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My third White Tree Fabrics Make – The Tilly and the Buttons Francoise Dress

May 19, 2015

Hi there!  I am extremely happy and relieved to be able to show you my final version of the Tilly & the Buttons Francoise dress, made for the White Tree Fabrics blog team.  I have already shown you two previous versions, both essentially acting as toiles for this project.  The first one was too small for my liking (even though it perhaps didn’t look small to anyone else) and the second one had something fishy going on at the back…something I thought might be improved by making a sway-back adjustment to the pattern.

For my third toile, I made a sway-back alteration of 1″, re-positioned the lower part of the back darts to line up better, reduced the centre back seam allowance at the very top by 1″, adjusted the facings to match and lengthened the dress by 2″.  It was not good.  The problem at the back seemed to have worsened, so I concluded that the sway back alteration needed increasing.  I made a fourth toile, this time increasing the sway back to 1.5″, and reducing the centre back seam only by 1/2″, and increasing the length of the dress by a further 2″.  It was AWFUL.  I threw away both the third and fourth toiles without taking photos.

I was feeling pretty depressed by this point.  I’ve been trying hard to find the motivation to sew as I mentioned in a previous blog post, and I felt like I had wasted effort and time (not to mention fabric!) trying to get this dress to work.  It enraged me.  This is a simple dress!  How simple could it get?  Why is it I can make a coat or a shirt but I can’t get a shift dress right?!

I decided to give it one last go, but this time I planned on keeping it simple.  I’ve been sewing for five years and I’ve never needed a sway-back alteration before, and it didn’t seem to be working now, so to hell with it.  I retraced the pattern, lengthened the dress by 4″ and took out 1/2″ at the centre back tapering to nothing.  And that’s all.  If there was going to be a bit of wrinkling over my bum then so be it, I was past caring!!!

Back when I first started planning this dress I wanted it to be a special Francoise.  I wanted it to be just that bit different.  I wanted it fully lined and I wanted the collar to also feature some lace.  I chose the Tilda fabric ‘Olivia Red’ for the main fabric, which I think is more pink in real life.  I chose to make the collar with contrasting plain cream cotton and an ivory lace overlay.  I chose a lovely ‘premium’ viscose lining which feels far superior to the polyester linings I have used in the past – much softer and smoother.

I made the dress with the 3/4 length sleeves, but for the lining I followed the directions for the sleeveless version.  The lining is attached at the neckline (like the facing would have been) and it is sewn into the zip but otherwise it hangs free.  The armholes of the lining are finished with bias strips.

The lining - sewn into the CB zip

The lining – sewn into the CB zip

For the lace collar, I cut two layers of collar pieces, a layer of interfacing and a layer of lace and basted the lace onto the upper (outer?) collar before sewing.  I think it works quite well although maybe a heavier lace would have stood out more – I don’t know whether understated is better or worse in this case!

Lace collar

Lace collar

Making this dress has made me realise I’m not a fan of raglan sleeves.  They make my shoulders seem too rounded, I prefer the definition of the seam on a regular armscye.  I want to see where my shoulder stops and my arms begin because otherwise it feels as though my shoulders are slopping halfway down my arm.  I also think regular sleeves are easier to fit, even though they are (slightly) harder to sew.  The raglan seams wrinkle a bit on this dress and it’s probably down to my apparent lack of ability to sew well but whatever, I JUST DON’T LIKE THEM OKAY?!

The Francoise Dress - front view

The Francoise Dress – front view

Fit-wise, this dress is thankfully better than its four predecessors: loose enough fit to be comfortable, and a better length.  The full lining is lovely, and means I’ll be able to wear it all year round over tights etc.  The back still needs work, but I’m not a complete glutton for punishment – Francoise and I are done!  One thing I noticed when I looked at a lot of other Francoise dresses with collars was that the collar pieces at the centre back seemed to be very far apart.  I bore this in mind when altering the dress so although I took out 1/2″ per side of the centre back neckline, I kept the original length of the collar pieces, hoping they would meet closer together at the back.  In hindsight, obviously I should have actually measured it, because there is still a pretty large gap between collar ends.  What is that about?!

Back view

The Francoise Dress – back view – with creases from when I had been sitting down!

Luckily the main fit issues and the gap in the collar are both at the back, and I can’t see the back when I’m wearing the dress so I’m not too fussed.  I like the dress from the front and I know I’m being about 1000% more critical than most other people would be anyway…so this dress is going to get worn.  All that effort has to be worth something, right?!  Besides, I love the fabric!

The Francoise Dress

The Francoise Dress

Thank you to White Tree Fabrics who sent me the pattern, the Tilda fabric, the lining, the lace and the cotton – all beautifully packaged 🙂

Last one!

Last one!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Simona permalink
    May 19, 2015 8:41 pm

    My,! You had a lot of patience ! Dress is lovely! I totally get what you are saying about raglan sleeves ! Collar wise maybe it is the design feature to be gaping at the back! Think of it that way!

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      May 20, 2015 7:26 am

      Thanks Simona! 😊

  2. May 20, 2015 11:29 am

    I’ve really enjoyed reading about your trials and tribulations with this project (I admire your perseverance) & I love your fabric choice! It’s really reassuring to know other, more experienced, sewers have issues with fit and adjustments. I’m just getting back into sewing after having several failed projects that took a chunk out of my sewing confidence, reading this has definitely spurred me on.

    I’ll look forward to reading about your future projects. 🙂

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      May 20, 2015 12:17 pm

      Thank you! I wish you luck for your next project.

  3. May 20, 2015 5:11 pm

    This is lovely, and I really admire you for sticking with it. I’d have chucked it in the corner long before a fourth toile! The fabrics are gorgeous, and the lace collar is beautiful. I’m with you on raglan sleeves, they make me think of sweatshirts so are therefore very casual and not dressy – if that makes sense!

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      May 20, 2015 6:08 pm

      Thanks Lynne, yes I know exactly what you mean about raglan sleeves!

  4. May 28, 2015 8:02 pm

    Your fabric choices are really nice, and it’s such a shame you had so much trouble fitting it; I feel like sometimes we are too quick to blame our sewing/fitting skills, and forget that maybe it’s a pattern drafting issue. I haven’t sewed this dress myself, but I’ve seen a lot of people commenting on having fitting issues with it. For such a simple shape, it shouldn’t be riddled with that many problems. Your perseverance paid off though, and I think you did a great job 🙂

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      May 28, 2015 8:29 pm

      Thanks. Actually I have heard the same from a few other sewing bloggers about this pattern so perhaps you’re right: the fault is not entirely mine!

  5. June 18, 2015 8:33 am

    Oooh such a good pairing with the print and the lace. I have always wondered if I need a sway back adjustment but have survived 5 years without one too! I guess it’s good we’re always still challenged. More things to learn! I think the dress looks ace on you

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      June 18, 2015 9:18 am

      Thanks Amy. It didn’t work on this dress at all, and I’ve never thought I needed it on any other. But it was interesting to learn how to do it anyway!

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