Lace dress

 New Look 6261


This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Sew Essential, the online sewing superstore. If you need anything sewing related, they've got it. I'm still discovering sewing suppliers so when they dropped me a line I headed over to the site and was surprised to see just how much there was in one place. Most of the sites I visit usually focus on beautiful fabrics, indie patterns and habby items to finish a project, but this one also includes a massive pattern database, pattern making tools and a range of machines themselves (including next on my wish list - an overlocker). There's also a haberdashery that contains things I didn't even know existed....water soluble thread for instance. I was looking to have a try at a lace dress to wear on holiday so was mainly concerned with finding a suitable pattern and reasonably priced fabrics. I decided that the New Look 6261 had all the key pattern features I was looking for, with lots of opportunity to vary the pattern depending on fabrics and occasions.



Short lace dress

Fabric

Lace fabric...who knew there were so many different types? This is where I find online shopping hard because you can't see or feel them. Having looked around a lot I eventually decided to go with a John Kaldor lace which seemed to be a middle of the road option and good starting point. There are a lot of colours available in this lace too so I knew if this dress was a success I could use the same lace in different colours for other projects. It had the scalloped edges that the pattern said I needed, and at £12.96 per metre it isn't too expensive either. I chose a Champagne colour and then spent even longer deciding what to have underneath it.

As a shift dress I think the pattern needs a fabric that has some structure, but I didn't want to make it too bulky either. I considered a lightweight satin, but wasn't really happy with this idea (not sure why to be honest, possibly all too slippery with the lace too). I then looked to crepe fabrics and started to think about what colour would look good under the champagne. It came down to a matching nude colour and an ivory. I decided against the nude for this project as it all blended together a little too well. Having the ivory crepe underneath brought out the golden tones of the lace a bit more. I'm very glad I went for the ivory now as it has much more of the look I was after - rich tones that would look good in sunshine. I have to say this is the third crepe that I have bought since I started sewing. It is definitely in the higher quality category.

The pattern also called for a length of 20mm wide ribbon to sew across the midsection. I have a couple of ribbons in my sewing box and was able to use a cream double sided satin ribbon from John Lewis. The ivory and white colours did not match as well.

What is lace like to sew with?

I really thought that sewing with lace was going to be incredibly difficult. Turns out, I was wrong. I had contacted Sew Essential to ask for some questions about the fabrics and had mentioned it was my first time with lace. They emailed me a link to a really handy video from Threads magazine. This showed different ways of joining lace seams. As it happens the pattern instructions used one of these techniques so it was a lot easier to understand what I needed to do having seen the video. I underlined all the lace pattern pieces with crepe (1cm basting stitch), then proceeded with the two fabrics together as one piece. I did make up two sleeves which are not lined, carrying on as normal but being a little careful. They sewed together fine.

*I used a sharp needle and fine lace pins throughout. When cutting pattern pieces I used a rotary cutter and mat.*

New Look 6261 pattern review


Pattern and Instructions


The pattern I chose was New Look 6261, and comes exactly like all commercial patterns do. There a lots of pattern pieces on tissue paper and instruction pages. These include layout plans, step by step instructions, glossaries and illustrations. This pattern has lots of variations that are based on a classic knee length sheath dress style. There are different sleeve and neckline options, as well as additional design details that focus on the midsection. (If you google image search this pattern you can see a ready to wear dress that looks exactly like it too). Part of the reason I was attracted to New Look 6261 is because I can see a lot of potential for different dresses all from this one pattern...therefore excellent value for money. I selected Version C, but I planned to use the longer sleeve length from Version A instead.

Luckily for me the pattern instructions do not assume that you already know how to work with lace. They tell you exactly what to do. Without this my project wouldn't have been anywhere near as successful. The layout guides show how to cut the pattern pieces out of lace so that you have the lovely scalloped edges at the bottom of your skirt. The instructions also are clear on which stitches and seam finishes to use too.

New Look 6261 pattern review


Included in the pack are guides for the midsection ribbon. For Version C you trace off the three pieces, pin these to the front and back sections of the dress then tack through the pattern and the dress with a needle and thread. This become the guide for pinning and stitching the ribbon so that the seams join up nicely at the sides. I was a bit apprehensive about this...it looks more accurate then I am used to being and I'm not very good at topstitching in a straight line so I was worried about this very obvious design element. However, I followed what it said to do, and it turned out well in the end.

Sewing with lace

Alterations


I matched my body measurements to the sizing chart on the back of the envelope - size 14. However, I have discovered with nearly all of my dressmaking so far (except for Colette patterns) that my pattern size is always too big, and I need the size below. (I am not sure why this is...perhaps my 5ft height? I don't think it's because I want everything to look tighter than it is meant to). So, I had a look at the finished garment measurements to help, and decided to try the size 12 instead. I made a toile out of remnant cotton in my stash and discovered that this was a pretty good fit, though a little tighter across the back skirt then I wanted. To help make moving around a little more comfortable I retraced the back pattern piece and graded out to a size 14 from the waistline to the bottom hem, which I also raised by about 5 cm. This seemed to do the trick.

I also lowered the V point on the neckline by 2cm, which meant that I had to redraw the facing for the front neckline, and I reduced the shoulder seam by 1cm, which made an enormous difference to how the dress sat (I think this is going to be a standard short person adjustment for me). This obviously has impact on the armholes, so I balanced them out at the bottom of the armhole where the side seams join, lowering where this seam starts by the same amount.

I did make the sleeves (longer length from Version A) but haven't added them to my final version. I needed to reduce the sleeve width considerably around the arms as they were quite large (about 1.5 cm from the underarm seam), and when I attached them they were very puffy at the shoulder. Which is a fine look, but not what I was going for in my elegant and chic dress. (looked a bit 'old'). Instead I finished the armhole opening and handstitched the hem to the inside of the dress (using a similar technique to slipstitching).


Champagne lace dress

Conclusions


I really took my time on this dress, from planning and sourcing to sewing. I'm glad I did. I'm really happy with the fabric combinations (thanks Sew Essential for your help here), and was able to work with them much more easily than I thought. The pattern itself is a shape which suits my figure, and now that I have figured out key adjustments from the toile stage (which I also took time over) I will definitely use it again for other dresses. I was concerned that the ribbon across the front might look too much, or end up looking awful due to my terrible topstitching, but it has received lots of positive comments. If I made this again I would alter the area around the shoulders slightly again as I think it is still a little too wide and can be more flattering, and I may also have a play with the sleeves too. That said I highly recommend this pattern. It is easy to construct, with clear instructions and looks good with or without lace. I would definitely use the same lace and crepe again too as both were easy to sew with and were of a high quality.

I'm thinking this dress will make an appearance at the next wedding or christening I get invited to...what do you think?

Thank you to Sew Essential for providing the fabric and pattern for this project, and for all your advice on colours, fabrics and sewing with lace too!
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Hi, I'm Laura. Welcome to my journeys with modern, feminine dressmaking and delicious food.
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