Laneway Dress – Jennifer Lauren Handmade

Hi folks! It’s been a while, huh? I have to say, 2017 kind of kicked my butt. Not anything major, but lots of small and medium sized things all got together to make sure I was just exhausted at the end of last year. As a result of that I took a break from the internet. And I have to say, it was honestly pretty great. I’m still on a slow down. I haven’t reinstalled instagram and I don’t think I will any time soon. But here I am blogging at least.

This is an old make, now! I took the photos in November, edited them in December and now I’m blogging them at the end of January. That’s how it goes. It means it’s extremely unseasonable for me (today’s high is going to be 41C!) so I guess this one’s for you Northern hemisphere peeps!

This is the Laneway Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade. This pattern came out right after I had finished making my Juniper cardigan and I was so pleased with that pattern that I bought Laneway and taped it up immediately. And then ofc I didn’t do any of the actual sewing until September craft camp. Nothing like being timely… As an aside I can now report that, with the fix on the button band and the change of seasons, the Juniper cardigan is getting a tonne of wear.

I auditioned a bunch of different fabrics for this dress with different ideas for that split neck but in the end I decided to make the ‘bonus’ plain neckline because trying to figure out what combo to make was holding up the actual sewing. I love the look of the split neck on others but I know I’m going to struggle with fabric pairing. It’s the perfect opportunity to use a busy print or a colour you don’t want near your face, and then break it up with a contrast facing. On the other hand… I’m really a plain colours, simple shapes kind of gal, ya know?

I settled on this fabric because while it’s not precious, I do really like it. It’s been in my stash for a while so if the finished dress was imperfect as the first version of a make usually is for me, I wouldn’t mind too much. It’s more teal wool that I uncovered from my stash when I made my Horseshoes skirt. This one I do know where it came from! I bought it from DK fabrics when I used to work near there, so at least seven years ago. I bought it with the idea of making a coat out of it, LONG before such a thing was within my skill range but there’s nothing like optimism. Also I only bought three metres which is nowhere near enough to make a coat. The label said dry clean only but that’s not how I roll so I washed it on a delicate cycle and it came up all crepey. Which I was mildly bummed about at the time but now I really like it.

So anyhow. This dress has cup sizes, which is so nice. I sewed the D cup, size 18 at the shoulder, 20 at the bust and 24 at the waist. My muslin was really long at the waist – I think perhaps it is meant to be, because I see a lot of the makes popping up are also sitting at people’s natural waist. I don’t like that on me because 1) it’s not the silhouette I prefer and 2) I like a fitted waist but if I have it fitted at my natural waist there’s nowhere for my stomach to go when I sit down. If the waistline is at my high waist, there’s enough room in the skirt for my stomach to expand below the waist. So I took 2 inches off the bodice. The instructions direct you how to do this properly but I just folded the pleats in on the pattern piece and then lopped off 2 inches. It worked pretty good! I also took an extra centimetre off the centre front where it curves down, based on how the muslin was sitting. But I ended up adding that back in when I sewed the fashion fabric – I think the muslin was pulling forward because of the high neck (because I forgot to either cut the split or cut the lower neckline in. Duh) so I’ll go back and add that curve back into my pattern.

I’m not 100% sure what to do with the waistline in my next make to be honest. There’s some slight fit issues with where the neck is sitting that’s making me unsure – I think I will fix the neck issues (all based on my body not pattern errors or anything!) and see about the waistline later. The other thing is that this wool stretched out  on the bias quite a bit after sewing – I was expecting it on the hem but it also stretched on the bodice! It’s quite loose so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Anyhow it’s longer at the sides now, and the waistline is obviously uneven. I should go back and fix it but I don’t really care enough, if I wear a belt with it it’s not visible. But now I’m questioning everything because I like the lower waistline! Maybe I need to revisit my muslin.

I also sewed the pleats higher up – so they’re the original length (because shortening the bodice shortened them) but finish higher up. Originally they were looking very cavernous which is not really my best look. But I remembered reading a blog where someone talked about pressing the pleat to the centre – I can’t remember who sorry! So I did that and they sit much nicer. Very pleased with them now!

