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The French Dart | Creating Panels by Jen Hogg – part 1

I was delighted when this gorgeous French Dart by Jen Hogg popped up on the Maven instagram feed. So, I approached Jen and asked her if she would share all the details of her marvellous French Dart Hack and she kindly has!

The panelling idea is such a clever idea to show off a printed fabric – we all know how much I love a Nani Iro print – or to create smaller pattern pieces which are perfect for using up those scraps and odd bits of leftover cloth. Enjoy part 1, it’s full of ideas and inspiration and part 2 of this post can be found here.

PAID POST | This article was  written by Jen Hogg after I saw her French Dart Hack on Instagram. I have paid Jen for her time, skills and effort, but all opinions are her own.

 

Version 1 – the toile

I really like this pattern. In fact I’ve made it 4 times, so far. The first was a toile to check my standard pattern adjustments for my broad back and square shoulders. It was in yellow gingham sold as cotton, and it worked really well, except that I don’t suit yellow. So I had the bright idea of dying it teal, thinking that I’d end up with a lovely teal / turquoise gingham. Only of course it wasn’t cotton after all, the dye didn’t take, and the whole thing ended up in recycling. Can you tell I’m still a little bit bitter?

Version 2 – needlecord, with in-seam pockets

But it did confirm that my adjustments were good so I quickly made another in needlecord. My only hack was to add in-seam pockets. The method I used is my absolute favourite, I’ve seen it called a couture method, and it’s how you add a pocket beside an invisible zip because the whole construction is on the front of the garment. Click here for details.

 

Version 3 – Nani Iro, front panels with pockets

 

Next up, I had some lovely Nani Iro fabric from Minerva, in a black brush stroke with a wide silver border. The obvious thing to do would have been to use the border along the bottom of the dress, but it felt a wee bit formal for me, especially given that I was making it in lockdown when anything more than joggie bottoms feels formal.

I decided to divide the front of my French Dart into panels, and to use the border in different ways on each. This technique would also work really well for using up small pieces of fabric.

I wanted to keep the dart, because it’s so lush, and of course I wanted to add pockets. This time I thought I’d add them on the front of the dress, following the angle of the dart. I also decided to add quite a deep cuff to the pockets partly to add structure, but also to let me use the writing on the selvedge of the fabric.

Incidentally, this fabric is quite robust, allowing the pockets to keep their shape. If it was a softer fabric I’d have gone for in-seam pockets.

First of all, I traced my pattern piece and removed the seam allowances. By the way, the diagram is a rough sketch of the pattern piece – not to scale!

When you’re removing the seam allowance remember it varies, for example it’s narrower at the neck.

 

(first image)Next I divided the front into panels to suit my fabric. I decided to cut one piece above the bust, and to divide the lower part of the dress into three: one at each side and one in the centre. The side panels are wide enough to accommodate the whole of the dart, and also to add a decent sized pocket. The panels were only drawn in at this stage, I wanted to make sure I was happy with the look of the finished front before I started cutting the paper up.

(second image) Here’s the line of the pocket top. It’s parallel to the line of the dart once it’s sewn closed – to check that I literally closed the dart of the paper pattern.

Here are the panels separated. The neck and centre panels are going to be cut on the fold. (And yes, my cutting boards might be called well-used.)

Now I worked entirely on the two parts of the side panel.

First up, I added a pocket bag to the top part, which will form the back of the pocket. I made it long enough that I could reach the bottom of the pocket without stretching.

I then used that added-on section to draft the front pocket bag, shown here in yellow. I could have used the bottom panel itself to create the front, but I didn’t want to see the pocket bag stitching on the front of the dress so I decided to create it as a separate piece.

Here it is in real life with the seam allowances added back on.

These photos show the finished pocket, from outside the dress and inside. I used a scrap of Liberty lawn cotton for the front pocket bag.

The way I added the cuff was the same way I usually add bias binding:

  •  Interface the cuff
  • press the cuff in half and then press up the seam allowance on the front of the cuff
  • Pin the front pocket bag and the bottom panel with the right sides facing out (ie wrong sides together)
  • Lay the pocket bag / bottom panel so that the pocket bag is facing up. Line up the cuff with the pocket bag, right sides together. So now you have a sandwich: cuff – pocket bag – bottom panel.
  • Stitch through all three layers along the length of the pocket opening
  • Fold the cuff over to the front of the garment. This is where you’re glad you already pressed up that seam allowance – all you need to do is topstitch the cuff to the bottom panel.

