One of my favorite patterns to sew these says is the Esme tunic/dress from Lotta Jansdotter's latest book Every Day Style. Lotta Jansdotter is known for her colorful block printed surface pattern design for fabrics and housewares, which gives a clean and Nordic vibe. The patterns in this book were designed by Alexia Marcelle Abegg of Green Bee Patterns, who is also a fabric designer in her own right as one of the founding members of Cotton and Steel. I've made several of the patterns from this book, but Esme is proving to be my favorite (at least for now).
Esme a simple shift dress, meaning that the body cut from one main piece without a separate bodice and skirt. This results in silhouette that is rather straight, with minimal definition of bust, waist or hip curves. The shift silhouette can be frumpy if the cut or fit is not good (think middle school Home Ec project gone wrong... ). But when a shift dress works, it skims the body just right, and the result can be gamine, or even sophisticated in its clean-lined simplicity. A shift is also very comfortable to wear. Having said all that, the Esme pattern just works for me, so I keep coming back to it. It's especially nice to have pockets that are perfect for dropping in a cell phone (that way I can listen to podcasts even when moving around the house or yard or even in car). The Esme shift's straightforward shape also lends it to easy variations or "hacks", as they've come to be known. The Every Day Style book includes two neckline variations and the pattern can be made up in top, tunic or dress length.
I made my first Esme in Robert Kaufmann Carolina Gingham. This has become my go to fabric for toile (muslin) making, because any alterations are easy to measure and apply using with the 1" gingham grid. This fabric also produces a toile that it not only "wearable", but one that you actually want to wear. Carolina gingham fabric comes in so many great colors. The Esme pictured below (on a warm summer day in our back yard) is made up on Carolina gingham in the "fog" color way.
The gingham toile fit quite well, but I decided to move the bust dart up slightly and increase the length. This lead to my second Esme, this time in Robert Kaufman Slub Chambray with Liberty neck facing and hem binding (for more details about this, see my last post about "Secret Sewing". This dress has been a go to in my day to day wardrobe. The fit and simplicity allow this lovely fabric to really shine when made up in this simple silhouette. It also can dress a little up or down depending on the styling.
I love the bell sleeves that have been trending in ready-to wear lately, so after tagging a few of these of Pinterest, I decided to venture forth and modify the Esme pattern to include this feature in my next make. This is my first variation, made up in sweet-but-not-too-sweet Birch cotton from the Rifle Paper Co. Les Fleurs collection for Cotton and Steel. My goodness I love the color palette in this fabric...
My most recent Esme make is a (late) birthday present for my BFF. The fabric for her Esme is by Lotta Jansdotter (appropriately), from her recent Hemma Collection for Windham. I chose this because Kathy admired it at Quilt Market, (which she was forced to attend with me in Salt Lake City last Spring). The main fabric is the Orancy print in Gray Rock with facings in Lillia Citron. Again, I added the bell sleeve detail, but this time, tweeked it so the gathering is only on the outside of the sleeve. I like the shape of the sleeve better in this version.
I What is nice about this sleeve variation is that it only uses an extra 6" long piece, the width of 44"/45" fabric, so it can be mage with less than a quarter of a yard of fabric. It's also really easy to do. If you can cut rectangles and sew gathers, you can pull off the pattern hack. I've had a couple of requests for instructions for this sleeve variation, so this morning I doodled my method out on paper to share.
You can view the instructions here in a new page, or Download the PDF. As you can see, i am neither an artist nor a pattern designer, but I hope it gets the point across. I hesitated to use the work "ruffle" in the instructions, but I was otherwise at a loss for a word, so "ruffle" it is. Don't let that scare you away! Feel free to download the instructions, try them out, and share them if you want (try to remember to mention my site www.lakesmakerie.com or @lakesmakerie over on Instagram, and tags your projects with @bellsleevevariation). I would love any feedback and would especially love to see your makes!