A By Hand London Orsola Dress

My latest make is one that I was a bit unsure about sharing. It was an uphill struggle from start to finish, and sadly I am quite underwhelmed with the finished dress. However, while wearing and making this garment was frustrating and upsetting, I must try and be positive, and think of the lessons and experience I gained when making it!

I was very excited to see the latest release from By Hand London, the Orsola Dress – it is such an interesting and stylish shape. I chose to make it for my final wedding of the year, and found a lovely deep red Atelier Brunette Viscose from Guthrie and Ghani. This beautiful fabric has a lovely drape and a stunning colour, but man-oh-man it creases more than any other viscose I have ever touched.

The fabric was pricy so I made a toile – especially as in the past I have had trouble fitting By Hand Patterns. I quickly made a size 12, but the top half just didn’t fit at all. I had to move the waistline darts in towards the centre by 1.5cm, and the bust darts up the same amount. Then I had to do my first small bust adjustment (thanks to an excellent tutorial on the website it was easy peasy) and finally shorten the straps by about 1cm.

This seemed to do the trick for the front of the dress and skirt, but the back was another matter. There seemed to be a quite a bit of gaping, and I wasn’t sure whether to try and alter the back so it lay flat against the skin, or to let it drape as I have seen on Instagram. As it seemed to be in the middle, I thought I would shorten the back panels so that it lay flat and didn’t drape.

I took my cut-out pieces to The Sewing Weekender, and despite using a different sewing machine, and having limited space, everything seemed to go well – until I did the hem facing.  I was chatting away and somehow pressed and clipped too much seam allowance. When it came to securing the facing with the recommended 2cm hem allowance I realised what a poor job I had done, and how uneven my pressing was. I wish I could have started again, but I didn’t have enough spare to cut another. I just had to make do with a narrower hem and painstakingly trying to make the best of bad job.

When I finally tried on the finished garment I realised I shouldn’t have tried to shorten the back panels, as now it was neither drapey nor fitted – just sort of lamely hanging somewhere in the middle. I was so disappointed (to put it mildly), and resigned myself to abandoning it and wearing something else.  But when I showed it to my boyfriend he thought it was great, and was totally non-plussed at my dissatisfaction. So, I wore it, but inevitably didn’t enjoy it or feel proud of what I had made. I was also very self-conscious and within 5 minutes of putting it on the dress was badly creased.

But hey, with dressmaking there is always a chance you are going to make something that goes wrong and it totally sucks, but this is what I can take from it:

-I learned how to do a Small Bust Adjustment.

-I learned to alter darts.

-I learned how important it is to make a toile in a similar fabric to your intended garment.

-I learned more about the positives and negatives of viscose, and to think about ‘creasability’ when selecting fabrics for garments you will move in.

-I re-learned that if you’re not concentrating, or tired PUT THE SCISSORS (or iron) DOWN

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  1. August 21, 2017

    I think your dress looks stunning! And I love the amount of drapiness you have going on in the back. I’ve just bought this pattern and so was very interested in your review. A toile is definitely a must then!!

  2. August 21, 2017

    What a shame you didn’t fully like the dress. It does look great in the pictures including the back. Looks like a tricky pattern to get the right fit. The dress I made at the sewing weekender went in the bin so you did better than me!

  3. Beck
    August 21, 2017

    I also think it looks lovely! I would have guessed the back in the photo as having been left deliberately drapey and loose. But I understand the pain of using an expensive fabric and a pattern you should love, but still feeling a bit blah about it in the end…

  4. I love that you look at it as learning! And honestly– I loved this at first glance and eagerly scoured at all the pics (especially the back shot, makes me want to make this pattern!) before reading your post, so I was shocked! Of course, looking at pics and wearing it is different 😉 But now I want one.

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