Sunday, 18 June 2017

Pattern Testing: Orsola Dress from By Hand London

Despite telling myself that I was going to leave pattern testing to one side for a bit so I could focus on my ever increasing sewing queue I saw the design for the latest release from By Hand London and couldn't resist getting my hands on it immediately! The Orsola Dress is a chic and wearable sheath dress which features a beautiful wrapped back. This classic cut with interesting and considered details is just the kind of thing I love to wear. The bateau neckline that dips in the back combined with the figure skimming fit is super classy. Both the dress and skirt variations included in the pattern have the option for a straight front hem or a scallop shape detail which I opted for as I love how this echoes the shape created by the wrap at the back.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

I had some fabric perfect for the skirt in my stash but I wanted to make the dress so I nipped into Lewisham one weekend to find something inexpensive from Maggie's Fabrics market stall. I happened upon this gorgeous viscose print for just £3/m and could not be happier with how it suits the style. I love how vibrant the red/orange flowers look against the navy. The slinky, slippery drape gives a relaxed vibe to the style and I feel like a more structured fabric would give it a totally different look. I really like the idea of making up a skirt version in a brocade.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

That lovely shifty nature did present some challenges when it came to cutting out and keeping those curves nice and even but patience and plenty of stay-stitching kept things stable. There are so many curves and edges cut on the bias in this design that taking a good bit of time over stay-stitching is essential; although yes it is frustrating not to be able to get straight on with the construction! The bodice is lined so I could have used a more stable fabric for this but I didn't want to ruin the romantic feel of the draped back so opted to self line.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

One of my favourite elements of the design is the faced hem which gives a gorgeous neat finish and a bit of weight to the hem. I was concerned that the effect of the scallop at the front would be lost in such a delicate and drapey fabric as my viscose so I opted to use a lightweight fusible interfacing on the facing pictures to add a bit of structure. I'm pleased I did this as I think it hangs nicely and keeps its shape well now. In a crisper fabric you wouldn't need to do this. I also added the interfacing to one set of the waistband and tie pieces. The ties are quite skinny and I felt they might end up looking a little limp in just the fine viscose. The interfacing adds just the right amount of body.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

Your fabric choice combined with how much you choose to stabilise the back edges of the bodice will quite drastically effect how that area fits too. Mine hangs away from the body slightly as I allowed it stretch out slightly (on purpose as I liked the idea of a softly draped back in this fine romantic print). The back edges of the By Hand London samples lay closer to the back and to achieve this you'd need to stabilise this bias edge with stay stitching and possibly the addition of some narrow twill tape/stay tape in the seam allowance.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

As with all By Hand London patterns (I've sewn most of them at this point!) I opted for cutting the UK10 and found it to have a little more ease than I am used to with their patterns. I wouldn't size down though as I love the more relaxed feel of this, I think the amount of room is spot on for the wrap style. I was concerned about risk of exposure with the back wrap when bending over or moving about in the wind but it feels very secure. I do usually have to shorten By Hand London patterns a little and usually do this from the hem but was well into making this one before I realised that the shaped hem would make this really tricky and I could have done with a lengthen/shorten line on the pattern piece (this has been added in since I tested it). It actually turned out fine though as I love the length as is!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

The only change I'd make to the fit next time is to take a little length out of the shoulder (about an inch) as it feels a little like it wants to slip off down my arm although doesn't quite. I definitely think it's the length rather than the width that is the problem and taking a bit of length away would have the added benefit or raising the point where the back wrap crosses as at the moment my bra band tends to peek out just a touch. As well as wanting to slip off the shoulders the dress doesn't want to stay on a hanger so I would recommend adding little ribbon hanging loops. You could insert these into the shoulder seam of the lining for a nice clean finish. I love this dress so much I might well end up unpicking my shoulders to take a little length out to absolutely perfect it so could add these in then.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

I'm not going to talk too much about the instructions as many of the little notes I made while testing have since been tweaked in the final release so my sewing experience is likely to be quite different to yours. I will say that it is a real pleasure to sew as it uses lots of familiar sewing techniques so isn't too tricky to put together and there are no fastenings to deal with! There's a bit of hand sewing involved to cleanly finish up the waistband and secure the hole in the side seam for the tie to pass through but nothing too strenuous. If you didn't want to see topstitching around your hem facing you could slipstitch this in place by hand but equally you could make more of the topstitching and use a contrasting thread or add in more at the waistband.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

I added a couple of tricks into the construction which I've picked up over the years and tend to do for all my dressmaking projects now. I pressed the lining darts in the opposite direction to those of the shell to reduce bulk at the waistline. This pattern does involve sewing a lot of darts which aren't my favourite thing to do in a shifty fabric. I would recommend marking them with tailors tacks and marking them at an additional point along the leg rather than just the tip and raw edge so you can ensure that nothing has shifted off grain and your darts are nice and straight. I also under-stitched the neckline as lining peeking out is a real pet hate of mine. This is really easy to do with this neckline if you do it before you sew up the armholes. The By Hand London method of sewing the neckline and armholes then the side seams of both the shell and lining in one fell swoop is fab.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

It's a big statement but this could be my all time favourite By Hand London design! Top three at least! I feel really elegant yet effortless in this dress and whilst the cut is fairly modest it's quite sexy at the same time with the flash of skin at the back. It would be appropriate for so many occasions made up in different fabrics; weddings, garden parties, work events or just casual summer days. A skirt version is next up in my sewing queue and then I'd like to try another dress in a solid colour of a more structured fabric like a linen!

10 comments:

  1. It's stunning! The fabric you chose is just perfect for the pattern.

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    1. Thanks very much! It was a very happy accident almost as I needed something quick in order to meet the testing deadline so I had my fingers crossed that Maggie had something on her stall locally. It must have been meant to be!

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  2. It looks beautiful and fits really well. I just worry that with the wrap at the back if the wind blows I will be flashing my backside! At least with the wrap at the front I can hang on to it a bit better!

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    1. Haha I had exactly the same concerns but there is really nothing to worry about at all with this design. The bottom layer of the wrap reaches right around to the side so if the top layer does catch the wind you're completely covered!

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  3. This is really lovely! Great fabric choice and I love the softer look with the drapey back. I did the pattern booklet and illustrations for BHL and was really curious to see a few made up. I think I'll be making one!

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    1. Thanks Katie, I was really delighted with how the back turned out in the viscose. Now I've seen some of the more structured ones I'm after one of those with a nice snug fit though!
      Definitely make one! Gorgeous instructions as always ;)

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  4. I was wondering about sitting, and walking in the wind in that back wrap, so I'm glad you mentioned it in your blog post. This is a BEAUTIFUL pattern and I'm loving that front scalloped hem so much.

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    1. BEAUTIFUL is exactly the word for it! There are so many details I love, particularly that scallop and how it echoes the back wrap. Definitely nothing to worry about with moving in it. I feel very secure

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  5. It reminds me of those 70s DVF dresses that could be worn frontways or backways. Your versionis so lovely!

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    1. O what a compliment that is! It has that kind of magically DVF feeling to it as well. very flattering but not clingy, you just feel great! Thanks

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