My First Pattern Test: The Ava Dress

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll probably notice that I’ve sewn up quite a few Pattern Scout patterns. That’s why when there was a call for pattern testers for the Ava Dress on the Pattern Scout Newsletter (always sign up for the newsletter because this is where all the good stuff is!) I signed up to do the testing immediately. I suffered a bit of self-doubt for a moment. I mean, who starts a new hobby as complex as sewing then signs up to be a pattern tester as a beginner? But I guess Pattern Makers would need testers from a wide range of skill levels and I was lucky enough to get in!

So, what is the Ava Dress? From Pattern Scout, “The Ava Dress is a sleeveless, popover dress with a faux wrap bodice and elasticated waist designed for woven fabrics”. In my own words, I would describe it as a wrap dress with a more minimalist aesthetic. It has a very neat silhouette which can be worn for work or play. It comes in two lengths which also increases the versatility of the dress and the sleeves are designed to just peep over the edge of your shoulders which is very flattering and very chic.

The testing turnaround was a week. I have no idea if this is the normal time given for pattern testing but I suppose if you’re about to put a pattern out, you need your testers to be giving you their feedback in that short amount of time to finalise your adjustments for the pattern. It might also prevent details of the pattern leaking out before launching. It was exciting to imagine that I was part of a secret mission and team that were tasked to secretly make this fabulous pattern and then wait for the release to be able to finally let our friends and family know that we contributed (in some small way) to helping the birth of a beautiful new garment. 

But let’s be clear that the design is completely the work of the Designer, in this case the very talented Casey Sibley of Pattern Scout. Pattern Testers are asked not to “hack” the pattern during the testing. We sew up the pattern and simply give feedback on the instructions, garment fitting, pattern pieces and the feel of wearing the garment. There was also an inspiration board on what fabrics other Testers were sewing with. I chose a cotton linen to sew up the shorter version of the Ava Dress. According to my measurements of High Bust of 36 inches, Bust of 37 inches, Waist of 33 inches and Hips of 38 inches, I fitted best into the Size 12 B. Like with most new patterns, I made a toile of the dress to check the fit and it seemed that I didn’t need to make any adjustments. When I made the final piece, I just added an inch to the elastic for the waist and also left the hem a bit longer by folding over by 1cm twice rather than folding over by 1cm then by 1 inch. These are just personal preferences and not really to do with designer’s fit of the garment.

As a beginner sewing enthusiast, I tend to look for extra skill sets I can learn from a pattern. I look at purchasing patterns not just as items I’d like to wear but for the skill set that I can gain from sewing those patterns. In the Ava Dress Pattern, I love that Casey gives such clear instructions on how to french seam the garment, how to interface the facings in a neat way and the flat felled seam was also a first for me. 

Would I do pattern testing again? Yes! Without hesitation if I’m lucky enough to be selected. But I would have to feel comfortable and I would have to love the design, as I do here. It does come with a little bit of pressure due to the time frame so it’s important not to let the designer down by not completing the mission (should you wish to accept). Other than that, the other sewists were so knowledgeable with their fitting expertise. It was inspiring to be in the same space (albeit, a virtual space). I felt so supported and included all the way in this community of sewing experts.

To have a look at the Ava Dress for yourself and to see what the other Pattern Testers made just go to https://patternscoutstudio.com/products/ava-dress-pdf-sewing-pattern

The Ava Dress

Mash Up Fun

Facing lockdown again, there has to be an upside and that upside is time. Time to indulge in a bit of sewing and to do something I’ve never attempted before. A mash up of two sewing patterns and to start a new hobby … blogging.

Patternscout and Marshastyle are two seriously talented independent sewing pattern makers. I’ve sewn quite a few of the Patternscout patterns, they are beautifully drafted and as a beginner, I find the instructions easy to follow and I’ve just learnt so much by sewing her patterns. The sizing is also always a great fit for me. I came across the Leila Dress by Marshastyle last year when I had just started out on my sewing journey. What’s not to love with the beautiful boho look of this dress? The statement sleeves are so unique and so was the tiered gathered skirt. The combination was just too hard to resist!

When I sewed the Leila Dress, I made a blouse hack to try out the bodice and discovered that the v- neck neckline was a bit too low for me. When I wear it, I usually have a cami top underneath so I found myself not reaching for this in summer when Perth hits 40 degrees celsius. As a result, I didn’t sew up the dress. I knew I would come back to it when my skill level improved and in fact, Marshastyle did a blogpost on how to modify the neckline to move it higher.

Leila Dress hacked into a top

Fast forward to the start of 2021, I found the Hana Dress Pattern from Patternscout. This is a lovely shift dress and she has given two options for the dress. One is a simple pull over the head shift dress and the other is made with a button placket starting from the neckline all the way down to the hemline. I have reached for these over and over again. I think what I love about the Hana Dress Pattern how the bodice fits me. The neckline is especially flattering on me which gave me the inspiration to try this mash up.

Hana Dress – button up version

When I came across this beautifully spring patterned Japanese cotton lawn, I immediately thought of the Leila Dress again. The fabric is so soft and lightweight. I haven’t had much experience sewing with cotton lawn but it would be the perfect warm weather fabric. I decided that I would use a muslin to line the dress as the fabric was quite sheer due to being so lightweight. The muslin also provided me with the chance to test the fit without cutting into that beautiful Japanese cotton lawn. The original pattern is not lined but lining a dress can be thought of as just an extension of the facing. From the Hana Dress, I used the bodice pattern pieces (front and back) measuring about 6 inches from the bottom of the sleeve hole (armscye) and cut straight across. From the Leila Dress, the tiered skirt was cut out but the sleeves were left off for the muslin.

Muslin lining

From there, it was a simple matter of trying on the muslin for fit and then using the same pattern pieces, now including the sleeve pieces, for the shell of the dress. The lining is attached to the shell via the neckline and the arm holes (armscye) and there we have it! A mash up of the Hana and Leila Dress. If you love the Leila Dress as much I do then check it out at www.marshastyle.com and enjoy her fabulous blog.

I’ve always wanted to do this with the sleeves.

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