Pattern Reviews,  Sewing Tips

Pattern Review: Violette Field Threads “London”

Some say there’s “nothing new under the sun” in fashion, and that it’s all been done before. However, style evolves constantly.   Case in point: the classic tie-shoulder girls dress.  If you regularly sew children’s clothes, chances are you already have the Oliver and S “Popover” or The Cottage Mama “Picnic Dress” (both are free downloads).   I’ve been selling this  self-drafted design in my little Etsy shop for so many years that my once-little models are now in Middle School:


Violette Field Threads new “London” dress pattern is a classic in the same vein as all of these, however it is more a line-for-line repeat of Simplicity 5593 (same sweep, length, bodice shape, tie straps, little ruffle):


Could you take a pattern that you already have, and increase the sweep?  Of course…but since this pattern is free (if you join the VFT Facebook group) why bother with all the calculations?  Why not just get this one?

Even a free pattern costs time and energy, so I tested this one to see if it is a “keeper”.  The printout is quick and easy, as there are only 4 pattern pieces and all are identical front-to-back:

  1. Bodice (on fold)
  2. Armscye cutout
  3. Skirt (on fold)
  4. Ruffle (on fold)


You also need bias tape, and if you are not purchasing packaged tape, there is a tutorial included for cutting your own fabric strips on the bias. However, it requires a full yard of fabric.  I have a more fabric-efficient method for cutting bias here.  Even with the 2″ width bias strips that you need for this dress, you’ll get enough for 2+ dresses out of 5/8 yard of  fabric. If you choose a neutral like a dot or check, it’ll go with multiple prints:


Onto the muslin: the beauty of mirrored front-back garments is that you only need to muslin either the front OR the back. I cut out a lightweight muslin in size 2, gathered the skirt to match up with the bodice…and discovered that my ruffler can’t gather that tight:


A reader explained to me that the pattern was designed using essentially width-of-fabric for all sizes.  For me, because I sew to sell and must have size-proportionate garments, that just won’t work.  As it is, the skirt pattern results in these ratios:

  • Size 2: skirt 36.5″ to bodice 7″ = ratio 5.2
  • Size 3: skirt 37″ to bodice 7.5″ = ratio 4.9
  • Size 4: skirt 37.5″ to bodice 7.75 = ratio 4.8
  • Size 5: skirt 38″ to bodice 8.25″ = ratio 4.6
  • Size 6: skirt 39″ to bodice 8.75″ = ratio 4.4
  • Size 7: skirt 39″ to bodice 9.25″ = ratio 4.2
  • Size 8: skirt 39.5″ to bodice 9.75″ = ratio 4.1
  • Size 9/10: skirt 40″ to bodice 9.75 = ratio 4.1

That 5.2 to 1 ratio is why I couldn’t get the skirt gathered tight enough to fit the bodice.

I regraded the skirt so that all sizes have the same gathering ratio:

  • Size 2: skirt 29″ to bodice 7″ = ratio 4.1
  • Size 3: skirt 31″ to bodice 7.5″ = ratio 4.1
  • Size 4: skirt 32″ to bodice 7.75 = ratio 4.1
  • Size 5: skirt 34″ to bodice 8.25″ = ratio 4.1
  • Size 6: skirt 36″ to bodice 8.75″ = ratio 4.1
  • Size 7: skirt 38″ to bodice 9.25″ = ratio 4.1
  • Size 8: skirt 40″ to bodice 9.75″ = ratio 4.1
  • Size 9/10: skirt 40″ to bodice 9.75 = ratio 4.1

I regraded the skirt widths:


….trimmed down the skirt muslin width:


….and re-gathered.  Much better:


NOTE: Every fabric quality “gathers” differently.  Obviously chiffon can gather with a far greater ratio than linen.  It’s important to use a muslin weight that is as close as possible to the fabric you plan on sewing. Even if you skip the muslin process, I would suggest gathering a strip of your dress fabric to see what ratio works best. You don’t even need to cut a piece of fabric to do this, just put the end of the fabric bolt through your gathering foot or gather using basting stitches, whatever method you prefer. You can remove the stitches afterwards, so no fabric is lost.

I just realized that since the bodices of size 8 and size 9/10 have the same width measurement,  I’ll need to re-grade a new wider size 9/10 bodice pattern.


UPDATE 5/2/2017: Pattern has been revised, you can log in to and redownload your pattern

So here is my muslin, bodice cut exactly from the pattern, and skirt gathered as tightly as my gathering foot will allow for this muslin weight. I’m really happy with the sweep and fullness:


Bodice height? What do you think? The instructions say “The London pattern is designed to feature a very short front and back bodice.  If you prefer it to be slightly longer, simply add up to 5/8″ to the bottom edge.”  