I brought the neckline in 0.5cm at the shoulders and brought the back v neck up 1.5 cm because I liked how the muslin was sitting without the seam allowance used up. I am on the fence about this – on the one hand it kind of looks like I just mucked up a normal neckline and cut it too low. On the other hand the lower neckline really emphasised my dowagers hump. So… whatever. It feels more comfortable where it’s sitting now whereas the lower neckline always felt like it was falling or pulling backwards, so I’ll probably do the same thing again in the future.

While we’re talking about the neckline, after wearing I can tell the neckline/upper torso fit is not quite right. It sits ok ish but when wearing a jumper the centre front folds in and is very annoying. I think I need to take about 1.5” out of the centre front neckline – this is a pretty usual adjustment for me because poor posture and a low bustline gived me a hollow chest, and with cup sizes in patterns this is often emphasised. The shoulder/armhole seam is also sitting slightly off my shoulders, not enough to be a poor fit as such, but enough that my perfectionist overfitting tendencies are annoyed. When I pinch that extra out that issue is resolved. I may also move the shoulder seam back 1cm, or I may just lower the neckline – I’m not sure at this stage what I need. This is a new adjustment for me so I haven’t quite worked out what works best for me.

I took a 2” vertical wedge (I think? I didn’t measure I just sort of pinched it out) at the centre back seam because I had some serious pooling there. I also ended up taking the extra width I’d put in at the side seams out again. I’m not sure if this was because the wool is heavy but a relatively loose weave and stretched out. The muslin still fits how I would want it to so if I make this again in a firmer fabric I’ll still keep the extra width because it’s easy to take it back out.

 

Also, guys, I am in love with these sleeves. They FIT right out of the packet and they set in so so easily and they are just the perfect proportions. I always have so much trouble with sleeves and the armhole and sleeves in this are drafted just PERFECTLY. I’m so impressed. I can tell I’ll be subbing these in on other patterns to get a good fit. A well drafted pattern is just a joy, and this one was so well drafted. Everything was well thought out to make it easy for the end user, and went together perfectly. I will continue buying and recommending Jennifer Laurence Handmade patterns because boy. They are just so pleasant to use. A real treat.

Pockettttts

I did change up the skirt a little – I prefer a longer and a more circular skirt than the A line that comes with it. I was rushing to cut this out before the end of craft camp so I  just laid my circle skirt pattern over the top and cut the waistline from the Laneway and the side seam from the circle skirt, which was not the correct way to do it. It means there’s heaps of extra fabric just at the side, and as a result the pocket folds backwards and sits maybe 2″ further back than it should. I initially thought the side seam was in the wrong place but if I pinch out that extra fullness on the lower skirt, the pocket sits right. So next time I’ll do it the way I’m supposed to.

I cut the skirt 1” longer, but I wish I’d done more. I wish I had another inch or so, especially because this is a winter skirt. As is it’s a bit short to wear with long socks without looking v twee. I didn’t want to loose any more length so I hemmed it with bias tape, which I think also gives this light wool some heft. The tape is from an opshop so there are two different colours, which makes me smile when I see it.

The hem fell a BUNCH and I got S to help me measure it with a singer mini-max hem ruler that I got from the same op shop where I scored all the bias binding – maybe from the same person’s stash? I am in love with this thing, it makes everything so easy – S is a willing helper but not a sewer so he’s happy to help as long as it’s clear what he needs to do. Here’s a how to video.

I fully lined the dress. It comes with facings but the wool is pretty loose and I wanted it to be a winter dress, and warm, so I just cut the pattern out in bemberg as well and used that to line it. I used the original skirt pattern for the skirt lining and broadcloth scraps for the pockets. As I said I perhaps should have underlined the bodice rather than lining, but oh well. The only downside is the bemberg is actually quite warm, and if I sit in the sun at lunch I come back to work all sweaty. I doubt this will be a problem in midwinter though!

