Every now and then I work on a sewing project where everything just sings. The pattern assembles smoothly, my fabric choice is perfect, the construction is untroubled, the fit immaculate and then I am ecstatic with the finished product. The Laneway dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade was such a project for me.
Coming off the high of testing her newest pattern last month, when Jennifer put out a call for folks to help her out with pattern reviews I put my hand up like a shot! As someone who nearly always looks for reviews before buying patterns I really appreciated her request. Plus it gave me a little kick up the butt to return to posting here, so that I have a better record of my sewing and crafting projects. The other added bonus was for me to help promote a fellow New Zealander, who is very deserving of wider recognition.
JLH patterns come as PDFs, with both A4 and A0 printing options available. Wanting to get started straight away, I opted to print the A4 format. I really love how Jennifer provides a guide for exactly the page numbers you need to print for the pattern view you’re making, and also that each pattern piece is its own little unit. This means you don’t have to tape a massive grid of A4 sheets, just little 3×3 or 3×4 grids at the most.
I took inspiration from the fabulous Laneway dress posted recently by Nina Nadel, and chose to modify the pattern a little by leaving off the sleeves. I prefer sleeveless spring/summer dresses because they can be worn more often between washes (I’m so lazy..) and I can layer with a cardigan, or even a long sleeve top underneath if I like. To do this, I lowered the armscye under the arm by 12mm, and moved the shoulder edge 2cm inwards, drawing in a new curve to smooth it all out.
First I made up a muslin in my usual size, 10D, graded out to size 12 in the waist. The fit was excellent in the shoulders, neckline and back. There was a little more ease than I liked in the bust, so I decided to size down here to the 10C (having since remeasured, I seem to have lost a little width around the bust) …. and that was it! Apart from the modifications mentioned above to allow for removing the sleeve, I didn’t make any adjustments for fit.
My fabric is a lovely medium weight linen cotton blend from Spotlight, in a whimsical floral print which reminded me of illustrations by the Disney/Golden Book artist Mary Blair. I picked a plain teal quilting cotton for the collar facings so as not to distract from the print. I also underlined the bodice with white cotton batiste as my fashion fabric was just a little transparent. Because I left off the sleeves, I drafted some rough facings by copying the bodice pieces and drawing in a line cutting above the bust/darts. This was a pretty rough job though, and I wish I’d taken the time to make sure they were the same length under the arm haha!
The underlining then allowed me to catch stitch down my facings.. and my seam allowances, so it’s all quite neat inside.
My choice to omit the sleeves meant that I followed quite a different construction order than the pattern, as I used self-drafted facings to clean finish the armscye. This Threads video covers how I assembled the bodice of my dress pretty well. However, I did have a good read through Jennifer’s bodice instructions and they are very clear and detailed. I sewed the pockets and skirt as directed.
Oh yeah, did I mention this dress has pockets?
The dress construction went really smoothly, with notches matching correctly and pieces fitting together as they should. The invisible zip instructions are also very good – every single time I have to do a bit of mental rotation to work out if I’ve sewed it in the right orientation, but the instructions here make it less stressful!
It’s really hard not to gush about how much I love this dress. The crisp collar detail, the shallow v-shaped back neck – which adds just enough interest to the back view, the clever bust tucks, the pockets…
But entirely apart from the design, the drafting and fit of this pattern is excellent. The instructions are very well written and accompanied where needed by clear diagrams. There is enough detail to hold the hand of a beginner, but not enough to drive an experienced sewer mad. It was a really very pleasurable sew, I enjoyed every stitch – machined or by hand.
There is very little I would change about this project in hindsight. I think it’s tempting to over-fit this style of bodice – but I chose not to. The pattern is designed with a small amount of wearing ease so that it’s actually just really damn comfortable to wear. I don’t have to worry about popping a seam if I eat that extra muffin at afternoon tea. I have seen a few versions of Laneway with contrast piping to highlight the waist seamline, and I think that would have looked great on this dress too!
Thanks so much to Jennifer for selecting me to review this dress. While I received the pattern gratis in exchange for this review, all opinions shared here are my own.
I can’t wait to see what Jennifer Lauren serves up next!