I saw people participating in the Handmade Dress Swap last year and it looked like a lot of fun, so when I caught a notification about this year’s swap, I applied right away. If you’re not familiar with the challenge, it’s basically as it sounds – you are given a partner and you make each other a dress! You can also buy a handmade dress from someone else, but I’m not sure how many participants do this.
You can request someone in your own country, but I went for the “don’t mind” option and ended up being partnered with Kristy of @arch_and_aya from Australia as my swap partner. After we had been provided contact information, it was up to us to chat about how to approach the challenge. Kristy has great personal style – very colourful and bold – and she also makes clothes professionally, as well as designing fabric, illustrating and a whole host of other creative endeavours, which made me slightly nervous about making a dress for her. I shouldn’t have worried about it though – it was great getting to know her and we came to the point where we could sew our garments fairly quickly. We both share a love for bright colours (I guess why we were paired?) and my mind started turning over ideas pretty quickly once I got a feel for her style from her IG feed.
Kristy expressed an interest in pinafore-type garments and after looking through my pattern collection I came up with a woven pinafore and a knit pinafore pattern. I wouldn’t have considered knits before really, but the Bibi pinafore from the new Tilly and the Buttons book “Stretch – a guide to knits” is very cute. As it turned out, Kristy agreed and so, unexpectedly, it was time to look for some knit fabric that both suited the pattern and her style! I had a few contenders in my stash, but I had to be sure they had enough body to support a pinafore shape.
I came across this French terry I had stashed away and instantly thought it was perfect. It had enough stretch, a bit of body and was in the bright colours I saw Kristy liked to wear. She’s also an artist, so I thought the kind of 80’s brushstrokes look might be up her street as well. I had had vaguely thought of using it in a raglan sweater or similar, but knew this would be a better home. And here she is wearing the final dress – doesn’t she look great?
The sew was pretty straightforward: the instructions are very clear and the pinafore part is actually an add-on to the Bibi pencil skirt. I sewed the wooden buttons on fairly loosely, since I was pretty sure that the likelihood of the perfect strap length was extremely slight.
Apart from that I got off fairly lightly in terms of fitting though, as a knit is much more forgiving than a woven garment…
…which brings me to my own dress that Kristy sewed up. She knew that I also liked bright colours and is a strong supporter and advocate of Australian design and fashion, so decided to use this amazing Jenny Kee quilt cover, which she upcycled into a mash-up of the Lilou and Megan dresses from Tilly’s first book!
Didn’t she do an amazing job? I love this dress and have already worn it out on several occasions. It’s so bright and happy – and I love the scalloped neckline, puffed sleeves and all the red stitching and zipper details. Look at this weird picture below, haha.
The fit is also excellent considering we have never met each other and only gave each other basic measurements. The only place that gaped a little was the back, which was a little wide, so I added a couple of darts and that helped immeasurably.
I really enjoyed the challenge and would definitely recommend it to anyone thinking about it. It’s a little nerve-wracking at first, but you quickly realise that everyone’s in the same boat as you and from then on, it’s a lot of fun! It definitely helped that I had such a laid-back partner and I’m looking forward to trying it again next year! 😀