Saturday, 21 November 2015

Completed: Tanja Dress

Sometimes you get an idea of how a pattern should be made up, and you can't shake it. So it was with this dress. I came across the pattern on my new favourite blog: Noble and Daughter. I discovered Charlie's blog via Seamwork magazine, and have spent a good few happy evenings pouring over her back catalogue. I could happily wear every single thing she has sewn. And she has great hair! When I first saw her version of this dress, I thought it was a knit dress. Further reading established she actually made it in wool crepe, which is just beautiful.

The pattern is the Tanja Dress by German pattern company Schnittchen. I have heard of them before, but haven't been particularly drawn to any of their patterns. And to be honest, I'm not enamoured of the version on the pattern cover, which I don't think looks great. However, as I said, Charlie's version is beautifully made and fits perfectly. I was sold, and from nowhere the pattern jumped the queue right to the front. If you are unfamiliar, it's a "fancy dress" (their words!), with a tulip skirt with pleats, and either a cap or long sleeve. It has waist darts at front and back.

It's designed to be made up in wovens; they recommend cotton or wool with some body, presumably to preserve the tulip shape of the skirt. But I couldn't shake the knit idea, specifically ponte. My plan was to make it in a woven first, but I didn't have anything seasonally appropriate in my stash. I did, however have quite a lot of this purple ponte, which I bought in Mandors last Feb.

My measurements put me at a size 36 on the bust and hips and 38 on the waist, but because the fabric has stretch I sized down to the smallest size the 34. The picture on the pattern looks pretty roomy at the waist, and I knew I'd prefer it a bit more fitted.

Thoughts on the pattern:
Well... it was OK. The instructions were brief to say the least. The pattern level suggests Easy+, but the instructions were half a page of A4 with no diagrams. There was mention of a sewalong/tutorial on the website, but no direct link and I couldn't find it. The instructions themselves were pretty straightforward, and the dress was very intuitive to put together, so I didn't really use them, but a beginner would really struggle.

I bought the pattern on PDF, although a printed version is available. The pattern pieces are full size, rather than half, which is nice, but I'm not sure I understand why it's necessary, particularly when I then had to trace, as they were overlaid. I'd rather have half pattern pieces and not have to trace. There were also a few printed blank pages, which always annoys me, as they are never truly blank and so it's just a waste of paper. Some of the pattern markings were different to what I am used to, but they were all explained.

The construction would have been fairly straightforward but I made a few stupid mistakes. The ponte shifted around a bit during cutting meaning my pleat marks were off on the front skirt. I then realised I'd cut my back skirt piece too large. There must have been a fold in the fabric when I cut out. I know cutting flat is meant to result in a more economical use of fabric, but when your clear bit of living room floor isn't wide enough to accommodate a 170cm wide fabric, it just becomes problematic! I had to do a fair bit of unpicking as a result, which, in a lightening zigzag stitch was not fun.

I changed a few things to accommodate the knit fabric. I omitted the hem facing and instead just turned once and hemmed with a twin needle. I also omitted the bias facing at the neck, and again just turned and twin needled. The sleeve hem were meant to be turned twice by 1cm, so I cut off the first 1cm  to reduce bulk, and so it got the same turned once and twin needled treatment. I added clear elastic at the shoulders and waist to help support the weight of the fabric. Finally, I omitted the side zip, as I can get it on and off without. I used a lightening stretch stitch/twin needle throughout, and my walking foot on some bits. The edges were left raw.

The cap sleeves are really only half sleeves. I'm not sure if there is a technical term for this, but by that I mean that they don't fully enclose the arm. I find this difficult to explain so have a look at the techincal drawings above and the photo below. I have a RTW dress with sleeves like this which I love. My sleeve notches didn't match, but this could have been my markings - I didn't go back to check - so I used the shoulder seam one and ignored the others. The instructions had you finish the bottom half of the armscye with bias binding, but I opted to turn and twin needle. But this kind of presented a problem in that the top stitching was just going to kind of stop in the middle of nowhere. I chedked my RTW dress, but it has princess seams, so they top stitched to there. After a quick headscratch, I decided to continue the top stitching and curve it round to meet the top stitching on the sleeve hem. I'm quite pleased with it.

Thoughts on the dress:
I love it. Love love love love it! It has turned exactly as I envisioned in my head. I was concerned that it just might not work in a woven, particularly with the darts and pleats, but it does. Yes the darts could be a little sharper and the pleats a little more defined - the fabric doesn't press well - but actually I like the looseness of the pleats as they are. I'm really pleased with the finish. I took care to ensure my side seams matched and that the pleats were even. I love how the fabric hangs, I think it looks quite luxe, although it will be interesting to see how it washes and wears. I understand ponte is prone to pilling pretty badly.

Nice view up my nose, but it's the only photo where I actually look like I love this dress!
I adore the shape of both the bodice and the skirt. The skirt narrows quite dramatically towards the hem - in fact, uncut, the pattern piece looks like an A line skirt piece upside down. The bodice in particular is really flattering, and could be used with many other skirt shapes. The fit is good. There is a little bit of gaping at the back neck that I would address next time, but it's not bad enough for me to bother in this version. The waist is ever so slightly dropped. I have no idea if it's meant to be like that or not - it's hard to tell from the technical drawings, or the photo on the pattern, but Charlie's is also like that, and actually I like it that way, so I'm calling it a design feature, regardless.

I'm in danger of rambling on forever about this, so I'll wrap this up now.



  1. It's gorgeous, I love it. I don't know this dress and haven't seen it made up any other way but now I'll be comparing any future ones I see to this one as it is just delicious. Great job! I also love how you finished the sleeves, it's a glorious little stylish detail :)

    1. Thanks Mrs C!!! :) You really should check out Charlie's though. It's beautiful!

  2. No wonder you love it, its gorgeous. The colour, the cute little sleeves and those swishy pleats. Honestly, Helen this is knockout.

  3. This looks so fabulous and you're right the ponte is perfect for it. Nice weight and the pleats hang so nicely. The colour looks wonderful on you. And also making it in a stretch would make it a lot easier to walk in as the severe tulip shape in a woven - particularly with the facing - does mean I have to take tiny steps! Thank you so much for the lovely comments on my blog!

    1. Thanks so much, Charlie! I wrote this post before I'd actually worn the dress, and now that I have (several times!), I know what you mean about the skirt. I think I would struggle in a woven unless it has a bit of stretch. And you are welcome!

  4. First off, that colour on you! Beautiful! And secondly, go you for persevering with the dress and ending up with something you love. It looks so comfy yet chic at the same time and the pleats hang just perfectly in the ponte.

  5. It is gorgeous, both the colour and the shape. it looks as if it could be casual or smart. Love the pleating. I am going to check out the pattern now.


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