“Sew Many Dresses” by Tanya Whelan: My New Sewing Bible

The summer has been lingering on, bliss. On the one hand it slightly killed in the egg my enthusiasm for autumn sewing… so you’ll have to wait a bit longer for completed projects here. But the big positive is that I’ve been able to wear again the dresses I saw in the spring, using the great book “Sew many dresses, sew little time” by Tanya Whelan. This book is an absolute gold mine for whoever is after the perfect fit for hand-made dresses: FBA, SBA, shoulder adjustments, lenght adjustments and much more – everything is covered!

I stumbled upon it while I was looking for something else on Amazon – how very typical – and it has been an absolute sewing reveletation!

I am a fan of vintage dresses with a fitted bodice and a floating skirt and this book offers multiple possible combinations: with 12 bodice, 9 neckline, 9 skirt and 5 sleeve options, you would need an entire life to sew them all – or at least a full year! As I tend to wear self-drafted pleated or circle skirts, the bodices are of most interest to me. Here are my favourites, directly from the book.

Not only does Tanya give you patterns for all the bodices you could ever want; but even more importantly she explains in details all the adjustments you need to make to reach a perfect fit. I always hated started on a new top pattern, as I knew it would take me hours to do the FBA, without any guarantee of results – but not any more!! A few points which I found particularly interesting and which I was getting definitely wrong:

– the bust and waist darts’ ends should not sit on the nipple but 1 inch/ 2.5cm away from it – that’s why this bit was always at a funny angle!

– most patterns are drafted on a B-cup bra size, you need to add 1/2 inch or 1.3cm for each extra cup… I definitely thought far less…

In conclusion, once I had read the book, cut and re-cut the pattern in all directions, made three mulsins, I ended-up with a nearly perfect fit, so pleasing!! In pictures, my beloved banana dress:

I am over the moon with the bodice fit: the lenght is perfect, the waist fit is perfect, there is just a little bit to much fabric around the bust but hardly visible to the uninformed eye.

For the skirt, I made clever calculations to get a decent number of pleats on the 130cm width of fabric I had, without the pleats being too narrow either. A 150cm-wide fabric would have given more volume but I quite like it like that, especially with a midi lenght.

For the back, I put a (very very) visible zipper, because those bananas were really shouting for It! As a bonus I did not have to bother about banana pattern-matching when I cut the fabric.

Next time, I have to show you Banana Dress sister, the Little Swimmers’ dress!










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