Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pattern review: The Laneway Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade, in Outback Wife barkcloth

When New Zealand designer Jennifer Lauren put out a call for pattern reviewers to help spread the word about her designs, I shot up my hand.  I've admired many of her patterns but had not yet sewn one. And I'd recently purchased her latest, the Laneway Dress, on first sight. I'd even had it printed already, so this was the perfect incentive to make it happen.

What I loved about the Laneway Dress pattern before I even made it:
  • inclusive sizing from 6 - 24
  • separate bodices for B, C and D cups (yayyy!)
  • that fabulous asymmetrical collar, plus two other options
  • pockets
  • flared, hip-skimming skirt without gathers
  • bust shaping with tucks at centre front.

I had some precious Gertrude Made 'Outback Wife' cotton barkcloth stashed for a summer frock. The retro floral was the perfect match for the Laneway. But first, using some old fabric from out the back of the shop, I made a muslin of the bodice and sleeves. Here's a (thankfully) very poor quality photo of the back, when tried on:

See that big crease happening in the centre? With the help of wonderful Instagram sewing friends I determined that the bodice waistline was both a bit tight, and long on me. Which is no surprise since I am not tall and my 'natural waist' (narrowest part) is proportionally high on my torso. Also, my measurements compared to the pattern's sizing chart indicated I may need a smidgen more room at the waist. These are common alterations for me. Being able to custom-fit clothing like this is one of the most satisfying parts of sewing!

My alterations
  • Let out the back darts and side seams a little at the waistline.
  • Shortened the bodice by 1 inch from front to side seams, increasing to 1.5 inches removed at centre back.
  • Widened front and back skirt panels to match extra room at waist.
The rest of the bodice and sleeves fit so nicely that I was confident to move to my 'good' fabric without a second muslin.

I'm thrilled to report that the Gertrude Made barkcloth - designed in Australia, made in Japan - was such a pleasure to work with. It has just the right amount of body and drape for this pattern, and it cut and sewed like a dream. The combination of beautiful pattern drafting and great fabric made easing the set-in sleeves an absolute pleasure, and the result is a sleeve that sits 'just so' and allows excellent freedom of movement.

So. Wanna see the finished frock? Please pardon a few creases.

Yes, I did attempt some pattern matching at the back seam and I think it's 'good enough'!

Inspired by a vintage dress I own, I added self-fabric piping at the waistline, and I'm delighted with the effect. I used cotton piping cord (we have it in the shop) and bias strips, and basted the piping to the skirt before joining skirt and bodice.
My only deviation from the very thorough instructions was to use a regular zip rather than invisible. I have a bit of a fear of the invisible zip and besides, I thought it would probably be incompatible with the waist piping. I'm quite happy with the look of a regular centre back zip, although I can appreciate the very clean finish that an invisible one would provide.
The little collar is created simply and cleverly with a facing and I decided to use one of the Gertrude Made solid colour barkcloths for a touch of contrast. I *may* have enlisted Fiona's help to try all eight of the colours we have in stock and honestly, they pretty much all could have worked! It's such a clever and beautiful range of fabrics. The Yellow Ochre ultimately seemed the most fun. The instructions suggest tacking the collar points down with a few stitches or even decorative buttons, but I love the way this gently falls, as-is.

What I love about the Laneway Dress now I've made it:
  • The fit which is excellent with only minor (typical for me) alterations.
  • The comfort: with all the style of a fit'n'flare, the Laneway is not at all restrictive. I can move! I can eat! I intend to wear it a lot once the weather warms up. I was freezing in these photos!
  • The pockets - a little extra attention to detail means the pocket openings are set just inside the side seam, for a very neat and 'hidden' finish, and the top is secured in the front waist seam so they don't flap about.
  • The lovely soft-pleated shaping provided by those 'open-ended' bust darts, which I've not tried before.
  • The perfect amount of ease in the sleeve cap: it's a subtle, but beautiful thing.
  • That collar. And all the rest of it!
helpful posing suggestions from my 9y.o.

the obligatory canine accessory shot
it's just a damn great frock

To summarise:

The Laneway Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade, pdf only from Jennifer's shop, sizes 6 - 24, B, C & D cups.
FABRIC: 100% cotton barkcloth, Outback Wife, Kirstine in pink, by Gertrude Made (sold out but others available here and new range soon to be launched), plus coordinating Yellow Ochre
ALTERATIONS: shortened bodice and increased waist as detailed above.
COMMENTS: This dress was an absolute pleasure to make (aside from a whole lot of unpicking because of a silly mistake I made when I neglected to cut off about 4cm outside the 'cut on fold' line of the front skirt pattern piece, resulting in a fully assembled skirt that was waaaaay too wide... yeah don't do that). I really, really appreciate the bust size options. The 12D has plenty of room for me and I would suggest slightly larger than a D-cup may be able to fit without alteration, too. The instructions were excellent and I highly recommend the pattern if the style appeals to you!

- Jane & Fiona xx