Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Floral Viscose Sofia Dress

This dress was born from a desire for more dresses which would work worn with dark tights and boots. I've got a good number of summery dresses which get a lot of wear during bare legs season but so often throughout winter feel a bit of a mess just through need to be warm and comfortable. Sometimes I feel like I've focused so hard on sewing practical garments I need and will get a lot of wear out of that my wardrobe has become rather boring, particularly in winter! Does anyone else feel the same?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Victory Patterns shirred Sofia Dress in Hana Viscose Twill from Fabric Godmother

The Sofia Dress from Victory Patterns grabbed my attention on Instagram as soon as it was released. I loved the shape of it, particularly those gorgeous sleeves and was also lured in by the challenge of trying a new sewing technique - shirring. I must admit I almost didn't buy this pattern and instead used the By Hand London tutorial for creating a shirred dress from rectangles of fabric. In the end I decided as it was a new to me technique I could do with a bit more hand holding and also I just really liked some of the design details and finishing on the Sofia Dress. I was pleased I invested in the pattern when I saw the detailed instructions and troubleshooting advice included. I would say if you've never tried shirring before it is worth the purchase just for that!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Victory Patterns shirred Sofia Dress in Hana Viscose Twill from Fabric Godmother

Despite all of the guidance provided for shirring I had a real nightmare trying to get my machine to play ball. I hand wound my bobbins, played with stitch length and tension and no matter what I did the fabric was only lightly gathered up when shirred. The Sofia instructions advice that you are looking for shirring that reduces the length of your fabric down to half of what you started with (after completing a number of rows and hovering your iron over to give it a good steam) in order to end up with a dress the right size and with the correct amount of stretch. My practice pieces were no where near that. Luckily the wealth of information on sewing blogs never fails to solve a sewing problem and I came across this post on Grosgrain Fab about problems with shirring on a Brother Sewing machine. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Victory Patterns shirred Sofia Dress in Hana Viscose Twill from Fabric Godmother

From what I can gather the bobbin tension on a Brother isn't set high enough to achieve good shirring and you need to manually adjust it. I was a little apprehensive about this as on models like mine which don't have the option to adjust the bobbin tension you have to open the machine up and tighten a tiny screw on the bobbin case. This little screw is covered in green paint (I presume so you can't fiddle around with settings you shouldn't be playing with!) but I dutifully scraped the paint off as instructed so I could tighten the screw as much as possible. It worked a treat and I was happily shirring away in no time. If you do this I would advise making a careful note of how many times you turn the screw so you can turn it back to the original setting when you have finished shirring. I had visions of my machine not sewing correctly ever again but with the bobbin tension back to normal everything sews like usual.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Victory Patterns shirred Sofia Dress in Hana Viscose Twill from Fabric Godmother

Actually sewing the shirring was so much easier than I expected. Rather than drawing out lines to follow when shirring I just drew the first one and then positioned my needle so that I was able to follow the edge of my presser foot and maintain a nice even 1/2" distance. This worked really well apart from where I started to go under the arm as I worked my way down the bodice pieces and think I started to curve my shirring along the armhole a little. This meant by the time I got to the bottom edge that last line of shirring was a bit curved rather than running neatly along the straight bottom edge of the bodice. It wasn't by much though and now the skirt is attached it doesn't really notice.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Victory Patterns shirred Sofia Dress in Hana Viscose Twill from Fabric Godmother

I'm generally not a fan of designs with elasticated elements like elastic waistbands as I find them a little uncomfortable sometimes and find they shift about and ride up with wear. However the shirring on this sits so nicely and it is really comfortable and secure to wear. I was a bit nervous about getting the sizing right with the shirring but I think the elasticity makes it quite forgiving. The bodice is perhaps a little on the short side. The waistline is at the right spot on me but I'm quite short at 5ft 3.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Victory Patterns shirred Sofia Dress in Hana Viscose Twill from Fabric Godmother

For reference I cut the size 6 and the only adjustment I made was to shorten the sleeves by an inch. The skirt is slightly longer than intended on me but I really like this length for winter. I of course chose the option to include side seam pockets in the skirt but as this viscose is nice and weighty opted not to line it. I love that instructions are included for lining the skirt if you wish though. The neckline is wide and only works with a strapless bra or no bra. I like it but it is quite a different shape for me and on future versions I'd be tempted to bring those sleeves in ever so slightly. I love the width across the back though.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Victory Patterns shirred Sofia Dress in Hana Viscose Twill from Fabric Godmother

The fabric is one of the reproduction vintage prints from Fabric Godmother. This is the Hana print on a viscose twill base and is a winner for this project on so many levels! Firstly the black background to the floral works well with tights and boots and looks right under a snuggly jumper or cardigan. Secondly I really like the scale of the floral motif. I'm not a fan of small, disty florals and this is nice and bold. I love what the shirring does to this print, how it shrinks it up to another scale so it almost looks like you've mixed two fabrics together to make the dress. Thirdly this is a fairly weighty and opaque viscose which works so well for this style of garment. I think a diaphanous and flimsy fabric would be great for hot summer days but a drapey fabric with a bit of substance to it gives the skirt a lovely shape and adds body to those dramatic sleeves. I love the way the skirt hangs and swishes around my body. The fullness of the skirt is spot on and doesn't feel at all bulky around the waist.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Victory Patterns shirred Sofia Dress in Hana Viscose Twill from Fabric Godmother

Once I'd got the shirring done the rest of the dress came together really quickly and was a really enjoyable sew. The pattern has clearly been well thought out and for the most part I found the instructions and illustrations really good. I particularly liked the way the skirt pieces were gathered up to fit on to the skirt bodice using a line of shirring...I absolutely detest gathering so might try this method on other patterns which require it! Stability and strength is added to the waistline seam and neckline by adding some 1/4" elastic. The shirring on its own probably wouldn't be resilient or sturdy enough.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Victory Patterns shirred Sofia Dress in Hana Viscose Twill from Fabric Godmother

I love these sleeves so much. I feel like a shirred cuff might be a feature I continue to add to any top of dress with a billowing bishop sleeve! As I shortened my sleeve above the shirred cuff I feel like perhaps a couple less rows of shirring might have worked better proportionally but I quite like the drama of that deep tight cuff. When finishing the top of the sleeves I recommend feeding the elastic through, stitching down one end and pinning the other in place then trying it on. It is key to get the length of the elastic in this area right so that the wide set sleeves don't slip off your shoulder or the armhole doesn't end up too tight. I'm quite short through the shoulder so shortened my elastic by half and inch and now it sits nicely. 

I couldn't be happier with my new dress, it was worth the many hours of practising shirring before I could even get started! What garments to you turn to in winter when you want to be comfortable but yet still feel stylish and put together?

8 comments:

  1. I'm shivering looking at your gorgeous dress! But it looks terrific, and goesso well with the boots. It's both romantic and very contemporary at once, with a Tudor-esque note as well!

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  2. This dress (and the neckline) are so pretty on you -- Nice work!

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  3. This dress turned out so, so beautiful! Your hard work really shows in how professional the end result looks, and the shirring looks perfect *__*!

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  4. This such a lovely dress and you look gorgeous in it. You are braver than me in adjusting the bobbin tension and I admire your tenacity in mastering the shirring . Well worth the time and effort. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. A fabulous dress and the square neckline is so lovely on you.

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  6. This is really gorgeous! I definitely need to try shirring again.

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  7. I've been far too nervous to try even hand winding a bobbin but this is making me think that it probably is worth the effort! Thanks for posting!

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!