Thursday, 14 July 2011

Guest blog and dress pattern review

Thank you to Emily for this wonderful pattern review of the Family Reunion Dress by Oliver & S.

I'd been wanting to try out an Oliver + S pattern for a while, but for various reasons hadn't got round to it. However, when I saw the 'Family Reunion Dress' pattern on their blog I knew it would be perfect - we were due to go to my aunty and uncle's 25th wedding anniversary party, Munchkin needed a frock, and that it was such an appropriately named pattern was obviously a sign that should buy it :) I liked the look of the pin tucks, the button-up back and the yoke.
But horror of horrors, my favourite stockist of pretty patterns and desirable fabrics (M is for Make, obviously :) did not stock it! With a bit of a persuasive email to Kate I managed to have the pattern land on my doormat a few weeks later. There was about a month before the party, so I had plenty of time. I decided to make up a muslin to make sure everything fitted and to practice the pintucking, and so I traced off the pattern pieces and cut them out of some cheap cotton I had in my stash.
And then I found out I was pregnant. Hurray! And then about a week later the morning sickness kicked in. My sewing mojo went out the window. I was in bed before 9pm most nights. If I wasn't in bed I was busy eating savoury snacks to try and keep the nausea at bay.  I couldn't focus on any particular task for more than 10 minutes without needing a lie down on the sofa. Progress ground to a halt. The forlorn pieces of cheap cotton started to gather dust on the sideboard.

Fast forward to a week before the party, and I knew I had to get my skates on or accept defeat and pop in to M&S to buy a back-up. So I took a deep breath, ate a bag of japanese rice crackers and started to sew.
As I was so short for time I had abandoned my muslin, but I was still worried about sewing the pintucks, as I hadn't done any before. Before I made a start on the 'proper' dress, I took my dusty muslin pieces and transferred the pattern markings on the front and back, and then had a pintuck practice run. This was most helpful, and meant I felt more confident when I sewed them on the final dress. If you're not quite sure about getting them right, I'd recommend it. One of the things I loved about the pattern was the detailed instructions, and the steps on pintucks are no exception. There are a couple of handy hints on getting a neat finish, and there's a glossary as part of the instructions if you don't understand what any of the terms mean.
I plodded along through the rest of the pattern, stopping for savoury snack breaks and naps where appropriate. Everything is explained along the way, and the diagrams that accompany the instructions are very clear. I often struggle with commercial patterns from the big four as there aren't enough pictures for me, but this was perfect. I think the whole thing took me 3 or 4 evenings to complete, although I really wasn't at my best and I think under normal circumstances it would have taken 2. The trickiest thing about the whole process was finding buttons that matched my fabric, and I ended up sewing them on the dress in the car on the way to the party!

The fabric I used was a quilting weight cotton, and I think it was ideal for the style of dress. Anything heavier and you wouldn't get the crispness of the pintucks - although a babycord might work. It would be perfect in chambray as well, and you could use scraps of a contrasting fabric for the neck facing and the button tab, and maybe a bit of applique on the body of the dress. You can sew the pattern in a blouse length as well, which is what I'm planning to do with another pretty print that I've found, once the morning / afternoon / evening sickness abates and I can stay up past 8pm.

In conclusion, it was a lovely pattern to sew. Even down to the paper that the pattern is printed on, it oozes quality. The fit was perfect - my daughter has not long turned three, and her measurements matched the pattern envelope exactly for size 3T. The design and sewing techniques that are used produce a very high quality dress, and one that I am sure I'll be passing down to Munchkin's little cousins (and maybe even a future sister?).
Thanks Emily and congratulations - I hope the morning sickness has eased by now! Keep your feet up,



  1. Sewing AND pregnant?! Amazing I take my hat off Emily a.k.a Superwoman. It looks great.

  2. Hahahaa! It sounds a bit feeble when you put it like that! I was feeling quite sorry for myself when I wrote the review :) Feeling far more functional now. Thanks for posting my review Kate :)

  3. That's such a pretty dress - and a great review too - so useful. I'd love to know the name of the fabric..