I loved the first version I made of By Hand London's Zeena Dress and knew my wardrobe would benefit from a couple more. They are just so easy to throw on in the morning and feel great in all day, especially when it's hot. My first version was in breezy cotton voile and I knew I wanted something similar for the second version as it suited the design so well. I'm a bit of a Pinterest addict and have been making an effort to recreate looks and styles I've pinned to my sewing inspiration board this year. When I spotted the image below a long way back and found this lovely plaid double gauze on Goldhawk Road I bought it with the intention of making a similar dress but it got put away in the stash and semi-forgotten about. I was flicking through my Pinterest when I was in the process of testing the Zeena pattern and realised that the relaxed style of it was perfect to recreate this look and that discovery was all I needed to spur me on and dig out my plaid! It was one of those instances of everything coming together almost accidentally to make a great project!
If you haven't come across double gauze before it's a wonderful summer fabric. It's formed of two layers of gauze caught together at regular spaced intervals by a thread from one layer passing through the second. It means it retains it's breathable, lightweight properties whilst having the added bonus of being less sheer than a single layer. The two layers obviously don't need to be the same so double gauzes often have a different design/colour on the reverse to the front. In this cause one side has an almost tartan like plaid with thin checks of red a black crossing through the thicker green and white check while the other side has a stripped back version of this with just the green and white. I was planning on using the more intricate design but once I had the pattern all cut out I decided I preferred the bolder look, especially for summer!
It was my first time working with double gauze and it is certainly not going to be my last! I might have to treat myself to a purchase from Miss Matatabi as I often find myself flicking through her Etsy shop and drooling! It's so lovely to work with, the machine goes through it easily, it stays put and presses so well as well as being easy to wear and wash. The only trouble I had with it is that I frayed like crazy!! To combat this I overlocked all my pieces before assembly. It has an almost cheesecloth like texture which was a great match for my inspiration picture as it has that soft and crinkled look. As I had hoped, it turned out to be the perfect weight and drape for this relaxed fit style.
Pattern-wise I cut the size 8 again and my bodice was shortened by 3/4". I made the same alteration of taking 1" out of the width of the neckline each side as I did with my first version. I have quite small shoulders and have problems with the width of many patterns in this area but the Zeena in particular seems to be unusually wide here. I took some more off the length but this was really down to a lack of fabric rather than being a design choice! I think it was about 2" and I used a scant 1/2" for the hem. It's now just about long enough for me to feel comfortable in it with bare legs but I don't think I'll be wearing it on a particularly breezy day!
I actually used this double gauze to make up my test version of this dress as I had 3 metres of it and figured I'd still have plenty left for another project. I didn't like the fit of my test version at all as the relaxed style was already an unusual style choice for me and the size 10 which I usually cut with BHL patterns I felt swamped in. Also the neckline was wide and the bodice a little long. It wasn't terrible but I knew I didn't feel comfortable enough in it to get much wear out of it. However, I did adore the combination of the bold plaid paired with the shape of the design and decided I absolutely had to make a better fitting version out of the remaining fabric! However, I didn't have quite enough of my beautiful double gauze left so I opted to make some changes to the skirt pattern pieces so I could squeeze them on.
I could have unpicked the skirt from my test version and used that but after looking back at my red plaid inspiration dress I was quite taken by the idea of experimenting with slightly less fabric in the skirt and redistributing the pleats so it was flatter across the stomach and centre back. To do this I worked out the maximum skirt width I could fit onto the fabric I had, then folded this out of my pattern pieces and redrew the notches for the pleats. This was very straightforward to do as the skirt pattern pieces are just big rectangles so I didn't have to worry about ruining any shaping.
Unfortunately the lack of fabric meant that any pattern matching went pretty much out of the window! I did make an effort to ensure that the vertical stripes of the plaid were spread evenly either side of centre as I felt keeping the design looking balanced was most important. I also focused on getting the plaid to line up horizontally across the centre back seam as that is really obvious compared to the skirt side seams which are partially concealed with the pleats of the skirt and are broken up by the pockets. The movement of the skirt also hides the lack of pattern matching in this area so I'm pretty satisfied by how it turned out!
Another benefit to working with double gauze which I hadn't foreseen was that the double layer means it's great for any hand stitching as you can just catch one layer with your stitching and it won't show at all on the right side. This was really useful when it came to the facing on this dress as it really wanted to flip out to the right side, despite me vigorously clipping, under stitching and pressing along the neckline. Just stitching it down at the shoulder seams and centre back didn't do the trick so (as with my first version which I had underlined) I caught it down with a slip stitch all the way around the edge.
Despite having to figure out fitting the skirt pieces onto the fabric the dress only took me 4 hours to make in total including the cutting! Another reason why my wardrobe might end up full of these! The dress is unlined which is one of the reasons why it's so speedy, but it's worth bearing in mind when you make your fabric choice that you need something completely opaque. The instructions are great as usual and I particularly liked the tip to baste the pleats in place at 6/8" rather than within the seam allowance as it kept them tightly closed when you actually stitch the seam line. It does mean you absolutely have to go back and remove your basting stitches but avoids the risk of the pleats spreading apart slightly as they move through your machine. The only thing I did differently to the instructions was to under stitch my pocket openings.