Pattern Reviews

The Kimberly Dress

Hello beautiful people! I hope you all had a truly magical Christmas and are now looking forward to your New Year’s Celebrations and the ever approaching resolutions for 2019! The last 10 days or so have been a complete whirlwind and I’m only just getting round to writing this review. I wanted it ready for you for Friday, but life has just gotten in the way of me being able to just sit to write, so here we are.

After my last review for the Nikki Cardigan, I couldn’t help myself when Athina Kakou put out another pattern review request, this time for her very beautiful Kimberly Dress. From her sneak peak drawing of it a good few weeks ago, I thought it was a really beautiful dress and that if the chance came along, I would love to try it. I am not a wearer of dresses. I haven’t worn one since I got married, and I’ve only worn a dress on rare occasions before that. But I really wanted to make the dress for me and for Christmas.
I got the go ahead and my first thought was, “what on earth have I done?! I have a handmade Christmas list as long as my arm and now I need to make a dress too!!!” But with some organisation, the desire to make something gorgeous and a self made deadline, I got on with it.

THE PATTERN

The pattern is The Kimberly Dress by Athina Kakou available from her website in PDF format. Named for Nateida-Kimberly, the “Natural Dane”, who is a YouTuber that started her channel for all things natural, particularly in her haircare and beauty, but she also loves to sew and owns a fabric shop; The Fabric Boutique.

The dress is designed for woven fabrics without stretch. It has a soft V-Neck and gorgeous half-circle skirt with a bottom panel to save us from hemming! There is the option for seam pockets and a tie belt too. Two versions are available as long and short sleeved options making this an all year round make. Athina has been ever thoughtful in her design for making the dress extremely accessible for the upper range of sizes. This dress is available to make in sizes 4 all the way through to 28. I am of the opinion that all designers should be doing this and for me, Athina is certainly out in front for beautiful, inclusive designs. She has been so careful to make sure that the design elements of the panel and the half circle skirt work for all fabric choices and I applaud her. I myself have made the size 20.

THE FABRIC

For this pattern, you require 150cm/59in wide fabric in a light to medium weight woven fabric with drape. The pattern suggests cotton poplin, cotton lawn, crepe, rayon or lightweight wool but the dress may require lining. Athina has also done a knit hack for the dress too and recommends a Ponte Di Roma.

As I am making the dress in December, I knew that this was going to be my Christmas day dress. I desperately wanted a Christmas, non-directional fabric that would still be flattering. I mentioned earlier that I’m not a dress wearer, so I didn’t want anything too loud. I did really want to make a red Christmas Kimberly dress, but I really struggled to find a non-direction print red Christmas fabric that was the width required and also the weight recommended. I also knew I didn’t have time to get fabric samples. After a lot of searching, I came across this lovely Christmas Holly Leaf cotton poplin from Minerva Crafts in black and silver. It wasn’t quite the 59 inches required, but I figured that as I wasn’t making the largest size available, I may just get away with the 56in width that this fabric comes in.
Minerva Crafts is a really great site with so much choice. I’ve used them a few times now as they’re so reasonable and postage is great too. Not only have they a great fabric choice, but also wool, haberdashery, needlework and felting too.

Whilst I waited for the fabric to arrive, I decided to make a toile of the bodice out of some leftover rayon fabric I had made my Sew Over It Ultimate Culottes from in August. I was apprehensive about the fit at my bust as I thought I may have to do my first full bust adjustment and also the fit at the waist. I wanted a little bit of wiggle room so that I would be comfortable and able to expand come Christmas dinner. After trying on the toile, I made a decision that I was going to just tweak the seam allowance ever so slightly at the side seams, just to give me that little bit extra room without having to go a size up, which would’ve been too big.

The fabric arrived and it felt lovely. Soft, but crisp and cool. I wanted something that would be cool because I knew I’d be running around a lot on Christmas day and helping out with the cooking and clean-up. What I didn’t do though, was pre-wash it. I just didn’t have time. I needed to get it on my cutting table and cut asap, so I’m yet to see if there’s been any shrinkage. The fabric cut beautifully, was easy to pin and put the markings on; I was really looking forward to sewing it.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Whilst the pattern will come with a dedicated sewalong, there wasn’t one at the time I made the dress. Athina does recommend that following the Lisa Dress sewalong will be a good help, as it is fairly similar. I decided I would just go with the pattern instructions as they are so well written and the pictures very good at showing you what goes where. I also feel the confidence in my sewing has grown when it comes to knowing what I’m supposed to do now. That is a nice feeling to have.

The first step is putting your darts in, I really enjoy making darts. I think it’s because darts really give the flat piece of fabric you start with shape and life and you can instantly see the shape the garment is going to be. I’ve done a few darts before, but Athina has a wonderful tip which helped give me that extra precision. She advises that if you mark a central line through the middle of your dart you can fold them much more accurately. Boy, she wasn’t wrong and I’ll be using that in all future dart making 🙂

There is a neck facing to add which I did use interfacing for. I’ve only done one neck facing before but the instructions Athina gives brought everything back and it was straightforward to add on.

The rest of the bodice comes together nicely; I made a slight adjustment to the seam allowance at the side seams as I decided I would after making the toile. At the underarm, I started with the ⅝” so that the sleeves would still fit fine, but then took the seam allowance to ⅜” for that extra wiggle room I mentioned. After that, it’s time for the sleeves. I’ve done sleeves twice before this dress, but this dress calls for gathered sleeves. I haven’t done any gathering before, let alone a gathered sleeve. I had to do a little googling and YouTube-ing for this one, but ultimately I’m happy with the result and will look forward to more gathering in the future. The pattern also gives lots of notches to really help guide you through inserting the sleeve, so that takes away some of the worry of getting it right.

First ever gathered sleeve!

