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Sewing Pattern Review – Joni Dress (Tilly and the Buttons Stretch! Book)

Believe you me, I am as guilty as anyone for getting stuck in a clothing rut. In winter I look towards leggings/black tights and jumper dresses and jeans and jumpers as my failsafe option and in summer I really push the boat out and head towards shift dresses and swap the jumpers for t-shirts. I know, daring!!!!! 🙂 Does this sound familiar? Just step back and think about it though; how ridiculous is it that we do this?! As sewists, the world is our oyster when it comes to trying new things, but yet we instinctively head towards the same old outfit time and time again. What causes this? Lack of confidence to wear something new in public? The utter dread of spending time, effort and money making something new and different only for it to not suit us at the end?

I recently stepped way out of my comfort zone. I wanted to try one of the patterns from the new Tilly and the Buttons: Stretch! book and as it is threatening to head towards spring (random snowstorms and heavy rain aside) I wanted something that I could wear in the warmer months and that challenged me at the same time. I therefore chose the Joni dress which is the final project in the book and used several techniques that I have limited experience in, namely a twisted front and using clear elastic. This style of dress really isn’t one that I would usually go for as to me it is a bit girly and elegant, whereas I am not a girly girl and about as elegant as elephant on stilts. Granted, I am in quite a privileged position in that nothing I make is ever wasted – if I don’t wear a finished garment myself, I put it out on display in the shop to show off the fabrics and sewing patterns. However I certainly didn’t set out making this with the thought that I would never wear it. I am the same as you in that if I’m spending time making something, by hook or by crook I’m wearing the bloomin’ thing! I also chose this dress as I thought this style was perfect for the Altitude Dashwood Jersey. I’d been searching for the perfect project for this fabric for a while and I’m pretty good at getting fabric/pattern pairings pretty much bob on, so I was confident that even though the final product might not have suited me, it would nonetheless turn out to be a lovely dress!

With this pattern being from Tilly’s new book, it is set out slightly differently to her paper patterns. You’ll find that in amongst the pattern steps are separate instructions for carrying out the trickier techniques. For example in this one, in between some of the steps it hops to some techniques for inserting clear elastic (which I warn you now, will have you effing and jeffing like never before!) and again for inserting a hidden neckline binding. Personally, I would have preferred some additional instructions for the twisted front as I don’t think that bit was as well explained as it could have been and I’m still not overly sure I did it right, but hey, you’re allowed a bit of creative licence now and again and if it looks right and is secure, who cares!

The bodice was most definitely the trickiest part of this pattern. Once that was complete, the sleeves were set it on the flat (which is one of the most marvellous things about working with stretch fabric) so were done in no time and the skirt was easily sewn to the bodice. Sleeves and skirt hemmed, job’s a good ‘in!

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Let me tell you this, I could not believe how good this dress looked on me! I am certainly not one for blowing my own trumpet so if I say I like how something looks, then I REALLY like how it looks and perhaps now is the time I broaden my horizons and try new styles. As my mum said recently, “you’re 37 now, you can wear more things other than cargo pants.” Thank you, Mother, I think you will find I haven’t actually worn “cargo pants” since All Saints were prevalent in the mid ’90s!!! A bonus I also found with this pattern is due to it having an empire waist and having studied the finished garment measurements first, I didn’t have to cut out a combo of 15 different sizes! Yay!!! TOP TIP: ALWAYS look at the finished garment measurements before deciding on which size to go for. If you’re hovering between sizes yet part of the finished garment is quite roomy, you might find that you can go smaller than usual. Similarly if the garment is close fitting, you might want to go a size up if it means you can go out for a meal in comfort!

What I like about this book, which is the same as Tilly’s first book, Love at First Stitch, it that for each pattern Tilly has included variations so really even though there are only six patterns included in the book, the options are endless. Next time for this dress (oh yes, there will be a next time!) I plan on fitting side seam pockets. I think I’m that used to pocketed dresses now with me making my own that my hands don’t know where to go if there aren’t any! There isn’t actually a variation for adding side seam pockets to this dress in the book, but I will be sure to blog a tutorial for it when I do it so don’t fret my fellow pocket-lovers!

In close, my advice to you would be this: if you’re stuck in a style rut, give something new a whirl. It doesn’t have to be too drastic – just a change in neckline or trouser shape might be enough to give you and your wardrobe a new lease of life!


This pattern comes from the book Tilly and the Buttons: Stretch! Make Yourself Comfortable Sewing with Knit Fabrics by Tilly Walnes

Fabric used in this review: Dashwood Studio – Altitude Navy Cotton Jersey

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Thank you for making it this far and I hope you found this review useful. If you have any questions about this pattern, the book or the fabric used, please post in the comments below!

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