Plaid Flannel Smock Dress

Coming at your screens with a cosy sew this time, in all its flannel and plaid goodness. I know by the time February rolls around many in the northern hemisphere are eagerly awaiting the start of spring, with its sweet blossoms and enticing bird song. Over here, it will be winter for a while yet though and while the days are noticeably lengthening, there will be a need for cosy makes for some time, usually well into spring.

I started this dress at the end of December and finished it in the early days of the new year. I took its project photos on a walk a couple of days ago on a cold February day, but not so cold that taking of my sweater would make me turn into an icicle (though I’m sure the forest deer raised an eyebrow). Anyway, we are peak late winter here. The trees are well and truly bare, and while tiny new leaf buds are in waiting they are not yet making their presence known. The first crocuses and snowdrops have popped up. The songbirds are skittering through the skeleton forest and easily spotted in such a bare environment. Activity around bird houses is yet to start, though I did spot one with a huge tuft of wool hanging from the entrance hole as if one of them had decided to air out the bedding before the action well and truly starts when spring rolls around.

Various forces were behind the making of this dress. I struggled with health issues in autumn which made me crave all things cosy and comfortable, even more than usually around this period. This translated in me planning all the comfy and warm projects; flannel pyjamas, snug quilts, warm and comfortable dresses – you name it! Of course my imaginative make-time is always in copious supply whereas my make-time in reality is ahem…less so. However that period did plant the seed for the idea to make a flannel, comfortable warm dress. Then at the start of winter I saw a vague photo that contained (amongst things) a plaid flannel smock dress and that imagine stayed with me long enough to kickstart this project. I had been toying with the idea to make as basic smock dress for a while to add to my base layering pieces. I mean, it is a well established fact that I like comfortable and basic sewing projects anyway and gathered dresses feature prominently in my sewing project gallery. For the past few years I’ve been steadily adding more self made shirt dresses to my collection, but I I wanted to add smock dress (sans buttons) to replace some of my old (and I do mean ancient) retail wear dresses.

The pattern I used is the Indigo Smock Top and Dress by Tilly and the Buttons. The pattern comes in two size bands: 6-24, which has a bust size range from 76 to 122 cm and 16-34, which has a bust size ranging from 96.5 to 142. The pattern is a basic smock dress with plain bodice. It features horizontal bust darts to shape the bodice, a curved empire waistline and a gathered skirt with in-seam pockets. The skirt reaches over my knee, but bear in mind that I have gnome ancestry so I’m on the shorter side of things. The sleeve options are either regular bracelet length sleeves or more extravagant flounce sleeves. The neckline is finished with a facing and you can choose between frilly exposed seams or regular seams. Since I’m the most basic witch in all the land I choose regular seams and sleeves. A pattern such as this obviously also provides ample hack opportunities.

I used a mid weight cotton flannel fabric to make this dress. I’d say the fabric veers slightly to the heavier side of the mid weight spectrum. It has a simple but effective geometric plaid pattern woven in vivid red, dark blue and off white. The warm colours of the fabric was exactly what I envisioned when I got inspired to make a cosy flannel dress at the start of the colder season. The weave is a 2 by 2 twill, which is the most common weave for this type of plaid fabric. The fabric is high in quality and was a real pleasure to work with, sadly it is kind of rare to find a fabric like this; from this quality and with a not super common plaid pattern, so I do feel lucky that I found this when I did. In large part I feel the fabric really elevates the dress to something special.

I made two modifications to the pattern. The most important change is that I lengthened the bodice, this is a common modification for me to accommodate my bust. That said I also read in post of makers of this pattern that the bodice is on the short side and you can see that in some of the project photos as well. This rang true when I compared the bodice to some of the bodices of other patterns I’ve made over the years. This is not a problem if you like that look, but if you don’t want your empire waist to be quite that empire waist than it might be something that you would want to change.

