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Barkcloth Style Arc Ariana Dress

Life keeps me more than busy and when I sew, I’m very focused on sewing things I love and will become a much-loved garment.

And I have to say, I consider this barkcloth dress one of the best investments of my sewing time in quite a long time!

I’d never sewn with Barkcloth Fabric before so when Minerva offered me some of their latest fabrics, I found this print completely irresistible.

I’m known for my passion for blue. It’s almost a trademark I sew and wear it so often!

I had planned to make a jacket with this fabric. However when it arrived on my doorstep, it screamed ‘summer dress’ to me. The print is very reminiscent of a popular Australian fashion brand called Gorman. In fact when I showed a friend the dress, the first thing she said was “Oh my gosh, that’s just like a Gorman dress!”

After far too long thinking about it, even though I really did know what I wanted to make, I decided to re-make my favourite summer dress of 2018, the Style Arc Ariana Dress. This is my fourth Ariana Dress and I confess - this one is my absolute favourite! While I’m not obsessed with ‘pockets’ on everything I sew, the Ariana pockets are awesome, suiting the style of the dress and they are huge!

This fabric presented a few issues with my pattern choice and here are my tips!


The Ariana Dress features a centre back shirred panel. This is a genius design element and I suspect why it’s such a popular dress in my wardrobe. The shirred panel means that while the dress is designed for a woven fabric and has a fitted bodice, there is still stretch in the bodice which makes movement… and let’s be honest… eating lunch comfortably on a hot summer day!

Shirring is best suited to lighter woven fabrics than this barkcloth.

This particular fabric is surprisingly soft and drapey - however it is not a lightweight or thin fabric. I knew that shirring the traditional way with elastic in the bobbin thread would not be successful. Having made this dress in light linen and voile, I knew that the heavier the fabric, the less successful the shirring would be and the wider the finished panel could become and the less fitted the bodice would be.

So after some research I decided to replace the rows of shirring with sewn channels for 1/4in elastic.

Shirring in this manner provides a much more structured back panel with not quite as much stretch as traditional shirring with the thin elastic thread. What you lose in stretch, you gain in a lovely firm elasticised panel.

As the fabric was slightly thicker than my previous Ariana dress fabric choices, I found that I cut quite a bit off the width of the back panel. Gathering up the full fabric allowed in the original pattern piece would have resulted in a very bulky gathered piece. I did use up more elastic than I needed - however it was an experiment. I created this panel first to make sure the different technique would work before I committed to cutting out the entire dress.


This fabric has quite a loose weave and does tend to want to fray and pull apart once you cut it and start working with it. I overlocked the edges before I pre-washed it so I didn’t end up with an unravelling mess in my machine - or lose any precious centimetres. I strongly recommend overlocking the cut edges before you pre-wash the fabric.

I overlocked the raw edges of the bodice princess seams and skirt side seams together. I top-stitched them down to add strength to the seams. I did not do this with the waist seam as these have been turned under to achieve a neat inner finish.

It’s much softer than I thought it would be! For some reason ‘bark’ conjured up ideas of quite a structured fabric. In reality this fabric is gorgeously soft and pliable - it’s just rather thick.

I turned the edges under on the front button bands to make the insides neat and also added bias binding to the hem

My automatic buttonhole foot was not playing nice and that slowed down the construction process while I pondered how to deal with the problem. Turns out giving the top ‘globe’ of the foot a good clean works wonders!

Couldn’t love this dress or the fabric more. Thanks so much Minerva!

Thanks for reading,

Liz @ Sew Busy Lizzy

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