The Rosalee dress by Experimental Space

Well hello everybody. Remember me?! Hehehe. I can’t believe the last time that I blogged about making anything was late last year!

I have made a few things this year, but my sewjo has definitely been off. Then I recently went to the Sewing Weekender, like I did last year, and that really snapped me back into it. Perhaps when I get a quiet moment this coming week, I’ll do a roundup of all the other things I’ve made.

But onto the main subject of this blog. The Rosalee dress by Experimental Space is a dress for drapey woven fabrics. It’s unique feature is the keyhole in the back of the dress. I love the artwork of Experimental Space patterns too. The front picture for this dress is so lovely.

Before I got to the main event, I knew I needed to check the fit of the bodice as I’m aware I have slightly bigger boobs than average. Sure enough, for the first time I was having to do a Full Bust Adjustment. Only an inch difference, so half an inch added to each side, but it definitely made it not so squeezy on the front.

A pic of my toiles in progress:

I’m not very confident I got a great fit even with this adjustment. I felt the waistband that for the size I chose is the right size. One of these toiles is the size down and that was too snug for comfort. Then once I didn’t have flattened down boobs at the front, I was actually left feeling it was slightly wide around the sides. I’m wishing I’d gone on the Elisalex Bodice Fitting Workshop that Sarah held in her shop recently. I could have learned more about what to do to get it just right. But it’s not too billowy, so I’m letting it go.

So I had bought some stunning orange fabric from Like Sew Amazing called Auralia Art Rayon. I knew I wanted to make a maxi dress and had a few patterns in mind. When I got the fabric home and had a closer look, I realised it’s quite sheer, so Sarah was able to point me in the direction of some beautifully matching Tangerine Peachskin to act as lining.

Trouble is, the Rosalee isn’t usually meant to be lined, so I had to have a good think about what to do and to feel comfortable veering away from instructions… my nails didn’t fare well hehehe

As luck would have it, Sarah was holding a summer event at her shop, and who was there but Andrea, the designer from Experimental Space! Sarah kindly asked on my behalf as to whether she thought it could be lined. The tricky bit was: the bodice. There are facings in the original pattern but the keyhole in the back meant that some of it needs a burrito method to sew facings together. So the question was can the lining replace the facings with more burritos? So Sarah and Andrea quickly drew up and cut out a rough miniature bodice to give it a try. Turns out, you can!

I’ll explain what they drew up here, as I was writing down the steps while they were giving it a go and so here goes:

– Sew your darts on the lining fabric and also the main fabric in the same way as the front bodice pieces, as per usual instructions;

– Join the lining front to the lining back at the shoulders. Then do the same with the main fabric;

– Lay the lining right side up and then lay over the top the main fabric right side down, so that they are matched up and facing each other right sides together. Pin and stitch the neckline together;

– Clip the neckline seam allowance in order that the curved neckline lays flat (lots of advice on clipping seam allowances online – it’s a method I learnt when I was young from my mum). You may want to also trim the seam allowance to reduce bulk. Turn right sides out and press the neckline to ensure it is lying flat the way you like it;

– Next, each armscye needs to be attached to the lining by using a burrito method. So if you’re attaching the left armscye, tightly roll the right hand shoulder strap (lining and main fabric) into a burrito shape and wrap it inside the left hand shoulder strap, so that you can sew the left armscye right side of lining to right side of main fabric. Do take care not to catch the burrito in your stitching, by feeling as you go. Below is a photo I took after I had stitched the first armscye;

– By the way, I didn’t take many photos as I went along, as I was really concentrating (and as my Sewing Weekender neighbours will verify by this point, had started talking to myself!), so wasn’t really thinking of my blog or Instagram heheh;

– Before you pull the burrito through, you will want to take the opportunity to clip the armscye seam allowance too, as you did with the neckline. You may want to trim the seam allowance too, just to reduce bulk in the shoulder straps that this creates. Once it’s all pulled through, this will lie nice and flat;

