Monday, 2 September 2013

Darling Ranges

I'm getting a bit behind on blogging my makes!  I have this and another to do.  I've been pretty busy in the last week or so.  I was visiting my friend in England, then I caught a cold; so I thought I'd spare the interwebs from photos of my red nose.
I have no idea why this photo is so blurry!

Anyway, I'd been loving Megan Nielsen's Darling Ranges dress for quite some time.  I think the first version I saw was this one by Roobeedoo (Roo's notes on the bodice length were extremely useful).  I ordered the pattern (and the Kelly skirt pattern, which I still haven't made...) ages ago, maybe the end of last year or the start of this year, I can't remember.  I also had the fabric for a while, but the dress kept getting bumped down the queue because we actually had nice weather this summer, and I see my version as a Spring/Autumn dress.  I do love my Darling Ranges, but let me tell you, it was not without the odd problem - all user error of course!

Let's start with the fabric.  There were no problems with it though, it's lovely.  It came from Sew N Sew in Belfast.  It's the same as the polyester fabric I used for my first Mathilde Blouse, but with the colours reversed.  At first I thought the main colour was black, but then I thought it didn't look black enough to be black (yeah?), and decided it was navy.  But when I held it against navy things, I decided it was black again.  Although now I think it looks navy in my photos!  I bought 4 metres of it because it was only £3.99 per metre.  I didn't think to measure how much I have left, but there's probably enough for another dress.  My buttons are also from Sew N Sew, I think they were about 15p each.

I read through the pattern instructions, and also the sewalong on Megan's Blog.  Here's a link to my Darling Ranges Pinterest board, which has most of the sewalong posts on it.  I couldn't find them in one place on Megan's blog, but I might not have looked properly.

I followed the instructions for raising the neckline and also adding darts to the bodice back, both of which were really easy to follow and do.  The neckline is very low on this dress, and I'm so glad I raised it.  I hadn't thought of darts on the bodice back, and liked the look of them in the tutorial.  Luckily enough, I made the same size as on the sewalong, so just used the measurements on it. 

As pointed out by Roo in her bodice notes, the front and back bodice pieces seem to be different lengths.  I made a size Small, measured the front and back pieces before tracing the pattern, and there was a 0.5cm difference.  I made a toile of the bodice, and it was quite billowy at the bottom of the back, so I did a Sway Back Adjustment of 3.5cm.  It all looked grand, so I cut it out and sewed up the bodice and the skirt.

I have to backtrack a bit here.  One thing I noticed on the pattern instructions was that there was no mention of stay-stitching the neckline.  This seemed a bit odd to me, as the V is cut on the bias and I thought it would stretch out.  So I googled it, came across this post from Dixie DIY, and duly stay-stitched my neckline.   The stay-stitching had to be really close to the edge though, as the seam allowance at the neckline is 1/4".  I also interfaced the button placket because my fabric is quite drapey, I think that's mentioned somewhere in the sewalong.

It all started to go horribly wrong after I attached the skirt to the bodice.  The skirt is basically three rectangles with pockets in the side seams and it's gathered at the waist.  I did my three rows of gathering stitches, breaking them up into four sections so they are easier to gather, and sewed the bodice to the skirt.  I then spent 45 minutes unpicking aforementioned gathering stitches.  Then I started working on the button plackets, I had the dress spread out on the table, and something near the bottom hem caught my eye.  I thought, "hum, what's that?".  Guess what it was: guess!  Bet you can't.  It was the flippin pockets.  I sewed the flippin skirt on upside down!  After I got over the initial shock, I realised that it wasn't the end of the world because, as the skirt is a big rectangle, the fit was still ok.  There was no way on this green earth that I was going to unpick the skirt, so I did what any right-minded sewist would have done, and unpicked the pockets and moved them up the side seams.  In fairness, any right-minded sewist wouldn't have made such a stupid mistake, but there you go!

Once it was finished, and I tried it on, sadly the back was still quite baggy.  In hindsight, I think I needed a bigger sway back adjustment; but I extended the back darts and made them a bit wider.  In the photo below I was looking at a bee; also, I dyed my hair again.  It's a different colour than the last time, I think it's a bit dark, but Mr BB and my sister liked it.