Incidentally I didn’t bother cutting the cuff piece into the shape in the diagram. Instead I cut a piece of fabric longer than I needed, on the straight grain, and trimmed it after I’d sewing it in place. This let me make last minute adjustments to fully use the piece with the writing on.

Re-assembling the front of the dress

So, that’s the front pocket bag and cuff attached to the bottom panel. Next I sewed the bottom of the two pocket bag pieces together (I used a French seam for neatness and security). Then I added a line of stitching within the seam allowances at either side of the panel to keep everything in place.

And that’s the side panel reconstructed. All that’s left to do is to stitch the side panels to the centre panel, and then all three to the neck panel. The front is then fully put back together, complete with pockets, and the dress can be finished off per the pattern instructions.

Version 4 – cashmere top

I’ve also made the French Dart as a top, simply by chopping the pattern at hip height. Literally no other changes were required. This one is also made from cashmere surplus. I know, lucky!

I’ve not finished with this pattern. I have some lovely stretch wool, in a delicious shade of red, so I’m thinking a winter dress. I might alter the sleeves on that so they’re straight rather than gathered at the cuff, because I think the fabric will be too chunky to take the gather. I also think the pattern will look great in linen with short sleeves for the summer. Watch this space on Instagram!

Thanks so much Jen for such a great post! Part 2 can be read HERE!

We would love to see your French Darts! Old or new, share (or re-share!) them with us on Instagram Remember to tag us @MavenPatterns #FrenchDartMaven

All photos by Jen Hogg 

Jen Hogg lives in Glasgow with her husband and dog, and has two children at university. She now runs a small business selling the Jenerates sewing ruler and writes for a variety of magazines and blogs. A former solicitor, Jen reached the semi-final of The Great British Sewing Bee Series 5 (2019). In addition to sewing, she enjoys knitting, crochet and many other textile crafts, as well as silversmithing, photography and generally making things. You can follow Jen on Instagram and Facebook @jenerates, and at www.jenhogg.co.uk

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The Joy Dress | Adding elastic

I’m delighted to share with you this second part of the rather glorious pattern hack of The Joy Dress created by Jen Hogg for the version B with the gathered back detail. I just love the look of this wide elastic in the back of The Joy Dress.

You can find part one HERE, where Jen shares her tips for making a fixed strap version and a truly genius tip for using a silicone baking sheet to protect your ironing board from interfacing!

PAID POST | This article was  written by Jen Hogg. I have paid Jen for her time, skills and effort, but all opinions are her own. Many of you will know Jen as a semi-finalist from The Great British Sewing Bee in 2019 and from the Jenerates Sewing Ruler.

Over to Jen…

This is the second Joy dress made and is again in a linen, this time a gorgeous green which was a gift from my very good friend and fellow Sewing Bee, Mercedes.  It’s a little firmer than the checked linen, but my challenge this time was that Mercedes was envisaging a top, but I decided to squeeze a dress out of it, as you do!  The frill was sacrificed.

Adding the elastic detail to the back

I decided to try elastic in the back of the green version, it’s a really simple hack.

  • Attach and understitch the facings per the pattern instructions.
  • Cut a length of 1” (2.5cm) elastic to match the space between the strap notches on the back facing pattern, plus extra at either end to secure.  Mark the finished length you need on the elastic.

  • Stitch the back facing to the body 3.5cm from the top edge to form a casing
  • Thread the elastic through the casing, so that the marks on it line up with the inside edge of the straps
  • Secure the elastic at both ends with a vertical line of stitching from the strap to the bottom of the casing.

I’m sure these won’t be my only version of the Joy dress.  The fit at the neck is perfect, plus the space between the straps and the height of the back are spot on to cover underwear – love that attention to detail.  I can see that it’s going to be a go-to dress pattern for me to use as a foundation for other shapes.  Thank you Mrs M!


What a great pattern hack! Thank you so much Jen! 


Jen Hogg lives in Glasgow with her husband and dog, and has two children at university. She reached the semi-final of The Great British Sewing Bee Series 5 (2019) and now runs a small business selling self-designed sewing tools and writes for a variety of magazines and blogs. In addition to sewing, she enjoys knitting, crochet and many other textile crafts, as well as silversmithing, photography and generally making things. You can follow Jen on Instagram and Facebook @jenerates, and at www.jenhogg.co.uk

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The Joy Dress | by Jen Hogg

Many of you will know Jen as a semi-finalist from The Great British Sewing Bee in 2019 and from the Jenerates Sewing Ruler. I first teamed up with Jen as part of our French Dart week a little while ago when Jen’s glorious Nani Iro French Dart popped up on our Instagram. If you haven’t seen that post you can find it here, it’s a marvellous hack! And I’m delighted to say Jen has returned as a guest writer to share her thoughts on our latest pattern The Joy Dress.

