Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Helmi Shirt Dress

The Dress with 18 Pattern Pieces!
That's what I call this dress, but the name in the Ottobre magazine is the "Helmi" shirt dress. I think this is the most involved pattern I have ever sewn because of the number of pattern pieces and all the top stitching. I've not done a whole lot of top stitching in my sewing life until recently since I've begun sewing with Ottobre, and I definitely was challenged with this dress!

Pattern Description:
From the magazine: "The shirt dress is sewn from denim and accented with contrast color double topstitching." This dress has a zipper closure, pockets on the front and back, and a belt/sash with belt loops.

Pattern Sizing:
European sizes 128-170. I made a size 140 lengthened to size 170 for 12 year Ellen.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

Yes! Right down to the denim and white stitching! I loved the dress in the magazine and decided to duplicate it!

Were the instructions easy to follow?

The instructions were easy enough as long as I took my time and proceeded carefully along.

Fabric Used and a Few Garment Details:

The fabric is 100% cotton denim. I don't remember the weight of the denim, but in the midst of sewing I began to wish I had used a lighter weight fabric! I only broke 1 needle, but I tried out several jeans/denim needles, a leather needle, and several topstitching needles to find one that worked well for the topstitching. I found that the size 100 topstitching needle worked best on sewing through the thick layers of denim.

Following a friend's recommendations, I used upholstery thread for the topstitching. I really like how the upholstery thread stands out and does not sink into the fabric.

I debated about using my coverstitch machine for the topstitching but decided against it because of the many curves and corners. Instead, I used the edge-stitching foot to my sewing machine and made one pass at the fabric edge and a second pass with the needle moved over to its furthest position. If you look closely at the front pockets you can tell that the topstitching lines are wider apart than the rest of the topstitching---I hadn't figured out my technique yet. Now why I started with those front pockets I don't know! I probably should have re-done them....

I was so happy that the topstitching lines matched up across the top yoke and at the waistband after I put in my zipper. Invisible zippers are easy to put in, but getting seams and the topstitching to match up is often a challenge. After sewing one side of the zipper, I keyed the other side with chalk marks and then used Wonder Tape to hold the second side of the zipper in place before sewing. I did have to unpick just a bit around the waistband, but I did not have to take out the whole zipper. Yay! I was excited about that!

For the belt carriers I used the method described in this tutorial. I like how the belt loops in this pattern are set lower than the waistband because the belt does not cover up the topstitching at the top of the waistband.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:

Ottobre patterns run short, in my opinion. I lengthened this dress from the size 140 to size 170---if I recall, 6-8 inches--and I wish I had lengthened it even more.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Before sewing this dress I would have said "once is enough" to make this pattern. However, it all really went together more easily than I thought it would, and I may make it again sometime in the future. If I do, I will use a lighter weight fabric. I highly recommend the pattern as long as you take your time with all the stitching lines to ensure consistency.


Thank you, Ottobre, for challenging me! Ellen wore her dress to our homeschool co-op this week and I couldn't believe how many people complimented her on the dress. It made me happy when she told them "my mommy made it." It makes me happy that Ellen likes the dress!



  1. I absolutely love that dress. Of course, I love Ottobre. They have such stylish clothes.

  2. You did a fantastic job on this dress! With all that topstitching . . . my hat's off to you.

  3. Wow, it looks awesome!

  4. You did a fantastic job with this dress! And I love the styling in the photo.

    I adore that pattern. My dd does not. Sigh. Oh well, I stink at topstitching, so it's probably just as well I'm not making it.

  5. Fantastic dress!!!! You should be proud!

  6. You have done a fabulous job. It looks wonderful!

  7. Ruth, this dress is fantastic.

  8. Beautiful work. The topstitching is perfect! :)

  9. wow! beautiful dress. Cant wait to make one like those for me too. Great job! Love it!