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Nautical but Nicicle

Hey everyone! It's Paddy here from Dragon's Flame Designs again. I will admit I'm not normally one for summer dresses. I've made plenty of t-shirts and even a couple of summery shirts – but there's a distinct shortage of decent summer dresses in my wardrobe. When I was offered the chance to make something with this fantastic fun nautical Polycotton Fabric, I knew it would have to be a dress!

I tend to live in jeans and t-shirts, so I guess it's no real surprised that I'm not a fan of shift dresses. I prefer my garments to have a little more shape built in, without being restrictive (I know, that makes me sound really fussy!). However, I really hate sewing zips, and have never (yet) even attempted an invisible zip, so that was going to restrict my pattern choices to something that had an elasticated waist instead. I decided to break out my McCall's 7381 Dress Pattern, and make version C with short sleeves and a tie front. As usual with a 'big 4' pattern, there is plenty of ease built in, so I went down a size from what the pattern sizing recommended.

The waist is only elasticated at the back, while the front is raised above the natural waist. I will admit that after months of wearing trousers, that does feel strange, and I've been constantly wanting to pull the raised waistline down to my natural waist. However, it would be ideal for a big lunch or a comfortable picnic as there's no seam across my middle! Even with going down a size, there's plenty of room to move, without feeling the dress is restrictive in any way, which means it won't be feeling tight on those hot summer evenings!

Because the fabric is a polycotton, ironing out any creases was a dream.  The only disadvantage of polycotton is that it does fray easily. This isn't so much of a problem on the dress bodice, because the entire bodice is lined so the raw edges are enclosed. The skirt however hasn't got a lining so I used a double zigzag faux overlock stitch to ensure the fabric wouldn't fray with wear and washes.

When it comes to the sleeve hems, the pattern calls for a "narrow hem". Normally I'd be running a mile at the thought of a fiddly hem, but this polycotton holds a crease really well, so pressing a 5/8" hem then pressing half of that in to conceal the raw edges, went amazingly smoothly.

The main hem on the dress is done in the same way, and the finishing touch is adding in three snap fasteners. I didn't want the fasteners to be visible on the outside, so rather than using my pliers to put in some standard plastic snaps, I handstitched three clear snap fasteners instead.

After finishing the dress, I had some fabric left over – not enough to make a summery shirt, but it was enough to make a pair of shorts. What better pattern choice for summer fabric, than the Endless Summer Shorts pattern by WinterWear Designs?

Like the dress, the shorts pattern has an elasticated waist, but also features an all important pocket option. You can add in a drawstring to the waistband, but I didn't want to attempt that – I prefer my waistbands to just be elastic anyway. I chose the regular elasticated waist, pockets with pocket trim plus the optional cuffs just to add a little length to the shorts.

Because this nautical polycotton is a lovely summery weight, I lined the shorts with a plain white polycotton. Not only does this eliminate any risk of them being see-through, but it should also help make them wear better. I used the same white polycotton as the trim for the pockets, just to break up the pattern a little. With hindsight, it would've been better to add a double layer of the white polycotton for the trim, as you can still see the patterned fabric showing through.

I will admit I made a mistake in cutting the lining for these shorts. Instead of cutting on the no pocket line, I cut exactly the same pieces as I had from the main fabric. Rather than scrap my front lining pieces and start over, I decided to just add in pockets to the lining piece as well. So I have regular pockets on the outside, and hidden pockets on the inside; I think that makes up for the lack of pockets in the dress!

If I hadn't added pockets to the inside by mistake, lining the shorts would have made these shorts near enough reversible, depending on how neatly I was able to sew the waistband in place and how picky I am about the 'wrong' side of my topstitching showing. However, I think this nautical polycotton was too stylish to just hide on the inside.

Both items would be perfect to pack for a summer getaway. The lightweight polycotton means they wouldn't take up much space in the suitcase, and if they were rolled rather than folded, they should end up pretty crease-free when they get unpacked!

The shorts would look equally at home teamed with a bikini top on the beach, or a casual t-shirt for a wander around town. The dress is equally versatile and could be dressed up with some smart heels, or worn more casually with some summery sandals for a lazy hot summer's day.

Thank you Minerva for sending me this super nautical polycotton, and I hope I've given you some inspiration for some makes. I just hope the weather will be as summery as I feel wearing these!

Paddy @dragonsews

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