Self Assembly Required

DIY dressmaking + crafts with Emily

The Phaedra Drape

I’ve only recently come across Ralph Pink, a British pattern designer, via an installment on The Monthly Stitch and OMG I love his stuff. It’s got a really cool, luxurious feel to it and I can only hope to make clothes that look that good! I bought this pattern, the Phaedra Drape dress, pretty much straight away. I also was lucky enough to get the Sula blazer as part of my contest win a few weeks ago.

These patterns only come in PDF format by the way folks, so be prepared to get your scissors/ glue/ sellotape out!

The layout of print was not particularly easy to put together. I did find it fiddler than others as the edges/ markers to match up each sheet were too few so my pattern pieces are probably far from perfect. I just kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t cause too much problem when actually making the garment.

The Phaedra Drape is gorgeous parachute style draped dress – kinda like the one All Saints used to make back in the day (I loved those and own a few…). It was definitely love at first sight! The front and back of the dress each consist of 3 pieces – a centre with 2 side panels which include hidden pockets. It’s rated as a beginner pattern and looking at the line drawing and the instructions, it looked like I was in for a very straightforward sew!

I picked out a white crepe from my fabric stash to make it in. It has a reasonable weight and drape to it and is pretty stable which I thought would be important for a first time sew.

The first thing I noticed when I started making the dress was that the photo on the pattern cover was not a true version of the pattern itself. It’s shown with the upper part of the bodice as a separate piece – you can see the seam line – which is a bit worrying in my opinion. I thought that that was what I was buying (even though I saw the line drawing)! It’s definitely misdirection in my opinion!

The second thing is that there are not nearly enough notches to match up the side panels properly, not if you want to get the right angled seam in accurately and especially considering those pieces are cut on the bias. It has potential to go very wrong if you weren’t careful. I ended up being overly careful and drew in the seam lines into both pieces in a washable marker to ensure that my seam was as accurate as possible.

After that bit, everything went pretty smoothly until it came to the neck/ armhole facing. And that brings me to the third thing – at this point just throw away the instructions. They are no good to you…

It asks you to place the facing on the dress, right sides together as you’d expect, and to see the seams on both armholes. I did a double take when I first read it because I was sure that that doesn’t work. That you can’t turn a garment if you’ve seen both armholes to the facing. I thought that might just be in my head though so I pinned it together to try and no, I was right, the instructions indeed ask for the physically impossible.

Whoever wrote the instructions and made the dress were not the same person.

So instead I sewed the neckline in place, trimmed, notched, understitched and turned as you’d expect. I opted to bind the armhole edges with some shop bought bias binding. I did not do a very neat job of this AT ALL but I was so fed up with it by this point!

After all of that palava, I stuck the dress in the wash to get rid of the pen marks and guess what? The fabric shrunk! I can still get into it but it’s a fair bit shorter than I wanted it to be! 

I’m sincerely glad I wasn’t particularly enamoured with my final product… Let’s consider it a toile and move on to a new one…

Has anyone else made this dress? It seems like a real problem with the instructions and I wonder if anyone’s brought it to Ralph’s attention… It’s making me really worried about trying the blazer pattern. At least with a dress, I’ve made enough of them to figure out alternative options but I’ve never made a blazer before! I’d have no idea if it’s going wrong or not!

N. B. I’ve re-jigged the instructions and fixed it! I’ll be putting a post up on them soon in case anyone else needs them!

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  1. I’m so glad you made this pattern! I’ve got it cut out and ready to sew but I looked at the instructions and thought it looked far to complicated for a dress this simple.
    I didn’t like how they didn’t show you which order to finished the raw ends. I usually french seam my edges but I couldn’t figure out how that would work. Then reading on it seemed to get more and more confusing.
    I also think they should give you the instructions to make the promotion picture.

    1. I don’t know if I would French seam this dress – maybe on the side seams but not when attaching the side panels? I’ve written up some new instructions and will post it soon if that’ll help! The provided instructions are way more complicated than they needed to be!

  2. Lesson #1 always ALWAYS pre-wash your fabric stash! Personally I wash mine when I get it home. Then measure it, iron it and fold it neatly to stack in my storage displays. I have a bag of snippets of each fabric with a note attached telling me the type, width and how much I have. I keep meaning to make a mini catalogue of the snippets to refer to when I want to make a particular pattern up but I still haven’t got that far ~ I’d rather sew! I’m crap at keeping up my blogs too as I’d rather carry on sewing lol … Kudos to you for your amazing blogs though… I should be as diligent with blogging as I am with washing my fabrics lol

    1. I’m starting to do that now – wash as soon as I buy that is. I hate making silly mistakes like that! That’s a good idea to keep a swatch book around. Would definitely help keep track of what I have!
      Thanks, I try really hard to keep up to date with my blogging. Helps to keep me motivated to sew! 🙂

    2. Except raw denim ! I’ve just made the mistake of washing that too hastily and the washing has made white scuff marks on the fabric. T he pattern instructions (Closet Case Files Morgan Jeans) do say not to pre wash the fabric but it’s such an ingrained habit I didn’t get as far as the instructions before the deed was done !!

  3. That sucks that the instructions were that bad! It can really ruin a sewing experience. On the bright side the dress turned out super cute. If you’re worried about it being too short you could wear it like tunic. I think I high belt and boots would make it look totally cute. The dress design is adorable and I’m glad you powered through it. I bet your next one will be amazing!

    1. Thanks! I think I’ve sorted the instructions now so the next one should be a breeze! I think this one will definitely need a tights/ leggings and boots combo!

  4. The dress looks modern and you can always wear skinny pants under them if you think they are a bit too short now. I love drapey designs!

    1. Thanks! 🙂

      It probably took about a day to make, though most of that would’ve been trying to figure out what the instructions were trying to tell to do… Sewing is definitely not as hard as I’m making it sound right now and it’s lots of fun. You should give it a go!

  5. The dress looks great and I look forward to seeing what else you’ve done. I don’t always wash my fabrics because I used coin machines still and it doesn’t work, but thanks for the warning! 🙂 Awesome hair.

  6. Great make and review, pity about the shrinkage… I would contact the designer. I have a problem with my one pattern – Luschi jacket – and with its instructions too – he took a while to get back to me but then fixed the problem. Luckily for me, after using a pattern years back for a dress with an empire bodice where the side seams had an INCH difference and ended up too short, I always check pattern pieces against each other before cutting…. I measure key areas too if it’s something where fit matters…

    1. An inch! That’s a big difference. At least here the pattern itself was accurate – I think having to alter the actually pieces is far more difficult than figuring out bad instructions!

  7. Incorrect pattern steps are my biggest nightmare. Luckily, my $13 pattern I had ordered from Simplicity came out very clear, even though I didn’t get to sew it yet. If it’s any consolation, it looks good on you, and now you know what to look for when you make your next one!

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