Learning to sew darts using the Francoise Dress

My third ever garment! Having given one of Tilly's patterns a successful go with my Delphine skirt I was inspired to try another of hers ... the Francoise dress. This involved learning how to create darts and use bias binding as my new skills. This pattern is definitely for beginner sewists who are eager to to make wearable garments; it is easy to sew and there are so many different ways you can vary this pattern with different fabrics.


I chose to make this in a sleeveless version as it looked easier for my first go (I hadn't stitched darts before, let alone tried out sleeves). I used a spot print linen look fabric from Remnant Kings as I had seen advice on making toiles from wearable cheap fabric, and at £3.99 per metre this meant I could wear my first attempt at a dress, and not be too worried about spending a lot of money on fabric that I was making mistakes on. This fabric is a heavier weight to what I had used previously, and has the benefit of not being at all see through (so doesn't need lining). The fabric is fairly stiff, which means that it holds the shape of the dress well, but it is not very soft against the skin (and is probably better suited to trousers and furnishings to be honest).

Pattern and Instructions

The pattern comes on paper sheets, which need tracing off first. Tilly has her own sizing format, so once I measured and figured out which I was I traced off my size only. To help with this I traced my line in colour first so it would stand out. This was also the first time I tried out transferring patterns using carbon. I used a Prym pack that I got from John Lewis which had white and yellow pages. Though the pattern transferred successfully I did find it difficult to see against my fabric so might need to seek out another colour. Also I later discovered (once I started sewing) that obviously the markings were only on one side of the folded fabric. This made transferring the dart markings difficult, and I realised that I need separate tailor's chalk for this in future.

Francoise Dress pattern from Tilly and the Buttons review on the blog the petite passions

I have to say this was a super easy pattern to cut and sew. It would take most people a very short time as there are not a lot of elements to it, and once you have the hang of darts and zips you pretty much have it covered! The step by step booklet is very clear and detailed. It includes lots of helpful tips as well as layplans and photographs at each stage so you know exactly what it should look like. I did supplement the instructions with the Francoise sewalong on Tilly's blog (all the required links are in the archives for November and December 2014). If you are a beginner attempting new techniques I recommend using this too as it has just that bit more detail than the booklet. If you can already insert invisible zips and sew darts you probably don't need it.


My measurements are an exact match for Tilly's size 4, so I used this size. Once the dress was made I found that it was a little big around the waist and at the back of the neck. I looked up online how to take in dresses, and most of the advice talked about altering the back seam, and where the fabric is attached to the zip. Having spent a lot of time and effort on the zip already I really didn't want to mess around with this, so I had a play with the side seams instead. I pinned the side seams about 
1 cm at the waist, and this looked good enough so went ahead and stitched. This is the second of Tilly's patterns that I have taken in at the waist to fit better, even though my measurements match so I think this is something I will consider in future makes (I'm a 5ft UK 10 if you are wondering).

Tilly and the Buttons Francoise Dress


Well it turned out into a dress that I could wear! I did actually wear this on holiday around and about as it was quite cool and comfortable. Though the fabric holds the shape of the dress really well it does rub a bit under the arm holes, and is a bit too stiff to be really comfortable.
I like how simple this was to put together, and having looked at the Pinterest board have a lot of ideas on how to vary the pattern and use different fabrics. Now that I have made one I have a good idea of the alterations I will need to make next time too. I would really like to make a version with contrasting sleeves, or try a knit fabric for winter.
I would definitely recommend this pattern, especially for beginners.


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Welcome to Sewing and Other Stories; my journeys with sewing and knitting; pattern reviews, tips and guides for beginners. I'm also the designer behind West Beach Knits knitting patterns and I host a Knitting and Sewing channel on YouTube where you can see all of this in person. Come have a look!

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