When positive thinking is the last resort- The Bonnell

So we are in August now and I spent most of July starting at my summer dresses and swedish hasbeens, frowning.
Summer you haven’t been so kind to us folks in the UK, sure you threw us a couple of nice days, enough to tan forearms and noses, but not quite enough for us to stock the freezer with ice poles.

I had great plans to spend my summer weekends sewing sundresses and then wearing them to work and post work barbecues through the week. However, when my plans were scuppered, I decided not to be glum. I decided to stop looking at job prospects closer to the equator for a sunshine fueld move and decided positive thinking was the way.

I thought back to last year when September was glorious and in the years before where we were still cracking out the frisbee well into October.
“Don’t worry Jessie, the sun’ll come out tomorrow” I told myself, before promptly bursting into song, assuming stage posture with my best musical theatre voice. Positive thinking will get us where we want to be and I want to be in a park drinking a gallon of Pimms, in my hand made summer dresses, for the love of God.

When choosing my next sewing project, I didn’t want to let the grey skies influences me, so choose which summer dress to start stitching.
Inspired by Kevin Costner’s immortal words, “if you build it they, will come”, I chose Dixie DIY’s Bonnell dress saying “If you stitch it, they will start pouring the Pimms”.
(if you are really moved by ‘Field of Dreams’ and Kevin Costner’s steely determination, then you could pay homage by making a dress in this amazing fabric from Ceila Monk at Spoonflower)

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I chose the Bonnell from Dixie DIY as it had all the classic lines that suit me in dresses, but had the cut out detail to make it feel a bit more interesting for summer. The fabric I chose was a bargain off eBay and sits somewhere between rayon-viscose-spongy and has a very slight stretch to it. As this was the fist time I used one of the Dixie patterns, I thought I’d use some cheaper fabric from my stash instead of making a muslin and jist live with the outcome.
I thought this fabric would work well for this pattern as it’s quite understated, letting the cut out detail be the star of the show.
The pattern calls to line just the bodice and all I had in my stash was some cream, cotton, as this project was in the vain of experimentation, I wasn’t too worried about matching, also the fabric had enough white detail in the weave, I could just about justify this as a lining choice.

The dress is very simple with only 4 pattern pieces. I chose the size by my waist measurement and I was pretty close to the same size through the hips, so didn’t do any grading. In terms of my bust measurement, I wasn’t a million miles off the same pattern size and as always I should have done a Full Bust adjustments, but decided against it as this was a ‘day off’ sewing project and knew this would slow me down. I know I should use my sewing skills for the perfect fit, but find often that just using appropriate sizing for the bodice pieces of a dress and appropriate sixing for the skirt section makes improvement enough and the bust section is ‘fine’ if not ‘perfect’.
Dixie’s instructions are clear and make this a speedy sew- perfect for a day off waiting for some sunshine.

The bodice came together easily and has four darts on the front pieces of the bodice and two darts across the back. I always start my darts from the wide end and finish with a knot instead of back stitching- how do you finish yours?

For the most part my stitching was pretty neat but something went awry when I was finishing the cut-outs, as you can see they have come out as slightly different proportioned triangles.

Untitled design (1)
Once I constructed the bodice I did a quick fitting test and it wasn’t too bad- for me my fitting check points are the my bust fits in and isn’t going to burst our hulk style and then that the waist hits my waist line, as I have a slightly shorter body. The bodice was slightly long but I made a mental note to do a larger seam when attaching to the waistband.

The skirt came together very quickly too. This pattern has pockets which delighted me, as I love dresses with pockets- where else will I stash all my yoyo, stickers and bubblegum?

The Bonnell has a gathered skirt to give some fullness. In Dixie’s instructions she suggests gathering with the traditional method of sewing two rows of long basting stitches and ruching along those. As the skirt had quite a long distance to gather, I decided to try this method suggested by Elisalex of By Hand London. Instead of stitching two rows, you zig-zag stitch over a pieces of string or cord- then you can use this chord to make the gathers- more info here


Lastly was the invisible zip- I know lots of people have issues with these or prefer lapped zips, but I am pretty much on board with invisible zips. Take a look at this one…not to shabby. Here you can see both my successful and unsuccessful pattern matching. I am happy to let it slide on this dress, but will be more eagled eyed when making a Tilly Coco or Maritime knit breton.

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…and here’s the final dress- with added sunglasses just to help the positive thinking along a little faster!
I am mostly pleased, but of course have my usual gripes.  The bodice is a little roomy-the waistline could be a little higher and tighter. I might take the time to unpick and raise it up and take it in a little through the back darts at a later date, but only after I’ve finished singing “It’s a hard knock life”, taking it in will make the cutouts sit better against my body.
(I will also wait until I’ve had a chance to stick this in a super hot wash, as that might suck it in a little too)
Due to the springiness of the fabric, I think the skirt is a little too full, in a drapier fabric it would sit flatter, so again, I might skim some of the skirt at a later date, if a couple of washes doesn’t make it behave.

Untitled design

I plan to wear this dress with espadrilles or skate shoes (and denim jacket for chilly evenings in the park) and if I wear it enough it will get sunny…it WILL. It will be so glorious that I will laugh at the triangular tan lines I will achieve.

Now as is my August tradition, FOB is off on Holiday! I will be spending a week in Toronto and have already asked the amazing Sarah, from Pattern Vault for all her Toronto sewcialist tips.  Fingers crossed my Bonnell dress will get a showing at the top of the CN tower and my return case will be half full of new fabric to stitch up.

See you soon, to show off my Canadian swag and hand out the maple syrup treats!

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