Jane Eyre Dress

1 Gathering Jane Eyre1 Sew 2 pro Jane EyreI like to play around with the ‘governess dress’ theme and the brief I gave myself for this year’s version was ‘demure… or deadly?’

(You do realise, I hope, that almost everything I do and say is tongue-in-cheek 🙂 )

The fabric is pincord, the finest known to humanity.  Over the last few years I’ve made many dresses and shirts out of this and will continue to do so till I run out of supply (this current batch is from Rolls and Rems in Lewisham). I love its softness and warmth; it has substance yet for some designs, say a circle skirt, there is the necessary drape too.  I would have liked the contrasting detail to be just white in a crisp cotton or silk (for a particularly strict governess look) but I worried that the repeated washing would cause the black dye to spoil the whiteness.  The tartan is, I think, a good compromise and on the few occasions I have worn this I’ve been given the thumbs up.

Back in March while making this, I listened to a dramatized serial of Jane Eyre on Radio 4 with what I consider to be among the most interesting young actors around, Amanda Hale and Tom Burke, in the main roles.  As I worked on my governess dress, I imagined it on Jane. Here she is, pattering lightly on the stone-flagged floors of draughty Thornfield Hall, dabbing at her permanently dripping nose.  That’s what one of those big, pouchy pockets is for – a hanky! 1 Jane Eyre

The other pocket’s a money bag.  When he remembers, Mr Rochester tends to issue his wages in half-yearly lumps.  But reader, don’t hold it against him, for we have traveled into the past, where there are no nice shops and no stuff to buy.

1 Back View1 Inside outThe back is shaped by two contour darts, the sleeves are ‘bracelet length’ and there’s a side zip.  Do you like how I’ve used tartan leftovers on the inside, including a bias strip as hemming?

Email me if you would like to buy a pattern of this dress which I can design to your measurements. The fit is similar to a shift dress but with room at the front due to the volume from the bust dart gathering.  Being above the knee, it has a sixties, mod vibe.  The level of skill: intermediate.

Link: Quiz: How Jane Eyre are you

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Sureau I

1 Sureau 31 Sureau sideI’ve been given 2 narrow metres of an interesting Indonesian batik which is virtually vintage (well, from the 1990s anyway).  Before cutting into it to make my Sureau, I’ve  made this muslin to check the sizing and assess if I can get away with a small amount of fabric.

Sureau (which means “elderberry”) is a beginner-friendly pattern from the French indie company Deer & Doe.  It should be a very quick make; however, the addition of a piped collar needed quite a few hours to make it fit after the neckline stretched through not being staystitched 🙄

The original pattern has a collarless neckline.  According to my pattern-cutting guru Adele Margolis, this is “for the young and the beautiful only”.  A collarless neckline, I quote: “calls for a firm chin, a smooth and slender neck, and a good set to the shoulders …  This leaves the majority of us out.  For us, the severity of the collarless neckline needs to be sotftened with a gay scarf [this book was published in 1959], our faithfull pearls [like I said, this was published in …. ], or a pleasing collar“.  Now usually when someone tells me I can’t wear something, I call them “the bleedin’ Taliban” but I have to admit that I find Sureau in its original somehow … raw.  It really is a pattern that requires an experienced sewist to employ some imagination.1 Sureau Pattern Envelope

1 Sureau close upThe original neckline shape is tending toward the V so I ‘scooped’ it by widening from the CF (and before drafting the collar).  The other change I made was to pleat the skirt rather than gather it.  I eyeballed this: I pinned the folds to be more or less symmetrical from the centres but I didn’t measure much.  I also shortened the sleeves to just above the elbow, then added bands. These, like the piping on the collar and the fabric of the covered buttons, are silver, which will hopefully be more dirt-friendly than white.

A word of warning about the sizing.  According to the pattern envelope measurements, I’m a size 40.  Having read some reviews of Sureau, I decided to make size 38 bust, shoulders and sleeves with size 40 waist and hips.  It’s still very roomy!

Black dresses with contrast collars and cuffs are a bit of a fetish of mine (as I’ve explained here.)  They’ve been quite popular in RTW recently; here’s a current cutie from Phase Eight.  What I love about my creation is that it goes perfectly with the ‘fangs’ necklace my son made me at school. The main fabric is fine needlecord from Rashid and perfect for those not-so-warm summer days.  In the autumn, I’ll wear it with tights, boots and a thermal vest.  And a gay scarf.

My OH pulled a face when I first wore this and said it “hangs off”: one of those double-edged comments that manages to wound both the woman and the seamstress in one.  Of course, ever since he made the remark  I’ve been cutting his meals with catfood!

Then again, having looked at these photos, I suspect I could possibly cut a size 36 bodice.  Time for making Version II.

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