Are you a more pattern-driven or fabric-driven sewist? I’m definitely more inspired by patterns and then seek out the right fabric after I’ve purchased a pattern. As you can probably tell by the few posts on my blog, I have a pretty neutral wardrobe palette so it isn’t uncommon for me to be underwhelmed by fabric. For whatever reason though, I’m really drawn to bolder prints and colors when I make dresses.
Back in November my parents took a trip to Guatemala and spent a lot of time shopping with my aunt, who lives there. My aunt also happens to be a very talented sewist (and now weaver, since she learned how to weave traditional Guatemalan fabric while living there) so they popped into a big fabric shop in Guatemala City and I got this text from my dad:
Is the Pope Catholic? Yes, I’m always interested in someone buying me some beautiful handwoven fabric 😉 He sent a picture including a bolt of this beautiful pink and orange checked fabric that immediately jumped out at me even though it isn’t in my usual favored color scheme (i.e., gray or striped) and I went to work figuring out what I could make out of it. Like every other basic millennial mom I love Ace & Jig dresses but don’t have the funds (or the energy?? Ace & Jig fans are INTENSE) to indulge, so I cruised their Instagram feed for inspiration and immediately came across the Marie dress in Plume, which was a pretty close match to the fabric I was considering. Ace & Jig patterns are somewhat easy to replicate since the construction is very simple, but the unique woven fabrics are really hard to match so I felt like this fabric and I were MFEO.
The basic construction of the Marie dress reminded me of the placket-less Hinterland Dresses I had seen around Instagram and I’d been wanting to buy the pattern anyway, so that was a no-brainer for pattern pairing. The Hinterland is also identical to a Pyne & Smith dress that I bought in a moment of weakness after I had a baby even though I knew I could make one myself, but to be fair the pattern hadn’t come out yet and I wasn’t sewing that much two years ago, so now I can recreate it for a lot less money. I’m a little bummed that I missed the Hinterland Sewoff by just a couple of weeks because this hack would have been *perfect* for an entry. But I’m learning with sewing that my planning style isn’t super suited to planning around sewoffs or monthly challenges—there are just so many to choose from and usually I just like to sew what I feel like sewing instead of working within a framework (unless I made the framework, haha). And that’s okay! I used to have sewing challenge FOMO but a year or so into it and I’m settled enough in the Instagram community that I’m just really happy sitting back and enjoying what everyone else is making.
All that said… I’m really happy with how the dress turned out. I call it my “cool pioneer” look. It’s been pouring rain all month here in the Bay Area (great for the drought, bad for fashion) and today was our first peek of sun in a while so I wore the dress to church with tights and clogs, since it’s still pretty cold out. It is a really comfy dress, the length is great for wrangling kids, and the color worked well for Valentine’s week. I don’t know how to style it for winter because too many layers with the loose silhouette make me look like a bag lady, but I think the tights worked. Maybe a cropped jacket of some kind? (A cropped jacket that currently does not exist in my closet?) Somebody help me here. Ace & Jig pieces really lend themselves well to maximalist styling but I don’t think that maximal is the goal with this particular silhouette, though it still feels like it needs a little something.
Now for the nitty gritty! As you might guess, I’ve got a lot of notes on this dress that really looks nothing like the original pattern. Since January’s project was finished in the eleventh hour, I really thought February would be the same. But I underestimated how easy the Hinterland Dress is to assemble, especially if you omit the button placket, and I finished everything but the hems last week. Speaking of hems, I’ve noticed that with a lot of my garments, especially dresses, I have to let them hang for a few days and try them on a few different times before I settle on just the right hem length. Does that happen to anyone else? With this particular dress the hem looked weird if the bottom of the skirt was made up of the darker checks, which I learned after hemming it the first time. The selvedge was along the light checks so I had to add a facing in order to preserve enough of the check width.
Also, regarding the fabric—I was worried about washing and drying it even though the shop owner told my mom you could wash and dry it. I did some more Googling about handwoven Guatemalan fabrics, but most of the information I found was about traditional huipils rather than fabric sold specifically for clothing construction. In the end I serged the edges, washed on cold and tumble dried, and it was fine. Another quirk of the fabric is that it is 36″ wide, and most patterns don’t have specs for fabric that narrow. I ended up buying twelve yards of fabric at my aunt’s suggestion but it is WAY more than I needed, even taking into account the mini version I’m planning to make for my daughter. Twelve yards of fabric was still only $58 (!!!!) though so I came out on top here.
In order to achieve maximum Ace & Jig-ness I had to make a number of modifications. Like, so many that I need to present it to you in bullet point format:
- I cut a size 8 bodice but with the size 14 neckline
- I omitted the placket by cutting the pattern on the fold without adding any extra seam allowance (surprisingly, this mod plus the higher neckline does not make it difficult to get the dress on and off)
- I shaved a couple of inches off the sides first skirt panel (attached to the bodice) to eliminate some of the fullness of the skirt, and then added a second skirt panel that was 1.5x the width of the first panel. Planning the two panels was the most thought-intensive part of this dress because I wanted to make sure that the ruffles weren’t too dowdy, and I think I avoided that by making the panels the same length. Each of the finished panels are about 17″ long.
- Rather than doing a bias bound finish at the neckline I drafted a facing, following a tutorial from the Colette blog. The original dress has a enclosed bias finish as a design detail, which I didn’t bother experimenting with because I was worried that the handwoven fabric would give me problems with unraveling while assembling a bias neckline. Maybe that wouldn’t have been an issue? I prefer the clean finish of a facing but I do like the visual interest of a visible bias finish with this particular dress. I’m totally fine with how my version looks so let’s just go with it.
- I made half sleeves instead of cap or 3/4—I cut out a 3/4 sleeve and took off something like 7 inches, when it might have made more sense to just add some to the cap sleeve but I was toying with the length and felt like it would be better to start with more and gradually cut it down.
- I removed the darts from the bodice to preserve the continuity of the checked fabric. This was probably the least complicated modification in the end but it seemed like a complicated task at first. If you’re considering doing the same for your Hinterland, I’ll offer the reassurance that it’s a good pattern to go dartless with since it’s supposed to have a less structured fit in the bodice, especially if you’re going to be adding the waist ties. I did confirm with some Googling that I couldn’t just shave the point off the side of the bodice—I followed a very detailed step by step on Maria Denmark’s blog about removing bust darts and it was super helpful. Here’s a side by side of the original Hinterland bodice and my dartless version for reference:
Since I can’t leave well enough alone, I might take the bodice apart later to insert a shirred panel in the back so that I can really match the details of the original dress. I’ll probably experiment with the shirring on the mini version first to see how it works out. Sometimes I feel like a mad scientist when I’m sewing and I let things get a little too out of hand with experimenting? But look how happy I am about it.
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P A T T E R N : Hinterland Dress by Sew Liberated
F A B R I C : Handwoven Guatemalan fabric from… Guatemala
M O D I F I C A T I O N S : Raised neckline; added second skirt panel/ruffle; omitted placket; removed darts; drafted a facing instead of a bias bound neckline; removed length from 3/4 sleeves
O V E R A L L : A very easy sew even with a million modifications—I can’t wait to make a more neutral Hinterland straight out of the envelope!