Hi! I’m Rachel and I have a recently-rediscovered passion for sewing.
a.k.a Belladone for Barcelona… a.k.a the one week dress…
The observant among you may have noticed that whilst fabric shopping in Barca I was wearing something new. If you did spot this then congratulations, you were correct! I was wearing the Deer and Doe Belladone in a lovely blue chambray.
I’ve been a long time admirer of Deer and Doe patterns having seen some gorgeous examples online, and the Belladone has always struck a particular cord for me. I’m clearly not alone in this as the Belladone seems to be an addiction for lots of seamstresses out there. You can see a couple of my favourites here, here and here.
Here’s the first of what surely will be multiple Belladones:
The opportunity to make my Belladone came when my boyfriend and I made a snap decision to book a trip to Barcelona leaving in a week’s time. Cue plenty of panic on my part – I didn’t have anything to wear!
I scoured pattern makers for the perfect mooching-around-the-city-and/or-beach dress but kept coming back to the Belladone even though as an intermediate make it would be a bit of a challenge for me. What the hell I thought, it’s just too pretty to resist! I mean it has pockets, pockets! And it’s all about the back…
Full disclosure here, this image has been ever so slightly airbushed but only to remove a very unhappy looking insect bite. Trust me it’s better for all of us this way!
First up alterations: Deer and Doe state that their patterns are designed for an average height of 1.68m or 5ft 5″. I am quite a tall lady at 1.77m or roughly 5ft 10″ so I was ready from the outset for some major alterations. Rather helpfully, Deer and Doe’s pattern model, Camille, is 1.72m. Understanding where the average length fell on Camille was helpful in working out where and by how much I would need to extend the dress in order for it to fit me.
I do love getting my legs out more than most but felt a midi-length would be best for the Belladone and so I added an additional 1.5 inches to the length. My experience of Simplicity 8523 E has also taught me that I will automatically need to lengthen my bodice going forward. I added an additional 1 inch to the front bodice and the centre back.
Just as note on the pattern here, unlike the majority of independent patterns I have tried out so far the Belladone does not come with a lengthening line. This wasn’t really an issue for me but would have been a helpful addition to the otherwise brilliant instructions.
As many a blogger will tell you one of the greatest challenges for this dress is in getting the back to lie flat. I was well aware of this potential banana skin before I began but with a strict time limit I didn’t have time to make a muslin. What I did have time for however was to buy a lot of chambray ready to rectify any hiccups along the way!
Not having had too much time to reflect on 8523 E I cut my bodice to a size 38 which whilst fitting at the bust left me with a bit of gaping at the back neckline. I had to make a choice at this point and decided to rectify the back neckline as, let’s face it, that’s the money shot for this dress. I moved the neck points further over, creating more of an overlap and a narrower diamond to get the fit at the neck. The sacrifice was slight gaping at the front neckline as you can see below:
Once completed I also seemed to have too much fabric at the centre back which led to further gaping. I didn’t panic here however as I remembered my Anna and followed the same technique in moving the zip to create a larger seam fitted exactly to the arch of my back. I really should credit my boyfriend here as without him pinning it together whilst I was wearing it I would never have got it to fit so well – little does he know he’s now got a job for life!
I should also take this moment to talk pleats. The pleats were the bane of my life for the dress. My brain just couldn’t seem to compute when making them!
For this pattern the pleats are made by making the fold on the reverse of the fabric so that the marks meet. The pleats are then stitched using a 0.75 inch seam allowance to form the pleats.
Reading this back now this all looks very simple but what I couldn’t quite understand was whether the fabric was stitched together at the fold first anyway, my first attempt was an accidental but very well formed inverted box pleat and on the second attempt I went through both layers of the fabric.
As you may know chambray doesn’t really like too much unpicking so I was using up my spare fabric pretty quickly and I was getting worried. Finally whilst thinking nothing of sewing but only, as I sprinted for the train, how I was late for work, I finally got it and it was so simple. I just needed to treat the pleat as a seam however I also needed to sew away from the fold of the pleat so it would become a soft tuck. Hurrah!
Double hurrah as you can see below I managed to get my pleats to line up perfectly with my front darts – hurrah x2!
Whilst she may not be perfect I’m a big fan of my Belladone and in taking on this challenge I’ve managed to put in my first pockets and my first machine-stitched blind hem, I’ve used bias tape for the first time and of course made my first pleats!
I also discovered in the course of this make that there doesn’t seem to be too much picture-heavy advice on what to do if you suffer a pleat meltdown like I did. I’ve made note and I will seek to create some pleat related Cheatsheets in the near future.
I leave you for today with my final Barca photo: