I nearly didn’t participate in this season of PR&P. I need my sewing to be useful and functional – who (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) needs a breezy new sundress in Mid-September? But, as the pattern rolled around in my head certain elements started jumping out at me to make the dress more Autumn-focussed:
and, not-so-logically, ombre!
So, here I present to you my
POPOVER CORDUROY OMBRE DRESS
Are you guys familiar with PR&P? In brief, it’s an online version of Project Runway exclusively for kids’ clothes. This is series 7 and will take place over four weeks. Each week the contestants get a new sewing challenge:
- Week 1 – Pattern Remix (Oliver + s Popover Sundress)
- Week 2 – Candy Inspired
- Week 3 – Mad for Plaid
- Week 4 – Signature Style
At the end of each challenge we, the public, get to vote for our favourite (voting for Week 1 has already started) and the lowest ranking has to ‘go home’ 🙁 .
As a sewist who wants to get more involved in pattern design, and as someone who needs deadlines to encourage productivity, I thought this would be a fun challenge. Also, I am fascinated by the creative process and observing each person’s journey of turning this pattern into their own unique vision. The remix challenge this week is to take the Oliver+s Popover Sundress pattern (which is free and downloadable here) as a starting point and to turn it into your own creation.
My design elements
With the Popover Sundress as my starting point, I knew I wanted sleeves and a slightly more fitted bodice. I kept things in the family, so to speak, and turned to the Oliver+s Fairy Tale Dress (which I’ve already made twice before – here and here if you’re interested).
Put simply, in very non-technical drafting terms, I sort of blended the Fairy Tale Dress bodice with the Popover Dress skirt. From there I chopped up the pattern pieces into ever-widening sections (remembering to add on seam allowances) to create the ombre colour effect.
I used the Fairy Tale Dress tulip sleeves. I didn’t add a contrast fabric to the interior – I thought it would make it too bulky to gather around the cap. Instead I just hemmed them.
I added an invisible zip to the back. I was hoping to avoid this but couldn’t. Not my best zipper insertion but hey-ho.
I finished the neckline with bias binding – a presumably easy option but I did manage to get myself into a muddle when trying to conceal all the raw edges at the back opening.
I added a pocket. The shape was based on Oliver+s Jump Rope Dress (view B) although I decided not to gather it at the top.
There’s quite a wide hem. In hindsight I should have hand-sewn it for a cleaner finish. The red along the bottom edge was a last minute addition.
Thoughts and comments on the process
There are two main points I want to make here. (I know I’m going on a bit but bear with me! I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this!).
Designing clothes is A LOT of work…
When I write down my design elements, the process seems so neat and simple. Let me tell you – it wasn’t!
I’ll be the first to admit that, to look at, this dress is simple. If I were following a pattern to make it, it would be extremely straightforward (apart from the zipper insertion, perhaps), but the process of figuring out the design (which largely isn’t even my design) was a time-consuming challenge of balancing how I wanted it to look vs what would actually work/what I was able to do.
I take my hat well and truly off to all the contestants of PR&P – and to all of you who design patterns from scratch. Sometimes I hear complaints about how expensive independent patterns are but, for me, they are worth every penny. Even to design a potato sack would be more work than it looks on the surface – not to mention a dress, blouse, jacket or trousers. I’m officially in awe of all pattern designers!
…but I LOVE the entire process.
It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a nerd and while figuring out how all the technical elements of the dress would work, I was reminded of complex math(s) equations (the ones that take pages to work out) and that feeling of achievement when getting it right (all the while knowing that one miniscule mistake along the way would have ruined the whole thing).
What?!?! You don’t get that feeling when designing patterns?! Hmmm…
Then, on the flip side, there are the creative elements of the design – how I want the design to look. As I learn more about sewing I have more proverbial tools in my sewing box to call upon. This makes the process more fun but also forces me to be selective so as not to over-do it.
By drafting my own pattern I really am starting with a blank canvas. I suppose the same can be said for a purchased pattern but I find that it’s too easy to be (overly?!) influenced by the pattern envelope or images I find online.
For this design some of my considerations were:
- How wide should each colour block be? [graded from skinny to wide.]
- Should I make a boat-neck and hope that it fits over her head without any closures?[wouldn’t work – had to go for a zip.]
- Should I add a collar? [decided to keep neckline simple to make the ombre effect the stand-out feature.]
- Should the neckline bias binding blend in or be in contrast? [I thought red would be too much here.]
- Should the pocket totally blend in or be in contrast? [I actually made and sewed on a pocket to blend in but didn’t like it – from a distance you didn’t notice the pocket – just the red line across the dress.]
There were many more questions running through my head but you get the idea.
And, you wanna know the thing I love BEST about this whole process? The thing that makes me giddy with excitement?? It’s bringing these two elements together in one creation – that beautiful moment of figuring out the technical details to make your creative vision become a reality. It’s like a graceful, intricate tango between the left and right sides of the brain* to achieve a common goal. It feels so complete and utterly fulfilling.
Wow – I really didn’t realise how much I had to say about this project. I love blogging! Had I not sat down to write this I never would have given the process such thought (much less put it into words).
So, do you guys design your own patterns? How does the process work for you? Are you participating in PR&P? I won’t be joining in for Week 2 – I’m afraid ‘Candy Inspiration’ doesn’t fill me with inspiration – but I might try to join in with ‘Signature Style.’ In the meantime I’ll be getting ready for Selfish Sewing Week (and I’m even lined up to do a guest post over at Imagine Gnats for it).
I thought you might like to see what my ‘photo shoots’ (ha!) look like it real life!
Thanks for bearing with me – a long one today!
*While listening to a TED lecture today I heard that the corpus callosum, the part of the brain that connects the left and right sides, is thicker and stronger in females. Just an interesting side note.