Lined colour blocked Megan Dress from Tilly and the Buttons


Lined colour blocked Megan Dress from Tilly and the Buttons

Okay, it’s quite clear that I enjoy making patterns from Tilly and the Buttons….because they are so straightforward! I had my eye on this Megan dress ever since I opened up her book ‘Love at First Stitch’, mainly because it looked so pretty and hey, I get to make a dress! I traced off the pattern a very long time ago and then became distracted with other projects for special occasions. Finally I got back to Megan, and decided to make a dress for work. I needed a new dress that was comfortable, conservative and with a small sleeve; Megan definitely fits the bill on this front. However, I ended up making an alteration I didn’t need and now wish I hadn’t.

PS - I've revisited this and made improvements...almost all photos are from my edited version. Details in italics at the end!

Lined colour blocked Megan Dress from Tilly and the Buttons, pattern review



Fabric

I have dresses in black, navy and green for work so decided that a grey should definitely be added to the wardrobe. I had also decided that I wanted to colour block my dress for a bit of variety and would look for a pale colour for the top half and sleeves. I looked around a lot online, and didn’t find a great deal of affordable suiting materials that fit what I wanted. Eventually I settled on two from Croft Mill; a grey suiting and a complimentary ivory fabric. When the materials arrived I realised that the ivory would need lining to stop it being see through (not the look I was after at work) so I managed to source some grey lining fabric from the Splendid Stitch.

Megan Dress from Tilly and the Buttons instructions

Pattern and Instructions

This dress is one of the featured patterns in Tilly Walnes' book Love at First Stitch. This book is aimed at beginners and teaches key skills through projects that encourage you to learn and apply new skills. All the patterns are stylish and wearable and you are encouraged to try personalising with tips and ideas. The pattern is included on paper sheets at the insert at the back of the book, and the instructions cover a number of pages. The instructions are very clear and detailed, with lots of colour photographs to show what each step should look like. Key skills that would be new to sewists working their way through the book are explained in more detail and in plain English.

There are not a lot of pattern pieces to consider and the construction elements are fairly straightforward which helps make it easier to put together. The pattern markings are few, and it’s obvious what the instructions are referring to. A confident beginner could make this dress, as is from the book, in a day. If you add extra details like I did it might take longer. If this is one of your first garments then it will take a little longer but every element is explained really clearly. When I tackled this first I didn't understand a lot of sewing terms....but then that is the point of the book! Something accessible and achievable for beginners. The beauty of this pattern is that it is still a desireable make for more accomplished dressmakers too.

I used (mainly - see below) the size 4 pattern as this matched my measurements, but I felt that this was a little too big and roomy - if I made again I would try the size 3 pattern now. (FYI UK high street size 10 and 5ft).

Megan Dress from Tilly and the Buttons Love at First Stitch

Alterations

Not 100% successful here….I may again be too ambitious for my skill level!

I needed to line the dress as the material I chose for the top was too see through on its own. I decided to underline these pieces (info on how to do this gleaned from this Threads article) and treat them as one layer of fabric to reduce bulk from double layers of seams. I tacked the right side of the lining to the wrong side of the shell fabric with a 1cm seam allowance. The skirt lining was joined at the waistline and hangs loose within the skirt shell. This actually worked quite well and did not affect the sewing of the garment in principle.

This then led me on to another alteration… using bias binding for the neckline rather than a neck facing. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I chose to do this….maybe I was worried that the top would still be see through and then you would be able to see the facing still? In any case I wish I hadn’t done this as it would have been fine without. I reduced the seam allowance by 1.5cm to account for the binding instead of the facing and dutifully attached it with very neat topstitching. The overall effect is that the neckline gapes a little with all this stiff fabric. And I didn’t need it.

I also did try a toile of the top part, and decided that it could do with darts at the back neckline to reduce gaping. Instead of following through with this (even after tracing the darts), I left it. And wished I had now as the neckline is still a little gapey for my liking…I had basically finished before I came to this conclusion, including binding the neckline. Grrrr.

Lined Colour blocked Megan Dress from Tilly and the Buttons back view


I also had issues with sizing (because I wasn’t thinking through carefully). My measurements fell between a size 3 and 4 for my waist and hips, so I cleverly traced between these two sizes on the skirt panels…these are the pattern pieces that fit over the waist and hips. I made the top in a size 4, as per my bust measurements. What I forgot was that I was then going to be attaching a top and skirt of different sizes, with darts at the front that needed to be in alignment. So I had to unpick the top darts, calculate where they needed to be and re-stitch. This has obviously had an impact on this area, with a little more ‘point’ to the bust than I think the pattern intends. Nobody would know it isn’t how it’s meant to look (unless they know the Megan dress), but I know and it bothers me.

Thoughts

How much do I wish I had made a toile in a much cheaper fabric? Or, more to the point not fiddled with the neckline? It isn’t a terrible dress at all, and definitely wearable, but it certainly isn’t what I was aiming for. This isn’t due to the pattern at all but is more because of my maker mistakes.

If I was making this again I would definitely grade down to a size 3 as there is plenty of room in the dress, and I would carefully consider the neckline again to reduce gaping. (Not sure if this is due to the pattern or to me, my Anna dress had the same problem). It is comfortable to wear, and I’m glad I lined it as this makes the dress feel nice, and is something I like in work dresses anyway. This is definitely a good step in dressmaking for beginners as it covers so many skills in detail and leaves you with a pretty substantial item to be proud of….I have to say I am really proud of the way I matched the waist seamlines at the zip. I took my time on this and did a lot of pinning and tacking before sewing as close as possible to the zip with my invisible foot, and it came out really well!

The only thing I would change about the pattern would be to reduce the puff on the sleeves…I know it’s a feature of the dress but it’s a little much for me, and for what I was making this for. I'm not sure if the double layer of fabric has emphasised the puff, or if using the smaller pattern size would help.

Lined Colour blocked Megan Dress from Tilly and the Buttons
Megan dress with puffy sleeves
Guess what - I went back and changed the sleeves. I made this dress months ago but haven't worn it because they really put me off. It's just not my style. Since I made this dress I have been looking into pattern drafting principles and have come up with some solutions. I knew I needed to reduce the amount of fabric at the top of the sleeve head so scratched my head, looked at what was in my wardrobe already, and played around for a bit until I got it to work. It broke my heart to unpick all the lovely seam finishing inside the sleeve head but had to be done!

I unpicked to the gathering markings, leaving the underarm seams in place.
Then I pinned the sleeve head to the shoulder seam 1" below where it sat originally.
Sewing this as was (gathered) still had too much volume.
So then I pleated the excess fabric at the top of the sleeve instead, leaving either side with no gathers.
This is what the sleeve looks like now.

Megan Dress from Tilly and the Buttons sleeve alteration

Nearly all the photos in this post are of the Megan with pleated sleeves (back view above is original puffy sleeves). See how much happier I am! I've already received compliments on this dress :)

Megan Dress from Tilly and the Buttons Love at First Stitch with sleeve alteration


How have you found making Megan? Do you have any suggestions for first dresses to make?
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Hi, I'm Laura. Welcome to my journeys with modern, feminine dressmaking and delicious food.
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