Wearing my holiday

This is the Claudia Dress by Tessuti Patterns, made in a fabric I designed after falling in love with a small pocket of the Yorkshire Dales - Dentdale - where we stayed in a cottage with my family this summer.

The cottage we stayed in was called the Old Dam, in a tiny hamlet called Cowgill. If you look at the top three buildings in this picture, just below the viaduct, the Old Dam is the middle one. (This is a miniature model of Cowgill with a working miniature train in Dent Museum)

The area is stunning - a tranquil haven that feels incredibly remote, tucked away in a luscious green crevice on the edge of Cumbria. It feels like you couldn't get deeper into the countryside in Britain if you tried.

Old Dam is not just a flippant name, the present day driveway of the cottage is actually the site of an old dam, and the garden is the pool the dam created, now filled in with earth and grassed over. The dam blocked Arten Gill (gill being a name for a rocky river - very rocky when we were there as it hadn't rained in about 3 months!), and powered a huge water wheel attached to the side of the property below, which was a woollen mill. The mill would have been for fulling woollen cloth I think, cleaning out oils and making it thicker, so better quality for selling.  

Though it's hard to believe, in the 19th Century this area was a hive of industrial activity. The woollen mill changed use (sometime in the first quarter of the 19th Century I think, though hard to find a date) and the whole hamlet became involved in the production of Dent 'marble,' which is actually polished limestone. The whole dale would have been alive with workers cutting stone from the landscape (with crowbars as far as I can tell) and transporting it to the mill in wheelbarrows to be processed. There's a detailed and evocative description of Cowgill as a a marble manufacturing hub here.

The Arten Gill viaduct which looms above the cottage was completed in 1875 (it took 4 years to build) made entirely from local stone. Amazing to imagine the construction of this at that time, with the legs of the viaduct often sunk 55ft into the ground and stretching 117 feet into the air. Just one of the stones used weighed 8 tonnes.

"Hmmm, impressive!"

Rock really dominates the area, and the local church in Dent has Dent Marble flooring.

The marble is stuffed full of fossils as the limestone was laid down around 350 million years ago when this bit of Britain was covered in a tropical sea. Amazing! There's a bit of a history of Dent Marble here.

We did our own bit of excavation up the gill, but didn't find any fossils - the Victorians must have dug them all out! - though we did walk under a bridge that Oliver Cromwell built in the 1700s. I love this place!

Also to note, this was a very handmade family holiday. I made the fluorescent pink/orange sweater my boyfriend is wearing above, took a dip in the gill in my Nettie swimming costume (before we realised it was the source of the neighbours drinking water)...

... and my Mum spent most of the holiday in the Grainline Studios Alder Shirtdress which I made her in Nani Iro double gauze as a belated birthday present. Handmade for the win!

As you can probably tell, this pocket of countryside captured my imagination, so when we got back home I decided to capture it in a drawing.

"Hmmmm not bad, why aren't I in it?"

Then I decided it would be great to wear it, so I could carry it with me. I scanned the illustration and turned it into a vector in Illustrator, then spent many hours playing with colour. I started with the colour palette on the left, which evolved into the one on the right...

But finally settled on this one.

I got the fabric printed on a lovely cotton twill from Contrado. I've noticed that they've significantly improved their fabric selection recently, stripping out some of the more manmade, plastic-feeling options so there a fewer but better quality fabrics to choose from. This fabric has a lovely feel and texture. The weight of this is 213gsm - I'm not very good at telling what gsm value actually means in terms of feel, but I'd say this is medium weight, great for a tough summer dress as it's fairly strong but breathable and soft. I think it would make excellent trousers too.

The twill texture is really nice...

... and the colours came out exactly as I wanted them.

I sized the drawing quite carefully in Illustrator to get the scale right and the picture placed where I thought it should sit on the dress pieces. There was still a bit of guessing involved, but luckily it came out pretty well and most importantly I had enough fabric. 

My Claudia pattern is made of two different coloured papers, as I didn't notice there were two A0 sheets to get printed at the copy shop! So I was feeling very pleased with myself for removing cutting and gluing from my life, then realised in fact that wasn't the case!

A warning to anyone making the Claudia Dress, this pattern came out really big on me, and I think this is a common experience. I cut the XXS even though the measurements put that at quite a tight fit. I also positioned the pattern pieces so the central vertical edge of the paper hung about 2mm over the fold of the fabric, so removing about 4mm from the width. I had read Sew Busy Lizzy's blog post about her Claudia Dress and that had emboldened me slightly but I was too scared to remove more. "Didn't you make a toile?" I hear you ask? Sadly, and to the sound of careful and organised sewists face-palming around the globe, the answer is "No." I know I really should have, as the fabric is so precious, but I wanted to wear it on holiday, which was imminent, so I succumbed to the ancient practice of desperately making something quickly for a self-imposed deadline! Maybe I've finally learned a lesson that toileing is worth it.

All-in-all I took in about 3cm at each of the side seams, which adds up to a 12cm reduction in width. Though I love the final outcome, the fitting could be better as I lost a substantial amount of the bust darts in the adjustment and the shape at the top of the dress is not really as intended in the design. It still gets a big thumbs up from me though.

The print aaaalmost matches at the side seams!!

I was so taken with Dentdale that I felt compelled to draw it, and I am pleased that I now get to transport this historically rich corner of the Yorkshire Dales with me wherever I go (in summer).

Right now, I'm going that way...


  1. SO! AMAZING! Loved hearing about the entire creation process, it makes it seem really achievable and a great use of print on demand fabric. And that marble with fossils in, swoooon, i want it it my bathroom...

  2. I'm just making up the Claudia now so when I saw your post I was excited to see what you did with yours and WOW what a wonderful story! So inspiring - I'm afraid mine will not be anywhere near as intriguing as yours :) I made up a muslin first to figure out fit - and that square front at the top really buckled on me so I had to carve out quite a bit on the sides - it was either that or add more darts at the armhole which I may end up doing. Now I'm onto my second "wearable" muslin in a very light weight suiting fabric. I wasn't ever intending to wear this as a sundress but more as a jumper with a light T-shirt underneath. I have some weighty linen that I think will suit this style - thank you for posting this inspiration make!


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