Isca dress by Marilla Walker

You’ll know if you’ve read my recent blog about pattern companies that I have a ‘mixed’ opinion shall we say of indie patterns. Some of them are great with interesting, original and well-drafted patterns, others are too simplistic, lacking in instructions and poorly drafted. I happen to think that Marilla’s patterns definitely fall into the first category.

I first met Marilla nearly 3 years ago when she organised, via Instagram, a meet up at Walthamstow market in London. It was my first sewing meet up and I was more than a little nervous because it was such an alien idea in principle-turning up in a part of London I’d never visited before to meet a bunch of people I’d never met before! It was like a sewing blind date but I needn’t have worried because everyone (of course) was lovely. I’m slightly embarrassed now that I think about it that it’s actually taken me this long to try one of Marilla’s patterns out, anyway, I’ve broken my duck and I want to tell you all about the Isca dress.

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You actually get two quite different dresses for the price of one with just a few similarities. I got mine as a PDF but you can also buy them as paper patterns which Marilla hand-prints and packs herself-what a lovely touch.

I was particularly intrigued by the draped wrap-over front so this was the one I printed off and happily the PDF all went together well. I’m getting better at them now I think because I found them quite tricky to start with. I don’t always print off the making instructions because they can be quite lengthy but I did print these in ‘booklet’ format so now I don’t need to lug the laptop out to the workroom. Although I didn’t encounter any problems Marilla does give lots of useful advice in the instruction booklet about all sorts of details so if this is all new to you either read them first on a screen or print off the booklet before you do anything else.

The pattern has been out for a little while now so there are quite a few to look at for fabric inspiration but I think this striped version by Takaka is particularly lovely, if you search with the hashtag ‘iscashirtdress’ on Instagram you’ll find more for both styles.

I’d found a lovely soft chambray at Hitchin market which was perfect because it had sufficient structure but with drapiness. You could also choose a washed linen, a printed medium-weight crepe could look nice too, nothing with a lot of stretch though because of the neck-band feature-it could be a nightmare of stretchiness to sew then.

Because my fabric was plain it’s a breeze to cut out, yay, no matching!

The sizing isn’t the traditional 10/12/14 etc, take your body measurements and compare them to the chart [in inches or centimetres] and then pick the size nearest your measurements. There’s also a chart of finished garment measurements which will help you decide the sort of final fit you want. I’m really happy with the fit personally, it’s a close fit to the bust and shoulders becoming looser over the waist. One really useful thing Marilla has included, although I personally don’t have to use it, is instructions for a full or small bust adjustment. This would be particularly helpful because the strange shapes of the front bodice pieces could make this a bit of a head-scratcher otherwise.

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FBA and SBA instructions

Although I’m a very experienced dressmaker there is some very helpful guidance if this a more advanced construction to you. Marilla is very thorough about where to trim seams, which direction to press them and how to make lapped or French seams if you want to use them. I didn’t top stitch any of the seams but you could do this if you wanted faux lapped seams for example.

I found topstitching the narrow band at the neck the trickiest part to sew, it had a tendency to twist and I had to unpick and re-sew a couple of sections. It would be well worth tacking this whole area if you’re in any doubt at all, it might save you time and frustration in the long run.

I really like the unusual details in this dress such as the raglan shoulder seam at the back, and of course the draping front section with it’s narrow band.

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The raglan shoulder seam at the back. It has a small yoke piece on the inside too, to stabilise the shoulder which is another construction detail I like.

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The back has darts and a waist seam which give it a very smooth, fitted shape in contrast to the front.

The pattern pieces for the front may look slightly curious shapes initially but the reason will become clear when they are joined together. There is bust shaping which results in the dress sitting smoothly over the bust and armhole area. This is a very well drafted pattern and a lot of time, care and attention has gone into it. This is the sort of indie pattern worth investing in! A single designer has put so much into this pattern for it to be the best it can be and I really respect that.

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I love the way it ties across to the side seam.

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Indoor Doris is a bit skinnier than me so the dress looks a bit droopy on her. Also, it’s crumpled because I took these photos after I’d worn it for the day!

When I finished the dress all it needed was a button-fortunately Marilla points out that unless you need the dress to open up for nursing then this can be purely decorative. I had a rummage and found a single beautiful vintage button so I used that, it would have been too big otherwise. IMG_8012I finished the dress in time to wear at the Sewing Weekender in Cambridge and it got lots of very nice compliments which is down to the pattern not me being model material!

