The Fibre Mood Nina dress by Fibre Mood is one of the offerings in the new edition of the Fibre Mood magazine. I picked this pattern to contribute to the Link Party that comes with every Fibre Mood issue because I simply couldn’t resist the butterfly sleeves, the V-neckline, the back square keyhole with ties, and the lovely pleats on the front and back bodices. These details are so pretty that it was an easy choice. Well actually, it took me a few more minutes to decide because I was tempted by many other fantastic patterns in this issue, but in the end, I went with my initial gut feeling and the Nina Dress it is!
I am truly happy with the end result of this project, but I would be lying if I said I enjoyed the sewing process. For some reason, the whole making of it was jinxed. Almost every step on the way was peppered with a mistake or a misstep. It seemed like I spent 1000 hours seam-ripping, and cursed 10,000 times while I was working on it. My expectation was that the making would take 3 days tops but it dragged on for more than a week, and towards the end of it, I started to worry that I wouldn’t make the Link Party deadline.
Part of it can be blamed on my ambition. I initially wanted to hack this dress into a jumpsuit. I’ve done this before to other dresses, so I didn’t think it’ll be a big deal. However, my brain kept miscalculating the measurements, which led to a painful redrafting, and then another. And when I thought I had finally gotten the drafting correct and sewed up the pant legs to the bodice, I discovered that I messed up the crotch measurements, which gave me major wedgie problems. By then, the jumpsuit idea had to be thrown out of the window because I didn’t have enough fabric (or determination) to draft another pair of pant legs. Thankfully, I had just enough fabric left for a full-circle skirt, and that’s how this hack was born. This was the result of making multiple drafting errors, and then shifting plans with a major pivot. I had to say goodbye to the jumpsuit fantasy and embrace this skirt, which I think actually works extremely well with the bodice because it echoes the lovely shape and swish of the butterfly sleeves. Champions adjust! – a mantra that I used to comfort and encourage myself to move on.
Ok, I know you’re here for a pattern review, and I’ve just been complaining about a jinxed week of sewing and drafting. My apologies. So here’s the scoop – I love the design of the Nina Dress, but I think some of the instructions can be improved. Don’t let that deter you from getting the pattern though. Below are some suggestions that I have to make the sewing go smoother. I won’t be offended if you don’t take any of my advice since I just described a less-than-smooth sewing experience. LOL. But they may be helpful. I’ve gotten used to the style of guidance from Fibre Mood, so I know how to adjust, but I wonder at times how someone else might fair at it going in blind. That said, there are some really great things that I learned from the pattern. For example, I like how the bias binding is attached to the armholes of the bodice. And I will use this trick for other garments in the future. There are 3 main things that I think fellow sewers should watch out for:
1) Making the pleats. I found the instructions lacking and vague here. For someone like me who’s obsessive-compulsive, estimated amounts in the instructions regarding the pleat formation just frustrated the hell out of me. It felt like lazy pattern drafting. There are 2 pieces of information the pattern provides – first, the width of the pleats, and second, a chart with the estimated number of pleats for your size. So I basically had to figure out the distance the fold-lines had to be between the pleats. This bit of trial and error that I had to do annoyed me greatly. My perfectionist side was definitely getting in the way here. Maybe I just had to be OK with the imprecision, but that was hard for me. Anyway, to prevent you from going through this annoyance, I advise setting the fold-lines of the pleats at 1 ⅛” or 1 ¼” apart if you like how far apart the pleats are on mine. Also, use an erasable pen to draw in the lines. After the pleats are sewn and pressed, you may find that the necklines of the pleated pattern pieces don’t exactly match the necklines of the respective front and back bodice pieces, so slight adjustments can be made to the top and bottom pleats to get them to fit just right if required. The ideal thing would be that the pattern pieces come printed with the guidelines of the pleats drawn in so that we don’t have to go through this guessing game, but perhaps that would be too many lines to print on the paper patterns that overlap one another in the actual magazine.
2) Sewing on the front waistband. The instructions call for sandwiching the bottom edge of the bodice between the outside and inside front waistband to sew it on. The way it’s done as suggested doesn’t work for me, and makes for inaccurate sewing. That’s my opinion, and perhaps others are successful doing it the way it’s described – which is pinning 3 separate fabric pieces, then machine sewing the seam, and snipping into the seam allowance of the bodice at the pivoting point while sewing at the machine. For me, that’s way too much to handle all at once. To get a neat angle for the inverted V at the centre front of the waistband, I hand-baste one waistband first to the bodice, make a snip so that the seams match, then I hand-baste the other waistband on, and then I bring this to the machine. This is the only way which gives me a clean corner. But do what works for you. Oh, and I also stabilised the outside front waistband with lightweight fusible interfacing before any of the sewing happened. I was surprised the pattern instructions didn’t ask for this.
