Beautiful Sunny Afternoon Dress – The Alexa Frill

I was thrilled to be asked to make a sample for the Fabrix window especially as I was given a free choice from their two new pattern ranges – Liberty and Merchant and Mills. Over the years I’ve become very much a stretch-fabric-girl so when I decided on the Liberty Alexa Frill Dress pattern and found myself browsing the cotton shelves, it felt like quite an adventure!

There were many gorgeous fabrics to choose from and having narrowed my choice down to two, Jenny and Penny helped me decide on this cornflower blue cotton on the basis that it was a floral, Liberty-esque design of mainly one colour which we hoped would accentuate rather than conceal the frills.

The quality of the fabric is worth noting. Pima Cotton is a high-end, ultra-soft fabric incorporating long cotton fibres which make it exceptionally resistant to pilling and this
means that garments last for years. It can also be machine washed and tumbled dried.
When working with it I found that it pressed to a nice crisp finish especially on the bodice

The pattern envelope contained 2 large sheets of decent quality tissue paper with the smaller sizes on one sheet and the larger sizes on the other so this meant only dealing with one sheet. Deciding what size to make proved trickier. The pattern envelope only gave a finished garment measurement for the bust where my area of concern is my waist. It was rather alarming how small the pattern waist measurements were compared to my body and I realised some grading was going to be needed. As I didn’t want to mess up my beautiful fabric, I made a toile of the bodice as it seemed I needed to grade 2 sizes between bust and waist. A toile is an early version of a garment made from cheap or scrap material – mine was cut from an old duvet cover. I pre-washed both the Pima Cotton and cotton lawn lining fabric to pre-shrink them and once they were pressed, cutting out was straight forward and surprisingly quick.

Making up the bodice and lining was quickly accomplished as I’d already made the toile and knew what I was doing, but the neck frill was not what I expected. From the photo on the pattern envelope, the frill looked to be contained or held in but the instructions said to simply fold in half and gather on one edge. I felt this would be an unflattering fit for me so I decided to stitch the gathering in place on the top edge. This was a fiddly and time-consuming process involving extra gathering but I was happy with the final result.

The skirt was sewn from three panels cut on the fold and one design feature that I
particularly liked was how the central panel at the front was more gathered than at the
sides or back – it made the skirt feel more swishy without adding bulk where it was not

Overall, this was a satisfying make that reminded me of the dresses I used to make in the 70s. The Pima Cotton turned out to be a great choice for the gathered frills – it was easy to get nice even gathers – and it gave this pretty dress a floaty feel, making it suitable for a special occasion. I definitely need a garden party to go to!


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