Friday, May 11, 2018

Ariana Woven Dress, Style Arc Patterns

May I present you the fabulous Ariana Woven Dress from Style Arc.

While I sewed it, I was thinking of all of you, so I actually remembered to snap a photo here and there when there was something I thought would be useful to know, both if you also want to make this dress and/or in general.

I guess you can consider this post a #miessewingtips x 10.

Let's talk fabric first. As earlier mentioned on my Instagram account I was gifted this fabric from the glorious fabric store Cloth House in London, to celebrate that they now have a webshop as well.
I had the hardest time choosing but ended up with this gorgeous Big Spot Ikat fabric. It's so soft and so perfect for this dress. I was so focused on not getting big white spots on my boobs, that I sort of messed up the dot pattern matching on bodice vs skirt...but hey, there are NO spots on my boobs, haha.

I learned a valuable lesson while matching up these big dots on the skirt side seams too...yeah, I know, they don't look matched up at all, ha. I matched the horizontal lines of dots but didn't think it would be that important whether I took into account the shifted pattern of dots. Lesson learned! 

Now on to the pattern, which is actually also a gift. I don't think it's a secret that I'm obsessed with Style Arc Patterns. Until now I've been happily buying them myself but they emailed me and asked if they could send me a few patterns as a thank you. Um, let me think about for a whole nanosecond! Yes, please! So I got this one (Ariana), the Hattie Woven Dress and the Ethel Designer Pant. I'm excited to make them all....and all the other Style Arc Patterns I have, but have not yet made. You can't say I'm not working on it though. 5 out of my 6 makes from April were StyleArc Patterns, see HERE.

The shirred back is such an amazing detail. Not only does it look amazing, it also helps with a great and flexible fit. And seriously I can't believe how well this dress fit me.
The only fit changes I made to this pattern, was to add length to the bottom of my bodice. How the heck is that even possible for such a fitted style?!
When choosing what size you make (in any garment), you need to look at your own body measurements PLUS the garment you are making. Different styles will have different key measurements. In a style with a gathered skirt like this, hip measurement is usually not important at all because there is plenty of room for hips. In this case I knew waist measurements was key for me because my bust is tiny (and I was expecting to alter the pattern smaller at the bust). Just like if you make pants and your hip measurement put you in a bigger size than your waist, then choose the size according to hips and alter your waist smaller, not the other way around.
So my waist measurement put me in a size 8, so that's what I made and that's what you see here.

At first I added 2,5 cm to the length of all the bodice pattern pieces (I have a long upper body), but after messing up the shirring on the first dress (the denim one. More about that further down) I had to remove some of that extra length I've added. Which luckily turned out to be exactly what I needed. In fact for my dotted version I ended up removing all the extra length I added to the back piece, and then curving the bottom seam of the bodice to fit the longer front bodice pieces. I'm not sure I have a swayed back (??) but nevertheless that's what this pattern alteration is called. It's something I have to do to most my tight fitting patterns, so it's a my-body-thing, not a this-pattern-thing.

Here comes the shirring story and the first tip:

I'm not going to talk much about the shirring because Style Arc have made a great video for this specific step. You can find it in their highlighted stories on Instagram. 
But I learned a valuable lesson when making my first Ariana (the denim one). The pattern has notches for every line of shirring which is amazing and I totally thought I was able to easily sew from one notch to the corresponding one on the other side of the shirred back piece in a straight line. Haaaaa, was I wrong! And I have sewed a ton of shirring in my time although it's been awhile. I certainly did start and end at the right notch but the line between ended up being more and more curved, even though I thought I sewed a straight line. You basically don't notice you are doing it until closer to the end of piece and you have the bottom of the piece to compare with. And since you fold the long shirred back piece and sew an elastic casing in afterwards, straight shirring lines are kind of important. SO for my next one, I marked the shirring lines with a washable chalk fabric marker as you can see above. That helped a lot.

