One of the attractions on Jersey that we’re enormously privileged to be home to is Durrell, the wildlife preservation park set up by Gerald Durrell for endangered species. I support their work by taking out an annual membership and love getting up there as often as I can. My favourite animals are the gorillas and the spectacled bears, I feel a little voyeuristic taking such a keen interest in their personal breeding habits but it’s for their own good! Plus the cakes in the tea room are huge!
In May this year they organised a 13km run and family fun day to raise money, supported by Jersey’s very own mega star superhero Henry Cavill. Me, Henry and crafting have long been having a threesome, dating way back to when he was stealing scenes in The Tudors and I was just a fledgling crocheter who kept having to undo rows every time he took his top off.
The run coincided with my 40th birthday, so felt an excellent way to demonstrate that I’m not over the hill by running up lots of them. The day then got even more jam packed when I was asked to play my fiddle for the Jersey Lilies morris dancers at the event. Ok bit tight but we worked out it was just feasible for me to run, slam in a calorie replenishing bacon buttie and still be ready in time to entertain the crowds, if slightly sweaty.
Which brings us to the actual sewing part!
The Jersey Lilies colours are red and black and I’ve always struggled to find a coordinating musician’s outfit for myself, let alone one I’d let one of the most handsome men on the planet catch me in. So one of my first missions after catching the dressmaking bug was to rectify that by means of the Tilly and the Buttons francoise dress. It’s a style I know suits my ironing board-esque figure and seemed very novice friendly.
I diligently studied Pinterest and many many blogs, and learnt that simultaneously reviled, revered and superbly embarrassing to pronounce word “toile”. Genius idea. So I made one using some curtain fabric left over from my brother’s medieval wedding. And it wasn’t half bad!
The observant among you will notice that Giselle appears to be suffering from the cold somewhat. Luckily Tilly has a very detailed blog post on the intimate subject of dart placement, so I was able to get those bad boys shifted out of the bullseye zone in the final dress.
I cut a straight size 4 for the toile and it fitted ok, but I wanted a little more ease so I took the next version up to the 5 and just graded the hips back down to the 4. That fitted nicely in the front but gaped hugely across the shoulders and neck at the back so I ended up hacking a good couple of inches out of the back seam. I’ve since discovered I need to do narrow back adjustments on most patterns, so if I ever make this dress again I’ll try that.
Tilly gives lots of help with inserting an invisible zip so that it came out pretty good, although in my inexperience I didn’t realise how much closer to the zip you can really get with the invisible zip foot. This version is kind of an exposed invisible one!
At my lofty 5’8 height the toile was more of a tunic top on me than a dress (although 10 years ago I would have thought it perfectly decent coverage) so I added an inch to the length of the final version. I also finished it with contrast black bias binding so I didn’t lose any more length to the hem. If I’m honest, it could still stand going a bit longer again.
After we’d done our stint we were invited to meet Henry Cavill in the VIP tent. I came away with 2 thoughts overwhelming my mind: 1) He needs no airbrushing. The man is ridiculously beautiful and 2) I felt very very dirty. I was very conscious that despite my lovely and well made new dress, he’d clearly had access to shower facilities after doing the run whereas I’d had to do my best with wet wipes in the car park.
And just in case you found the group picture at the top of the post a bit small, here is a gratuitous close up of me and Henry. 🙂 Sweet super dreams!