Monday, October 22, 2012

where the buffalo raom -- a Darling Ranges review

It’s fun to post a finished project with a great photo and stories of great sewing adventures, but not every project goes that way. Here is a project I struggled with on and off for many months.  I made muslin after muslin, trying different ways to make the full bust adjustment work. I even wrote to Megan Nielson for suggestions. She was friendly and quick with her reply and gave me several sound suggestions.  Finally, I felt reasonably pleased with (or maybe just sick of making) the muslin:
I cut my fabric – amazing fabric that I just absolutely adore.  And yet, in actual fabric, this dress simply did not work! Here it is basted and pinned up:
I guess it's not so bad, but is "not so bad" really what I aspire too? The bust in this pattern is just plain weird. The dart is so large, that it’s just not possible to make a full bust adjustment. I tried all every trick, believe me!  Nothing short of a breast reduction was going to make it workable. Also, it just sort of looked funny. The balance between bust and other stuff was off. I know it’s weird because I normally look good in sleeveless dresses. Finally, the enormous pockets just make me look hippy. I didn’t muslin the pockets – who muslins pockets?
At first, I thought that some cute short sleeves would balance the volume of fabric across the bust, but the shoulders are so funky and narrow that sleeves made it worse. I don't have a picture of this stage, but sleeves did in fact, balance the overall silhouette of this dress much better. However, the shoulders are so narrow that even short sleeves pulled on the dress, accentuating what’s wrong with the bust. I’ve definitely hit the point of no return with this. The bust and sleeves together are so wonky that it simply isn’t going to work.
I might have been in tears at that point. But I guess I’ve begun to understand the process better. I know that there’s always a chance something won’t work, especially when it’s an independent pattern company without the predictability of the big companies.  But I also believe there’s a fix. I know that unlike knitting, sewing can be salvaged, taken apart and altered.  I had a backup plan. I had enough fabric for a new bodice, so really, there’s no reason to panic.
I thought about trying to copy the styling of Darling Ranges with a commercial pattern, but ultimately I decided a dress I loved from Garnet Hill would be spectacular for my fabric. Not only that, but I’ve already made a dress with the same crossover pleated bodice. I wouldn’t even need a muslin. I could just whip up a new bodice and attach the full Darling Ranges skirt I already had.  So I did and the bodice worked out perfectly.
Copying the sleeves gave me problems, but really, this was just part of a learning process and I spent some valuable time trying different sleeve shapes and studying the flat patterns. First, I just shortened the sleeves that came with the pattern. I should have made a muslin, but I was impatient. I had already spent months on this project.  What I leared is that short sleeves are drafted completely differently than long ones, so just shortening  didn’t work.
I turned to cap sleeves from a TNT, altereing them slightly to me more like the Garnet Hill inspiration dress.  At least I had the sense to muslin this time.
 Finally, I had sleeves I liked pretty well but I was still dissatisfied with the skirt. Those awful oversized pockets still made me look hippy.  Also, the loose fit in the bodice just didn’t suit the overall dress.

I carefully ripped out the Darling Ranges skirt and went back to the drawing board. I had a glass of wine and ordered more fabric. Stay tuned until after birthday and Halloween celebrations to see how it all worked out!

(Disclaimer about the Darling Ranges pattern – some sewers have made truly lovely versions of this pattern. I suspect said people are petite in nature, with narrower shoulders and tiny bustlines. It’s really really pretty. It’s just not for me.  And that’s sad because I love it.)


  1. Awesome save! The wrap front top and the new sleeves look great!

  2. Oh, thank you! I'm pleased with the bodice too, but wait till you see the finished product. Right after Halloween stress is over, I'll post on that.

  3. Hi Melanie, I'd love to know about the dress with the wrapover top you made - was it from a pattern or your own design?
    Great fabric!

  4. Hi Sarah,
    The follow up to this post gives more details about the final dress: But to answer briefly, the bodice is V8409, which I have made before and not yet blogged. The skirt is Rae's Washi and the sleeves I altered from S1880.