the Seren dress

The weather has finally (!!) started warming up in southern California, and all I want to do is make summer dresses. Originally planned & frantically started with the intent of wearing it to a backyard wedding (which LOL, did not happen) – here is my completed Seren dress from Tilly and the Buttons.

I purchased this deadstock rayon from Blackbird Fabrics in April with no real project in mind – but I loved the color scheme and I was drawn to the pattern, which vaguely reminded me of the mid-90s writing textbooks I used to read cover-to-cover in elementary school.

Oh, it was just me who did that?

I’ve come to realize that buying fabric with no project in mind is something I should probably stop doing. Not only because I waffle for months on what to do with it, but also because I inevitably purchase less than I actually need for whatever I end up deciding I will do with it.

Like the Seren dress, for example! Once I set my heart on this pattern, I obviously needed to include the flouce feature (hello, small bust), and no – I would not settle for any length short of midi. The recommended yardage for this particular view is 2.5 meters, which means it literally could not have required more fabric than it did.

You guys, I only bought 2 meters of this fabric. Not having enough fabric has become such a norm for me that I’m starting to feel like it’s my thing. A keystone of my sustainably-minded aesthetic, if I’m pretending it’s intentional. A fun game I play with myself where I have strategize before it’s time to cut my fabric and feel slightly stressed about the whole thing until it’s over. A triumphant photo I take of my tiny scrap pile to share on Instagram.

I pretty much have it down to a science at this point:

  • Step one is tracing out all of my pattern pieces so they are optimized for cutting on a single layer. Anything I need multiple pieces of is traced for the number of pieces needed (and reversed if it’s a one-sided fabric). Pieces cut on the fold are flipped and traced to be a single piece instead.
  • Step two is laying out my fabric on top of my queen size mattress so I can play with pattern piece placement (I have two dogs so the floor is not an option). It turns out that my bed is pretty perfectly sized for 2 meters of 60″ wide fabric!
  • Step three is taking photographs to document whatever layout I’ve come up with. Once I find an arrangement I’m confident with, I have to make sure I can remember exactly where each piece needs to go and in what order I will need to cut them in.
A bird’s eye view of the final layout on top of my mattress.

In the case of this dress, it took me soooo long to find a layout that was going to work – I started to lose hope I’d be able to manage it. Once I finally cut everything out, I breathed a sigh of relief.

That is, until I realized that I forgot to cut out the second waistband piece. In fact, despite having made a muslin of the bodice, I didn’t actually realize that this dress features a waistband at all! I thought the bodice attached directly to the skirt, and the first waistband piece was simply a facing. Like, a tutu? On the inside?

In hindsight, it obviously makes no sense – but nonetheless I panicked when I realized that all of the adjustments I had made were not done with a waistband in mind. Luckily, I was able to come up with a second waistband piece (from the very tiny pile of scraps left) by adding a seam line and ignoring the grain.

To accommodate the 1/4″ darts I added to both the bodice and the skirt, I took in the same amount on both sides of the waistband and tried to line it up in the same spot as the other pieces. This turned out okay, but I suspect I benefited from the dark shade of the fabric. Yay for hiding mistakes!

This is basically a long way of saying that had I purchased enough yardage to begin with, I probably could have avoided 3/4 of the drama of this dress.

when u extra & u know it

My other big boo-boo happened when it came time to add the buttonholes. I will admit to playing it real fast and loose with transferring my pattern placement markings, and oh my god, the top buttonhole is SO CLOSE to the top of this dress. It is held together by mere threads. I put as many stitches as seemed reasonable to try and reinforce it, but I fear that particular buttonhole does not have a long life ahead of it. I have no idea what I will do if and when the fabric tears there . . . but that is a problem for Future Miranda to worry about (future Miranda has also made notes about how not to create buttonholes going forward).

Zooming in so y’all can appreciate how precarious this situation is. The top is hand stitched in an attempt to keep it from completely falling apart.

In the meantime, I’m otherwise happy with how this turned out. It was my first time working with a 100% rayon, and while it isn’t the easiest fabric to work with since it’s so slippery, I survived and the result is definitely Good Enough. I could stand to take another inch or so in the top of the side seams, since there is still some gaping in the chest (I think my fabric grew) – but will I bother? Only time will tell.

Signing off with this cute af gif, courtesy of Google Photos.

The Details:

  • Fabric: Deadstock Rayon from Blackbird Fabrics (2 meters)
  • Pattern: Seren Dress by Tilly and the Buttons
  • Size: 3
  • Adjustments:
    • Graded to size 2 to at the bust
    • 1″ Small Bust Adjustment (SBA)
    • Shortened straps 1″
    • Lowered bust dart 1.75″
    • Added two 3/8″ darts to back bodice and skirt
  • Total Cost: ~$66
    • $15 for the pattern
    • $46 for the fabric
    • ~ $5 for buttons

the Anna dress

What is there to say about the Anna dress that hasn’t already been said at this point? I am about six years late to this particular pattern party – but it’s clear why it’s so beloved.