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pockets on a slant!
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The other pocket is under the ‘flap’
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The hem dips at the front and isn’t intended to be level all the way round.

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I’ll definitely make another version of this style of Isca before too long but the shirt-dress version won’t be very far down my autumn sewing list either. Plain or patterned, this is a stylish and unusual dress, in many ways it sums up why I love to sew my own clothes than a more ‘conventional’ style pattern might. You’d be very hard-pushed to find a dress like this in the shops and even if you did it would almost certainly come with a designer price tag! It could be sleeveless for summer in a cotton, or a really soft babycord with a sweater under for cooler weather. There’s room to eat a big lunch as well!!

Marilla has created a number of other patterns, including the Roberts collection dungarees which have been incredibly popular so check out her website to see them all. She’s an amazingly crafty and creative woman and if you want to hear her talking more about her background you can listen to her on the Stitcher’s Brew podcast here. Oh, and she makes her own shoes too…and bras…and soap…in fact I don’t think there’s anything she wouldn’t have a go at making!!

So normal blog service has been resumed and I’ve returned to writing about dressmaking and not just getting uppity about sewing stuff that bothers me….although judging by all the responses I’ve had, much of it bothers you too.

Until next time,

Happy sewing,

Sue

 

Holiday shirt & top from Maker’s Atelier

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I made two versions of the short-sleeved shirt by The Maker’s Atelier last summer, I love ‘em and wore them constantly. One was plain white and the other was a Liberty print voile which I embellished with fancy stitches.

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I wore it on the second day of The Sewing Weekender 2017, that’s me with the pink fringe on the right!

I wanted to make the hooded version sometime and originally I planned to make it in linen like the photo but on a recent visit to Backstitch near Cambridge I spotted a nice Ponte with an interesting diamond weave that was a little bit brushed on one side which I thought would work well so I bought that instead.

Making it up was pretty straightforward except I wanted to utilise the rows of diamonds and they proved a bit tricky to match up in the cutting out. Eventually I managed to cut it fairly satisfactorily but there’s one or two wonky spots although I think only I will notice them (I hope)

The inside seam of the hood and the back neck are neatened with tape so I used 2 pieces of striped grosgrain ribbon which had come off a gift bag! You never know when these things might come in handy 🙂 

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Gift bag ribbon in situ!

There’s a casing that runs around the waist with elastic cord through it but after scoring the striped ribbon for the part that shows I hadn’t got anything else suitable for the casing! I knew I wouldn’t be able to get what I wanted locally so I ordered some navy cotton twill tape and some navy and some grey cord elastic off t’internet. The tape was a tad wide but that’s fine and the elastic was just right. Before sewing the tape on you need to make two eyelets for the elastic to come out through so I reinforced the fabric behind with iron-on interfacing and then made two small round-ended buttonholes, you could use metal eyelets if you have the gadget for this.  The buttonholes were actually bigger than I needed them to be so I didn’t cut the whole thing open, only enough for the elastic to go through.

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As I’d bought two colours of elastic I put it to a public vote on Instagram because I came over all indecisive. This is with grey threaded through initially although in the end navy won by a narrow margin.

Before you can thread the elastic though it needs something to thread through! I carefully sewed on the tape on the reverse of the fabric following as best I could a row of diamonds as I went. I’d actually pressed a crease along the line before I started in order to have some idea of where I was heading.

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The casing is only narrow so there’s a bit of excess tape, a narrower one would have been better but on one can see it anyway.
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In the end I went with the majority vote and used the navy elastic so after slotting it through the ends are passed through metal toggles. I got these in Backstitch too, I think they are ‘Vogue’ brand. The ends of the elastic frayed badly so I used doubled double thread in a needle and hand-stitched them to stop any further fraying.

So that’s pretty much it, the hem still has the deep notches of the shirt version but the hooded one has long sleeves. I used the twin needle to stitch up the hem and sleeves.IMG_4757IMG_4730IMG_4733IMG_4731

I think this will be a really useful cover-up, the fabric isn’t particularly thick but I’ll either layer things under it or it will be ideal for a warm summer evening (although they feel a very long way off yet!)

The Maker’s Atelier patterns are not cheap, in fact they are rather expensive, but they are the sort of chic, timeless styles that you can remake countless times.

Happy sewing,

Sue