And here you see an up close of the back. So the top row of the now folded shirred back piece, has been stitched to form a casing and an elastic has been pulled though. If I don't remember wrong, they are showing this step too in the video from Style Arc. I also have a tip about it further down.
The elastic helps to keep everything in place better than just shirring will. Great attention to detail.

My next tip is regarding the straps. I knew there was no way I was wearing this without a bra (My bust might be tiny but I have nursed two children and then we will leave it at that, haha). And I personally find strapless bras annoying. Instead I widened the straps a bit so they are wide enough to cover bra straps. I also did extensive fittings with the designated bra, so the bra straps were placed on the back pieces exactly so they cover my bra straps. And yes, that is mighty awkward to do alone but I managed.

The top of the front side bodice piece is drafted to fit exactly the original width of straps, so you need to make a tiny change if you make the straps wider. But don't fret, I have a photo for you.

I'm thinking the photo is pretty self-explanatory. I'm literally just extending that flat bit where the strap is sewn on a bit further out. Easy peasy.

The great thing about Style Arc patterns coming in separate files is the marking of seam allowance. When patterns are nested together, it's usually impossible also to throw in SA markings on all the pattern pieces because it would turn into a real headache to deal with.

As you can see above Style Arc works with various SA depending on seams which is true to how it's done in the industry. Instead of spending time cutting down the fabric afterwards on seams that always needs cutting down (and not to speak of the waste of fabric - I know, I know, we are talking millimeters but in the industry that can become a lot of fabric in the long run) they make the SAs smaller to begin with. I have always hated having to read through a full tutorial just for this absolutely crucial information, so I LOVE when it's marked on the pattern.

I just need to talk about buttonholes too because I'm on a mission to spread the word about placement etc. IF a garment has any type of placket, then buttonholes are always placed vertical (and HERE is a tutorial on where to place the button in a vertical buttonhole).
This dress has no placket (or topstitching that looks like a placket) so horizontal buttonholes are allowed. HERE is a #miessewingtips on how to correctly place buttons and buttonholes in horizontal buttonholes. It's very important that your button ends up exactly CF of the dress, which means the buttonhole has to be placed according to that or your sizing will change.

This dress has five buttons on the bodice which are placed closer than the seven on the skirt. Again great attention to detail because you want lots of buttons to hold in your bodice but you needs less in a wide skirt.

Now I took this photo to tell/show you a couple of things.

First let's talk interfacing. I fully interfaced my lining/inner layer (same fabric and pattern pieces as the outer layer). I also added a strip of interfacing on the front both of the bodice and skirt where the buttonholes/buttons go in. Lastly on the seam that is sewn to the shirred back piece, because I found that it need to be stabilized to hold up the elasticity from the shirred piece. Not all fabrics will need this but mine benefitted from it. 

Now what am I trying to say with those numbers you probably wonder?

I'm trying to show you how I changed the order of sewing the bodice together to be able to end up with a finish I was more happy for.
Part of my training to become a seamstress was to predict all the sewing steps in my head before I even started sewing. But not only predicting them but also predicting them with the intended result. As fast as possible, as pretty/neat as possible, as high end (the industrial way) as possible etc. It can be hard to do when it's the very first time you sew a pattern and sometimes I follow directions because I prioritize other things such as fit. So when I made the first Ariana in denim fabric, I was treating it more as a wearable muslin. Getting the fit right was my number one priority for that one.

And I know this next bit is going to be boring to read and probably not make a lot of sense, without having made the pattern yourself. But I'm writing it, so that if you decide to make the pattern, you can go back and check this out and maybe it will be helpful to you too.
Style Arc is suggesting that after you have finished shirring your back piece and sewn in the casing/elastic at the top, you sandwich the folded back piece in between the inner and outer layer. Now there is nothing wrong with that suggestion and it looks just as great. BUT now you can't sandwich your skirt in between the two layers of the bodice. I will get back to why I prefer that to be done a bit later.