The buttonholes behaved beautifully when I was making them.  I've had trouble in the past with the automatic buttonhole feature on my machine.  It makes a great buttonhole on a fabric scrap, but refuses to do it properly on the real thing.  Instead it seems to stitch in the same place instead of feeding the fabric through, or makes the buttonhole too short.  I had a think about this, and decided that maybe the weight of the fabric on the whole garment was too much for the feed dogs to deal with.  I could see that one of those big flat bed thingies that some machines have may help, but they're not available for my machine.  So here's how I managed to get it to work.  I placed the fabric where the buttonhole was to start, set the machine and put the needle down.  I held the piece of fabric closest to me with my left hand, and put my right hand through the space in the centre of the machine to hold the piece of fabric at the back of the machine.  I held the fabric up so it was level with the bed of the machine, and also held it so it was a bit taut.  I also found it helped to do the buttonhole at a bit of a speed.


Here's a photo which hopefully makes it a bit clearer.  Please excuse the ancient, bobbly cardigan - I was cold, and it's nice and warm.


  • The bodice is supposed to finish above the waist, but I wanted it on the waist.  I added 6cm to the back and 5.5cm to the front, as on the size Small the back is 0.5cm shorter than the front. 
  • FBA of 1".
  • Neckline raised by 5.5cm.
  • After the problems with the underarms on my Hawthorn dress, I raised the bottom third of the armscye by 1" on the front and back - it worked like a charm. :)
  • Sleeves shortened by 1/2", and I made cuffs as on the Mathilde Blouse instead of having elasticated cuffs.

One thing I noticed when I tried it on was that the side seams are pulling to the front.  I noticed it when I went to put my hands in the pockets, and it just seemed that the pockets where further forward than they should have been.  I don't know if it shows so well in the below photo, but the top of the seam, right below the underarm, is in the centre and then it moves to the front as it goes down.  (And it's not just because I have my arm back.)  I'm wondering if I maybe made the waist darts too wide when I did the FBA, but I'm pretty certain I remember making sure I didn't.

I do like my Darling Ranges, and I think it will be lovely in the Autumn with tights and boots.  I have some different polyester fabric to make another one, but I would like to sort out the issue with the side seam before I make it. 



  1. Lovely dress Lynne.

    I've got a white skirt with what looks like black flowers but are dark brown when you hold black fabric next to them.

    I reckon the fabric is more navy than black in these photos. Despite your mishap with the pockets it still looks fab :)

    1. Thank you! I definitely think it's more navy than black now. I'll be interested to see how it looks with my black boots, but they're up in the roof space at the minute!

  2. It's a lovely darling ranges, Lynne but its your write up that is so useful! Thank you, I have it on my radar and in my possession for autumn too. Really comprehensive construction story! I'm glad all the work was worth it in the end, it does look fab on you, with your gorgeous hair colour!

    1. Thank you! I'm glad my notes are helpful (and make sense)!

  3. Gorgeous! Even though you had a lot of issues with the dress it was totally worth it as it's beautiful - just love those spots! I have to admit that I giggled at the pockets story - whoops (totally something I would do!)!
    And as Scruffybadger says, a really helpful writeup that I'm sure future DR sewists will find very useful.

    And how do you always find such nice fabric in Sew-n-sew?!!!!!

    1. Thank you! I couldn't believe I was so stupid with the skirt, and I'd been feeling so pleased with myself because the gathers looked great! I find Sew N Sew is one of those shops that you have to rummage in (a bit like TK Max). Last time I was in they had some lovely lightweight polyester/crepe on the shelves on the wall beside the counter, there where a few different prints. I didn't buy any though because I really don't need it!

    2. Yes, I went in yesterday and I think I saw that stuff, sort of chiffony? And only £3.99! I was tempted to buy a mtr in every pattern and make up a tonne of cowl tops...but my stash is already way too big so I resisted. But I still might.....

  4. Well done, it looks great. Really suits you too.

    CN x

  5. Looks great. You are learning so many new things with each project you tackle.

  6. It's really lovely, great job! I would say, judging from the photos that the fabric was black but I have seen some things in shops that are this extremely dark navy, almost black so it would be that too! :)


Thank you for reading my blog! I love reading your comments, so please feel free to leave a comment if you have the time :) Lynne.