Lulu Gathered Mini Dress by The Aware Collection – A pattern review in collaboration with Makerist

For this blog post I’ve teamed up with Makerist.com who kindly invited me to review two of their patterns and are offering my lovely followers the chance to win one of three free patterns in a GIVEAWAY over on my Instagram account @secret_life_of_a_seamstress.  I’d love you to pop over and enter if you can 🙂 Makerist are also kindly offering 20% off of all full price patterns so if you’d like to treat yourself to a lovely sewing pattern as well as enter the giveaway simply enter the code SECRETLIFE20 at checkout.

*Please be aware that the giveaway ends on Monday 21 September and discount code ends on Monday 19 October, so if you’re reading this post after these dates I’m afraid you’re too late this time*

Makerist are an online craft hub offering thousands of PDF patterns by indie designers and a tonne of inspiration for whatever your latest project might be. Do pop over and check them out here.

My inspiration…

With summer coming to a close here in the UK and my sewing thoughts naturally turning towards more autumnal makes, the two patterns that caught my eye were the Lulu Mini Dress by The Aware Collection and the Cassiope Mini Dress by I Am Patterns which I made for my daughter (you can read my full review of this pattern here).

I absolutely loved the folksy look of the Lulu dress and thought it would be perfect for that transitional period between the end of summer and the beginning of autumn – probably with a pair of white pumps which is my absolute favourite look right now.  However, like pretty much all of my dresses at the moment, I knew I would prefer a midi length dress rather than the ‘mini’ above knee dress that the pattern is drafted for.  The two pictures below show the dress in mini length and the line drawings of the pattern so you can see how it is constructed.

The process…

I printed out the PDF pattern and was surprised to see that, while there were marker arrows of where to overlap the pieces, there were no cutting lines so, because I wanted to be accurate in my cutting, I drew in the cutting lines to the bottom and right hand side of each page before trimming and tiling together.  I then cut out my fabric pieces with my pattern weights, rotary cutter and cutting mat as I prefer to do.

As you can see from the line drawings above, the skirt is assembled in six separate panels, I love the way this is done as I think it’s really unique and adds to the folksy style of the dress. It did, however, make me scratch my head a little as to how I was going to add that extra length I wanted to make my version into a midi dress without distorting the shape.  Based on my measurements I decided to cut a size XS and because I wanted some extra length, whilst I stuck to the XS cutting lines in the width I cut to the largest size in length to give me a bit more – well length! I also added approx. 2.5cm to the TOP of the skirt pattern pieces so that I didn’t interfere to much with that lovely sloped middle panel in the centre of the skirt.  I’m sure there’s probably a more technical way I could have gone about making this adjustment but I like to do things my own weird way 😉

Before I talk more about the construction of the dress let me tell you about the fabric I decided to use.  Some fabrics are just made for certain patterns aren’t they and this viscose twill from Minerva could not have been more perfect.  I’ve included a link to the fabric here if you’d like to check it out.

So onto the making.  There’s a bit of preparation work to do at first in the form of stay stitching and overlocking edges – boring stages but believe me I’ve rushed past these before and it’s really not worth skipping them!

The construction of the bodice is pretty straightforward and I found it came together really well.  The neckline is gathered into a pretty narrow binding and the v neck is finished with a facing.  Both of these steps were a little fiddly but I took my time with them and I’m really pleased with the result.  The binding extending into a tie at the neck is a really lovely detail.

All of my notches and seam lines matched up perfectly and the sleeves are inserted in the round without the need for any gathering – always a bonus!

While we’re on the subject of sleeves let’s talk more about them.  You’ll see from the line drawings above that the pattern calls for a drawstring tie at the cuff which involves sewing in a drawstring casing, sewing buttonholes at the cuff for threading the drawstring and then of course sewing a drawstring for both sleeves.  While I think the bow detail at the cuff is very pretty, this was all a little bit faffy for me so initially I decided that instead of having a drawstring, I would simply sew a piece of elastic the length of my wrist – stretched- across the cuff where the drawstring would have been and sew across it to bring in the cuff as shown below.  I also considered shirring but decided to go with the elastic this time, shirring could have looked really pretty though…  This method of gathering worked absolutely fine and you can see from my picture below how it looked from the outside.  I then left the sleeve hems until the end so that I could get a feel for the look of the finished dress before hemming them.

The waist of the dress is brought in with a drawstring and drawstring casing and this time, of course, I did follow the pattern and attached my casing to the bottom of the bodice sewing in two button holes for where the drawstring would be threaded through.  You’ll see from the image below that I decided to attach a small piece of fusible interfacing to the back of the fabric where I would be sewing the buttonholes to give a bit more stability.

So, let’s talk construction of the skirt. This was where I got so carried away that I forgot to take pictures while I was sewing – oops!  I absolutely love how this skirt is constructed though.  Side panels are formed with gathered sections to the bottom and these are attached to a beautifully shaped middle section which narrows at the hem.  I love this design because it takes some of the fullness out that gathering can sometimes bring and also gives a really pretty finish.  The sides of the skirt are gathered slightly to fit the top bodice and is then sewn at the bottom of the drawstring casing. 

Time to hem everything…

Because I wanted to keep as much length as possible in the skirt, after trying on the dress I simply levelled out the hem where necessary and turned up a very narrow hem. 

Having tried the dress on at this point I realised that the sleeves were going to be super long on me unless I chopped quite a lot off.  I’m not a big fan of sleeves that hang and flap around at the wrist anyway as I find they annoy me a little so I decided in the end to chop off the fabric underneath my elasticated section and hem it under which created a kind of balloon sleeve effect which I much prefer. 

My final thoughts on the pattern

I absolutely LOVE it!! I think the style of this dress is so on trend with it’s slightly boho/folk style and with a little bit of adjusting and pattern hacking, (if you can even call my changes that) it can be really seasonally adaptable. 

I would say that I don’t think I’d try this dress as an absolute beginner as there are some tricky bits in there such as gathering the neckline into the binding and sewing the button holes and waist drawstring sections, but if you’re confident and have a few makes under your belt absolutely give it a go! 

I will definitely be making another version of this dress and have plans to make an even more midi/maxi style by adding another ruffle onto the bottom of the skirt.  Watch this space, and feel free to hold me accountable to actually do it if you don’t see it appear anytime soon lol!

Thank you Makerist for offering me this pattern to try, I highly recommend it!  Don’t forget to pop over and enter my Instagram GIVEAWAY where you could win yourself a copy of this pattern too and please do pop over and read my review of the very cute Cassiope Mini dress which you can find here. Ooh and don’t forget to check out Makerist too of course, they have some amazing patterns and inspiration for the autumn/winter months.

Thanks so much for reading!

Until next time, happy sewing…

Sally xxx

NB: GIVEAWAY closes at 10.00pm GMT on Monday 21 September

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