Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I prefer to work with stretch fabrics. Whilst it may fill some with fear, I will happily insert a neckband or colour block a jersey garment. I do work with wovens, but not as frequently and there is one task that I have avoided from day one in my sewing – setting in a sleeve. But since I have made jeans, I feel almost invincible. If I can make jeans, surely I can ….. insert challenging sewing task here – in this case set in a sleeve? Well I thought it was time to find out…
So I made the Vienne Dress from Size Me Sewing. As the world is opening up post Covid, I had two nights out planned and I thought I would make myself a dress for these. I started looking through my pattern stash and came across this one and it was a no brainer as I have 3 or 4 dresses like this that I have bought over the years – mostly knee length admittedly, but the blousey top with the cinched in waist and elastic on the sleeves is a style I reached for often when I was buying RTW, so I decided it would be perfect for me to make. And of course this one has pockets which none of my RTW versions do.
This fabric was also in my stash already, Mr Minigems gave me it for my birthday last year so it has been languishing for 11 months. It is a lovely soft viscose from Bobbins and Buttons and according to the selvedge it is called “The Chemist” – I think the pattern is supposed to look like something you would see through a microscope perhaps? It’s really lovely fabric to work with, and to wear.
One of the great things about this pattern is that there is a YouTube video where Donna from Size Me Sewing takes you through every step of the way. She gives extra tips which are not in the pattern instructions, and you can see what she is doing visually which is a great way to get your head around it. I watched the whole thing through before I started sewing, then just picked out the bits I needed to re-watch as I went.
The pattern instructions are also very good though, and you certainly don’t have to watch the video tutorial. In my opinion, the aspect which is missing is about seam finishing – Donna mentions it at the start of the video but not throughout and sometimes I wasn’t sure at which stage I should overlock the seams.
So let’s talk about setting in those sleeves. Of course, there is ease here – the sleeve is bigger than the armhole – and if you watch the video you will see that Donna seems to magically make it all fit, and makes it look easy. She does however acknowledge that it is not as easy as she makes it look, and you should be patient and persevere with it. So I cracked on with it, and found that while I could get the front to sit ok using Donna’s method, there was just too much ease in the back. I knew that the traditional way to set in a sleeve is to gather the sleeve head slightly using two rows of long stitch, so eventually I decided to give that method a try instead and it worked out well for me. I was (possibly irrationally) pleased with how these sleeves looked, and I also love the little frill at the end of the sleeve.
The pockets on this dress are HUGE. Unlike other garments which have a small handsized pocket bag, these pockets are the same size as the upper skirt – you could really fit quite a few snacks in these pockets, and possibly a whole bottle of wine!
I love LOVE LOVE the finished dress. Of course, it is really comfortable because of the style. It is really swishy and floats around me like a magical cloud as I walk. It has huge pockets. I enjoyed the process of making it; there were elements which were new to me so I felt challenged, and elements which were not new so I had the comfort of the familiar. I love the fact that the fabric and style of the dress mean it would work all year round – in the summer with sandals or trainers, and in the colder months with boots and tights. I can’t wait to wear it on those nights out now!