Adding an extension to the bodice can be a bit tricky, since anything you do one part of a pattern always has repercussions.  I believe the pattern file will be updated soon with an explanation  with photos to show how to process this design tip.

For myself, I added to the top of the bodice (5/8″) because the neckline appeared too low/bare to me, however the designer prefers adding to the bottom edge.


UPDATE 5/2/2017: Pattern has been revised with photo instructions for adding height to the BOTTOM of the bodice, you can  log in to and redownload your pattern:



Finished Measurements:

The muslin total garment length measures 16 1/2″ at center-front, pretty close to the size chart. But I  have concerns about the length grading to the rest of the size range.  On the Finished Measurement Chart, it says the finished-garment length grade rule is:

  • 1″ between sizes 2,3,4,5, and 6
  • 2″ between sizes 6 and 7
  • 1″ between size 7 and 8,
  • 2″ between sizes 8 and 9/10

On the skirt pattern piece alone, the grades range from 3/4″ to 1 and 3/4″. If you add up the CF height grade of the bodice, plus the  skirt, plus the ruffle, you get these total Center Front grades:

  • Size 2 to 3:   1/4″ + 1″ + 0″ = 1″
  • Size 3 to 4:   1/4″ +  3/4″ + 0″ = 1″
  • Size 4 to 5:   1/4″ +  1  1/2″  + 1″  = 2  3/4″
  • Size 5 to 6:   1/4″ +   3/4″   +  0″  = 1″
  • Size 6 to 7:    1/4″ +   1  3/4″  + 0″  = 2″
  • Size 7 to 8:    1/4″ +  3/4″  + 0″  = 1″
  • Size 8 to 9/10:  1/4″   + 3/4″    + 0″  = 1″

That’s a big jump from size 4 to 5: the skirt jumps 1 1/2″ plus the ruffle jumps 1″.  The Finished Measurement chart says the dresses increase from 18″ total length in size 4  to 19″ total length in size 5.  Actually a size 5 finished garment  measures over 20″ in CF length.  So if you take an order for a dress and quote the length as per the chart, it’s best to adjust the skirt pattern length first, otherwise you might need alterations.

Next step: I  graded the bodice for a true size 9/10, and then add 5/8″ to the top of all sizes however the designer advises she will update the pattern to explain how to add 5/8″ or so to the bottom, which she prefers.

I  re-graded the 9/10 bodice width by connecting the dots and extending the lines :


….drew in the new neckline:


…then extended the bottom edge for size 9/10:


…and finally drew in the new armscye:


Next I added 5/8″ to the bodice height:


…drew in the new higher size 9/10 neckline:


…and finished by extending the armsye up 5/8″:


….and then followed through with adding 5/8″ height to the tops of all of the bodice sizes:


NOTE: any adjustments to the bodice must be made also to the armhole template.  I  photocopied and pasted the adjusted bodice pattern piece to the armhole pattern piece, then extended the adjusted size 9/10 bodice (green line) to the side-seam:.


…and then filled in the other sizes:


Now the height of the armhole template exactly coordinates with the height of the bodice: BOTH have been increased in height by 5/8″.

Then I re-graded the skirt width because of the new size 9/10 bodice, and then  re-graded the skirt height by subtracting the bodice height and ruffle height from the center-front finished garment height:


Time to cut into “real” fabric:


….and this is the result:


Super-cute, right?  However I must say that even though it’s a free pattern,  It did require quite a bit of adjustment to get the grading even and the neckline adjusted.

Best, Janet





  • Brenda S.

    Thank you so much for the tips! I really appreciate the effort you put into making this pattern a keeper. Well written, clearly explained, I couldn’t ask for more.

  • knitbunnie

    I now have 12 VF patterns in my computer file. I am a sucker for those cute designs and exquisite photographs. I’ve only made one of their patterns, the Lola, and all 6 Lolas were for a VF charity project, so I have no idea if they really worked. I read the reviews, and I sigh and forget about VF until they suck me in again, and I optimistically get yet another F pattern. I just might actually make this one, following your excellent tutorial. THANK YOU!!! P. S. – I wish they’d hire you to straighten out their messes!

  • Lmlrocs

    Looks like something went wrong in your sewing of the muslin! I’ve sewn this and my result is much better than both of your examples. Maybe stop trying to “correct” something that really is just an error on your part!

  • Bunny

    You are so good at what you do, Janet. Do you ever follow up to see if a designer takes your changes and changes the pattern? These people really need your expertise. Thanks you so much for doing all that ratio math. My head would be spinning. And, yes, that bodice looked more like a strap than a bodice with its narrowness.