So what my photo above is telling you, is how to change the order of sewing, so you are now able to sandwich your skirt between the layers.

Sew the shirring on the back piece.
Sew the bodice seams, inner and outer layer. (1s) Press seams.
Sew the inner and outer bodice layers together at the top (plus front, not shown). (2) Press seams.
Sew the whole inner and outer layer to each side of the shirred back piece in one long seam. (3) Press seam.
Not shown: Now fold the bodice so inner and outer layer's wrong side is against each other and the long shirred back piece is divided in two, half inside and half outside layer. Sew the top row with a regular stitch to create the casing. 

(1) Reach inside the bodice and pull your elastic through the casing, but only so much that the end of the elastic is 1 cm (3/8") to the left of the pink dotted line up there on the photo above. 
(2) I'm fastening the elastic first in one side (sewn in the ditch of the seam from the outside with a small stitch length), then pulling the elastic all the way through and (3) fastening the other end of the elastic in the other side of the casing, also with 1 cm (3/8") to the right of the (3) dotted line.

Now let's talk about why I want to sandwich my seams UP between the two bodice layers. I'm kind of opening up a rather big subject, that I have been wanting to talk about for years but kept putting off because, gah, there is so much to say.

The subject is the importance of the direction of your seams. I know, sexy huh!

It's something you can go through your whole sewing life not knowing about and be just fine, ha. But it's one of those many many small details in sewing that together with all the other small details, make the bigger picture and eventually determine the result of your finished garment.

There is no way I can give a full lesson on this, especially because it's not a black and white issue. There are tons of exceptions to the 'rules' and besides the rules are based on what looks the best. And that is of course a subjective issue. So if I'm saying one thing and you like the opposite better, well, by all means do it your way. All I'm trying to do, is to inform you of one more thing to think about when you sew. Information is power, right!

So have a look at the above photos. The denim one has the skirt sewn to the two layers of bodice and then the seam allowance (SA) pressed downwards.
The black dotted one has the skirt, sandwiched between the layers of the bodice and now the SA can be pressed upwards. Can you see how much better that looks?! It looks more smooth like that.
Like I said before, it's a subtle detail but they all add up to a gorgeous handmade result.

So here are some general 'rules' about which way to press the seams. (I know you can also split open your seams, sometimes as a choice of preference and other times because it gives a better result e.g. if you are sewing with thick fabric.) 
But here I'm just talking about the seams you sew first and then finish with a serger, or knit seams overlocked together with a 4 thread seam, and then press one way OR the other.

Here are my preferences*:
Shoulder, side seams (all kinds: skirt, bodices, sleeves, pants) and inseams: Pressed to the front.

Yoke and waist seams, side bust dart: Pressed upwards.

Sleeve cap/armscye: Pressed towards the sleeve.

Any vertical mid seams such as princess seams or vertical darts: towards CF/CB.

*Like I've already mentioned, there are exceptions to all the above. E.g. pants with side pockets, sometimes the seam is too bulky to press forward. So use your best judgement and feel free to ask questions.

So the next time you are standing in front of your iron, play around with the seams and see what you like the best. And when you get some more routines around this, start thinking about making sure the FRONT side of your serged seams is the one visible after you press the seam. Let me give you one example (and then we can finally move on). After sewing the shoulder and side seams in a shirt, I'm going to serge/finishing the seams before pressing. Now I know I want both my shoulder and side seams pressed forward, so I serge my seams with the back side up, because then the front of the serger seam will be the visible one, when the seam is pressed forward. I hope that makes sense?!

Omg, is anyone still reading at this point?!

The last thing I'm going to mention is the waist seam. Don't forget to do your checks along the way, to make sure that the left and right waist seam will meet up when closing the dress AND at the same time, that the top (bodice) and bottom (skirt) will meet up as well. Its MUCH easier to fix during the sewing process, instead of when the dress is finished. Another reason for a ton of fittings along the way.

