Introducing Lou Lou, a brand spanking new pattern from English Girl At Home’s, Charlotte. Her first, in fact. This little lady saw me through a garden party (ahem, BBQ ’round me mate’s house) a couple of weekends ago and has set a new record for being my fastest make yet. For the foodies among us, you’ll be pleased to know that this dress comes with lots of ease to accommodate a food baby. This ‘design feature’ was very welcome at said BBQ.
Let’s get straight down to the nuts and bolts of this pattern. I chose to make up version B, which has a couple of pleats at the neckline, giving the finished dress a trapeze shape. This version of the dress also has a decorative lining that peeks out below the bottom of the dress, which I find intriguing (lots of scope for experimenting here).
Charlotte emphasises the importance of selecting a fabric with a lot of drape, and this is very sound advice. I selected a summery cotton lawn from Minerva Crafts for the main fabric and a coordinating plain cotton poplin fabric for the decorative lining. For the rest of the lining I used a very light polyester knit.
Lining aside, there are just two pattern pieces – simples. On the whole, the instructions are very clear with some piccies to help along the way. The one thing I did miss early on was a diagram with a recommended layout for the pattern on the fabric. The reason I mention this is that all pieces are cut on the fold, and if you’re using wide fabric and only have 1m you’ll need to bear in mind that just folding the fabric in half won’t give you enough to play with. For the main part of the dress, I first folded the fabric right sides together just enough that I could get the front part of the dress out of it. I then folded the remaining fabric again to cut the back piece. I very nearly came a cropper here – luckily common sense kicked in just in time.
To cut the lining pieces, I followed Tilly’s top tips for cutting and sewing slippery fabric. She recommends cutting symmetrical pieces in one layer, and this made things go sooooo much more smoothly than they might have done otherwise. There are a million and one ways to transfer patterns to fabric, and on the whole I like to use dressmaking scissors to cut through both the pattern and fabric at the same time while they’re pinned together. For more ‘difficult’ fabrics, I like to get my felt tips out. After cutting the pattern to the required size, I use pattern weights (usually big cans of tinned tomatoes) to stop the pattern slipping around on the fabric and trace around it with the pen. The important thing to remember if you’re using this method is that your pen must be water-based, so it washes out the first time you throw the finished garment into the washing machine. If in doubt, test it on a small area before the fabric goes in for its pre-sewing wash.
I did encounter one snag that’s still niggling me. I sewed the side seams on the lining with the pieces right sides together, as directed, so that the seams would be encased between the lining and the dress on the finished garment, but this means that the seams are visible on the outside of the decorative hem – not cool! One way around this would be to sew the bottom of the lining wrong sides together, before flipping to right sides together for the main lining. I’m not sure if this would result in a lumpy bumpy bit where the two linings meet, but it’s preferable to flashing your seams to all and sundry.
Update:After chatting to Charlotte about this, it seems likely that I encountered a bit of right side/wrong side befuddlement. No other reviewers have been known to make this mistake – doh! To be honest, with a bit of common sense I could have dodged this bullet, too.
I also ended up slip stitching the openings around the shoulder straps closed – if anybody figures out how to contort this dress so that this can be done on a machine, I’m all ears. Hand sewing is not on my list of favourite ways to kill an hour.
Update:Photo tutorial coming soon on Charlotte’s blog to help with the shoulder strap section.
The pattern doesn’t mention understitching around the neckline, but with my fabric choices it’s a must. I still haven’t got around to doing this, but during the first wear I noticed how much the lining was trying to escape out of the top of the dress. If your lining fabric is slightly heavier or less slippery than mine, you might be able to get away with it.
Size-wise, I cut a size B but could probably have gone with the smallest size, an A, because there is so much ease – depends on how you like the fit, I guess. Based on my bust measurement, I was between sizes B and C according to the pattern, but I used the finished measurements to make the judgement call, and I think they’re pretty true to size.
The trapeze silhouette is not one I’d usually select for myself in RTW, and I will have to pick and choose when and where I wear this dress to avoid rumours that there’s more than just a food baby going on underneath those layers, but for a hot summers day this is just the ticket. Light, airy and uber comfy for garden lounging….and star jumps (because, why not?).
Disclaimer: Charlotte of English Girl At Home kindly sent me a free copy of the Lou Lou pattern to review. All views are my own.