  • [email protected]

    Thanks for your input, Meka! Please explain where you think I made an error, I would sincerely appreciate knowing. I cut the muslin EXACTLY from the original pattern without making a single change in any way. It could not be stitched: the skirt simply could not be gathered tightly enough to fit into the bodice piece. Why would I go to the trouble of changing something that didn’t need to be changed? I would LOVE it if all patterns went together perfectly. In this case, it just didn’t.

  • [email protected]

    Oh I have more than 12! I absolutely love their styling, it makes me wish my “baby” was still little! You should definitely try this pattern…you don’t NEED to make any changes, I do because I sew-to-sell and therefore need the sizing consistency. But if you are sewing for your own child, you can just jump right in. It’s SUCH a darling style, any girl would feel like a twirly princess in it.

  • Tyvm

    I don’t know how someone can plainly see the photos of things being so off in proportion, and still make excuses for vft. The dress is a hot mess without the changes, as you can clearly see in the very detailed review. It’s pretty humorous though.

  • rita

    I think Lmlrocs thought your first picture with the two girls was you sewing this new pattern. She missed the comment that the models were now in middle school. I think that’s why she thought you’d made an error.

  • [email protected]

    Hmmm could be. (That photo is so old, and the gowns didn’t fit because the girls insisted on switching! Which I didn’t know until I received the pics from my sister….) But no, Meka actually said “Looks like something went wrong in your sewing of the muslin”. Oh well, I asked her to explain exactly where she thinks I went wrong, so maybe she will enlighten me. That would be nice.

  • Brenda S.

    I will admit to having read this after already cutting out the pattern pieces in my chosen fabric (because I tend to dive right in and sew for one child only). After making a valiant effort to attach the bodice as indicated in the original I will be printing another and following your instructions, as least as much as I can manage without any experience. 😉 After following the allowances exactly there was almost no bodice at all, and I’m sorry but I wanted to make a sun dress, not one that will require an undershirt. If you ever decide to make a pattern with the proper differences between the front and back bodice and all that jazz, I will be a definite customer!

  • Michelle A

    I have to disagree with the seeming error you “found” when adding the 5/8″ to the bottom of the bodice. That little notch that you marked would not be a problem once the skirt was sewn into the seam. Only stating so because I made it, added the 5/8″ there and once covered up with the bias, wasn’t an issue at all and no notch was present.

  • [email protected]

    Hi Brenda, you’ll be happy once you extend the bodice a bit, it makes a big difference! I know what you mean about “diving right in”, that’s always the temptation for me too. It takes restraint to make a test muslin when you just want to play with the “fun” fabric!

  • Lmlrocs

    It looks like you sewed it at a 1/2 instead of the recommended 3/8. I always use WOF for fullness so it being too much fabric is a non issue. Adding the 5/8 to the bottom corrects itself after using the cut out template rather than having a higher neckline that may cause it to gape.

  • [email protected]

    Hi Meka, thanks for your input. Like I said before, I cut the muslin exactly to the pattern (I checked the printed square) and stitched the seams exactly as per the instructions. Using WOF for the skirt is something I just can’t do, I need my garments to be size-proportionate. But that certainly does explain why the skirt pattern wasn’t graded, if people like to use WOF….

  • fat_lady

    I don’t have the patience (or the mad skillz!) that you clearly have in large bundles, to deal with pattern messes like this. WOF for ‘all’ sizes indeed; maybe yes if it’s a Liberty lawn, certainly no if it’s a sturdy 60″ gingham or seersucker, surely!
    No pattern company always produces perfect products, but I for one greatly resent paying premium indy prices for what are, at the most basic level, faulty goods.

  • [email protected]

    Ahhh Liberty lawn….we have no such lovely fine cottons anywhere near where I live. The vast majority of dress-fabrics available are really quilting cottons, which are much too thick to gather up a full WOF into a toddler size. It’s such a simple fix to grade the skirt pattern piece…just measure the width at the same ratio throughout…I have no idea why it wasn’t done that way!

  • fat_lady

    I live near the mill which prints Liberty Tana lawn – and other up-market printed fabric, much of it intended for export to Milan, Tokyo, LA, Dubai …
    Some of the ‘technical seconds’ find their way to the shelves above my sewing machine.

  • Crista

    I find it interesting how people can get offended or upset over precision. I’m very thankful for this post and how much I gleaned from everything you shared. Thank you! And cheers to you for your tempered and polite replies. It is OK (and good) to be precise!!

  • [email protected]

    You are so welcome! The precision must be inherited, my dad (and his!) were mechanical engineers. (PS: the people who get offended by criticism are always the fans-of-the-designer. In this particular brand, the fans are particularly harsh to anyone asking for clarification, especially on the brand’s Facebook group….and the designers do nothing to stop it. Because of that, I no longer purchase from this company, and I disposed of all of the patterns I had already purchased.)

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