This dress has been on my sewing radar for a couple of years now (it’s so beautiful and so flattering on so many people) – and when one of my best friends set her wedding date for this April I knew it was the perfect occasion to finally make it!

Did I mention it was a beautiful coastal wedding? My handsome date (with a very cute photobomb from Jenny the Bernie).

I went a bit off script with the fabric choice. My favorite versions of this dress all seemed to be made out of crepe – so I knew I wanted something with a nice drape and a little more weight than a rayon, but having never sewed with crepe I was a bit weary of that particular fabric. I couldn’t find anybody else who’d made this pattern with a tencel twill, but after creeping on Instagram for other makes with that fabric – I decided to go for it.

I’m still super happy with my choice! The fabric sewed as easily as a cotton or a linen, but the finished garment had a luxe feel and a nice matte texture (several people asked me if the fabric was suede). My only quibble is that it was not the easiest to press. I could go to a level two on my iron with a press cloth (and really, I’m too lazy for that) – so it was the lowest heat setting only for this baby.

My attempt at the classic Anna pose?

The fitting was much less difficult than I’ve encountered with some other patterns. I think this is partly because I selected the size from the waist and hip measurements rather than the bust – so the small bust adjustment was the only major change I had to make to the bodice. I’ve finally accepted that I do in fact need an SBA with most garments I make, and it seems like selecting my size from the waist rather than the bust helps me avoid issues with the shoulders or the armscyes being outrageously small.

I’m still very glad I made a muslin though – because my first attempt at the SBA was done incorrectly, and I needed to take in the top part of center back 5/8″ to correct gaping at the back of my neck. I hemmed and hawwed over the correct way to do this without distorting the grainline – and ultimately opted to keep the grainline as is but staystick the tapered seam line. Of course I later discovered that the answer to this and how to correctly do the SBA were posted on the By Hand London blog all along . . . do your research people!

I still don’t know if this technically correct – but I ended up leaving the grainline as is. My other choice was darts but I didn’t want extra seam lines.

Anywho! I also mixed up the various skirt panels when I put together the muslin – so none of my seamlines lined up where they were supposed to from the bodice to the skirt. Not a big deal for fitting, but when I constructed the actual dress I was VERY careful about labeling which pattern pieces were what (and I still managed to mix two of them up – but luckily I caught the mistake in time to correct it).

Each piece carefully labelled and sorted before actual construction.

In terms of the construction – it was all very straightforward, except I did find the instructions somewhat sparse. I opted to interface the area where I applied the zipper, and I underlined the neckline facing to help keep it folded under. I’m feeling really grateful to be at a point in my sewing practice where I can identify the need for these techniques without explicit instructions.

The only photo I got of the back of the dress – oops! You get the idea.

Because I was feeling fancy! I also opted to use french seams for the skirt panel (my first!) and a blind hand stitch for the sleeves, skirt slit and hem (also firsts!). It felt like miles and miles of hand stitching – but I actually really enjoyed it (perhaps because I’m already so fond of embroidering).

Cheesing with a fellow bridesmaid (and one of my best friends).

Trying to hem the skirt myself was a bit of an adventure. I wanted to make sure the bottom of the dress would just skim the ground in the shoes I was planning on wearing (4″ platform heels) – so this involved my husband placing the first set of pins for me, taking the dress on and off and repinning as needed until I was finally happy with it.

Ultimately, I was super happy with how this project turned out – there is nothing like a really beautiful dress that fits you correctly to make you feel good. It’s also the first time I’ve worn a maxi dress that wasn’t too short, and/or worn a dress with a thigh slit that wasn’t too high (no Britney moments here!). I will admit to getting a little carried away pretending to be Angelina Jolie all day. Oh well! It was really a wonderful and fun day.

Soooo extra.

The Details:

  • Fabric: Navy Tencel Twill from Blackbird Fabrics (I bought 4.5 meters but only needed 2.5 – oops!)
  • Pattern: Anna Dress by By Hand London
  • Size: 6
  • Adjustments:
    • Small Bust Adjustment: 2″ (1″ each side)
    • 5/8″ taken in at upper center back
    • Swayback: 5/8″ in the bodice, 3/4″ in the skirt panels
  • Total Cost: ~ $70
    • $13 for the pattern
    • $45 for the fabric (not including the extra yardage I didn’t actually need)
    • $10 for notions and shipping