3) Consult the final garment measurement chart for the full circumference measurement of the waistband. To put on and take off the dress, it has to be pulled over the head, and the waistband measurement has to be wide enough for this to happen. For example, for a UK size 6 (my size), the waistband measurement is just shy of 34” (or 85.5cm). Loop this measurement on a measuring tape and fit this loop over your head and shoulders to make sure there’s enough ease to do this easily. 34” was a bit too snug to pull over my “broad” shoulders (compared to my relatively smaller frame). I could do it, but it’s a bit of a squeeze. If I added one more inch to the circumference and widened it to 35”, then pulling it over my head would be a more comfortable endeavour. To add an extra inch to the full circumference of the waistband, I added ease to the back waistband pattern by extending ½” at the side seam of the paper pattern. It’s worth checking this out before cutting the pieces on fabric. You may need this extension, especially if you have wide shoulders. It would be a real drag after sewing up the dress to find out that the dress can’t be put on if the waistband is too narrow.
Another modification that I did was to extend the length of the tie straps by 7”, so that when a bow is tied (instead of 2 knots to secure the ties), then there’s enough tie strap left to hang off the back neckline at a visually pleasing length. By the way, I always add length to tie straps just in case I need/want more. It’s an easy fix to make straps shorter, but impossible to lengthen after they are cut too short.
This pattern caters to sizes UK 4-32 or US 0-28, which go from 76cm-146cm or 29.9”-57.5” at the bust. There are so many pretty details on this pattern that it’s worth all the trouble of creating it. It’s a great summer dress and the original midi or maxi length skirt has pockets to boot.
The main modification I did to the pattern is attaching the bodice to a full circle skirt that ends above the knee. If you’re thinking of doing a full-circle skirt hack, then you can use the By Hand London Circle Skirt Calculator to figure out the radius and skirt length to cut out your fabric.
Here’s a quick tutorial on how to fold your fabric into 4 quarters in order to cut out your full-circle skirt. First, orientate your fabric as I have done in the first picture below:
The first fold brings one selvage to the other, essentially folding the fabric in half parallel to the selvage:
The second fold is made on the crossgrain, making the fold so that the fabric now resembles a square:
Now we can plug in the waist radius and the skirt length. I used a waist circumference for the skirt that is 1.5 times the waist circumference of the waistband. For me, that is 35” X 1.5 which is equal to 52.5”. With some mathematics (2πr = Circumference) – or you can use the BHL Circle Skirt Calculator – the radius of the skirt is around 8.4”. The width of the fabric limited me to a 19” skirt length plus about a 1/2” for a baby hem. Remember to draw in a 3/8” seam allowance at the waist:
The skirt has to be gathered up at the waist before attaching it to the bodice. Mark the four fold lines at the waist with notches to match up with the centre front, centre back and side seams of the bodice. I usually use the sides parallel with the selvage for the centre front and centre back of the skirt. I attached this donut-shaped skirt at the waist without creating a seam because it is not needed here.
However, if you want pockets, then you would have to factor in side seam allowances to your circle skirt calculation. This skirt has more swish factor compared to the original skirt, and it will be shorter because the skirt length will be determined by the width of the fabric.
The one thing that cheered me on through this unusually troublesome make (was Mercury in retrograde? Or did a nemesis put some kind of hex on me?) was the fabric. It was lovely to look at and feel on the skin. It survived the numerous unpicking, it was stable enough to handle all my sewing and re-sewing. It is soft, but also has enough body to give some poof to the sleeves and skirt. I love the print and the colours. It was a balm to my mind and soul, and kept me sane throughout. This is 100% Egyptian cotton lawn by Storrs London Fabric, and it was generously gifted to me by the company. It’s called Morpho – Gold Multi and it is simply delicious. Check out their website and drool at the lovely prints. I want them all!
Do check out the Fibre Mood Website and the pattern offerings in the new edition of the magazine. This is one of the issues that it’s worth getting the whole magazine because there are so many wonderful patterns like the Veronica Jumpsuit, the Milly, Lia and Simone Tops and the Viva, Zita and Meryll Dresses. The Nina Dress remains my top choice out of them all. But you may have your own favourite. If any of the patterns interest you, please consider using the links provided on this blog. They are affiliate links that help me with a small commission without any extra cost to you. I hope you’re ready to sew up some summer garments because there are plenty of pretty ones in this magazine. Happy sewing!