Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Miss Violet Comes Home: Darling Ranges Dress


Readers, I'm having an affair.

Don't worry! No need to rush to the nearest fainting couch. My affaire de coeur is of the sartorial sort. You see, I'm completely infatuated with the Darling Ranges dress from Megan Nielsen. It's my new favorite pattern! Since finishing this version at the beginning of November, I've worn it a dozen times. What's more, two other iterations lie in various stages of completion on my sewing table. It's just such a great dress. Let's break it down, shall we?

Darling Ranges is the first mainstream pattern from Megan Nielsen, an indie fashion designer (whose newest collection is to die for!) who previously released a line of maternity patterns. The design is straight from her Fall 2010 collection, Perth. The pattern first came to my attention, after the lovely Anna, from Paunnet, posted her enchanting sapphire version. With its three-quarter length sleeves, gathered waist, and fully-buttoned front, it was calling my name. I do love a shirt-dress! So, I ordered the pattern, chose some fabric from my stash, and set off to make it mine.

First off, the pattern arrived in amazingly short order. It wasn't even five days, in between order and delivery. Ms. Nielsen won me over with that, but - holy cow! - did it get better. The pattern itself is of the highest quality I've ever used - the paper was thick, but still pliable, and the lines were bold and clear. Infinitely better than regular pattern paper! It also comes in a velcro-tab envelope, easy to open and close. What's more, if you like to cut multiple sizes, the differing sizes don't overlap. If you cut an Large, but need to make a Small later? No worries! Just trace it off. But in the meantime, you can cut into the pattern right off, instead of tracing. (If, of course, you're making the larger size. I was. It was awesome.)


Construction was, similarly, enjoyable. Nielsen's directions are well-written, clear, and easy enough for even the newest beginner. Personally, I relished the subtle design details, like the bias trim finished neckline and the elastic-cased sleeves. There were no irritating facings to deal with! No need for that awful iron-on interfacing! Joy!


For fabric, I used a cotton voile bought from Fabric Mart during one of their blowout sales. It's a lovely violet, with a black & white geometric print. It was also $1.99/yard. Total steal. The buttons were a bit more difficult. Originally, I covered my own buttons in a light gray, but they blended in too much for my taste. After quite a bit of hunting, I found some vintage black bead buttons that were just the thing. They don't show up in pictures at all, but they're delightful. I love the slightly retro feel they give the dress. With my leftover fabric, I'm even considering making a fabric covered belt, just to keep up the theme.

Things I Love:
  • The sleeves! Y'all, I don't know what sort of magic Megan Nielsen conjured, but these are the most comfortable sleeves I've ever sewn. They aren't too poofy or too tight. Plus, the elastic casing at the elbows was such an easy finish!
  • The pattern itself! In both design and function, this pattern was an absolute dream. I hadn't realized how much I hate pattern paper, until I wasn't having to fight with any.
  • The buttons! I love a button. I love a vintage button even more. They're, by far, my favorite closure option.
  • The bias-bound neckline! I love neat finishes and, while the neckline pattern looked a bit complicated, it was a breeze with the lovely directions and some navy bias tape.

Things I Changed:

  • Made a 2" FBA, then a 1" Narrow Waist Adjustment to make up for the added width from the FBA.
  • Omitted the back tie. I wear all my dresses with belts, so the back tie was really unnecessary, plus would have added a bit of bulk.

Things I Would Change, If I Made It Again:

  • Add another .25" to the FBA. I really like how it fits now, but since it's mainly a fall/winter dress, the close bodice fit hinders layering a bit. Just another bit of fullness would be ideal.

Tricky Steps & Suggestions:

  • As with all shirt-dress patterns, marking is so important. Since there is no separate placket, but instead a self-fold design, it's even more so for Darling Ranges. I would suggest using tailor's chalk or transfer paper to make sure your placket lines are visible and straight.
  • The neckline is a bit tricky. Okay, to be honest, it looks terribly complicated from the pattern itself. No worries! If you follow the directions, and breathe, it will all turn out just right.

Fabric & Notions:

  • Cotton Voile - Fabric Mart - $1.99/yard
  • 12 vintage black buttons
  • Navy bias tape

Fun fact, kittens! If you love the Darling Ranges dress, get excited. Megan Nielsen has another mainstream pattern releasing soon: the Banksia top! A Peter Pan collar...I swoon, I sigh.