– If you’re using drapey slippery fabric like I was, turning this burrito through is an absolute dream. Pull the right hand side through the tunnel of the left hand shoulder. The left hand armscye and neckline will now be right sides out with seams all fitted inside and looking lovely and neat. Press this flat to check it’s all looking nice;

– Then do the same for the right hand side, wrapping the left hand shoulder strap into a tunnel with the right hand shoulder right sides together around it. Taking care not to catch the burrito in your stitching. Pin, stitch then clip and trim the seam allowances;

– Pull through and press all seams flat;

– The third burrito is the one in the original instructions which is the keyhole on the back bodice. Roll the whole front bodice across the back bodice, so that the keyhole lining fabric and the main fabric are wrapped around it right sides together. Pin, stitch and clip seam allowances before pulling through and press neatly. See my bodice below at this point. Andrea was also at the Sewing Weekender and she both advised and encouraged me with the burrito method, which I’ve not done before and she was excited to see the lining going into the bodice;

– Now I started to revert back to the instructions more, but with each step I had to think double and basically mirror anything that the main fabric pieces were doing. No facings needed.

There’s a bit of gathering above and below the waistband. I found this surprisingly nerve wracking. It’s funny, I’ve made garments more gathered than this – this is very slight gathering. So you sew two lines of basting stitches in tramlines along the bodice piece and then pull one end of the thread to pull the fabric into a gather. But then you let it straighten out again to match the width of the waistband. You don’t need it to be very gathered at all, so I was nervous that there might be flat looking sections aswell as more gathered areas. I needn’t have worried though, the fabric gets a nice natural little kink in it when you pull the gather in, so when you widen it back out, you have this lovely subtle little ripple.

Skirt panels went together beautifully with french seams, which I should be quite au fait with now, but I still naturally forget to sew wrong sides together first. It’s so ingrained to do the opposite. I have some little fabric clips which helped me hold a bunch of pieces together quickly to check it all lined up nicely. I also wrote on the lining fabric with chalk which was the right and wrong side, because in certain evening light, was often hard to tell:

So because I had quite sheer main fabric, I decided that the pockets should be made with the lining fabric. I didn’t want there to be main fabric pattern showing through from underneath the front of the skirt. I gives a really nice effect.

So next was attaching the bodice, waistband and skirt panels all together. In the photo below, the centre seam of these three is where the bodice is attached. But you can’t see the bodice because from there I attached a main fabric waistband plus a lining waistband. Then from those, I attached the skirt panels. The lining skirt panels are what you see hanging off the right hand part of the ironing board, and the main fabric skirt panels hanging off the left. Then I followed the instructions to join the waistband pieces and stitch along to hold the two together.

I then followed the instructions to attach the sides together. One side had an invisible zip and the other is meant to have a french seam. I had just taken ownership of a new (pre-loved) overlocker though, so I just zipped that baby up! Plus I’d had a lot of fraying on that side on one of the lining pieces so wanted to secure it neatly.

What puzzled me near the end though was how to hem it. I haven’t hemmed it well to be honest. I didn’t want to catch the lining in the main fabric hem. You know that thing when one of them doesn’t line up and there’s a baggy effect? Nope. I’d ideally have liked to have the lining skirt all hanging freely of its own accord, but the sides were all attached together. So I just kinda did a shorter hem for the lining and then hemmed the main fabric a bit lower down. It’s a bit imperfect but the way the whole dress flows, you’d never see it anyway.

This has been nerve wracking, because I’ve never lined anything properly before, never done a burrito before, never veered from the instructions quite so much (although I’ve been thoroughly supported and encouraged by Andrea and Sarah and my Sewing Weekender buddies, thank you all). But the payoff is a really lovely looking dress that I feel unbelievable in. Couldn’t help feeling all eyes on me as I pushed my little boy on the swings in the park and sashayed through Sainsburys this afternoon!

One thought on “The Rosalee dress by Experimental Space

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