once the adjustments were done it all went together very smoothly. I used the sew-along to help make sure I put things together in the right order. Everything just fit together like a puzzle, very satisfying.

I lined the bodice with  cotton voile and the skirt with rayon Bemberg. Enclosing the waist seam was a bit of a trick since the two wrap bodice pieces cross over each other, not allowing you to separate the lining from the shell fabric. I used the same method that Fiona used on her blog to enclose the waist seam, which just left the back seam along the zipper exposed, which I finished with packaged bias binding. I used my new invisible zipper foot for my Janome for the first time and that was by far the most painless zipper insertion ever.

I finished the seams in the skirt with bias binding, since I thought they might show and I don't have a serger. The hem is finished with grosgrain ribbon held with a machine blind hem stitch. I'd like to go back and do a hand blind hem stitch sometime because I think it would be a nicer finish, but I was in a rush to get the dress done.

You can also see in the pic above the little triangles I had to insert to complete the circle of the skirt. Of course the fabric I fell in love with was not a full 60 inches! I figured I'd just pattern match, perhaps even seaming the front panel right up the center, but I just could not figure out how to pattern match this fabric. It seems to be an engineered print with no repeat across the width of the fabric, and how to match something that needs more width totally baffles me-- perhaps it can't be done? Anyhow, I don't think my little triangles on the sides of the front panel are too big of a deal.

So the dress isn't perfect. I think the bodice is still a bit looser than I would like, and I left a bit of ease in the side seams that I might not need right now since I think I've lost a few pounds since I made the muslin. When my body stops changing so much, I'll see about taking in the side seams a bit, and I might have to do something about the bust, not sure what.

I love the dress! It is such fun to wear. I can't remember the last time I wore a circle skirt, it makes me feel like such a girl. I wore it this weekend to a milonga, and it was such fun twirling around the dance floor!

I'm sort of obsessed with By Hand London patterns right now. I have an Anna dress just about done, and I can't wait for them to release the PDF pattern of the Sophia dress... the sheath dress with angled darts is just my style. I was thinking about rotating the darts of my TNT sheath dress, but I also love the neckline of the BHL version. Also, don't you think the Flora would make a lovely peplum top using the other view of the bodice? I just might have to try it. 


  1. Your dress is absolutely beautiful on you! Wow!

  2. So pretty, and the colors are great with your dark hair! I know what you mean about a blind hem, but the pink ribbon is a sweet surprise when you spin around or cross your legs, right? :-) A few years ago I saved a runway photo from some high-end designer of a snazzy wool coat - the model was just turning and it flew open a bit, and there was a beautiful, wide embroidered ribbon inside at the top of the deep hem. Such a nice touch.