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Made By A Fabricista: The Search For An Elusive Maxi Dress

Usually, everything starts with an email in my inbox: such and such fabrics are on sale at Fabric Mart. I browse the website, fall in love with a beautiful fabric, and get it in my cart. But, before ordering it, I take time to find a couple of possible projects to make with it, by browsing the patterns section. Then, once I have a better idea of the final product, I order the fabric, get it and start working on it. 

Well. Not this time! I did fall in love with a gorgeous Liberty of London Tana Lawn and ordered it while on sale. I knew I wanted to make a dress with it, and I figured I would find a good pattern once the fabric arrived. Big mistake! I had to rule out lots of ideas before finding THE pattern I was going to use. Why all this searching?

Well, let's explain this with the fabric characteristics. Tana Lawn is a very lightweight fabric, with more drape than shirt fabrics, but still some crispiness. The print “Bella’s Silhouette” has bold blue flowers on top of a background of delicate little flowers. I wanted to take advantage of that lightness to make an airy maxi dress, which would also highlight the beautiful print. 

The problem was I had only ordered 2.5 yards of fabric. As it turns out, any beautiful long or tiered dress requires 3 or 4 yards at least! This always blows my mind: every outfit takes much more fabric than we instinctively think. I should have researched before ordering.

Also, the more I searched for the perfect sewing pattern, the less time I had to sew it and deliver my blogpost! Currently, any project takes me a lot of time since I can only sew a few minutes per day between my daughter’s naps. So, I also needed to be mindful to choose a pattern I could print at home (no time for mail), and that was easy (no time for complicated projects). 

I was on the verge of giving up. I was too far gone in the rabbit hole. I didn’t want to use that gorgeous Liberty fabric on an unconvincing project just to get out of trouble. I even started writing a blogpost titled: “The chicken or the egg: what comes first, the fabric or the pattern?” 

Almost at the last minute, Katie, a fellow Fabricista (@kak513) gave me the nudge I needed to select the Peppermint Maxi Dress pattern. It ticked all the boxes: it is a relatively easy and free print-at-home pattern for a maxi dress with pockets and its side slits make it flowy without being too fabric consuming. And as a bonus, its wide straps work great for me, because they hide my nursing bra straps.

So, I had no more excuses. It was time to cut into my precious fabric and use it finally. I cut a size E, which took all the 2.5 yards. The remnants are not even big enough to make a headband! All my previous inspo research was useful in finding some hacks, such as adding elastic to the wide straps. This makes them more stable and allows me to easily lower them to nurse.

I wanted to honor this delicate Tana Lawn as much as possible, so I appreciated that this dress was fully finished with French seams. For the first time in my life, I respected all the different seam allowances, which range from ⅛ of an inch to half an inch across the project. Being precise is crucial to get a good fit, especially with an unforgiving woven fabric. Nevertheless, this dress has a secret weapon to disguise any misfit: the elastic in the back helps a lot to adjust the bust! Still, something must have failed in my execution: after wearing the dress for a few minutes, the elastic pulls the straps from behind and makes the neckline and bust darts move up a bit. 

Still, it is a very comfortable summer dress, and I am glad to have done it! As per my question, “what comes first, the fabric or the pattern?” I am pretty sure the more reasonable thing to do is to get the sewing pattern first and then the fabric. But sometimes, you get struck down with love at first sight by a piece of cloth, and reason goes out the window. As a famous French writer said, “the heart has its reasons, which reason knows nothing of.” 

All in all, I would say: go ahead, get the fabric you are dreaming of, and don’t cease looking for the perfect pattern, it is bound to be out there!

INES  @bynunis

Unfortunately Fabric Mart Fabrics sell out quickly!
You can find similar fabrics by shopping the following categories: LUXURY BRITISH BRANDCOTTON, & LAWN.


  1. I love your dress!!! It looks amazing on you, and bless you for doing it all with a nursing baby! You really are Super Woman!🥰
    I’m curious about the elastic straps! They look amazing! Do you just cut them longer?
    Any links you used would be much appreciated! I love this idea!

    1. Hi!! Thanks for the kind comment!!! For the straps, I saw pictures online but no specific link or tutorial. What I did was to double the lenght of the fabric straps, and put elastic inside with the lenght of the original straps. That way you get the fluffy scrunchie strap. I used 1.5 inches elastic, the same one I had for the back 👍 Let me know if you need clarification!

  2. Your dress is really pretty!. Can you tack down the shoulder straps to the elastic to bring the stretch where you want it , probably more toward the back, so it hikes the back up a bit not the front.


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