Friday, December 12, 2014

Inspired by: An Experimental Francoise

Don't you just love it when something you intended to make coincides perfectly with a new pattern/sewalong/competition? I do :)

In this instance it was the Francoise Dress by Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons, a classic style sheath dress, with or without sleeves.  About a month ago she kicked off a competition - with some pretty impressive prizes! - and since I'd had a white summer shift planned, I thought I'd have a go. Here's mine, in plain white cotton sateen, with pattern over the front drawn with fabric markers (close ups to come!):

I'd seen this dress (below) on Pinterest back in the depths of winter and thought I'd try recreating it come warmer weather, without the sleeves and with a bit more length. I think, though it's hard to tell, that the pattern is formed through a fine variegated trim sewn down in place, or possibly embroidery. This was my first plan, then it occured to me that there might be one or two other things happening in December, and as much as I like the idea of embroidery, it wasn't really a time-efficient option...

I thought fabric marker pens might give a similar effect overall. I do have confess though that it took me a while to get past the idea of 1980s kiddie craft; remember those t-shirts and canvas shoes??  But, I think it actually worked out alright!

This was my first experience with a TatB pattern, and I was really impressed. The drafting is beautifully done, the instructions are clear and comprehensive, and every step is photo-documented on her blog. The sizing is spot on too, and since I'd sewn up a commercial pattern (not yet blogged) immediately prior to this, I very much appreciated not having to take out massive and unwarranted amounts of excess ease!

 There were only a few fitting modifications I needed to do, and (unlike the commercial one...) these were all to do with my body shape and preferences rather than trying to make it fit.


  • I made the front darts finish 1cm earlier so they didn't finish on the apex of the bust.
  • I took in the centre back seam at the neck by 4cm and tapered back down to original seam line
  • I took the side seams in by 1.5cm at my waist
  • I slimmed the skirt's A-line shape down to make a slightly straighter silhouette.

To do the pattern on front, I cut out a front piece (main and shoulder yokes in one) out of tissue paper and sketched out the design in a normal marker pen. I kept the rough shape of the original design - and the feathers at the waist, love those - and then just doodled until it looked finished.

Ideally I would have had a light box to transfer these markings to the fabric. But I didn't. So instead I pinned the paper behind the fabric (front piece, darted and sewn to shoulder yokes) and held it up against a window and traced that way. I looked faintly ridiculous, and my arms ached a bit afterwards, but it was effective! I used a quilter's pencil; the lines are supposed to fade in sunlight. Here's hoping they do!

Here's where the experimental part of the project came in. Technically these aren't actually fabric markers. They're blending markers, used for stamping, colouring etc on paper. But I was using these at work and since they come in plenty of colours (168 :)  ) I tried them out on some scrap fabric. There was very little bleed, and once I'd pressed with a hot iron and pressing cloth, I washed it. The colours set beautifully!

The original was a vivid cobalt blending into aqua, which I loved, but I decided to use a dark teal instead since that suits me better. Dark teal, mid teal and aqua, to be exact. I drew over the pencil lines, changing marker pens every few inches.

 It took a while, and after I'd done the first few bits I really thought I ruined the whole thing. But the nature of the design means that the hand-drawn quality works overall. When you look at one individual section of it it can look a bit rubbishy, but taken as a whole it's ok.

It's not lined; the neckline is finished with a facing, and the armholes with self bias binding.

So that's it - my version of Francoise!

I'm wondering how this pattern would look in a softer fabric - I know it suggests something that will hold the shape, but the skirt as drafted is a bit exaggerated for me. I think a drapier fabric with the original fullness might work rather nicely.

I'm also keen to try this as a winter dress with sleeves. But I'll worry about that come Autumn...


  1. This is beautiful! I can't believe you drew the design! It's really stunning!

  2. This is without doubt the chic-est version of this pattern I've seen. I like the slightly slimmed down skirt shape and the pattern you drew. It must have taken quite a while, but definitely worth it for such a unique garment.

  3. Oh my gosh I can't believe you drew this by hand!!!!! Amazing! It looks utterly beautiful and the dress is beautifully fitted.

  4. Wow, you *have* to win something for this. It's absolutely beautiful! Really, truly stunning and I love it so much. What a great idea to draw the pattern, and I am so impressed you drew it by hand. Well done. I like the lines of this pattern , but I much prefer your slimmed down skirt. What a fantastic dress. X

  5. You are a walking artwork Danielle! Such a great idea! This is my absolute favourite version of this dress that I've seen, such a terrific job! I hope you win because this is amazing!
    How about just a little sketch on the back, to just hint at the wonderful surprise that is on the front? A single dangling feather from the shoulder or neckline?
    You look a million dollars in this! I would love to see this dress walking through the streets of Milan!

  6. Wow! What a great result!! The dress looks SO great on you. I like it more than the inspiration dress, and the fact that you hand drew it all just makes it even more special x

  7. its fantastic, and definitely the best francoise I've seen. You've done very well with the fit too. I've often thought of trying to do my own fabric designs using pens..... I'd love to find some metallic fabric pens.

  8. Wowsers, this is fab. I've never heard of drawing a pattern on fabric before. It works really well, and it has made a great dress.

  9. I LOVE this! You did a lovely job with the drawing. It looks great from afar. What a great idea for those detailed designs!

  10. looks amazing! I’m speechless! I Can’t belive you did this - the drawing is FABULOUS! Love it. This is art!

  11. Beautiful! I love the hand drawing, what a fabulous idea!

  12. Oh my gosh!!!!! This is gorgeous and so creative. I love that!! I'm totally going to give this a go seeing as I have a dress that is supposed to be embroidered but who has time for that? Not this chick. Truly stunning!

  13. Wow, how cool! I was wondering how you'd managed to place the print so perfectly, but the hand painting makes it obvious, of course. It truly looks fabulous. :)

  14. Beautiful, how smart of you to use this pattern to such good effect.