Saturday, March 29, 2014

Miss Emilia Captures the Castle : The Mortmain Dress

Good evening, sparrows! Today, we had our first big spring thunderstormcomplete with window-rattling thunder and buckets of rain. All those ominous clouds had one lovely side effect, however: hazy, filtered lighting. Since getting my fancy new camera, I've developed a disturbing emotional investment in lighting conditions. I'm now throwing around phrases like "the golden hour" and dragging poor Sam hither and yon, in search of reflective walls. Luckily, I had a project all ready to document this afternoon, so I trotted out to indulge my photographic whims. 

This is the Mortmain Dress from Gather, an independent pattern company out of the UK. I'm shocked more of these haven't appeared in Blogland, because this dress is adorable. Not only does it have a waistband, which is a surprisingly rare design feature, but it was also named for the Dodie Smith's beautiful novel, I Capture the Castle. Ever a sucker for waist-emphasis and literary geekery, I couldn't say no to the Mortmain. I paid the international shipping and checked my mail compulsively for the three weeks it took to arrive. 

Once upon a time, Fabric Mart held a crazy clearance on all of their cotton shirtings. As a result, I have an inordinate number of small scale striped fabrics in my stash, including the navy-and-white one featured in this dress. I love using them for bodice muslins, because they make super cute linings, if the fit turns out alright. This one, however was destined for greater things. I thought it would make a perfect Mortmain, when paired with the leftover navy linen from my last Emery dress. Lo and behold! I was correct.

This is a wearable muslin, of a sort. I did a substantial FBA on the bodice, which turned out perfectly, then made the rest of the dress as prescribed. As can sometimes happen with FBAs, once the whole dress was put together the fit wasn't quite as perfect as it seemed. There's a tiny bit of stress on the waist darts, which is much more noticeable in pictures, but that I'm going to fix next time around. They need to be shortened by a good half-inch. Bodice fittings: always an adventure!

Despite little fitting things to figure out, I adore the Mortmain. This is such a well-drafted pattern. Everything fits together beautifully and the final product is just as adorable as the pattern envelope promised. Why don't more dress patterns have separate waist pieces? One of my biggest challenges, as a plus-sized hourglass figure, is fitting both my bust and waist. Invariably what fits my bust is a little poofy in the area below. A waistband, however, fixes that problem and emphasizes my shape. Brilliant!

The Mortmain's construction was so easy, kittens. It's a very basic pattern: six darts total, simple box pleats, and an exposed back zipper, all finished off with facings. If you're a beginner who's looking for a more exciting dress pattern to try, this would be a great option. The instructions were wonderfully clear and easy-to-follow, as with most indie patterns.

Of course, this is me we're talking about. You know I didn't follow this pattern to a tee.

First off, there is no interfacing in this pattern, not even in the waistband. Waistbands tend to stretch out over time, so some reinforcement was necessary. In order to achieve that and omit those pesky facings, I fully lined the bodice and waist with more cotton shirting. Hmm...I wonder why the bodice is under unexpected stress? Surely not because I went rogue on the pattern plans! 

The only other change I made was to hand-pick the exposed zipper in, rather than insert it by machine. Hand-sewing is my absolute favorite thing to do, while watching television. This one was put in, while watching Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, one of my favorite book series turned into a small screen gem by the lovely Aussies. If you haven't watched them, the first season is on Netflix, while the second is already up on! I highly recommend them for other lovers of the 1920's and well-crafted mysteries. They're also a joy to sew along with, thanks to all that costume eye candy.

Back to the subject at hand, darlings. The Mortmain dress is an utter success! The size range isn't quite as broad as I would prefer--it only goes up to my waist size, a UK 18/US14--but it's worth the purchase, if you do fall within its range. The design is simple, but still different from the regular Big 4 herd, and ideal for beginners or advanced sewists looking for an easy project.

Personally, I'm already dreaming up ways to modify this pattern. With the side dart rotated back to the waist, it could easily turn into a gathered bodice reminiscent of 1950's shelf bust party dresses. It would also look killer with a collar, or a contrast waistband set off against a novelty print. Too cute!

The details...

Things I Loved:

  • The waistband! Such a fresh twist on the basic dress pattern.
  • The skirt! I love a box pleat. You will definitely see this skirt pattern adapted onto other bodices. 
  • The fabric! This linen continues to rock. 

Things I Changed:

  • Hand-picked the zipper in place. 
  • Fully lined the bodice and waistband. 

Things I Will Change, Next Time:

  • Lengthen the skirt by two inches. 
  • Shorten the bodice darts by 1/2 inch
  • Finish with bias tape, instead of the prescribed facings or lining as I did here.

Tips & Tricks:

  • I highly recommend that you reinforce this waistband somehow, whether that be through interfacing, underlining, or lining as I did in this version. If you want this fit to last, that baby needs help to avoid stretching out. 

Notions & Fabric:

  • Navy & white shirting - $5
  • Navy linen - Courtesy of Mood Fabrics
  • The Mortmain Dress Pattern from Gather - £13
  • 22-inch white zipper - $2.50

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