The neckline was pulling and flipping so I hand tacked it down, which is a bit visible because I did it AFTER tacking the lining to the fabric at the waistline so I had to do it through everything, not from the inside. Again, I’m not too fussed about it.

Waist stay

I did a lot of hand sewing on this. I tacked the lining to the shell, as I said. I also did my first ever waist stay, because of the loose weave of the wool. I think I’m sold on them! I really like how secure it makes the dress feel, and it was very easy to do. Although it does make getting the dress on less simple. Oh and I also mucked up the zip and lining bit – because I was making up the lining myself I didn’t think far enough ahead and put it in before I did the zip, so the zip couldn’t go all the way to the top, so I just put in a hook and eye. Not perfect, but good enough. Also I wish I’d gone with my instinct and done a regular zipper for this, because the waist is bulky and the zip shows there.

 

Lining tacked to shell

Reading this back this sounds like a litany of flaws but that’s not at all how I feel about this dress at ALL. It’s not perfect, of course. But all the issues are very minor, and mostly just noted for myself for next time. Often when a make has this many little things it’s annoying to wear, but not this dress! It’s so comfy and lovely and I feel a million bucks in it.

There will ABSOLUTELY be a next time for this pattern. I really love the shape of this dress, and the drafting, as I said, is just so excellent. I know I’m gushing about it now but seriously I’m not over how much of a difference it makes to everything. I guess I’m now a JLH fangirl!

The writeup for this dress says “The Laneway Dress blends comfort, whimsy and the unexpected into one perfectly tailored dress. With a sleek yet easy to wear 1940s A-line silhouette, Laneway will be your go-to dress for everyday adventures and beyond.” I always roll my eyes a bit at the spruiking for patterns but you know what? It’s spot on. I also think this dress will look really different in different fabrics, and will be a good jumping off point for alterations and hacks to make it more interesting. I’m really looking forward to making this a TNT! I definitely need to sew myself one in lighter fabric for summer and autumn because I miss wearing this dress!

 

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Dotty L dress

Hello everyone! Here is my version of the Dorothy Lara dress from decades of style. I’ve been eyeing off this pattern since seeing Tanya’s many wonderful versions – this is the one that tipped me over into wanting to sew this pattern. I started thinking about it more when we started planning another trip to Bali. My teal rayon dress was kaput by this time and I knew I wanted something to take to Bali that would replicate the things I liked about it – short sleeves that covered the shoulders, blousy bodice but this time with a loose skirt, easy to wear fabric. I knew the DL dress would fit the bill but with the conversion rate and postage it would have cost something like AUD$50 to get the pattern! That’s too much for me.

I posted on the CSC asking for recommendations for similar patterns and as a result picked up a Vogue pattern that wasn’t quite what I wanted but is lovely so will definitely be made at some point (thanks to all who helped me out in that thread!). I also started drafting something similar myself, but slowly because – well for one because it’s freezing and I find it hard to sew very unseasonably, and for another because I really wanted to sew the DL dress. I guess it was good because I was only halfway through drafting something myself when Tanya let me know that DoS had released the DL dress as a pdf! I immediately downloaded it, despite being on a bit of a pattern buying freeze until I actually sew up some of the ones in my queue.

The fabric is some I bought last month when I was in Melbourne for the weekend for my sister’s birthday and to see a show with my cousin. It’s from Unique fabrics on Sydney road which is my new favourite place to fabric shop. I initially intended it for pyjamas but then I thought about how good that border print would look as a dress and I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind. It’s a little bit out of my usual wheelhouse in terms of colours and design but I really love it. They had it in several colourways including hot pink and orange, and I wish I’d bought some of the others.

