Helena dress

I love a good sack dress, and I’ve had my eye on the Helena dress from Sew Me Something for a little while.  It’s a paper pattern, so I waited until the Knitting & Stitching Show in Edinburgh to avoid having to pay postage.  I’m becoming one of those canny Scots I think….

The pattern itself is printed on quality, thick paper which I much prefer to tissue – I trace everything anyway, and tracing off tissue is not fun.  It also comes in a nice card envelope which comes in handy for storing the traced pieces too.  I traced off a size 14 at the bust, grading to a 16 at the waist and hips.  I deliberated over size for ages, I’ve had a run of things being a bit big, and eventually went for the recommended size based on my measurement – using my high bust measurement, rather than full bust.  And, well, this happened….

Excuse the curious cat poking his nose in.  I got to this stage with just the hem to do, tried it on, and it became obvious that a) I definitely didn’t need to go with my full bust measurement and b) I really didn’t need to grade up a size at the waist and hip.  In fact I could probably have done with at least one size down, possibly two.  After a small meltdown, I had a bit of a brainwave.  I remembered seeing this post on Jenny’s blog (I’m not actually stalking her, promise) and I thought gathering the skirt into a wide band at the hem might just rescue the situation.

I employed a highly scientific process – as usual – to draft the band.  To save cutting anything from my main fabric straight away I rootled through my boxes of scraps until I found a piece that looked about the right length and width, and pinned it on, just gathering up the hem as I went along.  It seemed to work, although the band was just a smidgen tight over the hips – the dress just pulls on, no zips or buttons.  So I then cut a band from my main fabric, eyeballing the width I wanted then doubling it over, and adding 5 cm in total to the length for extra hip room.  Then I just gathered up the skirt, folded the band in half lengthwise and joined the short ends together, then attached the two raw long edges to the hem – similar to a t-shirt hem band or neck band.  I’m actually really pleased with the result.


It is still overly roomy around the shoulders and armpits – the bust darts are really low – but it’s now something a bit quirky, with a more interesting shape than just a standard too-big sack dress.  It’s also nice and cool – despite us not really getting much sunshine so far this summer, it’s been warm-ish, and our office is just like a greenhouse so floaty is definitely good for work.




The fabric I used is a light-to-mid weight linen from Fabricland.  We were down south in June and I always have to make a trip to Fabricland when we’re there.  Although they now have a proper website, and online ordering, which might be dangerous!  Anway, for once I went with a list this time round, and one thing on my list was fabric for this dress.  I fell in love with the colour, I’m a sucker for anything teal, and the price at £6.99 a meter was pretty attractive too…..this is a really nice linen as well.  These pictures were taken after I’d worn this to work for the day – so it had been through bus journeys, washing up, cat litter cleaning and all sorts, and it’s got that nice rumpled look to it.


I like the length of this dress, it makes me feel taller with its longer lines – I did feel a bit dumpy in the un-banded version.  I actually feel really good in it – it’s a bit unusual, it’s my colour and it’s incredibly comfortable.


I know it’s probably not to everyone’s taste but I’m really pleased with it.  The sleeves roll up with a buttoned placket, and I used some pretty ceramic buttons I’ve had for ages which work perfectly.  It’s a nice dress to put together, with a really clean finish to the yoke – I think it’s the same as what I’ve seen referred to as the ‘burrito’ method, and you end up with all the raw edges enclosed inside the yoke.  The other raw edges are all finished with my overlocker, like most linen this was a bit fray-y.



I’ll be able to wear this version in winter as well, with tights and the sleeves rolled back down.  I also think I’ll make this again in a smaller size without the band as it was intended.  I think it would be nice in a wool crepe or a nice brushed twill or flannel for colder weather.  So in the end, a nice success salvaged from an almost disaster.  One of these days I’ll make something that doesn’t end up too big…..although sods law says the first time I do size down based on measurements it’ll be tiny…..


6 thoughts on “Helena dress

  1. I think it’s really cute and I love that colour! I think the important thing is that you feel good in it!

  2. Obviously I love the name! I really love how the added band at the bottom gives it shape – I had a dress like that in the 80’s that I adored! And the button tabs on the sleeves are a cute detail, too. I think it was really successful, Liz.

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