Thursday 26 November 2015

Bali Batik Picnic Dress

I love summer dresses. They're light and fun, and the warm weather is a great excuse to use lots of colour and print (although I'll happily use lots of colour and print in winter, too). Summer dresses are also often quite simple in their styling and quick to make, which is great when you want something new for a heatwave. Sydney's already had a number of very hot days and it's still technically spring, so I can see a few more hot weather dresses in my near future.

My brother and sister-in-law bought me a couple of pieces of batik fabric when they went to
Indonesia earlier this year. This is the first one I've used. I decided that given it's a fabric from a hot weather country, it had to be made into a hot weather dress. I love the rich blue colour, but I'm not really sure what the print is meant to be. There's floral vines and then three other prints that look like a beer stein, a quiver of arrows, and some sort of griffin, but I could be wrong.

The fabric has finished selvedges on all four edges, so I made as much use of that as I could. Those selvedges have been used for the hem, the top of the bodice, and even the zipper and centre back seam. I even used the finished side edge that makes the centre back seam/zipper for the back join of the straps. It's not noticeable unless you look closely - you can just see it in the left of this photo - but I thought it would be a nice touch.

The pattern is Queen of Darts' Picnic Dress, which is a fairly simple, very timeless cut. It looks like it could be from any decade since the 1940s. It's a seven piece princess seamed bodice - front piece, and two each of side front, side back, and back - and then straps and dirndl-style skirt. The instructions are pretty minimal so it's not for a complete beginner, but as long as you know fairly basic sewing techniques it's easy to do.

The pattern is free, but it's only in the one size. Lucky for me, I'm pretty much the same size as Alice. I am a bit taller, though, so I added 1.5cm to the length of the bodice so it sits at my waist. I also made my straps a bit wider partly to show more of the print, partly because the spaghetti-thin straps are fiddly to do. Because the fabric had finished selvedges I simply used the full length of the fabric for the skirt, so no finishing was needed for the hem or centre back seam.

The one thing I didn't think of while sewing the bodice was the seams. Because I was using the selvedge, I obviously don't have any facings, so I thought the seam allowances might show. Rather than unpick and redo the bodice, I did flat felled seams. I trimmed half off one side of the seam allowance, folded the other half over it, and stitched it down, with the stitching line on the side towards the back of the dress. This keeps everything neat and out of the way. If you look closely in this photo you might be able to see the royal blue lines. In the end, it's an accident that I can pretend is a feature.

Although it's been washed a few times the fabric is still slightly starchy, but it should soften up quickly. The skirt also liked catching the wind when I was taking these photos. Because it's a batik and not produced using more industrial techniques it did have a fair bit of loose dye the first time I washed the fabric, but it's been soaked two more times and barely leaves any dye, which is great.

 I really like the shape of this dress. It's simple but not boring, feminine but not fussy. It would be nice if it had pockets, but given that the skirt is only a single piece I didn't have any side seams in which to add them. I thought briefly about adding patch pockets to the front, but decided not to because I want to keep it as clean as possible. If I reuse this pattern I will probably add side pockets, but I'm happy with this one without them.

 It was once again stupidly hot while taking these pictures, almost mid-30s with a hot wind at 9:30am, but the dress is wonderfully cool. The fabric is pretty thin, almost a lawn weight, so it's very comfortable and light to wear. It kept me nice of comfortable for the whole rest of the day in the heat.


  1. Very, very pretty! You've inspired me to revisit the fit and flare shape. It's been a while, but this is so very summery I can't resist :)

    1. Thanks! Fit and flare is a summery style, I think, so it works best at this time of year.