Ever since I sewed my first flannel Darling Ranges dress, I’ve wanted to sew a second one.
It keeps me roasty-toasty in cold weather and never fails to inspire compliments (IRL and online).
Yeah, that’s the sort of garment worthy of an encore.
Here’s a review of what I call the rainbow flannel dress.
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Darling Ranges Pattern Description
The Darling Ranges pattern is by Megan Nielsen, and it has three views: a shirt dress, a tunic, and a blouse. All three views have a button-up V-neckline; the length, waist, and sleeves vary.
I’ve sewn the shirt dress three times now: two in flannel and one in linen.
This is Robert Kaufman Mammoth flannel in a colorway called Durango. (The blue buffalo check “lumberjill” dress also is Mammoth flannel.)
Now, I could have sworn that I got the rainbow Durango flannel on Amazon. But, I looked at my order history and could not find it. Its origin escapes me.
As you might expect, this brushed cotton fabric is sooooft and waaaaarrrmmmm. Should you be interested in acquiring yardage for yourself (I HIGHLY recommend this fabric), note that it comes in a 44-inch width, which, if you’re used to sewing with stuff that’s mostly 60-ish inches wide, is kind of a shock.
The Durango Mammoth flannel is heavier than the blue buffalo check Mammoth flannel, and I could tell the difference in fabric weight as I sewed the rainbow fabric. According to the Robert Kaufman website:
- Durango is 8.55 ounces per square yard
- Blue buffalo check is 6.4 ounces per square yard
IMO, layers of the Durango got real bulky real fast. I also think Durango’s fabric weight gives the dress more body vs. blue buffalo check.
Speaking of fabric weight, here’s a hot tip: I noticed on Amazon that the Durango is listed as 6.4 ounces per square yard, which is incorrect. If you’re interested in buying fabric from Amazon (hello, Prime!), cross check fabric weight (and other characteristics) with the manufacturer.
How I Modified the Rainbow Flannel Dress
In no particular order, here’s how I tweaked this Darling Ranges flannel dress vs. my previous Darling Ranges flannel dress (cos I can’t leave well enough alone, can I?).
1.) I Added an Extra Snap
OF COURSE I had to use pearl snaps for this dress, because they are the most fun fasteners of all time. (If you’ve never ripped open a snap-button top or dress, you haven’t lived.)
The blue check dress has eight snaps — four in the bodice and four in the skirt. The rainbow dress has nine snaps — FIVE in the bodice and four in the skirt. Once it was time to add snaps, four snaps didn’t seem right for the bodice; I think the heavier weight called for more security.
RELATED: Gear Test: Snap Fastener Pliers (Video)
2.) I Shortened the Skirt
I thought shorter would be cuter for my body. No regrets. I like the proportions of a short, cold-weather dress with long sleeves.
3.) I Sewed the Pockets Differently
So, this dress has inseam pockets (yay). And to keep them even more discreet, I sewed the seam between the pocket and skirt at a smaller allowance than the rest of the skirt (one-quarter inch instead of five-eighths inch). That way the pocket is encouraged to sit more invisibly INSIDE the dress.
4.) I Added Cuffs and with a Placket
The big update to this iteration of flannel Darling Ranges dress is that it has cuffs and plackets, garment elements that I’d never sewn before this project. I wanted something spicier than the blue buffalo check dress’ straight sleeves, which, TBH, are a little meh.
This mod is a bit of a Frankenstein situation — a mashup of three patterns. To start, I referred to a RTW button-up shirt with a cuff and placket for ideal sizing.
Then the sleeve, cuff, and placket components came together like this:
- Sleeve cap: Darling Ranges
- Sleeve shape: Sew Over It Ultimate Shirt (women’s button-up shirt)
- Cuffs, cuff pleats, cuff location: Sew Over It Hackney shirt (men’s button-up)
Naturally I made a practice cuff and placket in muslin, because practice makes progress, using instructions from Barbara Emodi’s “Stress-Free Sewing Solutions.” The practice unit was successful, but sewing the flannel was a different story.
Don’t get it wrong; the rainbow dress cuff and placket came out great, but the next time I sew with a fabric that heavy, I’m going to make sure the inner cuff and (probably) placket are a lightweight fabric. Because man oh man, did that flannel ever get bulky.
