I fell in love with the stunning Outback Wife barkcloth in February when I first laid eyes back in February. The collection has been designed by Cathi of Gertrude made. If you don’t know about Cathi, she lives on a farm with her husband and young family in rural Western Australia and makes the most beautiful dresses using vintage fabrics, barkcloth being a firm favourite. I was fortunate to meet Cathi and she was so friendly and She even gave me a little “Outback Wife” sheep tag back which were produced in homage to her family’s farm.
I’ve been planning on using some of this fabric to make a summer dress since I ordered it for the shop back in February. As soon as the fabric arrived and all of the pre-orders were sent out I cut myself a 1.25m length of the Elaine in navy. I’ve never used barkcloth before so I was eager to see what it was like to work with and wear.When the fabric was cut from the bolt, it felt a little stiff but once it was washed it had softened up considerably. It also shrank by 4% on a 30oC wash – so you’ll need to make sure you pre wash it! I would describe it as similar to a linen but more textured.
I’d originally chosen to make the Kim dress from By Hand London, but almost changed my mind as I wan’t sure if the princess seams would interfere with the large scale design. BUT I had been dreaming of an “Outback Kim” for a long time so I decided to go for it. If I’d had the foresight, I would have cut more so that I could attempt to pattern match the seams. I have another Kim dress which I made about three summers ago using a cotton poplin and it just about fits me again. So I decided to cut the size 12 and made an adjustment to lengthen the bodice by about an inch, but other than that we were good to go, no toile, no tracing required – so it made for a quick and easy sew, once I stopped procrastinating about where to place the pattern pieces!Now I have mentioned already that I only used 1.25m of this fabric to make this dress and that is because it is wide (approx 147-150cm). So for the skirt I cut the length as indicated by the pattern pieces, but as one piece across the full width of the fabric. I even left the selvages in tact so I didn’t have to finish any raw edges at the back seam. I did this for two reasons, firstly to save on the quantity of fabric I was using, secondly to reduce bulk at the waist seam.
The dress came together nice and easy and I made sure to take my time sewing the princess seams and when sewing the lining and shell together to create the sweetheart shape at the front. The bodice is lined using some navy cotton lawn I already had in my stash and I took my time hand stitching it down. The only bit of pattern matching I planned and managed to pull off was the two centre back panels when inserting the invisible zip. I was very pleased by my efforts with this!
There was an interesting article in Love Sewing magazine which said that this type of fabric would soften with age. I certainly think this is true as after a few wears it is lovely and soft and has a nice drape to it. When I compare this dress to the cotton one from three years ago, this one feels like it has a little more room in it, so the fabric must have a bit more give in it. Overall it is the ultimate summer dress and I want one in every colour and a pair of cowboy boots to wear with them all.
2nd July 2017