Monday, 31 July 2017

summer sewing: Webster top and dress

Having promised my mother I'd make her a dress for her birthday, I spent months looking for the right pattern. She had quite specific requirements:  no fullness or flare of any sort in the skirt, comfortable for summer so not tight or restrictive, preferably a pull-over, below knee length, and could be made out of the cotton lawn she'd bought for the purpose. This was remarkably hard to find. I sent her a few patterns and she said "yep, maybe," which means "no, but I don't feel comfortable saying so because you're putting a lot of time and effort into this".

When I got the email about the Cashmerette Webster dress, I sent it to her immediately and she was extra enthusiastic. I bought the PDF (which I rarely do, but the printed pattern wasn't available here yet and I wanted to have plenty of time) and ended up making three versions more or less back to back: a toile top made in cotton which I could use to check the fit and drape on Mum and make sure it would work in the fabric, a dress version for my holiday which I could also try on Mum to check length and so forth, and another top for me because the fabric was there and it would match the lining of my new Lupin and that would be cool. I'm going to start at the end, as I so often do, with my top.

 As drafted, the top is very long; completely covering the backside and not that much shorter in the front. I get why it's drafted that way because that's how a lot of women like to wear their tops, but I do not. I made it straight up to see how it looked, laughed for about five minutes, then hacked several inches off the hem. What you see here is my version of a "long top". I made a size 12 G/H, which fits very nicely. There's a lot of ease at the waist, but that's fine for a viscose summer top.

The back detail is cute, and it's nice to be able to have a bit of strap fun when all your tops need to provide adequate bra cover. I have a pretty narrow back, so I had to shorten the straps by about an inch and a half to get them to lie flat against my skin instead of drooping awkwardly. 

(I find it almost impossible to smile naturally when I'm taking pictures of myself with the remote. I try every time and it almost always looks like someone's just out of shot threatening to kill a bunny. When Patrick takes the pictures it's much easier for me to smile, but also it's a trade-off: he knows almost nothing about photography, and when I'm in my natural state rather than my posey one I have to edit around my natural lumbering posture. Sigh.)

And now the dress: 

While free and floaty and full of ease is fine for a summer top, it is not fine for me for a dress. I made the straight 12 where ordinarily I would size up in the hips, and sandwiched a couple of ties in the back seam. I didn't make any changes to the length and it sits a couple of inches above the knee on me, which is perfect. 

You can see in the picture above that the way the top is made into a dress is by adding a thick band of fabric to the bottom. I do not like this. It basically cuts across the crotch at the front, which is a weird place to have a seam line and makes it look like a mistake rather than a cool detail. I don't think it'll be such a big deal for Mum because of the fabric she has, but it really bothers me on this one. Would it be possible to cut the hem bands onto the main bodice as one piece, or would that screw something else up? 

Having said that, this was the perfect dress for sightseeing. Long enough to cover my longer shorts without being so long that it gets in the way while I'm walking, well-fitting at the top and otherwise nonrestrictive even with my ties, cool and breathable and just the right amount of coverage. Hem band or not, I will be taking this dress on every single holiday I go on. I was walking around on top of this mountain actively feeling grateful for it. 

I just like this photo, really. Look at that view! Madeira is gorgeous.

I took both the dress and the cotton toile with me last time I visited my parents and tried them both on Mum. Overall, it was a success - she was happy with the way the cotton worked (though for a dress, I probably wouldn't go there) and really liked the style of the dress. Interestingly, the dress looks much better unbelted on her. For the final version I'll be making it an inch or two longer so it hits just below her knee like she asked for. I also won't be shortening the straps - they were straining a bit when I tried this version on her, and I think they'll work much better in the original length. 

So, no more Madeira photos. Back to the palm tree next week! 


  1. I must say you look fabulous in the dress. That is a great fabric. I thought the cut across the front was pockets! It would not matter to cut it on to make the dress one piece. I agree with you re length of tops.. women think by covering the butt completely it will make them slimmer looking somehow, but it does not. It also makes me look super short and the right length is at the hip line for the right proportions.

    1. Thank you! I think longer tops work on some people, but on me they look hilariously awful because of the way my body is shaped. Hip length or cropped is the way to go!

  2. My first thought was that the hem band seam was intended for pockets too. I wouldn't have thought it would be a problem to cut in one if you aren't making pockets. Could it be intended for something like colour blocking? My mum just made a striped dress with a similar hem band and cut the band on the cross grain; it looks good.

    1. Cutting the band on the cross-grain is a really good idea. The fabric I have for my mum's dress is geometric so that might work; I'll have to do some experimenting. Thanks!