26 comments:

  1. I love it! I really want this pattern because every version I've seen looks comfy and adorable. It looks short on the pattern illustration, so did you purposefully lengthen it or does it actually hit the knees?

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  2. Thanks, Andrea! Seriously, this is the comfiest dress I have ever sewn. If I could only wear versions of this pattern forever after, I would be totally happy.

    I was also really concerned about the length, after examining the pattern cover. However, after tissue fitting the dress, I decided to leave as is. It does end up being much longer than as illustrated. I'm 5'8'' and it's the perfect above-knee length on me, with the exact hem Nielsen prescribed.

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  3. I just love this dress and your version is lovely!

    I only it weren't approaching summer here in Sydney, then I could begin my own.

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    1. Thanks, Betty! Have you considered trying a sleeveless version? It's one of the suggested variations in the pattern booklet and it would be an adorable summer dress! I'll probably try it that way myself in a few months.

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  4. Great dress! You turned me on to a new designer. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! So happy to have introduced you to this great pattern. :)

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  5. I adore your version! It does look incredibly comfy, and I love the fabric you chose!

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    1. Thanks so much, Meg! Seriously, I wish I could live in this dress all the time, it's that comfy.

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  6. it looks awesome. i have my version cut out on my table right now. just need to get sewing.

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    1. Thanks, Kelli! I would love to see pictures of your version, once you've finished. There aren't enough of these lovelies on the blog circuit yet!

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  7. The dress is beautiful and thanks for the heads up on the designer. I had never heard of the company. I may have to put this one on my to do list.

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    1. Thanks, Stacie! You should definitely add this one to your list. It's a fabulous pattern!

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  8. I'm so happy I stumbled upon your post, and even more happy to hear you enjoyed my pattern so much! Thanks for posting such a great review hun :) Can't wait to see how your other versions turn out.

    Megan xoxo

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    1. Thank you SO much for stopping by, Megan! I'm thrilled you stumbled onto my post too. :) Your pattern is currently my favorite go-to dress. You did such an amazing job, both in design and drafting. I can't wait for your next design!

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  9. Ooh - lovely! I saw the first photo and assumed you had splashed out on a shop-bought dress :)
    Thanks for the link to that designer - the forthcoming top design looks great!

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    1. Umm, Roo, that's the highest compliment ever. Thank you so much!

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  10. Love love love! I have ordered this pattern after seeing your version. Love!

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    1. Thanks, Law! And - yay! - I'm so glad you're another Darling Ranges convert. I can't wait to see what you do with it!!

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  11. I love this pattern, too! Although I haven't made it yet it's on my to-sew list. This dress looks great on you! Now I'm inspired to try it sooner rather than later.

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    1. Thanks, Dixie! Knowing you, I'm sure your version will be absolutely amazing. Can't wait to see it!

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  12. This is wonderful! I've been eyeing this pattern over on Megan Nielsen's blog for ages, and your version is gorgeous!

    I just made my first FBA on my last project, and I'm really, really intrigued about the narrow waist adjustment you mentioned using after a FBA! I'd love to see any resources or tutorials you know of!

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    1. Thanks, Rachel! I'm so happy you like it! Unfortunately, I just switched computers, so I'm still moving my bookmarks over, including the narrow waist adjustment ones. However, I can tell you a bit of what I do. Basically, you just need to take width out of the waist however you can. I normally do this by adding a bit of gathering and easing it into the skirt, or widening waist-darts. If the darts are already giant, from the FBA, I'll just draft in two smaller ones to make up for the waist width. It's a bit of math, but it's not that tricky, and so helpful to keeping a silhouette.

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  13. Hi! I just found your blog through the sew weekly! You are so gosh darn adorable! I too am having a love affair with the Darling Ranges dress. Your is gorgeous. One of my favorite dresses I've ever sewn too.

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    1. Aww, thank you so much, Susan! Also, I'm so glad to meet another Darling Ranges addict. Isn't it just the best? Such a modern little dress! I could happily sew a million of them. :)

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  14. Stunning! I love every version of this dress I see, and yours is no exception! Great job and thanks for mentioning me!

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    1. Thank you so much, Anna! Your version still takes the take - it's absolutely amazing. You have such an eye for pairing fabric and pattern. Thank you for the inspiration!

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