As I sewed the cuff and placket in the rainbow flannel, I referred to the muslin practice unit constantly. So, not only do I recommend sewing practice, but PLEASE keep your practice on hand for reference.
5.) I Mitered the Corners
Along with sewing a placket and cuffs, I wanted to try sewing mitered corners at the front bottom hem of the skirt. (Why NOT pile on the new sewing techniques in one project, amirite?)
I LOVE how they turned out, and I wrote a whole (photographed!) post about how to sew mitered corners of uneven lengths. Mitered corners elevate a project and keep down bulk. They’re less tricky than you think!
6.) I Matched the Pattern Across the Front Bodice
Guys, check out those front bodice pieces. JUST LOOK AT THE PATTERN MATCHING! I’m so happy with how that turned out.
I wanted to do pattern matching on this dress a bit differently from the blue check dress. On the blue check dress, I made the two front bodice pieces (more or less) symmetrical, with the button placket as the plane of symmetry. On the rainbow dress, I wanted the plaid across the front to look uninterrupted.
Speaking pattern matching, I went a little easier on myself with the skirt portion of the dress, only matching the lines of plaid horizontally. I wasn’t even going to try lining up the skirt plaid with the bodice plaid. I think my head would have exploded, and I’m not even sure it’s possible, because the waist of the skirt is gathered. Also, you can end up looking wallpaper-ish when there’s too much pattern matching.
Pattern matching is wild, y’all. There’s so little good pattern matching (plaid or otherwise) in ready-to-wear garments. But then when you’re sewing your own clothes, you can go too far with it.
7.) I Played with Prints
A fun thing about this flannel fabric is that it has a striped side! I used the striped side on the back bodice to inject a bit of fun contrast to the plaid. The rainbow stripes definitely have a Pendelton blanket vibe, dontcha think?
I also used the striped side for the inner cuff, so when the cuffs are turned up, you see the stripes.
8.) I Moved the Back Ties
In the original Darling Ranges shirt dress view, the back ties, which provide the waist with a bit of nipped-ness, are sewn atop the seam of the back bodice waist and back skirt waist.
Because layers of flannel are bulky, I instead opted to sew the ties ABOVE the waist seam (on the bodice back).
9.) I Moved the Darts
I moved the darts down and toward the side seams. After wearing the blue check dress a lot, I concluded that the darts weren’t quite in the right spot. The point basically sat atop my bust apex instead of pointing to it.
Final Thoughts on the Rainbow Flannel Darling Ranges Dress
The shirt dress view of this pattern is mighty charming in flannel. Should you be interested in sewing a flannel Darling Ranges, my No. 1 tip is to mind the bulk — especially if you’d like to sew a sleeve with a cuff and placket.
Look for opportunities to trim away layers, and don’t be afraid to substitute lighter weight fabrics where appropriate for your design. Think of it this way: If ONE layer of the would-be fabric for the dress feels heavy to you, think about what it will be like to sew together TWO (or more!) layers of it.
(On a related note, I recommend a hump jumper/jig when sewing thick seams!)
I don’t know if I need ANOTHER flannel dress, but I’ll probably still play around with this pattern. There’s a dartless tunic-y iteration that I’d like to stitch, and I *think* I have some Irish linen burning a hole in my stash. We shall see!
Over to you: What’s your top tip for sewing with flannel? How do you approach minimizing bulk in a sewing project? Please sound off in the comments. Thanks for reading!
I looooove the many beautiful things about this dress: the dart placement, proportions, fabric, placement of ties in the back,… thanks for tips about mitered corners. You’ve inspired me to consider snaps in future….
Very well executed project, congrats!
I do not understand what you wrote here:
‘I sewed the seam between the pocket and skirt at a smaller allowance than the rest of the skirt (one-quarter inch instead of five-eighths inch). That way the pocket is encouraged to sit more invisibly INSIDE the dress.’
But am intrigued, as I also sew flannel dresses with pockets and am interested which seams you are talking about exactly?
OK, I made an illustration, Nathalie: the interior of the rainbow flannel dress at the pocket/side seam. I think here you can see that the pocket seam is deeper IN the dress (w/ a 1/4 in. SA) vs. the side seam SA (at 5/8 in.).
LMK if this isn’t clear.👍