Siena Sundress by Sew Over It Summer Dreaming

Having restored my confidence a little by sewing the latest Montana dress, now it was the time to try out the Siena Dress from the Summer Dreaming e-book by Sew Over It.

Siena Dress, top or skirt
from Summer Dreaming e-book

“The Siena Dress is the ultimate button-up sundress, with a fitted bodice with sweetheart neckline, shoulder straps, and a floaty gathered skirt. The bodice is shaped with princess seams at the front, and a fun shirred panel at the back – making fitting that little bit easier. Your choice of skinny rouleaux or wider straps can be adjusted to fit with sliders, meaning no slipping off your shoulders. The full skirt features roomy patch pockets, perfect for your sunnies. Siena also comes with the option to make it as a top and a skirt, perfect for pairing with your other Summer Dreaming makes!”

The main feature of the dress is the shirred back panel of the bodice and since I have not used this method since my teens, now would be a good time to revisit the technique.

I cut out the pattern from a length of White cotton printed with Lily of the Valley motifs. I have owned this fabric for at least nine years as it was part of a stash left to me by a dear friend who passed away in 2010. There were originally at least ten metres of this very wide fabric so there was no doubt that I had sufficient for at least two new dresses!

Lily of the Valley printed cotton

To begin, I made a test piece of shirring on a scrap piece but this did not gather at all. Back to the drawing board. I visited several youtube videos including one given by The Stitch Sisters which proved very helpful in learning how to shirr by machine before trying again on my scrap fabric. After a couple of trials I had it sussed and then shirred the entire panel ready for inclusion to the bodice.

Shirred Panel of Lily of the Valley printed cotton

I made the narrow straps and used the brassiere findings of fine clear plastic rings and sliders so that the straps will be adjustable. Once I had a fitting I decided that I needed much wider straps (circa 2 inches) to provide coverage of my bra straps that are wider than usual with lace trimming.

I cut a size 20 at the top of the bodice panels and graded out for my waist. I pieced together the various panels for the bodice and basted together with a long stitch. The first fitting was rather amusing as the shaping over the bust was rather extreme (think early days of Madonna and conical shaping!) but with the 6 seams of the bodice it was relatively simple to adjust the fit.

Having refined the fit I copied those adjustments onto new pattern pieces for the centre front panels and side front panels before cutting a second bodice to use as lining. I made the wide straps and tacked them into place before attaching the bodice lining as per the pattern instructions.

The pattern instructions suggest that you prepare the skirt panels before making up the bodice but as I was not making a toile, I wanted to check out the bodice first rather than prepare a skirt that was not used.

Having completed the bodice I now made up the skirt. I cut all the skirt panels to a size 26 as I had plenty of fabric and wanted to ensure a full skirt. I joined the skirt panels with French seams and made the two patch pockets. They were placed as indicated by the markings on the pattern. Once completed I felt that the pockets could do with being raised by 1 – 1.5 inches so have marked the pattern accordingly.

There is a 2 inch wide piece of interfacing on each leading edge of the front skirt panels to support the buttonholes and buttons. Gathering stitches are run the entire length of the waistline. Matching up the notches was straightforward and I particularly liked the suggestion to use a narrow zig-zag stitch when attaching the back skirt panel to the shirred section. Prior to reading the instructions I had wondered how this part of the waistline seam would be achieved.

I finished the waistline seam and skirt hem with overlocking. The facings are turned back and stitched in place over the waistline seam. The 2 cms hem was turned up and machine top stitched in place.

For the buttons and buttonholes I decided to ignore the pattern markings for only 4 buttons. Instead I placed 6 buttons on the bodice (to avoid any gaping) with 6 on the skirt. The bodice buttons are placed 1 and 7/8ths inches apart whilst those on the skirt are 2 inches apart. I had only many of this particular button in my stash and will be using some more on the next project.

Siena dress in Lily of the Valley printed cotton

Although not suggested in the instructions, I top stitched 1/8th inch from the edge around the entire bodice edges and along the front edges of the skirt panels. As I had used a stable cotton fabric this dress was an easy though not quick sew. Now that I have refined the fit, the next iterations should not take quite so long. I plan to make another but next time in a dark background print or possibly a plain cotton, I will see what I have in my stash!

Project #44 completed 21st July 2020