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The Lea Dress

Hi there I’m Kathleen. I’ve been sewing for a few years now, but this year I’ve tried to be more thoughtful with my makes. This Lea dress definitely fits into my autumn/winter wardrobe.
This Stretch Suiting Fabric is not your typical suiting, as the name would suggest it stretches. Although this fabric does stretch slightly in both directions, I would still treat it as a woven and not like a jersey. Because it has a slight stretch it is perfect for more fitted garments. The stretch suiting feels softer and has more drape than a typical suiting, but it does still hold it’s structure and has a bit of stiffness to it. I would say this fabric is a good medium between a drapey viscose and a stiff quilting cotton. There are lines across this fabric, which aren’t visible from afar but up close they are ever so slightly raised.
I love this shade of green, unfortunately my camera didn’t always pick it up. It’s closest to the photo above, I would describe it as an army green or a dark olive green.
Although the Lea dress is designed with spring in mind, I knew with this fabric it would be perfect for Autumn. I also plan on pairing it with tights in the winter, and will probably still be wearing it when spring rolls around.
This was my first time using a sew over it pattern. The Lea dress is actually from issue 2 of the Lisa Comfort magazine, which is still available on the Sew over it website. I did get a little stuck a few times, but the photos accompanying the instructions really helped. It is a well drafted pattern with thorough instructions. There is a lot of extra finishing touches that really elevate this dress, like how the turn up cuff is drafted.
The fabric handled nicely. I used a universal needle not a stretch needle in my machine. I used a walking foot to stop the fabric from stretching as I sewed. You don’t have to use a walking foot, but I did find it really helped keep everything flat and smooth for this project.
This pattern doesn’t go up to my size. I didn’t have anything similar in my wardrobe to help me with grading so I had to use maths to grade this pattern up to my size. I needed to add 5” to the bust and 10” to the waist. To add to any pattern the maths is simple, if the pattern piece is only half of the finished result it counts as 2. So if you have half a front and half a back that’s now 4. Whatever you need to add to the pattern needs to be divided by 4. For example my equations were 5÷4= 1.25 or 1 ¼” and 10÷4= 2.5 or 2 ½” so that’s how much I needed to add to the two pattern pieces. The Lea dress has 4 skirt pattern pieces so that now totals 8, of course that’s only for the waist adjustment. The equation was 10÷8= 1.25 or 1 ¼” that’s how much I had to add to each skirt pattern piece.
The grading went fine, in fact I ended up taking an inch off of the bust and waist once I’d tried it on, I could’ve taken the waist in another inch due to the stretch in the fabric but I quite like the looser fit.
The issue I had was I didn’t move the dart placement over, so when I joined the bodice and the skirt together the darts and skirt seams no longer matched. The dress was perfectly fine and I could’ve left them not matching, but I knew I would love wearing my dress more if they were matching. So I unpicked them and moved them over.
I actually got stuck on the sleeves. It was my own fault though. It instructs you to to sew the sleeve hem at 5cm for some reason I converted this to 1” so when I tried to turn the cuff up it wasn’t working. Eventually I realised my error and now I have beautifully turned up cuffs.
There are 11 buttonholes to sew.  My machine has a one step buttonhole function which made this process easier. It only struggled with one buttonhole which was near the waist seam, there was just too much bulk so it wasn’t able to do the buttonhole. In the end I turned the dress upside down so the bulk was further away and this worked. If you didn’t want to do buttonholes you could use snap fastenings.
I also took a whopping 5” off the length. This dress is designed as more of a midi, but I much prefer knee length dresses.
I would say this pattern is suited to an intermediate sewer. It is a more intensive project, with handstitching, facings, understitching and some of the skirt panels being slightly on the bias, and as I said before 11 buttonholes and buttons. This dress took me almost 8 hours from cut to finish, not including the 2 days I had to let it hang before evening out the hem. But it was a labour of love. With all the extra steps my dress now feels luxurious and expensive. I would not be able to afford a dress finished to this standard on the high street..
The only down side to this dress is it doesn’t have pockets. But these can easily be added into the skirt side seams if you wanted.
Thank you for reading Kathleen xx

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A crafter said:

Brilliant service! I don't mind waiting, when it arrives it is so thrilling. Thank you Minerva Team, each and every one. Rhian, Gwynedd, North Wales · 28th Apr 2020 01:02pm