Hi there! Hope all’s well in your world? I’m drafting this on holiday so, other than being slightly over-Disneyed at this point, all’s well.
The makes I wanted to show you today have been rather slow burners. Which is odd, as the pattern in question has been on my personal radar for quite some time, since I first started delving into the online sewing community and stumbled across a number of beautiful versions on Pinterest.
I finally succumbed to the Sew Over It Betty dress during one of their online sales last summer. I think. It’s been sitting there so long I honestly can’t remember! I then realised quite how much fabric the pattern calls for (between 3.5 and 4m depending on fabric width ) and went off it for a while!
I ordered some cheapish cotton lawn from Abakhan to test the pattern out. When it arrived it felt glorious so I got excited about making up the dress again. And yet, there was still a delay. Don’t really know why, there just always seemed to be something else at the top of the list.
Then I received tickets for Trooping the Colour. You know, with the actual Queen. So a posh frock was required.
Having realised by now that I usually have to make adjustments to bodices to reduce their basic width without getting rid of bust or waist space, I used the handy reference guide from Love Sewing to make a narrow shoulder adjustment. I based this off a size 10 pattern, as this matches my 35″ bust measurement. I made a note to make smaller seam allowances at the waist as my 29.5″ waist is closer to the 12 than the 10 but the finished measurements looked like I might get away with it. I decided hip measurements were broadly irrelevant on such a full skirt, succumbed to time pressure and cracked on.
I had traced using swedish tracing paper for the very first time, something I’d heard others raving about. I marked on the seam allowances and “tried on” the pattern. It seemed OK so off I went cutting out the fabric.
The fabric sewed up like a dream, so I took my time and finished all the seams nicely using my overlocker (which I’m really starting to like, although I still have problems with the tension on it). I really love a garment with well finished insides, it makes it feel better when I’m wearing it somehow!
When it came to fitting the zip, I took the time honored fitting route of trying it on and asking someone (Mr Red W) to pin the back seam together as it should be to get the desired fit. Unsurprisingly, even with Betty’s low v back, this involved taking a less than vertical seam; somehow my waist is always larger than the rest (damn you, children / chips / biscuits!)
Ordinarily, I hand stitch my hems. However, that was never going to happen on a wearable toile like this, so I grabbed the rolled hem foot that came with my machine and rammed the dress through the sewing machine. And actually, that finish suits such a light fabric much better than a deeper hem would.
Then I properly tried it on.
Clever sewing peeps, I need help!! @sewoveritlondon #bettydress does not fit 😢 (lesson 1: do not check fit of pattern entirely with Swedish tracing paper). From the bust down it's great: upwards from there I either let it sit where it wants and get the off-shoulder, bra displaying issue in the top photo OR I nudge the straps where I want them (bottom left) and get the tenting issue bottom right. How do I fix this?? What pattern adjustments should I have made? Really want to love this dress but it's about unwearable! #sewinghelpneeded #Isew #sewingdisaster
Betty does have a wide neckline, but not that wide! I must be an extremely odd shape, this happens to me such a lot with sewing patterns.
After getting upset, I did two things. First, I decided the fabric was way too nice to not be able to wear it, so I bit the bullet, trundled off to Rigby & Peller and bought a strapless bra that fit properly (never underestimate good underwear. Nor how much it can cost)
Secondly, having followed lots of good advice from the Instagram post above (seriously, how did sewists get anywhere before the internet?), I grabbed some dot and cross paper, used my original swedish tracing paper pattern as a guide (before binning it) and started again.
You can see on this shot what I ended up with; note all the extra bits of paper, swivelling some of the excess fabric from the neckline into the waist dart.
I did a similar reduction on the back, repeating on both facing pieces. I then picked up my lobster fabric, bought in London from Sew Over It’s stall at the Knitting and Stitching show, and prepared for version 2. I had rather a wobble when I realised that I’d only purchased 3m of the fabric, rather than the 4.5m the pattern demanded for a narrower width fabric (which is what I get for working from memory when purchasing, rather than checking!). I found it online at the above link, ordered another 2m, then started cutting out once it arrived. Then realised, as per the above, that if you cut carefully, you can actually squeeze this out of 3m.
Turned out the purchasing was not in vain though; I pulled a late night finishing to the point of overlocking the centre back seam before fitting the zip, only to realise there was a great big mark on the fabric that didn’t come out when I rewashed everything. Apparently a fault in the fabric :-/.
Starting to feel like the dress that wasn’t meant to be, isn’t it? I cursed, got upset, ranted on Instagram, then calmed down, spent a lot of time unpicking and the recut that back skirt panel from my new fabric!
After all that, the rest of the sew was pretty straightforward (!) and I finished the dress in time for Trooping the Colour. This was a big deal, not only because we were seeing Queen Elizabeth, but because we took my eldest, Beth (also Elizabeth really), to London for the first time. Thankfully she loved it, which is more than I did at the same age.
We had a fabulous day watching all the soldiers and the Queen, who was admirable, particularly wearing a vivid green outfit which made her stand out a mile even from right across Horseguards Parade.
I even found a very nice soldier prepared to pose with me.
Not that he looked very happy about it!
But the best photo of the day was me and my big Elizabeth, posing on Horseguards Parade.
As for the wearable toile, well it did get worn in the end. I even got some compliments, despite competing with princesses that day!
So, maybe not the love affair I expected, but still not a bad pattern, that Betty!