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Selvedge says 100% cotton satin indofab

It really does feel and drape like satin. Glorious. I bought three metres intending to pattern match my pjs, which meant I had not quite the amount recommended by the pattern. I managed it just fine although wanting to place the pattern in specific ways meant I had to do the layout and cutting all at once – which meant on the living room floor, which I always find a pain.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. First was muslining. I traced out the size 44″ bust which is the second to largest size. I have a high bust of 41″ and a full bust of 46″ but I figured there’d be plenty of ease in that bodice. I was going to trace a size down for the shoulders and neck but when I looked at the pattern, there wasn’t that much difference there so I just traced the straight size 44″. Here’s that first muslin:

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It was VERY baggy. I could probably fit a couch cushion down there! When I pinched out the neckline it sat much nicer so I took a 1.5″ wedge out of the front neck – losing 3″ in all. This meant taking the width from the bodice piece, the neckline stay and the bias neckline strip. There wouldn’t be much difference in the amount of room between sizes, that part of the pattern piece is a very similar size for all sizes. It says on the pattern that the higher sizes are C cup (if I’m reading correctly?) but I’m an E and there was lots of ease for me, I think this would adapt very easily to various bust sizes.

Anyway here’s the second muslin:

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Much better. When I’m making just one change like this I only cut out the one new pattern piece. I only baste my muslins together with a long stitch so it’s easy to take them apart and sub in the new piece. I don’t just muslin for fit – I like the way a muslin lets you figure out how a pattern goes together before sewing up the real thing. I also always tuck or pin a bodice muslin in to a skirt, because I find the weight of the skirt makes a huge difference to fit. Without it this bodice looked pouffy still but with the skirt pulling it down it’s perfect.

I also decided the waist was a bit tight for such a casual blousy pattern. It technically fit but only just, so I added and extra 1″ to just the front waistband. I didn’t change the amount of gathers at the bottom of the bodice, but I brought the gathering area in further to distribute them a bit better, because they looked a bit odd all bunched up with a bigger gap between them. I know that’s the design but I didn’t like how it looked on me. Next time I think I will gather across the whole bottom of the bodice, not just those two spots under the bust – it looks like I did a bad job gathering rather than being deliberate.

I did that for the back bodice – the bottom of the bodice is designed to gather to two points on either side but with my swayback it meant that all the extra fabric was exactly where I didn’t need it, so I simply gathered across the whole. I also didn’t sew down the gathers on the bottom of the bodice, just as a style choice. Where I did sew down I didn’t pull the thread to the back and tie as the pattern says, I merely backstitched at the end of the row of stitching as I would when sewing a seam.

Gosh I love how crisply this fabric gathers. I also left a little gap right at the centre of the neckline where it’s barely gathered at all. In my muslins, when I gathered evenly I got a big ridge of gathers in between my boobs which I didn’t like. When I finished sewing it I was worried it was going to look strange with that gap, it’s really obvious on the hangar. But on me, it has exactly the effect I was hoping of the blousiness falling evenly, so it’s not noticeable – in fact so unnoticeable that I can’t find a photo that shows it!

I’m not sure about the front skirt gathering. I debated distributing it over the whole front skirt, or perhaps moving it just to the hips and leaving the front flat. I really don’t need the extra bulk at the front of my stomach, and it has ended up looking a bit apron-like. But one of the beautiful things about this pattern is that it is assembled as a full front and a full back, and then sewn together at the sides. This makes taking in and letting out easy, and I didn’t want to compromise on that, so I left it as is. I think it’s a bit more pronounced in real life than in these photos but also I am coming to the conclusion that I am not too fussed by it. It’s fine, and it’s clearly in line with the style of the dress. I think there’s about a 50/50 chance that next time  I’d gather the whole front, as well as whether I’d sew the gathers down or leave them free.

I like the just-over-the-butt gathers on the back, though. I feel fine about extra floof there 😛 The back neckline goes up a bit high but again, I’m not fussed by it. I could maybe pinch a small wedge out or take bigger darts next time. Or not stand with my hands on my hips so much… I wasn’t sure about how I cut the waistbands – I was running low on fabric and so the front has the dots and the back is plain. I wasn’t sure about the dots because they mirror the dots on the bodice rather than being offset, but now I’ve decided I like it.

I was really sick last week and spent most of it home from work, in bed. I sewed this dress when I started to get a bit better, I was just desperate to DO something. So the finishing on this is not what I’d like. The waistbands don’t quite meet on the sides, for instance, and they are not quite even in width because I was sewing wonky. It’s a bit of a shame because this fabric and pattern deserve more.

