Have you ever had a pen pal? When I was small, I had several. We used to write and send letters between different states and continents. It definitely wasn't as easy to keep in contact then as it is now. All my correspondences transpired in the days before the internet, (that makes me feel ancient). And, unfortunately, I lost contact with all of my pen pals over time. Nowadays, its easier than ever to make friends and keep in touch with people in different parts of the world. One of the biggest benefits, for me, about blogging is the opportunity to discover people with common interests and hobbies. It's like having pen pals, but better and with instant contact! It's funny to refer to a person I've never met as a friend, yet that's exactly the way I feel about Nathalie. I met her through her blog a couple years ago and have had increasingly more contact with her as time goes on. Recently, we discovered that we have more in common than a shared interest in sewing and knitting. We learned that we have very similar body types and share many of the same complaints with fit and flattery in clothing.
When Nat contacted me to ask if I would be interested in sewing projects together virtually, I immediately accepted! There have been a few changes, well, one major change since that first conversation, but our plan remains.
Our first project is the Wiksten Tova top/dress. I'm embarrassed to admit, I was completely unfamiliar with this pattern at the time Nat suggested it. I'm so happy to know about it now, because I definitely see more of these in my future. Aside from grading between sizes, I didn't make any changes to the original pattern.
The sizing confused me considerably. Prior to cutting I had fears regarding the amount of ease built into the dress; it seemed like there would be A LOT.
Instead of following the recommendations, I measured the pattern pieces, subtracting seam allowance, and settled on the xs at the bust and the small through the hip. I never cut patterns in such small sizes, so I did a fair amount of second guessing. However, my measurements indicated that I would have four inches of ease through the hip using the size small, which is exactly what I wanted. As a person who is both short (5'2) and hippy, I was concerned that excess volume might make me look heavy and shapeless.
Im very pleased with the shape and fit through the hip area. The top of my Tova fits a bit snug through the chest and shoulders, so I will likely cut a straighy size small when I revisit the pattern. Based on my measurements of the flat pattern, I had expected a little more than an inch of positive ease through the chest, but I ended up with less. I may also incorporate an underarm gusset, because I like to have good range of motion without feeling constricted.
My dress fabric is a beautifully light chambray I pulled from the depths of the stash. It's crisp and drapes gorgeously. I rescued it from an estate sale a while back, and I'm certain I didn't pay more than $1 for the 5+ yards I brought home. (There's enough left to make an Archer!) For the placket, I knew I wanted to add a bit of 'pop'. I cut a small remnant piece of lace (also estate stash) to match the placket and sleeve cuff pieces. During making, I used both sets of placket and cuff pieces as if they were one piece of fabric and sewed per the instructions (It might be helpful to baste the lace to the dress fabric, if you're interested in trying this for the first time).
With regard to construction, I really appreciated the finishing techniques directed in the pattern. They make for tidy innards; however, I chose to use french seams in lieu of serging at the shoulder/side seam/armscye. I did stay within the 3/8 seam allowance, so I didn't have to make any adjustments. For the insert, I basted first, then sewed. I had a little difficulty getting the square neckline to be... square. But I managed in the end.When I basted, I did both sides before sewing the bottom, so I had two points to connect and less opportunity for fabric slipping.
Having both the front and back of the dress on the fold makes for a really quick and easy garment, but it eliminates a lot of possibility for fit adjustments. I have some fabric pooling at the small of my back, and I have no idea how to eliminate it without a seam to work it into. I have this same fitting issue with a lot of RTW dresses. Do you have any recommendations for me? Sway back, maybe?
My hem is a one inch hem. As I mentioned previously, I am 5'2. The length of the dress, as drafted works for me. If I was any taller, I would definitely add length! When I raise my arms, things border on indecency. Oh, and this happens....
It's a small irritant, truly, but I do have to give a little tug to adjust the placket anytime I raise my arms above shoulder level. This may resolve when I cut the larger bust size in future versions. I'll report back.
Ultimately, I love this dress. It's insanely easy to wear. I've worn it twice since making it, and it stands up to my daily activities with ease and provides constant comfort in the heat. I think that the gently folds at the collar give this a very timeless look; a take on the shirt dress, almost. And, I think that there is a lot of potential for versatility in a garment like this. Be sure to jump over and visit Nathalie to see her maternity version of the Tova top!!