Charity Sewing,  Pattern Reviews,  Sewing Tips

Charity Sewing II: the Hope dresses

(Photo of pattern cover removed at request of Violette Fields Threads)


Violette Fields Threads is the publisher of the second charity-sewing “Hope” dress pdf that I am reviewing. This was especially designed for the “Give Hope Project”, with the goal of sending a hand-made and donated dress to every little girl in an orphanage in Guatemala.   The pattern is free, and you can download it from the VFT website with a contribution of $2.50 which helps cover the cost of shipping the donated dresses.

Dresses were supposed to be mailed by January 31st, 2016 but I believe they will still accept them (check the website for updates)….you can get the pattern here:

Hope Tunic & Dress

“Hope” is a reversible swing-dress with rabbit-ear tie shoulders, which means that each little girl receiving this dress will get 2 looks in one.  Of course the tester photos are gorgeous, as always with VFT!  Beautiful little girls are twirling on the beach and in the meadows…completely enchanting.

Please Note: the following is a TECHNICAL review.  I am not a fashion designer, I am a Technical Designer/ Pattern-maker.  I am trained in finding and fixing issues related to fit and construction. Also, even within the technical area, just as in design, there are no rights and wrongs, only opinions.  There is nothing “wrong” with this pattern.  Are there things I would change? Yes.  Is that necessary to use this pattern? Absolutely not. It makes up a cute dress.  That said, IN MY OPINION it makes up a better-fitting dress with a few technical tweaks that do not change the fashion design.


When I first saw the design, my initial reaction was “I’ve seen that dress before! It’s vintage Simplicity”:


My next thought: “I’ve seen that recently….it’s AngelLea’s Tie-Top Dress   (  But then I thought “No the neckline is different, and really it’s the twirl factor. ”  What made me buy it was the charity program.  And the photographs.


After printing and taping together the pdf, I made these notes:

  1. Ease: there is ZERO  fitting ease across the chest. The Size 2 pattern measures 22″, size 3 pattern measures 23″, size 4 pattern measures 24″…those are standard BODY measurements, not garment measurements. I’d go up two sizes on Hope.
  2. Yardage yield: that’s a LOT of fabric in that sweep….plus it needs to be doubled for 2 layers. Going back to the tester photos, I should have realized this would be the case.

3. Sweep:  there is a wider ANGLE for the small sizes than for the large sizes


3. Armscye : the  shape changes from size to size, and hasn’t been trued*.


(*“Trueing” is the process of finishing a pattern so that where seams are stitched together, the result is a smooth line…in this case, the side-seams.)

French Curve…….SquareArmscye


Cutting out: I traced size 12 months pattern, and  cut a muslin.   There is just one pattern piece (used for both front and back). The  one-way-print layout  (both pieces cut on the fabric fold) requires 1 3/8 yards with an enormous amount of  wastage, because of the shape with the super-wide sweep and the long angled rabbit-ears ties. My manufacturing background mindset kicks in**, and I flip the back piece 180 degrees, with center-back aligned along the selvedge, adding seam-allowance for a center-back seam.  With newly interlocking pattern pieces, the fabric requirement shrinks to just over 3/4 yard. (Well, times 2: for body plus lining = 1 and 1/2 yards.  Plus 5/8 yard for the ruffle. Total 2 and 1/8 yards for a baby sleeveless dress …that’s a lot of fabric.)

** Side-note:  I worked for decades in the garment industry, where yardage-yield for production is measured down to the fraction of an inch, and pattern pieces are squeezed together so tightly in the “marker” that only snippets of fabric are thrown away.  Obviously for home-sewing you have the luxury of using as much fabric as you want, which I love! I’m all for generous cuts and lots of ruffle. Still, I’m always aware of waste, and aim for the most efficient use of materials.


Marking the muslin with seam-lines, I can see the armscye is going to make a “V” shape, since it isn’t trued. This could be a fashion detail, as in the previous “Hope” dress I tested from Bobkin.  Is this a trend? I go back to the tester photos: the armholes are scooped with a very slight “V” at the side-seam…so it’s confusing what we’re aiming for here. I’ll be able to tell better after stitching.