I love that this dress has pockets and there was no way I was leaving them out. They’re very simply added to the side seams of the skirt and take no time at all to add. With the skirt being quite full too, you don’t see any bulk from the pockets either.

Having changed the seam allowance in the bodice, I had to make slight adjustments to the seam allowance of the waistband of the skirt too so that they would match up evenly when attaching them together. I just started with a ⅜” seam allowance at the waist and then graduated out to the ⅝”.

The next step is inserting the invisible zipper. I’ve done one before, but not this long. I had to Google again for a refresher and really took my time to get it right. I have an invisible zipper foot which I would certainly recommend using for an easier life, but it can be inserted with your usual zipper foot. Athina gives another great tip for inserting the zipper at the waistline seam so that it matches when you zip the dress up. After you have sewn the zipper in one side, close the zip and clip a notch at the un-sewn side of the zipper tape where the waistline seam is. Open the zip back up, match and pin that notch to the waistline seam to be sewn, pin the rest and sew. I also made the conscious decision to change the seam allowance to ⅜” here too; just for that added comfort. In honesty I don’t think I needed to as I ended up with plenty of room, but it certainly was comfortable. I also recommend basting your invisible zip in place too. It stops it moving around and you can zip it up in place to see what it will look like and move it if necessary.

After sewing the dress up, it’s time to sort the panel for the bottom of the skirt. Due to the half-circle skirt, it is best to leave the dress to hang for 24 hours for the bias of the skirt to drop. I did not have any time to do this. I needed to pack that very evening as we were leaving for the Isle of Man at 9:30 am the next day. I think I’ve been lucky on this occasion, but in future I will definitely make the time to wait.

It has POCKETS!!!

I had to alter the seam allowance again a touch, because I changed the seam allowance of the back seam from ⅝” to ⅜” but it seems to have worked out fine as all the notches matched beautifully. I was extremely thankful for all the notches provided in the pattern because there was a lot of skirt and a lot of panel. I found it easiest to hang the dress and pin the panel on whilst I was sat on the floor. It really helped me see what was going on and where still needed pinning/attaching. Had I done it on my lap, I think I might have got a little frustrated. After sewing the panel on and giving it a good press, my dress was almost ready. I made the belt and hemmed the sleeves and I was done. All of my sewing for Christmas day with the machine was now done. What a relief I can tell you. It was a little touch and go after nearly a week with no sewing due to being poorly and I admit, I did a little dance.

Happy dance!

SUMMARY

When I tried the dress on and zipped it up for the first time I felt awesome. I had made a dress that not only fitted, but felt comfortable. For the first time ever I was comfortable in a dress. Thank you Athina!

I think I may even be a bit of a dress convert and if I have an event next year that requires something nice to wear, I will definitely make another Kimberly dress.

On Christmas day I wore the dress and felt so comfortable. All my family said how beautiful the dress was and that I looked lovely in it. I felt that in hindsight, I didn’t need to change the seam allowance at all as I had more than enough wiggle room at the waist and it was a little too big at the neck, but that was only noticeable when I sat down, and probably only to me because I was aware of it. I also think that next time, I would shorten the skirt just a touch. I liked the length on me, before I added the panel. Now it may have been because the skirt had no time to hang and dropped with the panel on; whereas, if I had the time to wait, I would’ve been able to check the length after leaving it to hang and then adjust from there. Other than that, I am absolutely delighted with how the dress turned out. I think that Athina has turned me to dresses with The Kimberly Dress and I will certainly be open to making and wearing myself more in future.

My Supplies:

  • Needle: I used an Organ Universal size 80
  • Sewing Machine: Mechanical Toyota Decomaster
  • Thread: 100% polyester black
  • Woven Interfacing
  • Scissors
  • Ironing board & Iron
  • 4m Cotton Poplin Christmas Holly Leaf fabric
  • Walking foot
  • Invisible Zipper foot

Difficulty = Experienced beginner. Athina advises adventurous beginner with the pattern. There are basic dressmaking techniques, but also some more tricky techniques too. For instance the invisible zipper takes a little time to get your head around and also the gathered sleeves are something to take your time over too.

Time =  I didn’t set a timer but I did have a deadline; 22nd December by 7pm (Georgia’s bedtime). I had the pattern pieces cut out and marked in an evening. I spent almost a full day on and off (there is no such thing as a full day sewing with a 2 year old) on the majority of the dress and then another evening finishing off. In total, around 12 hours I think.

Fit = Semi-fitted. The bodice is fitted and gives a lovely shape. The sleeves aren’t tight at all and the skirt has a lovely swish.

Alterations = I didn’t make any to the pattern pieces themselves, I just tweaked the seam allowance for extra wiggle room. I won’t do this next time though. In future, I would definitely check the length of the skirt and maybe shorten it slightly.

Fitting = On the money again. Athina’s finished size chart is really accurate.

Hardest part = Inserting the gathered sleeves. It was a brand new technique for me so it took more time than anything else and I was apprehensive sewing them in. Really pleased with the result though.

Make again? = Absolutely. If I have something next year that requires a dress, I’m making this one and I’d love to add a petticoat to see what that would look like.

If you liked this pattern review, please give me a like and a share to let others out there know about Athina’s work.
You can find Athina on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and over on her website where she has an extensive blog and her online shop too.
She not only does patterns but has an amazing sewing planner, an e-book on sewing your perfect wardrobe and printable artwork.

You can find the Kimberly Dress here where you can snap it up quickly as she currently has a sale on.

Disclaimer: Whilst I was given the Kimberly Dress pattern by Athina Kakou for the purpose of this review, all thoughts and feelings are completely my own. Neither am I affiliated with Minerva Crafts; the choice to choose my fabric from them was completely my own.

3 thoughts on “The Kimberly Dress”

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