A Review of The March Top & Dress Pdf Pattern by Helen's Closet Patterns.
I always love the look of the patterns from Helen's Closet. They have a timeless look to them - the sort of item in your wardrobe that can be worn throughout the seasons and will look good for many years. My favourite pattern has been The York Pinafore Dress; I've made six versions (so far).
The March top and dress is a fun retro-style pattern ... We love this whimsical design because it is comfortable, easy to style, and fun to wear!
Source: Helen's Closet Patterns
The March Top and Dress pdf pattern has the following options:
dress length with gathered skirt and pockets
top with gathered peplum
top with straight peplum
voluminous sleeves in either short or long length
with or without necktie
Light to medium-weight woven fabrics with no stretch. Linen, cotton (lawn, poplin, voile, seersucker, shirting, double gauze), Tencel twill, and rayon/viscose challis or poplin will work well. Structured fabric like crisp cotton lawn will have more dramatic volume and drapier fabrics like rayon challis will have more fluid movement.
Source: Helen's Closet Patterns
The March Top and Dress pdf pattern is layered and comes in A4, US Letter and A0 versions but not projector. The instructions are really clear and well illustrated with lots of useful tips and explanations along the way.
This pattern is drafted for a height of 5'6" (I am 5'4"). With this style of pattern you can shorten (or lengthen) just by adjusting the bottom edge of the top or skirt because there isn't any shaping to the pieces. Once I had constructed the top and tried it on I was happy with where it sat in relation to my waist so didn't make any adjustments. After adding the skirt section I tried The March Dress on again and shortened it by 6cm.
I decided to make View A of The March Top and Dress: long sleeved dress with gathered skirt, neck tie and pockets and I really liked the idea of using a contrast fabric on the bodice. I had some navy linen fabric which I'd bought while living in Cyprus - it feels quite substantial and good quality but it leaves fibres everywhere when you are working with it! I had 2.2m of the navy linen which was 1.35m wide. Normally 2m is enough for me to cut out a dress pattern but because of all the gathering this pattern uses a lot more (recommended amount of fabric for the size 14 dress is 3.5m).
I chose to make the bodice using a contrast fabric - I'd used this fabric to make my Metamorphic Dress and luckily had enough left over. It was actually a large tablecloth bought from a charity shop. I used it for many years on the table at Christmas and now it has gone into making two dresses!
From the navy linen I was only able to cut out the skirt, the front and back top pieces and the sleeves. I had to trim the sleeves too, taking about 7cm off the straight edge to make them fit my fabric. Fortunately, because they are gathered at the top and bottom I was able to do this although it does mean my sleeves are not as voluminous as the design intends. I also didn't print out the skirt section of the pattern because I like to save paper and it's just two rectangles which I could easily measure and cut directly from the fabric.
From my contrast fabric I cut the front and back bodice, the pockets (which are huge!) and the sleeve cuffs. I cheated with the neck tie and used some bias binding.
Construction of The March Top and Dress is fairly straight forward. It's a nice one to take your time with and enjoy the process. For me, gathering the sleeves took the most time (you gather both top and bottom). I followed the usual instructions of sewing two lines of stitching and then pulling on the bobbin thread to create a gather but because this linen is quite sturdy the thread was really stiff to pull through. When I came to gather the skirt I tried a different method. I zigzagged over a centrally placed thread - this is then so very easy to pull from either end and gather - you just have to be careful not to catch that thread with your zigzag stitch.
I used bias binding to finish the neck of The March Top and Dress and put some beads on the end for extra fun.
Once finished I couldn't wait to try on my New March Dress and get some photographs taken. However, it feels very big and roomy - and I'm not sure how flattering it is on me. Looking at the original pictures on Helen's Closet it does seem to be that this is the desired fit though. I think that perhaps the linen is too stiff. I hope that after a few more washes the linen will start to relax and The March Top and Dress will have a softer more relaxed look to it. Also, even though I was really enthusiastic about using a contrasting red fabric with the navy linen I feel that the finished look is too much like a traditional folk dress or something I could wear on the set of Heidi!