Friday, 14 November 2014

Bonjour Francoise….

Just in case you think you've been transported to France, you haven't, you're still here with me and my appalling O Level French.….and the new Frenchy-style pattern from Tilly and the Buttons - the Francoise dress!


Francoise is a simple fitted dress designed for woven fabrics, with raglan sleeves, French darts for shaping and an A-line skirt. It comes in two variations: long sleeved or sleeveless, with a choice of added collar or waist tabs. I tested this pattern for Tilly prior to printing, so thought I'd share my finished Francoise with you today. My first thought when I saw the initial line drawings and photos was that the dress might be a bit youthful for me, I mean me in a mini dress, really? But I did like the raglan sleeves and French darts, so decided to go for it with a few tweaks. As I was testing the pattern, I couldn't muck around with the overall design, but I did increase the length by 1½" and omitted the collar and waist tabs for a more 'mature' look. 

I swear the hem hangs properly - I just don't know how to stand up straight
This pattern isn't as short as I originally thought. I had visions of a Twiggy-style mini dress, but actually lengthening it by just a small amount takes it to just above the knee on me which I'm happy with. Size-wise, I cut a straight size 4, but ended up taking in the waist and hips significantly. So I'd say the fit of my finished version is a 4 at the bust and a 3 everywhere else. In terms of construction, it's straight forward if you pay attention to the instructions. The pattern comes with full colour photos of key steps which really help with some of the less run-of-the-mill techniques such as the raglan sleeves and French darts. Here's a tip: although there's actually an instruction that tells you to "stay stitch the neckline and raglan sleeve lines", I still only stay stitched the necklines. There's even a photo showing you the step for goodness sake, what more did I need?! In my defence, I think it was just habit, I see the words "stay stitch" and associate them with necklines (or waistlines). I did realise before it was too late and stay stitched the raglan sleeves - make sure you do too! If you've never made raglan sleeves before, don't worry - the pieces fit together perfectly so you can't go wrong.


My other piece of advice with this pattern is to choose your fabric carefully. I, of course, did not and learnt the hard way. The dress has French darts which are large, diagonal darts coming up from the waist. They take up a lot of fabric so you don't want anything too bulky or you'll get an unsightly bulge. The fabric I used for Francoise is a lovely, heavyweight crepe in a sort of sea green. I was actually fabric shopping with Tilly when I bought it, and even though she told me it might be a bit heavyweight for the darts, I totally ignored her and went ahead and bought it (I'm stubborn like that). I don't regret it as the fabric is simply goy-jus, but she was absolutely right, there was way too much fabric for a smooth line, even on the bust darts. I ended up cutting all my darts up the middle, trimming them down and pressing them open flat. This worked, but does leave the dart edges unfinished. A small price to pay for a nice, flat dart though!

My fabric was also a bit troublesome in other areas - I realised my neck facing was far too bulky (after stitching it in place) so ended up finishing the neckline with bias binding instead. It looks fine, but doesn't have the clean, stitch-free finish you'd get with a facing.


You could also cut your facing from a lighter weight fabric (Liberty Tana lawn is a perfect weight) or just choose the correct weight fabric in the first place. However, once I got past my bulky fabric woes, I had a finished dress I was really pleased with. I think it's chic, classy and grown up but still retains a vintage edge. The French darts create a surprisingly flattering shape, which is a big bonus for those of us with curves!


In summary, I like it! There are some different design techniques involved, which makes for a slightly more challenging make. I'm talking about the raglan sleeves and French darts, so not exactly rocket science, but if you're hoping to move on from a first dressmaking project and expand your skills a little, then the Francoise dress would be a good pattern to try. If you do make the Francoise dress, don't forget to enter it into the Sewing Francoise contest - you could win a £500 Janome sewing machine or one of nine £100 fabric vouchers!!! Yikes!! x

The Francoise pattern was given to me free of charge for pattern testing. All views my own.




31 comments:

  1. Looks nice on you, the color suits!

    Do you mean you had to cut & press open the bust darts too, in addition to the French darts? French darts always should always get that treatment as far as I know.

