Laura's Penny Dress

Here in Manchester, Spring sprung for about a month in April and then followed seemingly endless downpour and perpetually grey skies.

It’s enough to make you unpack your winter cosies and put the heating on! But unperturbed, Hayley delivered us some sunshine in the form of July's box to brighten our day. Well, it certainly lifted my mood. I recall calling Hayley a “beautiful creature” when I opened it, so pretty high praise indeed!

The Classic and Mini Picnic in the Park box came with a gorgeous floral printed seersucker. To quote Chandler Bing, could it BE any more perfect?! To me, seersucker is so quintessentially British, heralding the start of summer when my primary school uniform switched to the sweet gingham dresses.

I wanted to emulate that into my make this month, and after changing my mind a million times, I finally settled on the classic Penny Dress from Sew Over It. Having made it once before, there would be no surprises, right? Wrong!

The pattern calls for 3.5 meters, however with some creative lay-planning, I was able to squeeze it out of the 2.5 meters with relative ease. The key to this was cutting the skirt as 3 pieces. The original skirt comes as two pieces that you tape together and cut on the horizontal fold, resulting in one skirt piece with one seam at the back. Whilst it is quicker and easier doing it this way, it does waste a lot of precious fabric. So instead of taping them together, I cut one skirt piece on the fold as indicated and then the other I placed in the remaining space. If you do it this way, remember to add on seam allowances!

Having made this dress before, I was feeling ambitious and decided to kick things up a notch. I really paid attention to the details in this make; I got some lemon yellow piping to add to the placket and collar, and I found these delightful daisy buttons that also match so perfectly with the flowers on the fabric. Don’t you just love it when it all comes together. The perks of sewing your own clothes!

Plus, what’s better than a dress with pockets?! As my skirt would have side seams, it would have been daft not to add some in-seam pockets using one of the beautiful fat quarters from the box.

Sewing wise, unfortunately it did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. This was the first time that I have added piping to a garment, and whilst I really love the finished look, it was not without its challenges! My main bone of contention with this was the collar. Attaching the piping required a lot of easing and snipping and patience to get it to sit nicely in the corners.

I also had a few mishaps with the seam allowances as they all went a bit squiffy with the addition of the piping. I unpicked the collar several times as it kept coming in too long, and I can tell you, unpicking it was a not a fun task! Because of the nature of the fabric, it wrinkled and frayed very easily. After finally sewing it into place, I then had to unpick it again because it ended up uneven at the front. Gahhh!!

Also, don’t you hate it when the pattern randomly changes the SA? I’d already trimmed them down when I noticed that the placket looked a bit thin so couldn’t change it, but luckily it doesn’t affect the garment too much. Note to self: pay attention to the seam allowances!

Whilst I am overall absolutely thrilled with the finished outcome, this dress taught me a lot about patient sewing. I made a lot of mistakes, mainly because I wasn’t paying attention and wanting to do it quickly. There were several times when I had to stop myself to take a break because I was getting wound up. I think as sewists we are so excited to finish so we can move onto the next project that we often forget to take the time and enjoy the process. Something that I will definitely be taking more heed of going forwards.

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