I also did a quick and dirty sleeve hem, so they stick out a bit.

That said, it’s an incredibly forgiving pattern that I think would be a good beginner pattern, because there’s a lot of wriggle room. However, I found the instructions pretty bare bones. Specifically I don’t know if I missed it or if it’s never said which way up the sleeves go. I eventually worked out that they go with the triple notch pointing up, since that’s the notch for the shoulder join, but it took me quite a while. Again, perhaps that was just my fever-addled brain but if you’re a beginner sewing this you might need someone helping you interpret it.

Zip – can you see it?

I wasn’t going to put the zip in – I can technically get it on without it, although it takes some… manipulation. In the end I did though, and I’m glad of it. I want this dress to be something I wear a lot so making it easy is good. I switched the side and put the zip on the right side. I have a bung shoulder – and big boobs! – so reaching around to the left is sometimes tricky. This meant I left off the pocket because I don’t know that I would use just the left pocket. I did cut them out so I can always go back and add them in after. I should work out how to add a pocket in a side seam with a zip, maybe.

Btw there’s no cat involved in this photo shoot. This is what he was doing while I was taking these photos

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The neckline, bodice and waist and skirt seams are all enclosed so I left those raw, for better gathers. I serged the sleeves and the sleeve seam of the bodice before attaching them, and once everything else was attached I serged from armpit to skirt and back up to the other armpit, before sewing the front to the back. The waistband hypothetically catches itself in when you topstitch but that’s something I’m bad at so I hand stitched the bits I missed.

the neckline and sleeves go together so cleverly. It’s a really neat design – and it’s the place where I feel the worst about my dodgy finishing, but i am refusing to feel too bad about it because it’s fine and done is better than perfect. But next time, when I’m not sick, it would be easy to take just a little extra time and make this neat and beautiful.

I really liked the length when I tried it on so I did the teeniest hem. it had to wait until I went and bought more thread though because I didn’t have any purple thread! I just topstitched the hem. A piece of the selvedge art shows at the front but I don’t care.

I am so thrilled with everything about this dress. I can see myself living in it in summer – it’s so easy and pretty and neat. In person it’s hard to miss the retro lines – I feel like it looks a lot more modern in photos somehow. It still looks modern in person, too but somehow the 1940s-ness is more obvious – maybe it would be less so if I changed the gathers on the front skirt. I loved the way the construction hinted at the time of design in its conservative use of fabric and the pieces clearly intended to be easily mended and replaced – or to fit a person as they gained and lost weight, or to be the perfect handmedown as well as the perfect dress to throw on with little notice to go to your office or factory job… or a dance hall. Plenty of room for movement while still looking fresh and cool. Which makes it absolutely perfect for modern women today!

In fact I love this one so much that I have already cut out another one! This one only took a few hours to throw together so it should be long before the next one is hanging up in my wardrobe.

Ottobre Women 02/214 – “Japanese flowers”

This is another one from the same magazine as my last make – Ottobre Women 2/14. This one is pattern number 19, called “Japanese flowers” after the fabric that the magazine version is made from. Like the last one, I made this a month ago and then ended up making adjustments. The first part of this blog was written before I did the adjustments, and I’m too lazy to re-write it so I’ll just tack onto the end.

As with my last make, I made this to fill a wardrobe gap. It’s from a woven rayon from Spotlight, and is the same colour as one of the “Painted Roses” blouses I made last year. I sewed a size 50, graded down to a 46 at the shoulders and neck. It fits well but pulls a bit at the shoulders, I think if I made it again I would just make a straight 50.

It’s supposed to have a zip down the back but on basting it together to check the fit, I found I could easily get it over my head, so I skipped the zipper. I think it hangs a lot nicer than it would with a zip, so that’s all to the good! I thought about doing some shaping at the backseam for my swayback, but with a gathered bodice, I thought that was a bit pointless.

I was a bit on the fence about the gathering details – its a very different shape to what I am used to. But it’s growing on me. I did move the gathering at the front so it starts 3 inches either side of where the pattern indicates. I found that as drafted it was too bunchy, and not under my boobs so the bodice sat weird.