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  2. Yes I did cut open the bust darts too. I've done it before with French darts, but never with bust darts. It was purely because of the thickness of the fabric - the dress weighs a ton! x

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    1. Gotcha! Not a usual treatment, but hey, if it works, it works :)

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    2. Exactly! Highly unorthodox, but sod it! x

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    3. In the interest of constructive criticism of the pattern, I would lower both sets of darts by about an inch. I noticed the same on Tilly herself, so it's an issue with the pattern, not the wearer.

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    4. Thanks for your advice. Looking at these photos in the cold light of day, I have to say I agree with you! Will definitely note it for next time. x

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  3. It looks lovely on you. A great Autumn dress. I've got a similar sixties sleeveless shift pattern, with French darts, but it has a centre front seam, which put me off making it. I ordered the pdf yesterday so will give this a go instead.

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  4. Beautiful dress! I love how you kept it simple and that fabric color is gorgeous. I wasn't sure about the pattern myself as its not my typical style but after seeing yours I definitely want one. The darts and sleeves are so lovely.

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  5. What an elegant dress! The fabric is a lovely colour and those darts really make it. A great addition to a winter wardrobe. :-)

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  6. Very nice dress! Good for you making your fabric work in the end. I am often guilty of ignoring the fabric recommendations, too. But you pulled it off!

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  7. What a lovely colour on you - looks great!

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  8. Great colour choice if not fabric. Still looks wonderful on you though and I love how you've accessorized it.

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  9. Perfect! Just curious about the back. Is there some darts for a more fitted look? How did it come out for you? I'm always concern that this kind of dress makes my butt looks larger! Thanks for posting.

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    1. Hi, yes there are long contour darts on the back dress pieces, which are very flattering. That's why I think this pattern works for me: it's a shift dress but it has a lot of shaping for those of us who are curvier! x

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  10. Hee, your commentary is so funny! Love this blue Françoise on you! What a great platform to dress up or down (a big yes to that awesome statement necklace!!). And while you may have struggled with them, it shows off those beautiful darts! I think the length you ended up with is perfect for what you were going for, too. Lovely all around!

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  11. This looks so cute on you! I love this color- I can see why you had to use the fabric!

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  12. Beautiful Jane! Lovely colour and it's great to see how you've adapted it to suit. I wondered if it was a little too 'young' for me too. I do like the collar version though, maybe either / or rather than both :-)

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  13. Hi, I love this colour on you, and the dress is very cute. I hope you take my next comment in the spirit it is intended, however, the darts are too high for you. I noticed it on the lace top you made too. If you alter your patterns you will find that the garments will fit you even better.
    Keep up the good work, I enjoy your blog and think you have a lovely style

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    1. Thank you very much. Yes, another commenter pointed this out about the darts too and I think you're right. I recently went on a pattern cutting weekend and made a bodice block, so I'm hoping my dart positioning will improve once I start using it! x

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  14. Nice dress ! I love the shape and the color. I'm a french blogger and sewer : Françoise is a great name !

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  15. I think this dress really suits you. What makes the pattern for me is the French darts.

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  16. Hi, do you think the dress can be fine for an appled shaped woman. My problem is my belly and I wonder if choosing the right fabric this is not too much in evidence.
    Thanks,
    Roberta

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    1. I'm not apple shaped but I certainly don't have a flat stomach, and I don't feel like my stomach is on display with this pattern. I do think the choice of fabric has a lot to do with it, so maybe don't choose something too thin? The darts will also help shape that mid section. Best of luck if you do make it Roberta! x

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    2. Thank you so much for your answer.
      Roberta

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  17. The fabric might be heavy, but it's divine! I want to reach into my screen and touch it!

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  18. The fançoise looks fab! And your darts look so smooth no one would know you had any problems.
    I have my pattern traced and was going to cut out my fabric today - a corduroy! And I was going to use a double knit for the sleeves.
    I'm a bit worried now that the corduroy will be too thick?!?!

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    1. Hhmm, it might be a bit thick, but then again, a for Francoise would look fabulous! You can always cut the darts open and trim them like I did if the cord is a bit bulky. Let me know how you get on. x

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  19. I like the color of the fabric you have chosen. The dress looks great on you especially pairing it with this nice necklace

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  20. This looks fantastic on you, that colour is amazing! I have bought the pattern and am really excited to make it. I have three fabrics sitting in my cupboard I think would be perfect for it!

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