I absolutely love a themed outfit so obviously, the month of St Valentine must behold a dress of equal romanticism and, I must say, cliche!

For the most part I’ve sewn garments from the ‘big four’ pattern companies for my Minerva projects but I’ve been dying to sew a version of the Martha Dress Pattern from the well-known indie pattern company, Tilly And The Buttons. I’ve sewn a few patterns from this company before and I love how easy-to-follow their instructions are. They’re straight forward to read and have accompanying colour photos which are a God-send when you need that confirmation that you completed the last step correctly!

The Martha dress has a few variations on the pattern to choose from – short sleeves or mid length bell sleeves and short or midi length skirt. I decided on bell sleeves and just-on-the-knee length skirt. I would normally go slightly longer but with the full sleeves and high neck I think I would have looked swamped if I went any longer.

The fabric suggestions for the Martha dress are: light to medium weight and to avoid directional prints.  I got the first part right in the lovely crepe I chose but it did have a slightly directional print – oops. I tried to pattern match and failed so now I’m just hoping that where the print is so busy, no one will notice that it isn’t matched on every seam!

The Fabric I went with is the most perfect novelty print for my Valentine’s dress: a pink background with a pattern of champagne glasses, boxes of chocolates, roses, love hearts and lipstick kisses! The fabric itself has a lovely soft and smooth texture without being too silky, so it’s still stable enough to sew easily with. I don’t usually use this type of fabric but was looking forward to a wearing a slinky, flowy Martha dress.

I was slightly worried that when on, the fabric would be a little see-through so I decided to make a lining in a soft pink Dress-Lining Fabric. I sewed this the same way as the dress then tacked to the dress around the neckline and armholes before adding the collar so the top edges were encased. The edges of the lining along the zip edge I folded back and slip stitched to the zipper tape so no raw edges were showing there either. To be completely honest, I think the lining may have made the bodice look slightly bulky so I’m not sure I would try to line the bodice again although I’m pleased with the extra layer in the skirt.

Despite the bold and wonderous print of my dress I decided that there was room for more embellishment and used some Black Ric Rac (left over from my Paris skirt in November) to trim the bottom of the bell sleeves and on the mandarin collar. Rather than pushing it over the line I love how it picks up the black in the print and ties it all together.

My tips after sewing with this fabric would be firstly, use a lot of pins as the fabric is slightly slippery so can easily move while you’re adjusting or stitching, and secondly, be careful not to stretch your edges. The pattern does call for stay stitching on the bodice but I think it is worth doing on the tops of your skirts too so you don’t end up with a disproportionate waist at the end of it.

A tip I learnt from this pattern, which I’m definitely going to remember and use in the future, is applying a narrow length of interlining down the opening edges before you sew in your zip. It stabilises the fabric for stitching and creates a much neater finish. So simple but so effective!

I really like the feel and sleek look of crepe fabric and after using it for Martha I’ve got a few ideas of further dresses I’d love to make with it too (I’m thinking 1940s tea dresses). I love the fun, flouncy style of this dress and can imagine getting a lot of wear out of it, with black or white opaque tights until it warms up then bare legs in the spring and hopefully no cardy needed so I can show off these amazing sleeves!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

Rebecca

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