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.