Festive Sewing part 3: a Flora for Christmas day

More By Hand London, this time the Flora dress!


I’ve had all of the elements for this dress sitting around in my sewing room for ages, but for some reason I was seriously procrastinating about getting it started! I was a bit scared of cutting it out, the label I had written out to remind me of the details of the fabric (width, fibre content, pre washed or not etc) said that it was only 115cm wide, and I was worried about how I would have to modify the pattern to fit the very voluminous skirt onto the narrower than recommended width. So it all just languished in my stash, until last weekend when I decided that I really wanted a new dress for Christmas day. I laid out the fabric and pattern, and to my happy astonishment, the skirt pieces fit on the folded fabric with only a centimetre overhanging the selvidge! I must have remembered wrong when I was writing out the tag. A bit of a waste of time and angst, but I’m glad I didn’t have to get up to any shenanigans trying to get the pattern on the fabric!


This fabric is a bit unusual, as the stripes run parallel to the grainline, rathe than selvedge to selvidge. I didn’t really pay attention to that in the shop, but when I got home I was quite pleased that it did! It meant that I could cut the skirt on grain, and still have the stripes running down the fabric. I have a bit of an irrational hatred of horizontal stripes on circle skirts, I just don’t like the way the stripes curve towards the hem. I cut the bodice on the cross grain, because I like the way the contrasting directions of the stripes look. The fabric is a lovely light Italian cotton, but its rather see through so the whole dress is lined in white cotton lawn. I followed the instructions for lining the bodice, but decided to underline the skirt rather than make a separate skirt lining. I didn’t like the way the stripes showed through the fabric in the pleats, so treating the lining and outer skirts as one piece when I sewed the pleats helped to fix that! I probably should have underlined the bodice as well, to solve the same problems with the darts, but never mind.


I had a few fitting issues with this one, and you can see that its still not right across my lower back and waist. I can’t figure out if theres too much fabric at the waist side seams, or if there isn’t enough! Either way, its pulling and bagging a bit at the waist. I took about an inch off the CB seam, which helps the fit across my shoulders/upper back, and shortened the straps by about 2 inches. If I make this dress again, I think I’ll take the length off the top of the front and back bodice, rather than the straps, as it it pretty high cut now! I don’t mind the high neckline though (less chance of sunburnt cleavage this way!), but its something I could play around with.

The invisible zip gave me a bit of grief, I just couldn’t get the stripes to match up all the way down! I machine basted it in about 4 times before I gave up and sewed one half down by hand. Its still not perfect, but as one wise commenter said when I told my tale of woe to instagram, I can’t see it when I’m wearing it! I’ve finally ordered myself an invisible zipper foot, so hopefully this will be the last time i have trouble with one…


I feel like this dress is made up of almosts. The stripes almost match perfectly across the zip, the darts and the side seams. They almost meet in perfect chevrons up the side seams of the skirt. The invisible zipper is almost totally invisible. The fit is almost right. But despite these almosts, I’m almost in love with this dress. Not totally, but nearly. I love the full, swishy skirt (seriously full, I nearly used 4m of bias tape when I hemmed it!) and I think it’ll be a lovely summer dress. Now I just need to be invited to a garden party or a summer wedding or something! I think it matches my favourite summer hat and my Nana’s amber beads perfectly.


And here is the (almost) obligatory twirling photo, just to show off some of the skirt…


Ok, its not the most twirly of twirly photos, but the rest of them were practically indecent! I’ll definitely need a petticoat if I wear this dress dancing…

This is my last post before Christmas! I hope you all get to relax, eat delicious things and spend time with your favourite people. Stay warm if you’re in the northern hemisphere, and don’t overheat if you’re down under. Its beautifully warm and sunny here in Wellington, I’m so glad that summer has turned up just as everyone is finishing work for the year. I think my Christmas may end up being al fresco, I can’t wait!