I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a champion procrastinator. Faced with the prospect of spending a maximum of two hours finishing the outline on the blackwork embroidery, I decided that I would spend twenty hours on another doll dress.
1810 Bib-Front Dress, modelled by Marie-Grace 4
The pattern I used was the Thimbles and Acorns 1810-01 Bib-Front Dress which I bought in February. I’ve wanted to make this style of dress for a while but the pattern I already had didn’t inspire me with confidence, so I was delighted to see this one had been released in 2020.
Note for non-US readers: the pattern pieces exceed the printable margins on A4 paper at actual size. If you don’t have access to US letter paper, print on A3 instead. [I actually have a ream of letter paper I bought in the US about six or seven years ago, but once it runs out I’ll have to use A3 like everyone else, because it’s impossible to get here in Australia and buying it via ebay does not make sense — a ream of A3 paper is $13-20, while a ream of letter paper via ebay is USD 7 plus USD 30 shipping and then GST as well, so AUD 50 or more.]
The fabric I used was a lightweight white-on-yellow quilting cotton that I’ve had for many years, and the lining was yellow cotton voile. Both were easy to use, though subject to fraying because of the long straight cuts. I couldn’t find my chalk pencils so I used a fine-point mechanical pencil instead, but the marks do show through in some areas.
All stitching was by hand. For seams and hems I used Superior Threads Kimono 100-wt silk thread. For overcasting I used single strand embroidery floss (possibly DMC but it’s so old I can’t be sure).
(I apologise for the errant thread — I did brush the dress before putting it on Marie-Grace so I guess it came off my T-shirt while I was rearranging her.)
The bib in this pattern is supposed to have a gathered front overlay over a straight lining. I’m really bad at gathering so I decided to do narrow pleats instead. I measure the distance between the dots on the lining and added twice that to the pattern length. I marked off 1/8″ intervals in the seam allowance and made pleats. Somehow I ended up half an inch short after basting and pressing … I’m still not sure how that happened. I had to snip the basting stitch and relax the pleats a little to get them to fit, and unfortunately I was too lazy to re-baste, so a couple of the pleats slipped a bit too much when I was sewing the seam. If I do this variation in future I’ll cut a very long strip, do the pleats and then cut the strip to size. I used lightweight interfacing instead of a second layer of fabric between the outer layer and the lining.
The other goof was using 6 mm / ¼” ribbon for the button loops — I had already bought the ribbon to use as the tie and thought it would be narrow enough for the closure. It isn’t. I should have doubled it over or made bias cording as the pattern suggested. I also eschewed the Chinese knot buttons, using pearl buttons I had on hand instead. I’ll try the Chinese knots one day, just not right now.
The bodice went together really well. If making this again, I’d cut the back lining from a single piece rather than back + side back, since the seam is a straight line (it would be curved on a human, of course). Because I was using voile instead of “sturdy fabric” I added a layer of interfacing to the front flaps. I didn’t want a button in the centre so I added an inch in order to have two buttons/Velcro patches, but it was too much — a half-inch would have been much better. As I’ve noted previously in patterns where the bodice lining is turned and stitched over the sleeve seam, I ended up a few millimetres short and had to overcast instead. I had made a mental note to add 2 mm to all lining armholes before but of course I forgot this time.
The sleeves themselves are fantastic — I think they are the prettiest sleeves I’ve ever seen on a doll dress. They went together very well even though I am terrible at gathering, and the sleeve band was just the right width at 1¼” cut.
Skirt construction was very easy, being all straight lines. I was a bit perturbed by the amount of fraying — I think that temporarily basting the hems or pinking the long edges would help control this in the future. I made the tie channel a little larger than the pattern stated (3/8″ rather than 1/4″) because I knew I would be using a 6 mm / ¼” ribbon. Once the ribbon was in place I basted it to the centre front through the lining.
Because the dress is fully lined I decided that a chemise/petticoat wasn’t necessary. I did, however, make a bustle pad, which was worn under many Regency dresses to add volume to the back. It was a folded strip of homespun filled with six layers of cotton batting, and tied with a length of 6 mm cotton twill tape. I think I’ll try for a half-oval shape for next time rather than a rectangle.
The dress fits Marie-Grace 4 perfectly. Even with the botched bib front it’s a very pretty dress.
I tried to get it onto my mid-1990s Addy (my chubbiest doll) but it just won’t fit over the shoulders and I didn’t want to force it. I would like Addy to have a Regency dress of her own, so I may use Josefina’s Christmas dress pattern from Pleasant Company, since it was designed for a mid-1990s doll (I know that with a nominal date of 1824 it’s a little late, but it does have the high waist and puffed sleeves of the period) or I may try the Simplicity 8714 pattern (by Keeper’s Dolly Duds) — in my experience, the paper patterns tend to be a little larger than the PDF patterns.
A very well written pattern, easy to follow. All the issues I noted were due to changes I had made or poor sewing on my part. I’ll definitely make this pattern again with different bib variations.
Pleats take up more fabric than they are supposed to. It’s better to make the pleats and then cut the piece to the size required.
Graphite pencil will show through fine fabrics. Buy another chalk pencil if you can’t find the three you already own.
Bodice linings will always fall short in one area or another. Adding a couple of millimetres will save a lot of angst.