PAID POST | This article was  written by Jen Hogg. I have paid Jen for her time, skills and effort, but all opinions are her own.

So let me hand you over to Jen!

So far I’ve made 3 versions of this dress and I love them all. 

The colourful check version is made from a fine linen, which was actually a piece of surplus from a mill in Ireland.  The fabric is very soft with good drape, which also meant it was a complete pain to cut out.

Version 2 is again in a linen, this time a gorgeous green which was a gift from my very good friend and fellow Sewing Bee, Mercedes.  It’s a little firmer than the checked linen, but my challenge this time was that Mercedes was envisaging a top, but I decided to squeeze a dress out of it, as you do!  The frill was sacrificed.

The third version is from a piece of vintage cotton gingham, the most robust of the three fabrics I used.

As always Mrs M has given us great instructions and technique tips so I’m only going to go over the hacks I made.

Adding length

The sizing on this pattern was perfect for me.  My only alteration was to add length because I wanted this dress to fall just above ankle length.  I’m quite tall and I added a 1.5cm to the bodice and 14cm to the skirt, both at the points marked on the pattern.

Stabilising the neck and arm holes. 

Instead of stay stitching, Mrs M suggests using fusible interfacing to stabilise the neck line.  I love this technique, it gives such a crisp finish. 

I cut strips of weft-insertion woven interfacing with a pinking cutter, which gives a softer edge.  This is something I always do if I’m applying interfacing to the back of the garment fabric – by that I mean the fabric which is actually going to be the outer layer of my garment and not the facing or lining.  It means you shouldn’t see a ridge where the interfacing ends, though as always, if in doubt try it out on a scrap first.

The strips are cut on the bias which means they curve round the neck and armholes perfectly.  I ironed them centred on the stitch line, on top of a silicone baking sheet / oven liner.  The glue on the interfacing doesn’t stick to the sheet, so you can go over the edge without wrecking the ironing board cover.

In seam pockets

As usual I used the couture method for these, where the pocket is formed entirely on the front part of the dress. There’s a summary of that technique here.

No-tie straps

My first version of the Joy dress was the checked linen.  I thought that there was enough going on for me with the check and the frill, so I decided to make the straps plain.

  • Cut straps are the same width as in the pattern.
  • Make two straps longer than you’ll need.  I made mine about 45cm long to give me plenty of room for adjustment.
  • Attach the straps to the front of the dress per the pattern instructions. 
  • Don’t attach them to the back.  Instead, stitch the facing to the body leaving a gap for each of the back straps.  My gap is marked in pink pen in the photo, and the strap notches are marked by the red pins. 
  • Before understitching the facing, try the dress on.  Flip the facing to the inside and pull the straps fully through at the front so they sit in the correct position.  Pin the straps to the back to give you a good fit. 
  • With the dress still right-way-out, and before you unpin the straps at the back, mark the length you need, right the way across the strap.  I use an iron-off Frixion pen for this.  At this stage I check my straps are the same length
  • Poke the back straps through the gaps you left when you stitched the facing to the body.  Make sure they’re not twisted at this point.
  • Turn the dress wrong-side-out, and pull the straps through until the line you marked on them matches up with the stitch line either side of the gap.

  • Now finish off sewing the facing and the body together by stitching across the gaps, with the straps in place. 
  • That’s you back on to the pattern instructions, to understitch the facings.

Adding volume to the back

 

I love the silhouette of this dress, with the volume at the back.  I decided to play with that a little on the gingham version, and added 8cm to the width at the centre back.  It’s very swishy.

No frill

The green version was tight for fabric, so it’s frill-less.  Very simply, I added the frill length to the dress pieces and hemmed it by hand.

Keeping the back facing in line

Mrs M suggests sewing a few bar tacks among the folds at the back facing to stop it from rolling over, if you’re using soft fabric.  It absolutely works.  Mine are about 2cm long, and don’t interrupt the flow of the dress at all.

I’m sure these won’t be my only version of the Joy dress.  The fit at the neck is perfect, plus the space between the straps and the height of the back are spot on to cover underwear – love that attention to detail.  I can see that it’s going to be a go-to dress pattern for me to use as a foundation for other shapes.  Thank you Mrs M!


Thank you Jen! It always gives me such pleasure to see how our patterns are adapted and personalised. The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the elastic detail that Jen has added at the back of this beautiful linen version –  READ PART 2 with all the details HERE!


