Folkwear’s Russian Settler’s dress: Sarafan

22 Mar

A bit late for last year’s Vintage Pattern Pledge, but hey, it’s done! And please to also admire my lovely overgrown garden πŸ™‚ It’s about 3 times bigger out there now, the middle of the wet, than it was when these piccies were taken towards the beginning of the wet season. This picture was taken on a dark cloudy day in murky light, but the camera picked up all that glare. Inneresting…

Oh wait, this is a sewing blog? Not gardening? oh ok then…

I used this lovely pattern from Folkwear:


The construction is supposed to be very straightforward. Two rectangles of fabric, the front one with a bit of shaping at the top for the waist. I added in a dart at bust-level to accommodate my D-cup bust, however I could have gotten away without it.

I accidentally adding some shaping round the waist and hips, where the pattern is literally straight down. I cut it a bit wrong then to fix it I needed to add to the hips. I wish I’d been able to make it without that hip shaping. I figure why bother making something different to your usual fare then accidentally make it half-similar after all. Ah well…

The pleats were also straightforward, till I misread the tape measure (dyslexia, honest!) and thus miscounted. Lots of faffing round and eyeballing it eventually got it Good Enough. In the notes on the history of the Russian Settler’s sarafan it says the women making them would do the pleats completely by eyeballing it, creating a mass of tiny pleats. Wow. I’m impressed!

I brought the ribbons up from where they were indicated on the pattern and still they held the pleats down to my waist. I was after more of an empire-line skirt. More swishy. Butterflies need to swirl!

Sarafans usually have two straps from the front, joining as one in the centre-back. I made two so I could wear it with a bra, without a top on underneath the dress.

Preparing the pleats – a task impossible without the help of a sewing-cat …

All pleated fairly evenly. Finally!

Getting distracted by a ta-ta lizard on the screen door

The pattern said traditionally the hem is finished with rows of ribbons and matching lace. I envisioned it with a good few inches of lace, but the only matching lace was very narrow, though prettily gathered. So I used the same fabric as the chest bands and shoulder straps as a ruffle to add to the effect. I may or may not be a total sucker for ruffles of any sort πŸ˜›

This photo makes me laugh, I look like I’m Receiving The Light! However I wanted to show how flat the front is on this style of dress. I wanted something different to my usual fitted silhouette and I got it πŸ™‚ I love how the fabric released from the pleats curls over the hips and flares nicely.

Lovely, isn’t it?

It just had one major flaw. So major in fact that I’ve cut the top band off and will remake it as a Tina Givens-style lagenlook-y dress (Well that’s the plan, at least.)

In butterfly purple and grey   A sort of modern does 1920s dress. Greta dress by Tina Givens

The flaw? Look at the hemline in the above photo, the front is higher than the back. It wasn’t sewn that way, but there’s twice as much fabric in the back as front, so gravity pulls the whole dress backwards after only a few minutes of wear (or adjustment). The front chest band rides up nearly to the neck. It was SO uncomfortable. I tried some lingerie straps to help anchor it, they didn’t work at all. I considered a waist stay but the loose nature of the dress made that inappropriate.Β It’s actually a similar issue to the realities of the Walkaway Dress that so many people found. The heavy back pulls the whole thing out of alignment.


And it was such a pretty pretty dress *mourns*

To be fair to the pattern there’s one version with equal amounts of fabric front and back. I’m sure that would have worked out just fine.

I am sure I can create something equally lovely, maybe even with better swirl for the butterflies on the fabric to swirl beautifully. But I’m still very very sad about this not working 😦

Mind you, there’s a definite satisfaction in just having made the dress, and all those pleats! And I have the photos to prove it πŸ˜›

You can find a pattern review here

8 Responses to “Folkwear’s Russian Settler’s dress: Sarafan”

  1. Summerflies March 23, 2015 at 9:01 am #

    Oh it’s such a shame as it does look really great on. It’s very flattering when you are standing still! The pleating is done beautifully.Could you have weighted the front… although I know I wouldn’t bother doing that…


    • Tropical Threads March 23, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

      I know! So frustrating 😦 because it really did look good, didn’t it.

      The pleating involved a learning curve. I’m very pleased to have made it, and pulled off those pleats, even though the wearing outcome wasn’t so good.

      I never even thought of the weights in the front. Darn. Well it’s cut up in the Tina Givens dress style now. Never mind.


  2. Katherine March 23, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    Beautiful pleats. I really like the effect they create in the back.


    • Tropical Threads March 23, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

      Thankyou! They did look lovely didn’t they πŸ™‚ Even though the end product wasn’t wearable I’m still very glad to have sewn it.


  3. bimbleandpimble March 24, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

    Those pleats! I swoon! Sewing cat did an admirable job with supervising such majesty πŸ˜€ And boo for the back hem dropping and the front hem rising- such a rad make!


    • Tropical Threads March 24, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

      Aren’t they awesome! Of course, I could never have done it without the supervision of Madame Hat!
      The riding back was very frustrating, but I’m thinking in retrospect I’ll do pleats like that on something else one day.


  4. BeaJay March 29, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    Those pleats are gorgeous. Love sewing cat too.


    • Tropical Threads April 29, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

      Thankyou Beajay πŸ™‚ I was very proud of them. And yes, I wouldn’t know what seam to sew next without Madam Hat πŸ™‚


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