Apparently since all my (minuscule amount of) free time is no longer occupied with Fabricland projects, my vulnerability to the lure of the Shiny New Indie Pattern has re-emerged. Or something. Anyway—first Avery, then York, and now the new Closet Case Patterns Fiona dress have leapt to the front of the sewing queue.
Ok, the Avery was for a class I was teaching, but anyway. Fiona just hit me in all the right places. You may have noticed I have a bit of a thing for button-front sundresses, and sundresses with a band detail across the top. Add in that fabulous low-back option? The only thing I might have changed was a fuller skirt, but on the other hand the columnar shape is one I don’t already have in my wardrobe. And it’s good to try something new.
Well, high hopes can be a curse as much as a blessing, and I kind of struggled with this pattern. Which is fine since this was meant to be a wearable muslin, but it’s still a fairly intensive pattern. Them’s a lot of buttonholes.
I took brand-new measurements and followed the pattern recommendations, which put me in a size 8 at bust and waist grading into a size 10 hips. I think for the no-bra version, at least, I should’ve gone down to the size 6… and possibly up to a 12 in the hips.
Anyway, trying to figure out how a button-front bodice with criss-cross straps and a back overlap is fitting before things are all sewn together is pretty tricky. There are a lot of variables. Initially I thought I could take in the waist by increasing the back crossover. This seemed to work, and I attached the straps, trimming about an inch and a half off (as I had expected since I’m fairly short-waisted). But then when I got the skirt on, it was pulling up weirdly at the back. Releasing the overlap to its original amount (and then taking it in at the sides, and then also taking it in at the princess seams over the bust) fixed most of that. But then my straps were too short. So I opted for a halter closure.
After all that, the skirt itself is pretty much as-is, though I made the rear darts a bit deeper and they could perhaps be a smidgeon longer. The grading to the smaller size at the waist changes the side curve, and I could probably tweak it a bit, but it’s not bad.
I’ll add a little bit about my construction here. The fabric I picked, which looks like linen, is apparently actually ramie, which is a bast fibre from a different plant (a member of the nettle family, which I always think is neat possibly because I watched The Wild Swans too many times as a child and shirts made from nettles are a big part of the plot, anyway, this does not matter). It behaves like linen in pretty much every way except for maybe being a bit scratchier. Anyway, it is a handkerchief weight, which is lovely and summery but not actually opaque. So I underlined the bodice and the upper part of the skirt with random cotton scraps from around the sewing room, making it opaque and also a little bit less scratchy.
I did the buttonholes on my grandma’s Singer Rocketeer, which made them largely painless although the metal grip that jerks the fabric around seems to have done some damage to the lightweight ramie. That would’ve been another foot reason to use a wash away stabilizer… note to self.
Since there were also so many damn buttons, I decided to face my fear of the button-sewing foot. The principle is simple: drop the feed dogs, set a zig-zag to the width of the holes in the button, and the foot holds everything in place.
There’s an oddity with mine in that the soft no-slip plastic “shoe” on the foot seems to slip forward and get in the way of the needle. I had to trim parts of it away with scissors to get it to work at all. But once I did it worked really, really well. Just hand-wheel the first couple of stitches until you get really good at gauging where the holes need to be.
The blue buttons were my kids’ suggestion. Left to my own devices I would’ve gone with white (actually, I would’ve liked metal but I didn’t have twenty random matching metal buttons. These blue ones were just about the only non-white buttons I had in anything like the right quantity and size. )
I don’t know if I’m overly in love with this version—I had a hard time getting photos I liked. (On the other hand it was the end of a long hot day where I spent several hours walking, so my makeup was basically gone and the hair was hanging on by a thread). I do think the band at the top is too loose, maybe not enough to show but it doesn’t feel as secure as it might. But it’s still pretty fun and I like the overall look.