What's the worst thing that can happen if you try to sew at the same time as you're cooking dinner? Alright, maybe not worst, because that would be like catching your WIP on fire or dropping pins in your soup without realizing it until it's too late.
Here's the answer I'm looking for because it's what happened to me: Forget to wash your hands after a particularly involved cook-prep task and then notice that olive oil has rubbed all over various areas of the solid plum SILK POPLIN dress you just hemmed and it won't come out despite all your eHow stain removal research and you're supposed to photograph your dress for your blog ASAP because it's the Flora Dress you pattern-tested for By Hand London and they already announced the pattern and all the other beautiful pattern testers have dutifully blogged about theirs but you're just a dirty oil-handed slacker who practically ruined your dress during its final stage of hemming.
While Ms. Silk Flora gets sent to the dry cleaner in a future life, I decided to make another one to show y'all. This is Ms. Cotton Flora. She took me a third the amount of time due to muscle memory, yet I like her three times as much and not just because she's machine washable and properly obeys the steam of an iron like a garment should. She's just CUTE. This print is not something I would normally use whatsoever, but this one grabbed me for some reason. It's a quilting cotton (no judgey, please) by Juliana Horner found at JoAnn's (here for now). Roses! I've never owned a rose-print garment, much less a real bouquet of roses, in my life. What did my boyfriend buy me for Valentine's Day? An extra-large order of fries from Checker's and a six-pack of beer, thank you very much. The only joke there is when I said my boyfriend actually "bought me something." ...We split the cost.
THE PATTERN: The Flora Dress is the newest pattern release from By Hand London (BHL), the beloved UK-based indie pattern company best known (by abundance of blogged makes, anyway) for their Elisalex Dress and Anna Dress. The Flora has a pleated circular skirt and the option for a faux wrap bodice or a fitted tank bodice with thick straps. The skirt can be made with a dipped or straight hem. In my true test version for this pattern, before the oil spill version, I made the wrap bodice. It has a plungy depth, as most wrap dresses do, so not something I felt comfortable wearing. For my silk... and cotton... versions, I made the tank bodice instead. It kinda reminds me of an apron but is that a bad thing? Nah.
CONSTRUCTION: I hadn't sewn a BHL pattern before now, and I found it fun to do so. They make some sassy patterns with simple construction, which is certainly part of why the blogosphere loves 'em. This pattern is basic dressmaking so if you are willing to sew a lot of darts (12 of them counting the lining...), some pleats and an invisible zipper, it's a pretty breezy sew. I used a draft version of the instructions so can't speak to the final edit, but I bet if you have a dress or two in your sewing resume, you'll have no problemo with the Flora. And of course (as seemingly expected of patternmakers nowadays!), there will be a Flora sew-along on the BHL blog.
FIT: The Flora is drafted to be pretty darn fitted in the torso, so beware if you're used to commercial pattern sizing. Par exemple, if you have a 35" bust and a 28" waist, it says to sew a US size 8 (UK size 12), which has finished garment measurements of 35.5" bust and 28.5" waist, so only 1/2" of ease (breathing room). Most Simplicity or McCall's patterns will have like 4 inches of ease, ha. I have a 34" bust and a 27" waist but instead of the US size 6 as recommended, I sewed the US size 8 and found it still fits snugly, which I happen to prefer but maybe you want even more room. I like that they include the finished garment measurements so you can make your own call on sizing.
The trickier parts to fit on this pattern for me were the front darts. I had to move the bust darts down 1/2" and the waist darts inward 3/4", with those dart points also moved down 1/2". I also removed a smidge of width from the vertical waist darts. I think this bodice is drafted for a full B cup and I'm not there, though I'm still waiting with bated breath for that day. Note that if you move your vertical waist darts in any direction, the front pleats on your skirt will also have to be moved so they still align. I also shaved 1/4" off each side of the center back seam at the upper back to prevent some gaping at the neckline.
CHANGES: I lowered the front neckline by 2" total. I lost the strap pattern piece (?!) so I had to improvise my own and guess at the length they needed to be. I have no idea if this affected where the neckline sits in the end. It doesn't really look like a 2" drop from the other bloggers who made this variation of the pattern. I could stand to go lower still.
The test pattern didn't have a straight hem option (the published one does), but I straightened it out myself and cut the skirt out at about 21" all the way around .I hemmed with a baby hem instead of 5/8". The pictures make me realize I probably made it too short, as always, but oh well. Tights rule my life anyway.
The shell of the dress needs 60" wide fabric to accommodate the size of the circular skirt. I used 45" fabric here which meant I had to narrow the width of the skirt quite a bit, like Diary of a Chainstitcher did. Kinda regret that I lost some of the swirly volume because of this, and the back pleats don't skim over my hips as nicely as a result. If you have 45" fabric but want more oomph, you can do as Dolly Clackett did and cut the skirt on the cross grain if your fabric doesn't have a directional print or stretch. I used self fabric to line the bodice and attached the invisible zipper to the shell only so I could cleanly attach the lining to the zipper by machine.
The Flora Dress is a cutie so I recommend this pattern if you don't have a similar style already in your stash. It's nothing earth-shattering in terms of design but it's an enjoyable make. Can't wait to see what else is in store for the future of BHL.
So what's the moral of the story here? Sewing dresses is dandy, and roasting spaghetti squash leads to a delicious meal, but, uh, don't do those things at the same time.