Another change I made, that is more process based than result altering, is swapping out the neck facing for a bias band finishing. A hidden bias band finishing has been my preferred neckline finishing for a while now, but in my early days of sewing it was the other way around! This was back when the online sewing community was still in its infancy and exposed bias band finishing were having a moment, that wasn’t quite my thing so I veered towards facings for that reason alone. Honestly in my baby sewist days I wasn’t even aware there were different ways (and hidden ways) of using bias band! Haha, over the years I’ve certainly become a lot wiser! Anyway I like bias band now cause I find it creates a neater neckline and there is no risk of the dreaded flopping or peeking out of the facing. The change was as easy as just swapping one method for the other (and not cutting out the facing obviously!).

The process of sewing this was smooth and easy. I mean it is a simpler projects, it doesn’t have any closures or anything, and it helps that I’m quite experienced in making these type of gathered dresses. It was my quickest sew in a while as well, thought I know not nearly as speedy as some sewist could tackle this project (I fear I will always be the turtle and not the hare). That said it was satisfying for me to have a project that got on a bit speedier and where no issues came up to derail things.

I suppose I could have easily made the hinterland another time and just hack it into a plain body smock dress instead of a shirt dress and I admit did this crossed my mind. However in the interest of branching out and to not show you a millionth hinterland version (joke it would only be like the 6th version, rejoice we got room to add to that tally yet!) I thought I’d try a different pattern. There are obvious comparisons between the two dresses but also some noticeable differences (aside from the ahem…button band). So the neckline of the hinterland is deeper and slightly wider than the indigo, and the skirt length of the hinterland is either above the knee or calf length whereas the indigo is over knee (on me). I’d say the ease on the bodice of the dresses is similar enough, however the hinterland has (optional) waist ties which takes the waist in which the Indigo has not. The sleeve hole and shoulder draft of both pattern differs too, what is a better fit obviously differs from body to body but to my body I’d say that the hinterland is a slightly better fit in this aspect. That said there are things I like about both patterns so I definitely don’t think that making this dress was a waste! Obviously if you were so inclined you could easily hack either of these patterns to a similar version of the other so they aren’t world of differences but I wanted to point them out if you are thinking about getting one of them.

There is of course the question looming whether one actually needs multiple similar dress patterns? Honestly no you probably do not unless the pattern from the package needs so many alterations to fit well that you might as well start over. That said there is a merit in trying different drafts, styles and ways of doing things in similar projects, just like you would do for jeans patterns or bras or what not. Additionally these types of dresses are my jam, so it is fun for me to try out a couple of different ones of them to find out which one I like, though even with that in mind I still don’t need or want a ton of them.

I’m pleased with this dress. It’s exactly the kind of cosy flannel dream dress that I envisioned to make at the start of winter. These types of dresses, and their shirt dress sisters, are by far my favourite type of dresses to wear. They are easy to wear and super comfortable and I think they suit me well. They make brilliant base layers for me to wear under my knitwear and I can see us have many outings together stomping around in the woods with a self knit sweater, scarf and sturdy boots. I’ll likely make this pattern again in the future and I don’t envisioned the pattern overtaking the hinterland in my tried and true and turn to again and again patterns but it might become a valiant and close sister taking a place besides that pattern on the perch. I’ve seen this pattern been made in knit fabric as well and I might try that in the future as well.

In any case this is a great dress to complete winter in a wait it out for spring. I hope you are all well and I wish you all many early spring flowers sightings and crisp frosty mornings until then. Thanks for reading and see you later!

4 thoughts on “Plaid Flannel Smock Dress

  1. 🤩Wat een heerlijke warme en comfortabeler winter jurk. Mooie print met warme uitstraling die je hebt gebruikt bij maken van de jurk en staat je erg mooi en goed gemaakt. Een prima toevoeging aan je basis garderobe die je kunt combineren met je breisels. groet Margot

  2. I also made a flannel dress recently but I went with the Hinterland!! I was worried it would be too warm for the heated buildings I work in, but it is perfect, so cozy 🙂

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