Pattern Hacks

How I hacked the Lyra Dress pattern to make a fully button down shirt dress…

I’d been admiring button down, full length, maxi dresses on the high street for a while now and wondering whether I should invest in a new pattern in order to be able to make my own. Here are a couple I had my eye on, aren’t they lovely…

When it comes to sewing patterns though, I always try to make the most of what I already have. If I fancy a new garment, or trying to re-create something I’ve seen in the shops or on Pinterest, I’ll always have a delve into my pattern stash first to see what I might be able to use as a starting point. This makes good frugal sense and, well it’s quite frankly, good fun (to me anyway haha)!! Pattern hacking is my favourite as you’ll know if you’ve followed me for a while…

So, when thinking about making my ideal button down maxi, the Lyra Dress by Tilly and the Buttons was an obvious place to start – I’ve linked the pattern here. It is after-all, already a shirt dress which, made full length, is pretty much maxi anyway on little old 5′ 3″ me. The only problem with this pattern was that, as it is, the skirt section doesn’t button down, it simply attaches to the bodice in one or two separate gathered pieces depending on which version you make.

I knew that I could use this pattern to make my dress though, I just needed to make a couple of tweaks to the pattern. Here’s how I went about it:

  1. Adapt the skirt tiers to open

Whenever I make the Lyra Dress or a Lyra Dress hack (there have been many) I always resize the tiers of the longer length skirt. You can read about how I’ve adapted the skirt tiers to suit me better in this blog post here.

Using my already resized skirt tier pattern pieces, I cut my two back tiers on the fold as you would if you were making the ‘normal’ skirt but with the two front tier pieces, instead of cutting on the fold I cut them as two separate rectangles. Two rectangles for the top tier (right and left) and two rectangles for the bottom tier (right and left). If you decide to try this hack and you prefer, you can add on a seam allowance to the centre front pieces of your rectangles. I didn’t bother because I thought there would be enough gather without it – it’s personal preference really.

I didn’t include the pockets in my version because I don’t like the way they look in viscose fabric but again that’s personal preference.

2. Adapt the button band

The original Lyra pattern comes with a button band pattern piece which extends to the end of the centre front bodice pieces down to the waist. As I was making a fully button down dress, I needed to redraw this button band pattern piece to extend it all the way down to the bottom of my dress. To work out the length of this, I measured my two skirt tier pieces and added on some length for wiggle room. I then redrew the pattern piece, including all original notches and markings, to that length.

Don’t forget you’ll need to take into account seam allowances and hem allowances too. It’s always better to add too much length and need to remove a bit later on than coming up too short. I cut two of my extended button bands (left and right) and interfaced them both. That’s a lot of interfacing let me tell you!!

3. Change the order in which you sew the dress together

In the original Lyra pattern, the instructions have you make up the bodice completely, right down to adding button holes and everything before attaching the skirt and within that process you need to attach your button bands to your centre fronts before adding your collar. Since I was attaching a full length button band I needed to sew together the dress slightly differently.

In order for me to be able to attach my collar and stand after my button band had been sewn in, I needed to put together the bodice by sewing the darts, shoulder and side seams and then attach my skirt tier pieces in order that I could attach my lengthy button band so that it was all in place BEFORE I added my collar. Doing it this way meant that the button band was nicely in place for me to add my collar in afterwards.

I guess I could have added my sleeves in before the button band but I decided to do it afterwards. I also waited until the entire dress was finished before adding my buttonholes so that I could check the length and fit and where I wanted the buttons to end.

4. A small change to the sleeves

Not entirely related to the button down thing but once I’d tried my dress on I decided that my sleeves were a little too ‘formal’ looking as they were, compared to the rest of the floaty romantic dress so I decided to add a single row of shirring approximately 2 cm from the sleeve hem. I love how this looks, it just brings the sleeve in a little bit and gives it a pretty pouffy feel.

You could do this with an elastic channel if you don’t fancy shirring, I’d already sewn in and hemmed my sleeves before deciding to change them so shirring was the best option 🙂

So there we have it, my latest Lyra Dress hack and I blooming love it!! But what I love most of all is how making a couple of tweaks to a pattern you already own can give you a whole new garment. I bought this fabric from my local market stall to use for a wearable toile but I love this green so much I know it’ll get a lot of wear. As always, I can’t wait to make up another one soon…

I talk a little more about making this dress in my YouTube video here if you fancy a bit more info – don’t forget to subscribe to my channel while you’re there 😉

I hope you like my dress. Have you hacked anything recently? I’d love to know in the comments…

Until next time, happy sewing!

Sally xx

Secret Life of a Seamstress Blog

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