Sewing the muslin: Center-back seam (that I added): stitch, overlock, press.  Side-seams: stitch, overlock, press.  Stitch body to lining all around neckline/armscye/rabbit-ear ties: not easy because of the armscye shape, and now I’m wondering if this is indeed a fashion detail because it’s not mentioned in the instructions that you’ll need to stitch-stop-turn-stitch. The instructions do advise to trim the seam allowance and clip curves “a couple notches in the neckline”.  Actually you need many notches in the neckine AND the armscye and especially the armscye at the side-seam where the V-shape is, this needs to be slit down to the stitch line or else it won’t lie flat when flipped inside out:



Sewing tip: when sewing rabbit-ear ties (or pillow corners, pocket corners, collars, etc), don’t stitch all the way to the very tips, but rather “stop-turn-stitch 2 stitches-stop-turn-stitch”, then trim seam allowance carefully, otherwise you’ll create a big lump after flipping inside out.




On the dress-form I notice 3 things simultaneously:

  1. Length: seems long
  2. Armscye:  very “V” shaped
  3. Silhouette: too tight across chest and strains across the belly, all the sweep is hanging from the sides


LENGTH: It’s  described in the pattern instructions as “right at the top of the knee“.  I check the VFT size chart:  size 12 months dress with ruffle measures 20″ which is calf length in industry size-charts…girls size 9/10 measures 30 1/4” which is knee  length in standard industry size charts.  For my shop, I would need to grade the lengths proportionately, so that big sisters and little sisters will wear the same silhouette. That would mean taking quite a bit of length off of the little sizes (well it  would help with the yardage!).


ARMSCYE: definitely a deep “V”: it’s putting  stress on the side-seam.


Back to the pattern: the armscye is a different shape in every size.   In the baby sizes it’s a sharp “V”, then towards size 4 it turns into a normal scoop, and then going into the larger sizes it’s a deep, deep cut-out.  I decide that the “V” armscye is NOT a design feature, and thus needs to be trued to create a smooth line after the side-seams are stitched together, and to make sure the shape is consistent throughout the size range.


(Why does the color keep changing in my photos?  Because my studio has skylights, and the moving clouds makes the wall color go from blue to purple to grey all day long. Sorry about that.)


SILHOUETTE:  For all the sweep this style has, it isn’t really a flared silhouette like a classic “tent dress”; it’s a straight shift dress, with flare added  on only to the sides.  When you’re not twirling, the wide sweep of fabric hangs straight down from the armscye.  There’s no ease in the center-front or center-back.



In my personal opinion, some of the sweep needs to be shifted from the sides to the center.  First I pin up the excess side sweep:



Next I slash the muslin from the hem up to the high-point-shoulder to release the strain over the chest/belly and add ease/sweep to the front:


Looks like about 2″ should be added across the hemline (for size 12 months…it will be much, much more when it goes to the hem of size 9/10) .


Back to the pattern. I trimmed off the excess flare from the side-seam  to make it the SAME angle flare in all sizes.  Then I SUBTRACTED 2″ of sweep from the sides. Next I slashed the front from hem up to high-point-shoulder, and spread the pattern piece  ADDING 2″ to the sweep at the hem.  This re-balances the flare, taking it away from the sides and towards the front and back.  The “slash-and-spread” gives more ease through the chest,  eliminates the tension over the belly, and changes the silhouette to a bit more of a Sixties  “tent” style. (Again, my personal opinion that the silhouette will be more comfortable with the flare evenly distributed around.)



I  trued the armscye with a classic French curve to make a smooth underarm curve.  I graded the overall length to above-knee for all sizes (according to the size chart that I use….again, personal choice) . Then I cut out the dress in “real fabric”, again in size 12 months.


Result:  There’s still plenty of fabric hanging from the armscye, but there’s more fullness in front and back, for a more balanced swing all-around, and a comfortable fit across the chest and belly.


