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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