Sewing for Me

Smocking Svenja

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Hello all!

I’d like to introduce you to Svenja. I met Svenja on Pattydoo’s website when I was searching for a quick-to-sew summer dress for wovens. For years, I wore a RTW cotton summer dress from H&M when spending a day at a lake or a beach. I’m surprised the dress held up as long as it did, but this summer I finally needed a replacement… So I searched the internet for patterns for wovens because I hate the feeling of jersey on sunscreen drenched skin (and as I’m extremely light-skinned, I am always lathering on layer after layer of 50+ sunscreen :-)). Also, I wanted a pattern without fiddly closures, no zippers or buttons. In combination with woven fabric, that narrows down the field quite a lot… So I had been looking for a while when I stumbled upon Svenja!

The pattern is designed for wovens, an easy sew, and it features a smocked back piece, so you can pull the dress over your head and still have a nice, snug fit. Perfect for my plans! I downloaded the pattern and glued it together, and as I was on a roll, quickly nipped out to my local fabric store to buy the rubber yarn needed for smocking. Cutting the fabric is easy enough, only three square pieces. The seams are finished with bias tape, the straps are also made from bias tape (I used store-bought one this time).

I was planning on sewing up the dress on the same afternoon – however, my sewing machine had a different opinion on that… No matter how tight or loose I wound the rubber onto the bobbin, smocking the back just didn’t work. The fabric pulled together a little, but not nearly as much as I needed it too. After watching A LOT of youtube videos and checking all my sewing books for tricks, I finally gave up and decided to take a short cut: I cut two strands of rubber band and sewed them on with a narrow zig-zag stitch. That did the trick with fitting the back bodice, although it’s not the most comfortable solution. Plus, the back seams is a little wobbly now, but well – I can live with that!

Thankfully, adding the two rubber bands on the front (one beneath the bust and one vertically to pull down the neckline a little bit) went smoothly. If you don’t like the version with the rubber bands in the front: Ina from Pattydoo just recently published a tutorial on how to finish Svenja with cotton bands instead of the rubber bands.


After I was satisfied with the fit of the dress, I attached the straps to the back. I chose to overlap them in the back in order to achieve a more secure fit. Plus, I think it adds a little interest to the back view!

So, not quite as quick a sew as I thought, but still very satisfying! On to the Flying Needle Sewing Blog Summary:

Pattern: Svenja from Pattydoo (PDF pattern)

Fabric: a printed cotton material that I bought when visiting Sri Lanka (at 2€/m – I should have cleared the entire store!)

Changes made: In addition to the smocke seams, I added two rubber bands to the back piece

Summary: I like my Svenja dress and regularly wear it when going to the lake or the beach. However, I wouldn’t make the dress again. Meanwhile, I prefer dresses that cover me up a little more – and also, I’m not a fan of the smocking technique. Or at least, my sewing machine isn’t! But if you don’t mind smocking, Svenja is a very satisfying, quick summer sew!

Do you have any tipps on smocking? Is there a quick fix if your machine doesn’t like the rubber band? If you have any ideas, leave a comment below, I am always happy to learn!

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Lastly, for laughs, an “outtake” – the ivy tried to attack me :-)!

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  1. Although you wouldn’t make it again, it does look pretty good! I have to admit I’m not a fan of smocking either, but having an easy on /off dress is very handy in summer!

    1. Melanie

      Thanks, Laura! I really love your wardrobe builder project!!! Cheers, Melanie

  2. I think this dress will definitely be perfect for summer, even if it isn’t your usual style. It looks amazing too!

    1. Melanie

      Thank you, Let’s get sewing!!

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