Friday, 13 July 2018

Floral Viscose Kew Dress

It has been wonderfully hot and sunny in London for the last few weeks. Perfect timing as I had just finished this dream of a summer dress. This is the Kew Dress from Nina Lee London and I've been planning to make it since it was released last year. Finishing this is actually another garment ticked off my #2018makenine! I bought the pattern at the Great British Sewing Bee Live from Nina herself but it has taken me six months and the promise of some true summer weather to prompt me to find the time to make it!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Nina Lee London Kew Dress in Dahlia Floral Viscose Crepe from Til the Sun Goes Down

Part of what took me so long was down to sheer indecisiveness. Firstly about which view to make; sleeves, straps or cold shoulder? The lovely little fluttery sleeve on the cold shoulder version is what first drew me to the pattern (as well as the beautiful feature button front) but I was concerned that the shoulder would date quickly. In the end the fabric made this choice for me as the breezy drape of it was the perfect match for this style.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Nina Lee London Kew Dress in Dahlia Floral Viscose Crepe from Til the Sun Goes Down

The fabric was actually the second thing that held me up. It is this stunning Dahlia viscose crepe from Til The Sun Goes Down which I have been lusting after for probably no less than two years. To be honest I lust after most of their beautifully curated fabric range which mainly consists of reproduction vintage prints on fabrics perfect for dressmaking. This particular design is inspired by a 1930s print and is unfortunately currently out of stock on the website. A vintage inspired floral isn't what I usually tend to gravitate towards but I think it was the organic feel, vibrant colours and fairly large scale that drew me to this. Andree made my dreams come true when she generously gifted me a length of it at the Knitting & Stitching show in the Spring. I had 1.5m following the requirements on the back of the pattern but only just squeezed the dress out of that as I failed to note that it's 138cm wide not 150cm!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Nina Lee London Kew Dress in Dahlia Floral Viscose Crepe from Til the Sun Goes Down

I did have this pattern in mind when I picked it from her stand but once I had it pre-washed and ready to go I started doubting myself. I liked the fabric so much, and had it on my wish list for so long that I quite desperately didn't want to waste it on the wrong project! I went on a summer dress pattern hunt, even enlisting the help of my Instagram viewers with a poll. I wondered if this dramatic print would be better showcased paired with a simple garment and both the Papercut Patterns Sway and Adrift Dresses were close contenders but I fell back on my initial gut instinct and stuck with the Kew.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Nina Lee London Kew Dress in Dahlia Floral Viscose Crepe from Til the Sun Goes Down

Viscose is probably my favourite fibre to make dresses out of. It has such great movement, drapes beautifully without clinging or sticking and keeps you so cool, even in the stuffiness of a London heatwave. This particular viscose has a lovely matte, crepey texture that adds to the vintage vibe. It is great to sew with too, once you know how to handle it! It is a delicate fibre that is best laundered on a cool and delicate cycle and left to line dry. I always use a fairly cool iron. It is made from wood pulp and has a lot of the same properties as silk but generally with a less hefty price tag! As with fine silks it can be quite shifty so I'd recommend lots of fine pins and if you're new to this kind of fabric perhaps cutting in a single layer. My favourite trick for slippery fabrics is cutting on carpet so there's a bit of grip.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Nina Lee London Kew Dress in Dahlia Floral Viscose Crepe from Til the Sun Goes Down

I also find viscose has the potential to stretch out as you sew so make sure to stay-stitch the edges that are cut on the bias. I'm wondering if my pattern pieces did get a bit stretched out throughout the construction process as the fit isn't quite what I hoped. It's not terrible by any means and I feel very comfortable in it but it is slightly loose, especially around the waist and doesn't have as much shape as I feel like it should because of that. I feel like I want it to nip in a little more at my narrowest point and then flare out into the skirt. it doesn't help that the softness of the viscose means that the skirt hangs a little limp whereas a fabric with more body would emphasise the slightly flared shape. The drape of the viscose does however give the dress quite amazing movement as you walk or in the wind which is a great combination with the front split created by the buttons that finish just above the knee.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Nina Lee London Kew Dress in Dahlia Floral Viscose Crepe from Til the Sun Goes Down

It is my first time making a Nina Lee design so I'm not 100% sure if the fit is due to my handling of the fabric or the pattern. It could be that my proportions don't quite suit her block so I need to make a couple of small adjustments next time. I cut size 8 at the bust and graded out to a 10 at the waist and hips. I would have been able to get away with the straight 8 despite the measurements being an inch smaller at the waist and two at the hip but will make a quick toile before making in anything stiffer. I made no other adjustments, even to the length. I love the way the hem dips down towards the back and the straps are a good width and position to cover bra straps.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Nina Lee London Kew Dress in Dahlia Floral Viscose Crepe from Til the Sun Goes Down

For a first time with a new pattern company I was super impressed with both the pattern and instructions. Everything came together really smoothly, the finishing techniques are great and I loved making it. I would recommend not giving yourself a tight deadline on this one though so you can take your time and enjoy the process. There's a lot of pattern pieces to contend with and even more buttons and buttonholes to sew! That does take some time and is quite frustrating as you are so close to the end but well worth it for the finished look. My buttons are from The Cloth House on Berwick Street. I loved the slightly worn vintage feel of them against the fabric. I could have picked out any colour in the print with the buttons but felt black balanced it best after trying a few. I did the button holes in white thread and sewed the buttons on with white too so it didn't get too solid black.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Nina Lee London Kew Dress in Dahlia Floral Viscose Crepe from Til the Sun Goes Down

I wondered if the cold shoulder sleeves would be a but restrictive to arm movement but they have been drafted perfectly to hold their shape but still give you a bit of room. Its not a dress to be particularly physical in but I can comfortably lift a gin/pint/glass of wine in a pub garden so that suits me fine! I shortened the shoulder straps by about an inch and they could probably do with a little more as they slip off the shoulder. But the dress stays up without them which speaks to a good fit across the bust! The darts are spot on for me. The only thing I'm not happy with in the bust area is that the centre of the neckline where it buttons doesn't sit quite flat. Again a slightly more structured fabric would support this better. I did use a fusible, lightweight interfacing on the facings and wouldn't want to use anything heavier combined with this fabric but the viscose doesn't keep quite as crisp an edge as I would like around that neckline, despite under-stitching.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Nina Lee London Kew Dress in Dahlia Floral Viscose Crepe from Til the Sun Goes Down

Whilst I love this dress and have been really enjoying wearing it I'd really like to make it again in a cotton lawn or something slightly crispier. A crisp fabric is really not my usual choice for a dress so I've kind of surprised myself by saying that but I think I'd love a strappy version with a little more structure. Perhaps a seersucker would be a good choice as it has some body but still a bit of softness.

It looks set to be another scorcher this weekend so I'm sure this dress will be getting another outing! Thank you Andree for the stunning fabric and Nina for the gorgeous pattern. Her new Mayfair Dress is next on my list! 

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