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Hello! My name is Ainsley, and I’m a sewing enthusiast from Melbourne, Australia. Sewing has been a weird hobby I’ve had since I was a kid, and it has stayed with me as I grew into a weird adult. In real life, I’m a professional musician, but online you can find my other sewing misadventures over on Instagram, @ainsley.sews (there’s a highlight saved, too! ‘Style 3712’)
Preface – Fabric Considerations
I was lucky enough to have a few metres of A&R Fabrics’ gorgeous Broderie Anglaise to work with. The cotton itself is very thin, and the delicate embroidery creates variation in thickness. Despite my machines generally not agreeing with thinner cottons, neither my sewing machine nor overlocker had any issues with the fabric. The thread tension of both machines remained even across all lengths of stitching. Stitching through eyelets was a breeze: the spool thread caught the bobbin thread in a twist, and then continued sewing normally. Gathering went much the same way; however, I’d recommend to not start or end the gathering stitches in the thickest part of the embroidery around the eyelets—it’s a bit hard to ease the thick embroidery around those beginning stitches.
As for lining—I’ve seen makes with no lining, and you can definitely get away with no lining if you’re strategic about undergarments. I wouldn’t have lined this if it wasn’t crucial to the pattern, and I ended up going with a flesh-toned lining I dyed myself. I did originally cut white lining, but I found the embroidery and eyelets really shined against the nude lining.
ACT I – A Naïve Sewist Takes on Her Wildest Vintage Project
Lockdown ignited my curiosity into the wild world of vintage sewing, specifically the gems of the early-to-mid 70s. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time lusting over vintage Gunne Sax, and stumbled across the magnificent relic that is Style 3712. The lovely Broderie Anglaise was the perfect thing to pair with the pattern to create my prairie dreams.
Image via allthepreciousthings.com.au
Like many one-size vintage patterns, this was not my size. No worries! Let’s grade up this bad boy.
My method of grading is adapted from the Sew It Curvy blog, linked here. Definitely have a look before you write-off any vintage beauties that aren’t in your size!
The first thing you need to do is trace your pattern. I used to avoid tracing, but I’ve since learned it’s a deeply calming task, lulling you into a meditative stupor. Most importantly, we do not want to cut and irreversibly ruin vintage patterns! I use sandwich wrap paper (or baking paper that isn’t too greasy) taped together.
I calculated how much I needed to increase my bodice via Sew it Curvy’s instructions; however, the blog is a little vague on skirts. I increased the hips and waist similar to the bodice, increasing the grading factor for my wide hips. For the final length of the skirt, I folded the pattern roughly in quarters, lined up the centre and side edges, and evenly spaced out the remaining pieces.
Despite my careful calculations, the toile was entirely too big?? Like have-to-wear-the-most-voluminous-push-up-bra-I-own-to-fill-in-the-cavernous-space big. I took a tape measure to the original pattern, and, considering seam allowance and darts, found the bodice had 2.5” of ease? I operate under the rule of 1” for ease, and you can see how ill-fitting 2.5” of ease is. Weird. Always measure your pattern pieces before grading, I guess. Despite this, the darts were sitting much too high, so I moved them down.
Everything should fit now, so it’s time to dive straight into the Broderie Anglaise!
ACT II – Real Life Sets In
Ok, dive straight in may be a little misrepresentative of the situation—that first cut is terrifying.
The tiers were an Exciting Design Decision I added. Simultaneously a modern twist—tiers are so in, baby—and a nod to original Gunne Sax design. I divided the skirt length into thirds, and then cut 2 lengths of broderie for Tier 2, and 3 lengths for Tier 3. In hindsight, I should have really cut 4 lengths for tier 3 for more voluminous goodness.
Trims, baby, the most exciting part of Gunne Sax design. Because the fabric was already so busy and delicate-looking, I went with solid trims. I used 2m of satin ribbon on each sleeve so that it would hang long, carefully hand-sewing little bows, and velvet trim on each of the tiers.
This is where everything goes a bit… wonky. The whole time I had this nagging worry—what am I going to do about the lining? I had no clue, and this state of not-knowing hung over me at all times. I couldn’t sew the neckline or finish the sleeves because the lining wasn’t finished so now everything’s out of order and it’d be super awkward to go back in and sew the skirt lining onto the bodice lining when it was attached to the shell and how was I supposed to overlock that it would be sooo heavy and that blade is hungry so I was terrified it would eat my fabric and—
Well, you can see why I was anxious. I followed the excellent tactic of just ignoring the whole thing, hoping it would go away (it didn’t).
ACT III – The Final Race
It was time to finally sort out the skirt lining situation. I decided avocado-dye was the way to go, which was the most cost-effective option to have a peachy tone close to my skin. Onions are another great option for nude colours, creating a lovely range of browns.
I used a second-hand bedsheet that a friend thrifted, and it had a rather well-seasoned sweat stain from the previous owner which I, unfortunately, couldn’t cut around. I had no idea how the stain would affect the dye; but, it ended up creating some interesting colour variation. Something about the acidic nature of sweat changing the Ph of the fabric and potentially the salt acting as a mordant? Super interesting. Fortunately, the colour variation can’t be seen on from the outside, so I just have to live with the knowledge that the inside of the garment is entirely mismatched.
My last design decision was to cut around the embroidery along the hem. To ensure I’d have enough space to cut around, I added an extra inch of length to the skirt when I cut it out. I could have been way more strategic in my pattern placement, I didn’t get to cut around all the flowers I wanted, but I’m overall happy with how it looks.
Epilogue – Reflections
I hope you enjoyed my first blog post! Thank you so much A&R fabrics for letting me run wild with Broderie Anglaise—it truly is beautiful.
As always, this project made me shed stressful tears, and taught me some really valuable lessons and new skills. I think the dress is more of an art piece, rather than being super wearable day-to-day, but I don’t mind! It’ll probably wear it as performance outfit once music festivals are back.