The Sun Dress
Not a Completely Blank Canvas.
A colourful and comfortable summer dress made for the Lamazi Fabrics Blog.
This stunning colourful large-scale fabric design is from Nerida Hansen, an Australian Company that uses artists to put Art onto textiles. This design is by Greta Laundy @gretalaundyart and www.gretalaundyart.com and is appropriately named ‘Canvas’
The fabric is cotton sateen and weighs in at 135gsm
My first inclination was to use it for a relaxed trouser suit - à la Ru Paul (I have been watching his Drag Race series on TV) but when I felt the fabric I thought it was too lightweight even for an unstructured jacket, so changed my plans.
I had The Sun Dress pattern by Makers Atelier ready for last summer, but as our plans for travelling abroad were stymied by the Covid-19 pandemic it was shelved.
Maybe now was the time. It is a simple shape and would show off the large-scale pattern well.
I am not a fan of exposing a lot of skin, so preferred to make the sleeved version. The low back was as much as I could bear to bare. The shaped bottom with a drawcord finish moved it up the contemporary ladder.
2.5 metres was generously provided by Lamazi Fabrics as part of their Blogger Team programme, and I set to work making a muslin.
I planned to only test the bodice as the skirt was straightforward. I cut a size 14.
Based on my previous experience of Makers Atelier patterns I made a full bust adjustment, and narrow shoulder adjustment.
The muslin did something very strange around the front armhole and shoulder, The large back neckline allowed it all to fall forward and the shoulders looked huge. I tried a bigger small shoulder adjustment but that was no better.
I concluded that the front had to be large enough not to put any pressure on the back neckline, so I cut another, this time s.16 with a 16mm narrow shoulder. This was much better, and when the skirt was weighing it down I was confident it would hang nicely.
After the 3rd muslin, I decided to lower the front neck by 1cm. The ravages of age and high round back make my neck go forward rather than remain upright and ‘jewel’ necklines like this often feel like a slow decapitation process.
3 muslins later I cut my fabric.
I cut the bodice and sleeves singly to make sure I got the pattern design where I wanted it. I chose to put a similar part of the pattern at the top of each sleeve head, a little symmetry makes me feel more comfortable.
Making it up was straightforward, the pattern descriptions are brief but adequate, and the fabric was a pleasure to sew.
Bias binding was easy to make with such a compliant fabric, and I made enough to bind the neckline and the hem.
The neck binding uses the bias binding as a facing. It is important to make sure the outer edge of the binding (furthest from the neck seam) is long enough to lay flat, so you need to ease in the additional length at the neck edge. Because the binding it cut on the diagonal grain that is easy to do. You can also press in some curve into your binding before attaching it, but be careful to ease in fullness rather than stretch it out for extra length.
Use lots of pins, particularly on tight curves. When you turn the binding to the inside the longer edge means the binding won’t pull at the neckline and will allow it to sit flat.
I found it helpful to sew with my walking foot installed for the binding. It prevents the foot from pushing fabric along in front of it and reduces the torqueing that can result (when you can see little waves in the fabric on the finished job)
I like to stitch down my bindings from the reverse side of the garment so I can get close to the edge of the binding. If you have stretched your binding you will find the width has become narrower (once again due to the stretchiness of the diagonal grain) but if it is laying flat then your binding should be a constant width.
If your stitching isn’t as perfect on the bobbin side you can adjust your top tension to pull the stitching back up into the fabric.
Most machine settings default to stitching on medium weight fabric so the join between top and bottom threads falls within the thickness of the fabric, which is why you may need to adjust when sewing very thick or fine fabrics, the number of layers of fabric also contributes to the equation.
In my case, I found that adjusting my top tension just by one notch was enough to give a good result. Check your user manual to establish exactly which knob to adjust.
When I basted the skirt into position I realised that despite my careful pattern placement I had a narrow strip of blue pattern that disturbed the flow of the fabric design, so I trimmed off 2.5cm from the top edge of the skirt. There is only a gentle width increase in the fall of the skirt so the extra width was minimal and eased in quite happily. It did make the side seam pockets a little higher but that was not a problem, and as the skirt was pretty long and has a Hi/Low hem that didn’t matter either (I have lost some height - I still think of myself as 5’6” from my forties, but now 30 years later I am closer to 5’4”)
The finished dress hangs nicely and the cocoon shape from the drawstring hem, which is adjustable, moves it from a simple shape to a more interesting one.
I did feel very exposed at the back though. I could only have worn this dress in hot climes - and I doubt ever in the UK (I am so easily cold) so I made an insert piece to fill in part of the back neck. Because of the nature of the fabric design, the curve of the neckline makes the insert fit in quite well, although I have now amended the pattern piece to have a higher back. It is enough to make me feel less exposed and to ensure the shoulders remain in place.
You will rarely catch me in strappy or off-the-shoulder dresses, but this is enough to make me feel comfortable. I might even make a (shock horror!) sleeveless version if we ever get to travel abroad again, but I will stick with the higher back.
I can thoroughly recommend this lovely fabric. It is a great weight for summer garments, it is silky to handle and is opaque, it is a natural fibre and drapes nicely but doesn’t collapse. It is easy to sew and washes well.
Lamazi has a great selection on offer, and it is nice to find an alternative to the soft and drapey viscose that seems to overwhelm our fabric choices at the moment.
Once again, thank you Lamazi Fabrics www.lamazifabrics.com