The armscye has a smooth curve.


After the ruffles are added, the volume pushes the sweep away from the body and the skirt really does come alive with twirl-ability! (Yes this is the “flip side”)



So what’s the verdict?


  1. Very clever style, fun for twirling, and a lovely way to send “2 dresses” to each girl
  2. Fast and easy sew: no facings, pockets, plackets, collar,  zipper, buttons, snaps, elastic, binding, no handstitching
  3. Single pattern piece (normally I dislike same Front/Back in neckline and armscye, but for an un-fitted sleeveless sundress like this, I’m fine with it, makes it simple)


  1. Fit needs some tweaking.  Studying the tester photos again, I now notice  a lot of strain across the bodice.  The armholes are extremely low and scooped out.  (Flashback to my Sixties childhood: my mom taught me, when pattern-shopping, to ignore the pretty watercolor fashion illustrations and instead study the photo, to see how the garment REALLY fits on real people.)
  2. Armscyes need trueing:  shape is inconsistent size-to-size, and none follow the classic French curve shape which has been the standard of comfortable fit for decades, and none have the squared-off angle at the side-seam to create a smooth curve.
  3. Yardage!  A two-way-print layout alternative would be helpful, because as-is this takes a ton of fabric. Size 9/10 with the “special” ruffle takes 5 and 3/8 yards.  Not a problem for a special occasion, but it makes the pattern challenging if you sew to sell.  I totally understand that it’s two-dresses-in-one, but at let’s say $6/yard and 2 hours of sewing, you’d need to retail this dress quite high.

Side-note: Yardage is also important when considering the main focus of this dress: charity sewing.  Assuming the goal is to dress as many girls as possible, it’s helpful if a pattern does not require a big investment in fabric. In fact, it’s best if sewers can use fabric already in their stash.  Chances that you’ll have extensive yardage in 3 coordinating colors/prints is slim for many people. (I shouldn’t complain, I have too much fabric….)

Bottom line: would I sew it again? Yes….and I did!  Here is my donation for the “Give Hope Project”:


Post-Script: Sewing Hints

  1. While making 2 more dresses for the “Give Hope Project” ,  I made note of these tips that make production faster and easier.  The first is the “Stack-and’Whack” method of fabric cutting: you’ll need doubles of Front and Back, so instead of spreading each fabric out one at a time and cutting separately, spread both outside and inside fabric layers together, then place pattern pieces on top and cut altogether.  Saves time AND makes sure the shapes are identical, which speeds up pinning the outside fabric to lining fabric.


2. Turning those rabbit-ear ties inside-out is tedious, but a chopstick makes it faster.  Starting from the inside, tuck in the end of each tie an inch or so, place the tip of the chopstick inside, scrunch down the fabric over the chopstick….


…then push the chopstick-and-fabric through to the other side, gently poke the tip to fully extend the tie…repeat with the rest of the rabbit-ears, you are ready to press and topstitch!


Do you have a favorite charity to sew for?  I would love to hear about it!



  • Ash

    Thank you so much for this review! I just purchased a similar-styled dress from Puperita during her sale.
    I will say that a French curve is on my to-buy list next. I’m learning more and paying more attention to pattern details for proper fit.
    I learned a lot simply by reading your review and I look forward to more! 😀

  • [email protected]

    You are so welcome! Did you get Puperita’s Bee Sweet or Petite Fille? I love those tie-shoulders…save your next take-out chopsticks to turn them inside-out easily! A great thing about Puperita is that her patterns are always trued, you can jump in and sew.

  • Bunny

    This is a great, honest review and very appreciated. It is a testament to your skill and experience and awesome that you share that so generously. It is one thing to alter for proper fit but should anyone have to alter a pattern so much because of obviously unskilled drafting? New, and all, sewists deserve better. All the lovely marketing and beautiful children in the world can’t excuse the selling of poorly drafted patterns that literally need to be re draped to work. You did a great job!

