Includes a review for “Sew Many Dresses, Sew Little Time” by Tanya Whelan. Everything in the post I bought with my own money.
About a year and a half ago, I realised, that in an effort to make my wardrobe more versatile, I had sewn plenty of separates, but I was seriously lacking in dresses. Around the same time I accidentally stumbled across the “Sew Many Dresses” book by Tanya Whelan. It’s not that I hadn’t heard of the book before, but with inspiration coming from all over you forget stuff from time to time. I know I do.
Over Easter one of my sewing friends hosted a “sewcation in your own home”, meaning we had a FB event to share stuff and regularly planned Zoom calls to catch up, look at each other’s projects and ask for help, if needed. It was a great idea, but it heightened the urge to have a real sewing retreat, go away for the weekend and just sew with them. Ah well, the truth of 2020. I spent the time sewing my second dress from the book and while I just the many of the same elements as my first dress, they’re still two quite different dresses.
My first one was sewn in November, 2018, as part of The Monthly Stitch’s Slow November. I used the basic bodice, with v-neck, the short sleeve and the pleated skirt, in which I made knife pleats to meet at the centre front and centre back. The fabric is a home weight jacquard in polyester, which was quite difficult to handle as it frayed like crazy (not to mention all the pill coming off when cutting!) and couldn’t handle the iron to save its life. I wore the dress for Christmas and loved it.
A few weeks ago I found a lovely organic cotton weave in the remnant bin at Stoff och Stil. It was begging to become a dress and during our Easter sewcation I stitched it up. I had a vision in my mind of what I wanted, this is where the book shines and lets you build the dress of your dreams, using the elements provided. Again I chose the basic bodice, but with the scoop neck this time and added the cap sleeve to it. There is something odd about the drafting here (the fact that you use the same armhole cut regardless of a sleeve or not is one clue) so I can’t really lift my arm. I’ll probably remove it for a sleeveless look. As for the skirt, I knew I wanted knife pleats, 3 one each side facing the centre so I just cut and hoped for the best. While I did take both mathematics and physics at uni (my degree is in physics), pattern math is so hard to me. I just can’t figure it out. In the end I got the look I was after, to the T, albeit a slight too short, so I hemmed with some bias tape.
I decided to line the bodice and since I chose to use a side zipper I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the instructions to apply it. It said to stitch up the main fabric side first and then twist and turn to apply it to the armholes, but it was impossible. I added the sleeve to not deal with the issue, and if (when) I remove the sleeve I will face it with bias tape.
While I do love the concept of the book, there are a few things that would improve it. In addition to the sleeve issue, I would also appreciate final measurements of the bodices, and the skirts in applicable cases. Also the pattern outlines on the pattern sheets could have used another coding that black gradient to gray, the biggest sizes are really hard to see. Other than that the book is packed with inspiration and could be used for ANY type of dress with a waist seam.
As for me, I just love that the dress turned out exactly as I envisioned in my mind – sleeves nonwithstanding!