Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be chosen as a tester for a new Megan Nielsen pattern. This is the first time I’ve ever tested a pattern for anybody and I was so excited to see what would be turning up in my inbox! The PDF arrived during a busy spell for me as my sewing room was filled with a caravan upholstery job involving gigantic bench seat cushions and blinds. I was more than happy for an excuse to take a break, and after a morning printing, cutting and pasting, I was ready to get started.
The pattern is called Dove. It’s a loose fitting top with a ‘V’ neck, French darts and a striking curved hem which dips low at the back. There are three sleeve options: a simple elbow length, a flared sleeve finish, and a dramatic bell sleeve. I will apologise right up front now for being a little reserved in my choices, with elbow length and a sleeveless dress adaptation. I think the more striking sleeve design would look fabulous in a drapey fabric, but I can’t break out of my practical mold and I’m not sure I can pull off the ‘romantic’ look! I can’t wait to see what everyone else does with these though.
I was a little worried about making the simpler sleeve, as you might think that the flared and bell sleeves are what ‘make’ this pattern. But Dove has a lot more to offer than fancy sleeves. First, there is the deep ‘V’ neckline which leads to a centre front seam. This seam could be eliminated if you’re feeling lazy, or don’t want to break up a pattern (cut your fabric on the fold but make sure to take off the seam allowance first), but it’s a actually a really sharp looking feature which could even be enhanced with some twin needle top-stitching. The instructions are well written and I managed to get a smart looking finish each time, despite the fact that I don’t remember ever sewing a ‘V’ neck before! The neckline has a good-sized facing to keep things under control, which you can see in the image below right.
Then there are the French darts. These differ to standard bust darts in that they begin further down towards the waist, and climb up more steeply towards the apex. In this pattern, the method has you cut away the dart excess before bringing the raw edges together to sew the dart. The seam allowance for the darts is a scant 0.6cm. Once you have sewn the darts, this small allowance makes it a little awkward to ‘finish’ the raw edge: I managed a narrow finish on my overlocker, but at the very tip I chose to hand-overcast the seam.
As the hem has such curve to it, you would find it tricky to manage any kind of turned hem. But fear not, because Dove includes a hem facing which, for me, went together very neatly.
I think my subconscious had a hand in choosing a simple white linen-viscose for ‘Dove’!
Everything went smoothly sewing this top and I’m pleased with the result. I found the sides to hit just a little too high to be totally comfortable wearing this without worrying about revealing any flesh! Following feedback from testers, Megan has lengthened the side seams and front hem by 2.5cms, which sounds perfect.
After sewing a straight up version of Dove with no alterations at all, I turned my mind to all the other possibilities with this pattern. I love that swooping hem and decided it would be fabulous on a light summer dress.
For this version, I took the armscye in by a by a centimetre or two – if you leave a sleeve off, the arm hole is likely to gape if you don’t fiddle around with the shaping a little.
I then simply lengthened the bodice to the desired length. My only downfall was that I shifted the hem down but didn’t add enough width to allow for hips and behind! The result was a little tight and none too flattering over this area. I hit upon a solution which fixed the issue. I added a drawstring waist to the dress, which had the intended effect of raising the skirt just enough so that a wider part of the skirt was on my hips.
I’ve been having a little love affair with bias binding recently so I decided to make some self-fabric binding to finish the arm holes and the hem (the waist tie is similar but doesn’t need to be bias cut). In hindsight I should have omitted the centre seam on the dress version – it only serves to highlight the disruption in the pattern!
This lovely floral viscose fabric (and also the white linen in fact) were from Minerva Crafts. I’ve worn this dress a lot over the summer and it’s washed really well and kept it’s colour. All for a bargain at £4.99 per metre! The yellow has sold out now but there are other colours available.
So will I be sewing up more Doves? Definitely, though my sewing wish list seems infinite so I’m not sure when! I’d love to make a dress version again in simple blue chambray, but ensuring that I widen more past the hips. Without the waist-tie this would actually be a really nice tunic shape, with or without sleeves.
And I need to make a short version! I know it kind of defeats the object when you first use a pattern like this, but I like to get more mileage out of pattern and I don’t always just want the same garment in lots of different fabrics. I would love sew a short version with a straight hem, ready for tucking in perhaps. Don’t worry, I don’t make a habit of wearing dresses tucked into skirts, but for illustrative purposes only, this looks good tucked into the Brumby skirt! Read the Brumby blog post!
2 thoughts on “Two Doves – adventures in pattern testing”
love how you turned this into a dress! how did you make the waist drawstring channel?
Thanks Emily. The drawstring was an afterthought so I couldn’t mark position on the paper pattern. With the dress on, I tied a belt at my waist and marked the position where it was comfortable. Then I made this line as straight as possible. I sewed two buttonholes at front centre and made a fabric casing for the inside which stopped short of the buttonholes. Topstitched that in place and then made a tie using bias binding maker, though it doesn’t need to stretch so you don’t sctualy have to cut this on the bias. Hope that helps a little!