Wide-Strap Maxi Dress & My First Shibori Attempt
A free pattern is easy to like. But a free pattern that is beautifully drafted with clear instructions gets a declaration of eternal love from me. The Wide-Strap Maxi Dress is possibly the perfect summer dress, and it's FREE!
The pattern is impeccably designed by Lauren Boyle of Elbe Textiles, and is a co-creation with Peppermint Magazine. The PDF digital pattern of the Maxi Dress can be downloaded instantly from the Peppermint Magazine website. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a suggested donation of $2 per pattern to help this small independent company stay afloat, and to continue creating these freebies. And there are many of them that have already been created in collaboration with In The Folds, and you can download these patterns on their website as well.
In fact, there are many more cracker patterns available on the Peppermint Magazine website like the Loungewear Set, the Playsuit, the Jumpsuit, the Wide-Leg Pants, the Button-Up Dress, and the Pleated Summer Dress. The list goes on. There are enough patterns to create a whole wardrobe full of me-made clothes. All this for no money! In addition, most of the patterns are beginner-friendly with clear instructions. Very easy on the wallet, and trouble-free trust-worthy construction. What more can one ask for? So it's definitely worth your time to check out the website, and give the suggested donation for every pattern that you download. This way, we can all benefit from more free patterns from Peppermint Magazine.
The Wide-Strap Maxi Dress has some sweet details. The first is its wide straps, which are wide enough for anyone who wants to wear a bra with the dress and have the straps discreetly hidden. Second, the back yoke is gathered up in a distinctive wide elasticated back.
Third, the dress tents out from the bust, and squares off where the side splits are.
Fourth, the opening of the side pockets have a great cut-out detail accentuated with top-stitching.
Finally, and most precious to me is that all the seams are neatly closed with French seams, so the inside of the dress looks and feels as lovely as the outside.
I love patterns that give as much consideration to the inside of the garment as they do to the outside. Nobody else but the wearer or maker will ever see the inside of the dress. It's important for me that the designer put in extra care and effort to streamline the internal side of the dress. It may be a small detail for others, but it makes a big difference for me in doubling the pleasure of wearing and making the garment.
Sizes for this pattern run from A-J. With body measurements of 32''/26''/35'', I fell into size B. the largest size J accommodates for a 49.5'' high bust or 51.5'' bust size. The high-bust and bust sizes are the most important measurements to decide which size to sew up because the dress pretty much tents out from that point. The elasticated back at the bust level also means that there is some extra give that is built-in that can be adjusted accordingly. I didn't do much adjustment to the pattern except to shave off 2'' from the length of the dress, and I added some extra topstitching to the top edge of the front yoke and the side seams. In addition, I also suggest topstitching the middle of the wide elastic in the back yoke. I find that it helps to keep the elastic from shifting from its place inside the casing of the back yoke. For this, I used a zig-zag stitch, and stretched the elastic band almost to full length with both hands while the machine was stitching it down.
Linen is probably the best fabric for this pattern. It has enough structure and the right kind of drape to show off the lines of the dress. It is the fabric of choice by Peppermint Magazine in their photos of the pattern, and I followed suit with a mid-weight white linen for mine. It's a fairly affordable linen at about 5 buckaroos per metre. It started off as a nondescript linen-muslin or high-end cheese-strainer. It doesn't have a sheen like some luxurious linens do, and the feel of it was on the coarse side. The white had a tinge of chlorinated green so I wasn't so excited about it to begin with. I don't even know why I even bought it, and the buyer's remorse came almost immediately after. So it was forgotten in my stash for months until the itch arose to do some experimenting with shibori dyeing.
Shibori is the Japanese method of tie-dye using natural indigo dyes. Since natural indigo wasn't available to me, I went to an arts supplies store and bought some commercial dye for natural fabrics - Marabu Fashion Color in Dark Blue (No. 053). You can also use whatever commercial dye you have on hand like Rit dyes or Dylon dyes. Many repeated patterns for shibori are created by folding accordion folds to the length and/or breadth of the fabric. The resist patterns are created by the tight folds, small pieces of wood clamped down onto the fabric, and with string or rubber bands.
Most instruction videos on YouTube show many folding techniques using small pieces of fabric. When done precisely, the folding creates interesting and beautiful patterning. The challenge was folding large pieces of cloth that measured 1.5m X 1.4m. I found that using an iron to crease the folds while I went along was extremely helpful for precision, and to reduce bulk. I practised two different folds, both involved folding the accordion fold on the grain-line as the first step.
The first one was then folded into squares (again in an accordion manner); and the second was folded into equilateral triangles. The square fold was secured with rubber bands with square blocks of wood placed in the middle as resist to the dye The triangle fold was simply secured with rubber bands at strategic places.
Then I followed the dyeing instructions on the package, and voila - a piece of cheese-strainer transformed into the most beautiful fabric.
How exciting! It was a metamorphosis that exceeded my expectations. The shibori has given a piece of lack-lustre fabric character and glamour. I couldn't stop looking at it to appreciate the myriad patterns that resulted depending on the position of where the fabric was in the folds, and how that affected the amount of contact that the fabric had with the dye. It is mesmerising how each pattern shifted and changed throughout the fabric according to the folds and resist techniques. Magical! I love how each piece of fabric that goes through shibori becomes an original piece because it is impossible to create another identical print.
This means I'm going down another rabbit hole - falling happily into the world of shibori techniques to create fabric patterning. I can't wait to get my hands on more dyes and white linen, cotton and silk to experiment more with this new endeavour. For the Wide-Strap Maxi, I used the triangle fold pattern for the front of the dress, and the square-fold pattern for the back. The uninterrupted lines of the dress really shows off the patterns on the fabric. So I'm also on the look out for other sewing patterns that will complement other shibori textiles that I make in the future. I am psyched!