Speedy sewing: Ruska tunic dress

Two makes photographed and blogged in the same week?! I’m spoiling you. But this is the sort of make that I knew if I didn’t take photos now, I’d probably never get around to it, despite it being pretty much an instant favourite.

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When I first unwrapped Breaking The Pattern from Named Clothing on Christmas Day, I didn’t expect the Ruska to feature so highly on my list. I’d mainly wanted it for the Solina and Saraste dresses – neither of which I’ve got round to making – it hadn’t even crossed my mind that I might want a knitted midi dress. Mind you, back then the idea of us spending four months in lockdown was totally absurd, wasn’t it? Side note, I love that they give us the translation for each of the garment names – Ruska means the colours of Autumn, which this dress definitely evokes the feeling of, particularly on a rainy day like today.

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This shot up my list shortly before lockdown, when I spotted one of my best pals in a long, black, midi/maxi dress, with long sleeves, a high neck and side splits. We’d been celebrating the night before, and when she pulled it on the next morning and whacked a belt around her waist it just looked so perfect for weekends – comfy and cosy while still having an element of chic put-together-ness. So obviously I did what anyone would do and shamelessly copied her.

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In the spirit of ‘breaking the pattern’ (i.e. hacking them and mixing elements to create your perfect garment), this is actually a blend of the various different versions of Ruska. I didn’t want a figure hugging shape because I knew I’d be too self conscious to wear it, so I traced off the Ruska tunic to the hip in a size 6, then blended the skirt of the dress in a size 8 which actually worked perfectly with no additional alterations. I took the collar and the sleeves from the dress – taking about 10cm off the sleeves – and wham bam, thank you ma’am.

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I actually sewed this up in just a couple of hours yesterday evening – an hour before and after tea. I’d already cut it out, so the hard work was done, but I really hadn’t been expecting to sew it. I was feeling slow and sluggish and lethargic (note to self, don’t cut out fabrics when you’re feeling this way: I ended up with two front pieces instead of one on the fold, but I’ll claim it’s a nod to the statement centre from seam of the Ruska t-shirt) but I convinced myself that just beginning a project would help me feel better. Little did I know that it would be so quick.

I didn’t actually follow the instructions in the book so I can’t comment on how good they are, but I’ve generally had good experiences with Named in the past. 90% of this was sewn on my overlocker, with the hems topstitched using a stretch twin needle on my trusty Bernina 1008. My rough order of construction was centre front seam, shoulders, collar, sleeves, side seams, hems. And like I say, it took no more than about 2.5 hours. I’ll admit, it’s not my neatest sewing – the slit hems in particular I might revisit at some point, but it’s perfect for now.

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For years I really resisted knits, convinced I didn’t really like wearing them (I know right, can you believe?). I think it’s because of how many RTW items were a really high polyester content which made me sweaty and statick-y, and lost their shape really easily after a couple of wears. I’ve never been much of a casual dresser – I’m much more of a high waisted trousers and blouse gal – so it just never occurred to me to sew with them. But reader, I’m hooked. Easy to chuck on, no need to iron (viscose I love you, but you’re damn high maintenance), and super comfy to wear. In fact, the least comfy part of this outfit is the belt which is entirely optional in the first place. That’s what I call a winner.

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I used a cotton rib knit from My Fabrics for this, which is a little tricky to capture in photographs but otherwise works perfectly. The texture of the rib adds a bit of interest but the black is so wearable and flattering. It was great to sew – admittedly my cutting left a little to be desired (again, note to self: don’t cut out without a proper night’s sleep) – but generally I think I’ve gotten away with it. I’ve already got my eye on some lovely melange knits from Lamazi, and the latest viscose jerseys from Meet Milk. I can see my wardrobe filling up pretty quickly with these babies. The Ruska pattern is brilliant: classy and just a little bit sassy! In future versions I might lower the side slit just a touch – I was envisaging more of a knee height rather than mid thigh, which is a touch risqué for my style but otherwise, I’m loving it! I can see this being a WFH staple through the rest of the summer, and a go-to weekend outfit once I’m in the office. And with the long sleeves and longer length, I’m hopeful that I’ll get wear out of it year round, which is definitely a win in my book!

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