Now, I’ve been an admirer of the Olive dress & blouse for quite some time. I’m actually wearing a gorgeous Olive sample in my “meet the team” photos, and I can often be found just staring longingly at the stunning pink sample we have on a dress form here in the studio. It just looks so perfect for spinning in a field, you know? So, I decided that for my next Beginner Sews make I’d have a crack at Olive!
Like always, I really recommend having a look at the ideas & inspiration before you start sewing. But this time, I’m also going to recommend you check out the hacks for the Olive pattern. This post in particular is where I got the idea to add poet sleeves and a tiered skirt to my Olive dress—Ambitious? Yes. But totally doable.
We’re into the colder months here in Perth, so I wanted a dress I could wear tights and boots under. I chose this gorgeous khaki linen with a slightly heavier weight and texture. If I had my time again I would probably have chosen a lighter weight fabric to make the gathers drape a bit nicer, but oh well. You live and you learn!
When it was time to cut out my fabric, I first did some adjustments to the pattern pieces themselves. I cut the skirt piece in half: two pieces for two tiers. Just a word of advice, make sure you double the length of your second tier for more volume—I didn’t, and even though I love the finished look of my dress I would also have loved more volume on the skirt to really play into the tiered look.
The next adjustment I made was to slash the sleeve piece. If you’ve never slashed a pattern piece before it can be quite intimidating. But it’s nothing to be scared of: I just found the exact centre of my piece and then drew a line from the cuff to the sleeve head. Then I made two more lines on each side of that centre line, making sure they were equally spaced. I cut the piece following those lines, making sure I stopped about 2cm from the edge of the piece. When I spread those strips out, I actually used a ruler to make sure everything was even (can you believe I’M using a ruler and not just eyeballing it?) and cut out the pieces whilst the fabric was doubled over so that they were definitely even. I’m not sure if this is the technically perfect (or even correct) method of slashing a pattern, but it’s what I did!
When it came time to sewing the actual garment, I took my time. Because Olive has this really gorgeous V-insert feature, the neckline requires a little extra attention. My biggest tip is to make sure you’re pressing consistently to keep everything flat and neat. Since I decided to go with the first option for assembling the V-insert, it was slightly more finnicky and required more attention. But I really love the look this method gave, almost like the V-insert is floating on the neckline!
I misjudged the distance of my staystitching from the fabric’s raw edge, so I had a little trouble when it came time to assembling the neckline. This is why prepping the neckline is so important! Never underestimate any step of the making process dear reader, they’re all equally important when it comes to making your garment. Because my staystitching was so much closer to the raw edge than it was meant to be, I had to spend quite a bit more time working on making sure everything was flush and clean, with no wrinkles or folds.
After attaching the V-insert, it was time to add the bias facing which would finish the neckline. I always enjoy adding this part of any garment, because I think it really helps put into perspective what the finished product will look like; it’s really motivating! Taking the time to make sure your bias tape is flush and well pressed makes all the difference—it also helps with making the tip of the V-insert nice and crisp!
Once I had the top portion of my dress it was time to start assembling the skirt and sleeves. You can make gathers by machine or by hand. For the sleeves, I used a contrasting colour thread and made gathers just by loading a few stitches onto my needle and pulling through. With this method, I did find that keeping the gathers uniform was slightly more challenging. For Olive you add the sleeves using a flat insertion method, which I LOVE because it is so easy to do. You just butterfly everything out and stitch the sleeves on, finishing the raw edges however you’d like! I finished the cuff of my sleeves using bias tape, which I first measured around my arms. I think I will redo the cuffs using elastic since the cuff is quite loose at my wrists. But I don’t mind the look! It’s quite cute for winter, and I can easily roll the sleeves up for that dramatic, almost poetic sleeve finish. It’s very Pride and Prejudice 1995 TV miniseries (anyone got a lake I can dive into?)
For the skirt, I first finished the raw edges of my pockets separately. Now since I’ve got four skirt pieces (two upper pieces which attach to the top, and the two second-tier pieces), I had to be careful to use the correct piece (i.e., the piece with the notch for the pocket). Once they were attached, I just pressed them out and understitched close to the seam (this is actually an important step for making sure the pockets don’t want to always flip out). Then I just placed the top skirt pieces together and finished sewing up the side seams and pockets! Gathering the skirt was easy since I did the gathers by machine and tried my absolute hardest to keep the gathers super even. Looking at the finished product, there are definitely some areas with more gathers than others, but I’m too busy twirling and spinning for anyone to notice.
It was when I was attaching the bottom tier that I realised I should have made it about double the length of the top tier to get that super-flouncy volume you want from a tiered skirt. It’s not the end of the world, I still have a tiered skirt—just not as voluminous as originally planned.
Finishing the skirt was really simple, just a simple rolled hem that we should have all done by now!
I really love the finished product, I got it done just in time to wear to family lunch! Olive is such a fun and versatile pattern and I’ve already got plans to make a top, a long sleeve blouse, even a long sleeve shift dress to wear with a belt! There are so many fun ways to customise Olive as well, you can completely remove the V-insert for a deeper neckline, add as many tiers or ruffles as you want, or play around with patterns to create a gorgeous effect. We’d love to see what you make, so be sure to tag us @megannielsenpatterns and use the hashtag #MNolive so we can see your gorgeous new Olive dress or top!