The Panel Dress

Panel Dress 044Merchant and Mills, Draper, of Rye, West Sussex, England owns one of my favourite websites in the whole interweb. Whether or not you are a dressmaker, this is a quirky, fun site full of interesting stuff not all of which is related to the world of stitchery.

More than a dozen patterns, all developed by proprietor Carolyn Denham, are available to buy, and I was lucky enough to receive one for my birthday, a gift from my lovely and thoughtful daughter. My pattern, for the Panel Dress, printed onto strong brown card, arrived in the post rolled up in a tube. This alone was exciting enough; to have in one’s possession a proper professional pattern, punched and hangable with its own wire pattern hook is the stuff of dressmakers’ dreams.

Panel Dress 042I spent a good, long time in the local fabric shop choosing something that would do justice to the design, and came up with a combination of indigo denim and navy polyester crepe-back satin. The front bodice of the panel dress comprises six shaped panels, so I thought I would get creative and mix it up a bit. The four central panels will be cut from satin, and put together in a chequerboard effect using both the sheen and crepe sides of the fabric. The rest of the dress will be denim. Just for a bit of something different, I decided to use the reverse side of the denim for the two triangle-shaped side panels. I used 1½m denim and ½m crepe-back satin, a few scraps of iron-on interfacing for neck facing, and a reel of thread. As it’s a pullover dress there are no fastenings to buy or insert.

Instead of fighting with flimsy, tearable tissue paper patterns, the card pattern is very simple to use. Lay the card on the fabric (single thickness is best), weigh it down to stop it shifting (I used bean cans) and draw round it with tailor’s chalk. The layout and cutting out stage was much quicker than usual, and more accurate too. The card pattern is drilled to show markings for darts, and notched for other matching-up places, so a quick swipe with chalk gave me all the detailing I need to create my masterpiece.

Full instructions were also included in the package, with lots of useful tips to get the best possible result.

I love, love, love the outcome. Just a couple of points to change or develop for next time:- it’s not everso roomy across the upper back (maybe I am broad there) so not a dress to wear when doing anything too energetic; the skirt is narrow at the bottom edge and a back slit or kick pleat could be a good option.


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