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The bodice with gathers as drafted. Probably lovely on a smaller frame, with fewer ins and outs, needed some adapting for me.

I also took some length off the centre front. As drafted it curves so there’s more pouf at the front, and I trimmed it so it’s a lot straighter. It would have been better to do this at the start because I feel like I still got it a bit uneven, but that’s what you get for adjusting on the fly, and I don’t think it’s too obvious.

The front as drafted, with two inches more length at the centre front.

I don’t love the way the gathering bunches at the back, but I can live with it. If i made it again I might cut the back on the fold and even the gathering out across the whole back, so it’s less bunchy – that little pouch on the left in this photo bugs me. Otherwise, I like the room it gives to the bodice.

The skirt drafting is wonderful. It’s got some clever darts that go out and THEN in, and also a steep swoop on the side seam. I just love the way it looks, on, and I think I’ll steal this skirt to attach to various bodices. It also balances out the blousiness of the bodice really well, I don’t think I would like it as much with a more ordinary straight skirt.

Clever dart and side shaping.

I french seamed everything because why not? Although the hem is just overlocked and turned up, because I didn’t want to loose too much length. The rayon behaves itself beautifully. It will need ironing but I seem to be going down that route anyways, so help me. Once again, that’s the payoff for wearing natural fibres, and that’s what I like to wear. I don’t mind ironing so much if it’s a garment I really love and has the pros of natural fibres as well as the cons.

French seams

Sewing the bias onto the neck and shoulders was a DELIGHT. I have not quite enough fabric left to do anything with, I think I might make bias binding out of it because it is just so lovely to use as binding. I’m sure my various makes would benefit from it. I bought 2.5m while the pattern calls for 1.5, and I used most of it. Next time I’ll buy 2 and lay it out a bit better. I didn’t line it, either, although the pattern calls for lining the skirt. It would be necessary in a lighter fabric but I don’t think this one needs it, and no lining makes it extra cool and breezy.

Bias binding at neck and arms

The top of the bodice is also a bit loose, I wonder if I stretched it out a bit before sewing – you can see the little bubble in the photo above. Could have done with a stay stitch, probably. The blousy bodice hides a multitude of sins, though. I am really coming around to the shape, It’s drafted well enough that it looks like an intentional style rather than a baggy mistake. I think it’s a little bit toga-like, so I took a couple more photos next to the columns on our verandah.

This was a really fast make – I cut it and sewed it all in about three hours, including mucking around and basting and tweaking. I can see some more of these in my future!

UPDATE

After writing all that, we had a hot day and I thought I’d road test the dress by wearing it to work. I ended up changing before I left the house because the arms were so tight that they were uncomfortable. I ended up unpicking the shoulder seams and resewing them. I overlocked them and then sewed the shoulder-side as narrow as I could, tapering back up to 1.5cm at the neck. Maybe you can sort of see it here:

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And then I re-bound the sleeves, trying to give myself a bit more give and easing in the bias binding more generously. This brings it much closer to a straight size 50, with a size 48 neck. The sleeves are still a teeny bit tight, but not enough to stop me wearing this dress in Bali, and loving it. It was the perfect dress for the weather – the rayon is so light it feels like wearing nothing, but my shoulders were covered and protected from the sun. I wished I had ten more. I wore it on our day trip, to have lunch in front of a volcano:

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Thanks Lara for the photos, all contrast issues are my own, it was a very bright day!

And to buy ikat from a weaving family in Tenganan village, looking very pleased with myself:

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Thanks to Roz and Suse for these photos!

And here are some quick snaps I took at home

I think it maybe makes the front gathering sit slightly less flatteringly, but since it’s actually wearable, I think that’s an ok tradeoff!

A helper!
He did not sign up for this

I still really like this one, the only downside being that it’s so freezing in my office that I won’t be able to wear it to work, even in the inevitable heatwaves of summer. Still, it’s a wonderfully comfortable and cool summer dress and I will definitely be revisiting this pattern!