This dress had a long walk to the short drop. It’s lasted a couple extra years because I kept noticing it in, say, spring, and thinking “Well…of course you’re not wearing it now. Wait and see in the fall”, and then forgetting it existed in the fall, etc. I finally fished it out this fall and thought “Honey, you are never going to wear this”. I was surprised that it was less short and puffy than I remembered. But I’m still not going to wear it.
This is the Wiksten Tova dress, and if I remember correctly I got it as one of the patterns in a Perfect Pattern Bundle, a bygone fundraiser for charity that was similar to the Humble Indie Bundle. A handful of debut and early-career indie designers would each contribute a PDF pattern and you could get like 5 random PDFs in exchange for a donation. Usually there were one or maybe two I wanted, a couple I felt neutral about, and a real clunker I’d download just ’cause. That said, what do I know, because one year I considered the runt of the litter to be an oddly-proportioned pants pattern, and in hindsight those were the fashion-forward True Bias Hudson pants!
Anyway, however this pattern landed in my lap, I can see now I picked the wrong fabric for this project. The sample top in a thin crisp plaid is actually still adorable to me; my version might be plaid, but as much as I love Kaufman flannel, it’s not necessarily the right choice for a dress with gathers and lightly puffed sleeves and, ideally, sharp little bib corners. The combination of heavy flannel and this pattern makes for a doughy yet stiff finished garment.
The Tova dress did mark some meaningful firsts for me though! This bib was the first time I ever sewed inset corners; I certainly didn’t understand what I was doing, so that fact that I ended up with a halfway decent result is a credit to the instructions.
It’s also one of the earliest projects where I was aware of pattern matching as a possible choice, let alone a desirable one, so I did myself a favor and cut the bib on the bias. By the way, I guarantee you this happenstance was just luck!
I remember sewing the plackets in place and being startled and relieved that the plaid was level across the two – I had forgotten to plan for that, but luckily fabric stinginess had caused me to cut the placket pieces butted up against each other side-by-side!
I also remember trying on the dress the first time and feeling like a great big toddler. My mysterious attempt to fix this took the form of shortening and elasticizing the sleeves. Maybe I meant the dress to appear longer by comparison?? I didn’t do a great job at this. At a guess, I sewed the elastic into a loop, stretched it and attached it to the inside of the sleeve with a straight stitch, then folded it over to the wrong side once more to hide the raw fabric edge and topstitched it in place with a zigzag stitch. I guess I hadn’t learned about channels yet.
I also zigzagged within the seam allowance to finish these seams, and while it’s not the most beautiful technique, it’s actually lasted!
Frankly I bodged it – I probably should have pinked as well as, or instead of, zigzagging – but in many ways that matter, this finish is actually…fine!
So I’m coming out in defense of bodge jobs, especially for early projects. I remember helping a friend sew her first garment a couple years ago. Looking back, I was too enthusiastic about stuff like French seams and understitched bias facings. I should have emphasized flexibility over finish. Unpicking perfect narrow French seams to adjust a garment’s fit is a pain for anyone regardless of experience! It’s not a reasonable expectation for a beginner that a new pattern/garment is going to fit correctly without tweaks, but I think my focus on polish implied that expectation. Anyway, today I would advise a new garment sewer to cut a little extra seam allowance and pink the edges when they’re happy enough. Heck, anyone can! There’s nothing wrong with a classic!
That said, if I can use French seams I probably will because they are beautiful and sturdy and je les aime.
It’s sort of fascinating to see my own development tracked inside this thing! Most of the older garments I’ve kept I’ve kept because I thought they were still acceptable, which meant they were most likely above-average in the era I made them. But this dress, not so much! I feel like it’s helping me remember what it’s like to be a beginner. Obviously I prefer to feel proud of the clothes I’ve made and finish them nicely and get a lot of use out of them, but there’s something valuable about revisiting this new-learner feeling within sewing too, possibly because I’m only ever going to get further away from it.
I’m still not going to wear this dress though. So toodle-oo it is!
Pattern: Wiksten Tova dress
Pattern cost: ?? obscured by the sands of time
Size: all we are is dust in the wind
Supplies: all we are is dust
Total time: in the
Total cost: wiiind