Sometimes I start a project because I realise I need something - clothes for me or the children, or something for the house - and then set about looking for the right pattern and fabric. Other times it starts the other way - I see a fabric or a pattern and just know straight away that I want to make something from it.
I was instantly smitten with this Heaven & Helsinki range of fabrics, especially the City Block print with its narrow houses because it reminded me of our holiday in Amsterdam last year. I had this idea to use it to make a border-print dress for Milla so I was looking for a dress pattern that had a straight hem... and then stumbled on Anna Maria Horner's new Paper Fan pattern which ticked all the boxes, and - as a bonus - is a free download. It's a great pattern, and comes in sizes 2-8.
I made a size 3 for Milla, who's about to turn 2, because she's tall and I wanted some growing room. This worked out well - it's not huge, but big enough that she can wear a t-shirt underneath it now, before the weather gets hot, and it should last her the whole summer.
The only modification I made was to omit the horizontal pleat at the waist seam when the skirt is joined to the bodice - because this is a quilting weight cotton I thought it would be too bulky, and I wanted to insert a line of contrast piping (actually just flat bias) to break up the skirt and bodice since I was using the same fabric for both.
I also found when I was joining the bodice to the skirt that the back right skirt piece was much too short, and so I let out one of the knife pleats - not sure if that was a mistake with the pattern or my careless measuring / sewing, but as soon as I let out the final pleat the skirt fit the right back bodice piece perfectly. Because I didn't do the waist pleat I attached the bodice to the skirt the more conventional way, stitching the outer fabric to the skirt right sides together and then hand stitching the bodice lining down on the inside.
My favourite part of this is the way the house print matches almost perfectly at the side seams... this was a total and utter fluke, I attached the house print to the front and back skirt panels and it wasn't until I pinned the side seams that I realised it was going to match up. I was very excited, because this is the kind of detail I'd usually think was too fiddly to do deliberately, but it does look really nice.
I love how simple this dress is to put on and off, and it looks like it would be really comfortable to wear. I'd definitely make this pattern again, I think it would look beautiful as a special occasion dress with a Liberty lawn skirt and plain silk dupioni bodice. But in the meantime I'm hoping Miss Milla gets lots of wear out of this dress this coming summer, and I'll enjoy remembering our holiday in Amsterdam when she does.
Anna Maria Horner Paper Fan Dress Pattern (free download).
Main dress patterns from the Heaven & Helsinki range at Hawthorne Threads
Waist bias fabric is a left over scrap from this top
Purple buttons from the Dalwood House jumble sale