Thursday, 1 March 2018

Peony Dress

This dress has been dreamt for almost a year - since I first glanced at the Tilda "Cottage" collection. I started thinking about designing it since I watched "Frozen". Do you remember princess Anna's coronation dress??? The beautiful green dress with all the pleats that hide a surprisingly contrasting darker colour? As soon as I saw the movie for the first time, I knew this is a dress I have to try making. And with Anna dancing and running in the saloon of the castle... all the magic of her movements kept me dreaming of a fabric, that would make a perfect dress for my little Ana (it is a coincidence how both names sound the same :)), just the spelling is a bit different). 

All the details in the movie are magnificent: do you remember the snowflakes on the door, where Anna was begging her sister for building a snowman, or the embroidered gloves that Elsa wore during the coronation day, or the beautiful castle decoration... The people who made the movie thought of everything in order to recreate the true spirit of Norway. Yes..., it is another coincidence that the designer of my most favourite fabric, I chose for this dress, is Norwegian. I guess, the perfect things exist for a reason and we are destine to find them in weird corners of our mind, without even trying. 

Tone Finnanger is a designer I have been admiring since she started her creative journey and made it popular in Europe. At that time it was just a dream for me to work with her fabric, but I have always been making her creations, using other fabrics. Lately, with some kindness and devotion, I found a kindred "love Tilda" spirit in Andrea from Willow Cottage Quilt. She is my source of fabric and she climbs mountains to help people find what they need from Tilda. If you visit her site, you will sink into  absolute beauty of Tilda images. 

It is the last final push of the winter before the spring starts giving signs for awakening the cold Earth. And although the peonies bloom in Canada a little before father's day in June, I am ready for their delicate buds to pop out of the ground and to collect the morning dew drops. What a restful image to my eyes and brain this flower is! And what a struggle to my soul in its poor attempts to conserve this beauty forever... But there is always a way to preserve it. My way this year is to create this dress. 

Back to the dress...
I couldn't follow the full Disney design. The open shoulders are not for eleven-year-old and when Ana plays her violin, it would have been too uncomfortable.  So I designed the top to be very tailored and flattering the waist (whatever shows as a waist at this age :)) and started scratching my brain how to construct the skirt... 

Here is my process: 

1. Deside on the width of the skirt: I chose it to be a bell shape, instead of full or half circle. It is more elegant for this delicate print.
2. Get rid of the idea of regular straight pleats and push yourself into calculating a trapezoid pleats, that will make the bell shape standing out. Even with closed pleats, the dress keeps the shape.

3. Deside on the number of pleats. I made eight pleats. I did not want to have pleats on the sides, but because of the "princess" waist on the front of the bodice, I had to have a pleat in the centre, and with eight of them, the sides needed to earn a pleat. 

4. Measure the waist (my model has a waist of 60 cm), divide by eight, calculate the width of one top fabric piece (out of eight in peony print) and draw your waist line, making a curve 4 mm high at the sides.

5. Measure the length of the skirt (mine is 50 cm). For a bell shape, I made the bottom curve three times longer than the measurement at the top. Create the bottom curve, cutting 10 mm at the sides.

These are only the top pieces (the peony print). The beauty in the dress comes from the contrast that the inside pieces create. At first, I wasn't particularly ecstatic about the "berry leaf" print. It seamed to me that there would be too much print and not enough solid colour. But now, when I look at the dress, I am happy I chose it for the pleats inside. The leaves are so gentle and kind of create more texture with there lighter colour. 

6. Use the same template for the pleats. When making the pleat, the template for the inside fabric will be folded to create a centre line and then both sides will be folded towards the centre line. 

7. Create four templates, using a soft paper and four more from a contrasting paper. Sew the templates to produce half of the skirt and measure on your model to see if the calculations were correct and if you liked the shape. If you have extra paper and enough patience, or in case you are using your absolute favourite fabric and you are terrified of cutting into it, create the full skirt out of paper, in order to be sure :)

8. Prepare your iron to the maximum possible temperature for the chosen fabric and have a bucket of water close by, because this skirt will require and extraordinary amount of ironing. 

9. Create the skirt from the fabric you love and enjoy your wonderful achievement!

Here are some tips in images on the details:

1. Create a perfectly hidden seam along the sleeve.

2. Line the dress and hand-stitch the zipper on the lining.

3. Make the lining 2 cm shorter than the skirt.

4. Attach a 10 cm strip of lightly gathered light wight tulle in between the two layers.

5. While working on the dress, keep the pleats well pressed and in place with very fine pins.

I hope you try this pattern and share your experience. If you have any questions, you could reach out to me and I will try my best to answer.

Have a wonderful time creating! Life is so beautiful when trying new things!

Thank you so much for being my guests! Hope you had a wonderful time!