I’m a planner when it comes to sewing. Usually when I see something I like, I think about how to make it work with the patterns or fabric I already have, and I usually have to see lots of versions I love before I buy a new pattern, because I have so many already. But! This year’s The Refashioners challenge on Instagram hosted by Portia Laurie of Makery gave me the perfect excuse to impulse buy a pattern after I fell totally in love with a Instagram photo. It was regram of the Tilly and the Buttons Francoise dress made by Alexandra Bruce of Selkie Patterns.
The Francoise dress is not a new pattern and I’d seen plenty of versions before, but I hadn’t seen the sleeveless version used as a layering piece. I’ve been on the fence about dungaree dresses, but I’m now obsessed with layering the A-line sleeveless style dresses of the late 60’s and early 70’s. I want them with turtlenecks. I want them with pussy bow blouses. I want them in corduroy. In denim. With collars. With bows.
Okay, maybe that’s getting carried away, but I would like to try a couple other types in the next few months. I’m thinking the classic Simplicity Jiffy 1065 and the Jennifer Lauren Ivy Pinafore would make great winter jumper dresses for layering. (Serious question: Is a Peter Pan collar with a turtleneck too much? Asking for a friend…)
I think what I love about them so much is that they remind me of what I wore a lot as a kid. Only instead of tights, I would have worn bright leggings and equally bright, yet somehow mismatched tennis shoes. I wish I had pictures!
The pattern calls for a heavier weight fabric with just a bit of stretch to hold that super flared shape and still be comfy to move around in. Alexandra used a chunky corduroy, so I knew I would be looking for something similar. The rules for the Refashioners state that your fabric needs to come from something which had a life before – so not merely using thrifted yardage. Though the sleeveless version of the Francoise only calls for 1.5 meters of fabric, the pattern needs the fabric to be in long, continuous pieces.
I wasn’t very hopeful about finding a corduroy or velvet maxi dress, so instead I searched for curtains. And I love what I found! Given the detailing, I think they were even handmade! It’s so soft and cozy! Though, I did have to work around some sun fading and it frayed like crazy. I’m so glad I chose to cut the pattern out with pinking shears. But most importantly, I remembered to account for the nap. Good job, me!
For the tee underneath, I had planned to make a Megan Nielsen Rowan turtleneck from the skirt of this old jersey dress. It ended up being not quite enough fabric and I was getting really pinched for time. I opted to forgo the the turtleneck and I simply chopped the bodice off and hemmed it as a cropped tee. I likely won’t ever wear it on it’s own because it is very, very cropped, but it works well for layering.
The Francoise dress is my first ever Tilly pattern. I was introduced to Tilly and the Buttons when I first learned to sew. I bought her book Love at First Stitch, but I never actually made any of her patterns until now! The dress came together really easily and way quicker than I thought. The fit is mostly good. Definitely wearable, but I’ll make some changes next time. I didn’t do a full bust adjustment, but I should have lowered the bust dart and shortened the waist dart a bit. Next time, I’ll also add a little bit of length. I’m happy with where it hits me now, but I wasn’t able to do a proper hem.
The only thing I changed was swapping out the facing for a lining. This caused a bit of a problem when I thought I could still use bias binding for the arm holes. I basted the lining and fabric together and then bound them together. It resulted in uneven tension across the shoulder and the pull in the lining causes a bit of awkward wrinkling in the fabric. I’m going to have to redo both sides. If I can, I’ll stitch the pieces together like a traditional lining, but I may have to bind them separately and then catch-stitch them together by hand. I’m also planning to add a patch pocket to the front. I think it would be on point with that 60s-70s style. Plus I vowed not to purchase any dresses without pockets, and that mantra should probably apply to my makes as well.
The Make Breakdown
Pattern: Tilly and the Buttons Francoise
Fabric & Notions: 1.5 Meters medium to heavy weight fabric; 56 cm zip
Design Modifications: None
Fit Alterations: None – Next time I’ll lower the darts and add a couple centimeters to the length of the skirt.
Tricky Bits: Armhole bias binding
Proud Moments: Thinking to cut the fraying velvet with pinking shears and remembering the nap!
Future Plans: All the plans! I have a denim-look stretch cotton and a navy cord that be lovely.
I’m so excited for the winners of this year’s challenge of The Refashioners! I’m inspired to look at unwanted textiles in new ways. And I love my little jumper dress!