And lastly a garment for a woman traditionally closes right over left. Take your right hand and fold it over your left, thats how this dress should be closed. So buttons on the wearer's left side and buttonholes on the wearer's right side. Opposite for men in case you wondered. I know these gender rules have become much more fluid these days and that's totally fine with me. You are more than welcome to completely ignore this.

Hopefully this post have given you some helpful tips and useful information. 
Get your Ariana Woven Dress HERE.

Get your fabric from Cloth House HERE.

Thank you!
And sorry, not sorry, for the novel!


  1. Gorgeous dresses, love them both! I also prefer SA at the waist to go up. I think it looks so much better!

  2. Oh Mie, the dress looks amazing. No dots on boobs haha I have been wondering if the straps were wide enough to cover up the bra straps. I share your thoughts on the subject completely! Thank you for such detailed post with so many tips. I know I will make this dress when warm weather returns down under, so I will re-read this post again. All of it 😉

  3. I love your dress. This post is a fantastic sewing lesson. You explain the whys of what you are saying so well. I have always pressed my shoulder seams back (i don’t know why, actually) so I will press them forward next time and compare. Off to read the buttonhole links! Thank you!

  4. Wow! Thank you for your detailed explanation of this pattern. I love Style Arc patterns, they are always an amazingly great fit on me. But, let's face it-their instructions usually leave a lot to be desired so I always search around for reviews and posts about whatever pattern I'm working on. I'm so glad I found your blog and that dress looks fantastic on you!

  5. I agree with Lyndle that this was an amazingly helpful tutorial which is transferable to all sorts of situations you come across in patterns! Thank you for taking the time to explain everything is such detail and take great pictures along the way. Love your dress and it IS an amazing fit. I'm with you re straps! I never go without a bra and strapless bras are just impossible for me (36FF) so whenever I see a strapped pattern I usually just bypass it for that reason.

  6. So many helpful and eye-opening tips in this post, Mie! Thank you! This is incredible. I felt like I should be taking notes the whole time I was reading this, but then I realized that I could just save this post (as I have saved pretty much all of your posts) in my "tutorials" folder, which should probably now be renamed "Mie's Tutorials"!

  7. This is an absolutely amazing post! Thank you so much for all the information .I have the pattern printed and ready to put together.

  8. Beautiful dresses! Excellent pattern placement and helpful tips. Love the example of the two waists and how nice the dotted one lays.

  9. This is why sewing blogs are awesome! Thank you and gorgeous dress!

  10. This is incredibly helpful, thank you!

  11. Yes yes yes about pressing seams! I just knew this was the better way but haven't had proof til now. Thanks so much for sharing now I don't feel crazy.

  12. Hi Mie! I'd like to sew this dress ahead of my forthcoming holiday (can you tell I'm excited! We're going to Sri Lanka! It's absolutely freezing here so dreaming of tropical sun...).... This has been such a useful post! Thank you! I have a little question, as far as I can see, the pattern only gives yardage for 1.5m fabric. But the ikat you used is 1.1m I think. Do you know how much you used? Thank you!

    1. Hi Victoria. I checked my order for the Ikat fabric and I got 3 meters. I can't exactly remember how much I used but it wasn't WAY too much, but definitely enough. And I assume you are talking about different widths of fabric, much you need with different width of fabric? I can't wait to see your dress and have an AMAZING vacation. Wow, sounds dreamy!

  13. I downloaded my first SA pattern yesterday (you guessed it, the Ariana dress!) and thought I'd check the internet for a few more detailed instructions. This is the first post that came up in the search and by joves, this is amazing! I'm a newer, but competent sewist and you've literally discussed all of the pattern points I wanted to amend + I love the interfacing tip. I can't wait to start snipping into my fabric in the morning and getting onto all of my adjustments. Thank you!


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Thank you!