Jen Hogg lives in Glasgow with her husband and dog, and has two children at university. She reached the semi-final of The Great British Sewing Bee Series 5 (2019) and now runs a small business selling self-designed sewing tools and writes for a variety of magazines and blogs. In addition to sewing, she enjoys knitting, crochet and many other textile crafts, as well as silversmithing, photography and generally making things. You can follow Jen on Instagram and Facebook @jenerates, and at www.jenhogg.co.uk

 

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The Joy Dress | attaching the straps and facing

Are you ready for some sewing Joy?! The Joy Dress, our latest pattern, will be live at 6pm tonight!

The one place that needs a little attention when making the Joy Dress is the front straps – a little attention to detail here can help to make your garment look really professional and avoid a lumpy step either side of that strap.

It’s the same method used for our Simone Set Camisole but who doesn’t love an extra photo tutorial? 

Ready for some lovely straps? Jolly good! Read on…

  • So at this point in the construction process you will have followed the instructions in your Maker Instruction booklet and your dress body and facing will be made up but still separate.
  • You will have made and turned through your straps.
  • Do make sure you give everything a gentle press before continuing!

ABBREVIATIONS | CB: centre back | CF: centre front | WS: wrong side  | RST: right side together | RS: right side | SA: seam allowance

ATTACH THE FRONT STRAPS

The dress has a 1cm SA on the neckline and armhole and back edge and 1cm SA on the camisole ‘peak’ to attach the front strap. I’ve drawn in the SA stitchlines with black pen for illustrative purposes. (I’m recycling photos for this tutorial from the Simone Set tutorial so if the seam allowance looks slightly smaller than I’m stating, it’s because in these photos they are 😉 but don’t worry because the construction is exactly the same.)

STRAPS – attach at front |

  • Place the strap to front camisole with RST (right sides together).
  • Align the top of the strap with the top edge of the camisole.
  • Staystitch in SA to hold strap in place.
  • Repeat for the other front strap.
  • Attach the back straps following the in the instruction booklet.

ATTACH THE FACING

  • Turn body so RIGHT SIDE is facing out and turn the facing so WRONG SIDE is facing out.
  • With RST slide the camisole inside the facing.

  • Align the neckline, armhole and back edges, matching notches and side seams and pin.
  • Make sure that straps are hanging straight down and not caught in the facing edge. The straps will be sitting between the body and the facing.
  • Anchor straps firmly in place by stitching straight across at the ‘peak’ at the notches and through all layers.

On this stitchline, mark the outside edges of the straps with chalk or fabric marker pen, it should be something that won’t leave a permanent mark.

  • Attach the facing to the body at the neckline, armhole and back with a 1cm SA. It’s important that you stitch through the intersect point you marked earlier (at the edge of the strap) to avoid a step on your finished camisole.
  • If necessary, adjust your line of stitching by taking more or less SA. I’ve drawn the original SA in black pen but I’ve adjusted my stitchline to make sure I stitch through the intersect point.
  • Press the stitchline to set the stitches and trim SA at the strap to reduce bulk. Trim the SA at neckline and armhole down to 6mm SA on the curved edges. I prefer to the trim SA, rather than clipping or notching, as it gives a smoother curve. (Also, I rarely grade a SA and only ever bother if it is necessary to reduce bulk for a thicker fabric.)
  • Turn through to RS and check you are happy with the straps!

So why am I being so pedantic about stitching to those intersect points?

Because I want to show you how to make a garment that you can wear and be proud of.  The straps are one area where a little bit of knowledge and extra care will make all the difference to the finished result. Does this mean that it has to be perfect. No. This isn’t couture. The aim is just for you to be happy with it. So let me show you what we are trying to avoid…

  • Stitching too wide and missing the intersect point = “steps” either side of the strap

  • Stitching to the inside of the intersect points = the strap doesn’t turn through to the right side properly and will reduce in the length slightly because it’s caught at the point where you have stitched over it.

| UNDERSTITCH |

To make the facing seam roll to the inside of the camisole the next step is to understitch.

  • Turn camisole to RS and pull the facing out so it is extended away from body.
  • RSU understitch through the facing and SA layers. (You may find it easier to press the SA towards the facing before understitching, but it can be done without).
  • Stitch as far as you can up to the front strap peak area, you will only be able to go so far because of your sewing machine foot.
  • Turn facing to the inside of the camisole.
  • Carefully press along the edge with the seam rolled very slightly to the inside of the camisole so it is not visible on the RS .
  • You can find our UNDERSTITCHING TUTORIAL HERE
  • And finally STITCH IN THE DITCH of the side seam to attach the facing and body together.

PERFECT! Now just tie your straps in a delightful little bow and you’ll be ready for the sunshine!