  • Caroline

    Thank you for your thorough review on this pattern, it would appear I need to follow your Blog and learn these things before making a purchase 🙂 . I, too, love Puperita patterns and havent had any issues with them. Maybe because she spends a lot of time perfecting the pattern before it is released.

  • [email protected]

    Thank you so much! Sometimes patterns need that final adjustment to make a big difference in fit. Possibly there’s too much pressure to release new styles within a set schedule? I’m looking forward to testing more VFT patterns….I’ve bought a half-dozen, because of their creativity and yes, beautiful photos!

  • [email protected]

    Thank you! It does a lot of time to perfect a pattern, but it’s worth the investment. One of my pattern-making professors would tell us “It’s a whole lot easier to fix the pattern first, than fix all the stitched garments later”. So true!

  • Tibeca

    I am so glad you took the time to explain how to move the excess fabric from the size seam into the body of the dress. I am definitely going to be using that method in my sewing. Thanks for a great post!

  • mrsmole

    It seems that this “designer” would have been better off just using a Big 4 child’s pattern to start with and adding the rabbit ears. You have made a world of difference with your alterations but we should not have to do this just to sew for charity. My local ASG makes quilts year round for returning veterans and lots of baby clothes and pillowcases with draw strings to put toiletries in for homeless teens. It is in giving that we receive…bless you!

  • [email protected]

    The Big Four are generally trued correctly (so you wouldn’t find the armscye issues), however I’ve seen fit and grading that are questionable. It would be nice to find patterns that you can just jump into without making a muslin!

  • kathy

    Thank you for the honest review. That is so rare with all the “testers” for the PDF pattern designers offering glowing reviews gushing over the cuteness of the pattern. There are right and wrong ways to do things and clearly you have had the training and expertise/experience to know how to do things right and get good results. I find it frustrating that so much re-drafting would be required to get a good fit, proper armscye, etc. and especially for a “free” dress pattern designed for charity sewing.

    Like you, I always look at how things fit on the models rather than swoon over the cute kids and beautiful photography. Ill fitting clothing and poor drafting is why I buy very few PDF patterns.

    For well fitting patterns with few problems, I’d suggest sewing Children’s Corner patterns. However, if one needs all the pictures that are customary in PDF patterns, then these would be a problem as the instructions have few pictures and assume some sewing knowledge.

  • Brooke

    Thank you so much for this awesome review with sewing tips! I have learned so much from it. I will definitely be adding your blog to my reading list. 😀

  • Bunny

    You’ll definitely find quality with Children’s Corner. They have been around a long time and satisfied many sewists, skilled and otherwise. No affiliations here. I affiliate with no one.

  • Willow Bee

    Thank you for taking the time to show this! What a great tutorial! Please, please keep it up. I love to know the problems before jumping right in. This is a true talent you have.


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    I really enjoyed your post and I learned some new things! I really like the Oliver & S patterns, haven’t come across one that hasn’t been spot on on fit and I learn new techniques in each pattern. Their instructions are well done and the patterns are well drafted to!

  • [email protected]

    I’ve heard wonderful things about Oliver & S, I just wish they allowed customers to use their patterns for sewing to sell. I’ve purchased a half-dozen of their patterns, and sadly haven’t used them at all.


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  • [email protected]

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  • [email protected]

    It does take time to learn…I’ve tried to explain it as simply as possible…but there is no substitute for practice. I suggest lots of experimental sewing with inexpensive muslin, so you feel okay testing, marking, cutting, changing.

  • Kate

    Excellent review.

    Additionally, if anyone is making a dress like this in the UK/EU to sell or planning on selling it from another country TO the UK/EU I would just point out it doesn’t conform to EU safety standards because of the tie shoulders (that goes for any pattern with ties anywhere in the head, neck or chest area).

    Oh I agree with Children’s Corner too.

  • Martha

    Thank you! This will help me make my next Hope fit better, but more importantly, it’s given me a new way to examine patterns, and make adjustments! (Old dog, new tricks; been sewing for over 75 years!).

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