I have a weak spot for funky, fun, and bold prints. Perhaps it’s the inner wild child that wants to have more fun with my fashion than I ever had the nerve for in my younger years. Another weak spot in my love for fabric goes to cozy, easy-care sweater knits. (I’ve used a similar fabric for this project.) This post is about a dress that combines those two happy “weak spots” in my fabric taste – a dress that is a good example of a fashion at the outset of a new decade.
When you sew your own garments, it’s never a bad thing to have your clothes stand out from the crowd. With all my projects, I always try to make sure they are made with great care, have special details, are precisely for my own style, and tailored for the best personal fit. So, if my garments do stand out, and perhaps get a few compliments, that is necessarily a good thing – especially when I can say, “Thanks, I made it myself!” No matter what your own sewing qualities are, to have made some thing you are wearing deserves no small amount of pride. The sewing craft is an amazing combination of art and utility and talent.
This dress makes me happy and proud on account of successfully resizing it from a junior’s size and making it with the instructions missing. I can’t help but twisting up that famous phrase from the 1948 Treasure of the Sierra Madre movie, “Instructions? I don’t need no stinking instructions!” (See original movie clip here.) Having no instructions actually made the construction fun and more a matter of sewing knowledge, by relying 100% on figuring out what goes together when and thinking backwards. Also, the knowledge learned from figuring out how to adapt the proportions of a junior’s pattern to my sizing has come in handy since then. Now even more patterns are open to being a possibility for me to tackle.
The pattern had just a few basic pieces to it – a front, a back, a neckline facing, and the neckline tab. Thus it was easy for me to fit tissue pieces of the front and the back around myself. I figured out that the bust line, the waist line, and the hip line were all consistently 2 inches higher than my actual bust, waist, and hip lines. To remedy this, I started by measuring the length along the side seam between the bust line and the top of the underarm seam and marking the center of that measurement. I then marked that measurement as a horizontal line all the way around the dress – front and back, going across between the shoulders and the middle of my chest. The pattern was slashed apart at that line and I taped in a long strip of paper 2 inches wide to re-align the bust, waist, and hip measurements all at once…easy as pie!
Figuring out the facing was easy after doing so many neck facings on what feels like a billion garments in my lifetime of sewing. It was simply right sides together, then sewing around the keyhole neckline opening on the chest, clipping curves and excess fabric, and turning right sides out. I did sew in seam tape onto the entire neckline, except for the keyhole circle, to keep the neck in shape and support the rest of the stretchy, heavy dress. The tab closure at the neckline is sewn on top the dress across from one top corner of the keyhole over to the other, so it’s o.k. to have the seam tape end there. The tab’s facing is a heavy weight black cotton scrap to make sure that it stays stable and doesn’t stretch either. Having the inner keyhole stretchy provides just enough give for me to slip the dress on over my head, but once on me, with the tab closed, the neckline it entirely stable. Heavy, black, 1 inch snaps close up the neckline keyhole tab. I spent the time to do some fine and detailed hand stitching to invisibly tack down the neck facing, just loosely catching the inside chains of the knit.
Long sleeves were added as the pattern was intended as a summer garment. I used an old favorite standby modern pattern which has bell sleeves to go with the era appropriate funky look. I used these sleeves before to make this 20’s style tunic, and I love how they can work with a knit or a woven. It’s always nice to use a perfect fitting piece from a pattern you’ve used before…it takes some of the guess work out of sewing.
I had fun achieving precise stripe matching along the sides of the dress and across the sleeves. See my full length pictures – how cool does that look when I have my sleeves down?! Small, interesting details (except for the long French-style bust darts) are lacking with this dress to make the most of aligning the fabric’s squiggle stripes. So many RTW (ready to wear) garments have either a half-hearted sort of attempt at remotely matching stripes or they brazenly slap the pieces together with no intent at matching. I only notice more expensive garments to possess good stripe matching…but for the personal seamstress, it can be fun and easy with no extra cost and very high satisfaction! Matching any sort of pattern matching/aligning costs clothing makers and manufacturers so much extra money, it’s ridiculous – the sewers need to have better skills, more fabric gets wasted, and more time is taken…all of which costs money in the long run. So – you get what you pay for with RTW…unless you’re lucky enough to know how to do it yourself. That is ultimate and best trump card.
In the above picture, you can see so much of what I did for my dress: the layout to make the most of my fabric, the way I matched the stripes, how I resized the pattern, and washers that I use for pattern weights. Take note that the pattern called for a center back seam in order to insert a zipper, but as I was using a knit, I merely cut out the back on the fold minus the seam allowance.
This might sound funny, but this dress took me so long to get to posting about it (a year and a few months) because I wear it so darn much. My dress gets worn on such a regular basis that by the time I am posting about the dress it literally is starting to look worn. All I need to do to renew it is run one of those fabric shavers across it to remove the lint pills. But, not to digress, I think I am so used to reaching for it to put it on, and feeling incredibly happy and comfy wearing it, that the dress does not occur to me as new, and therefore worthy of a write-up. I also sense that, as the dress gets worn so much out and about, it gets its own live broadcasted promotion on myself, and that’s better than anything which can be put into words.
FABRIC: a lofty, brushed 100% polyester sweater knit in a royal blue, black, and tan squiggle/wavy striped design. The squiggle design is printed on the fabric, leaving the inside wrong side as a solid neutral dark cream color. I also used a scrap of heavy black cotton for the facing of the neck tab.
PATTERN: Simplicity 8851, year 1970, for the whole of the dress. I love the border print version on the girl on the right…I’ll have to make this pattern again! Butterick 4230, year 1999, for the sleeves. I made view B of this pattern (bottom left) as a stretch velvet top for a fancy occasion about 15 years ago, but I’ll save that for a future post 🙂
TIME TO COMPLETE: This dress took me only about 6 hours to make, and was finished on November 5, 2013.
THE INSIDES: This knit doesn’t ravel. To keep the dress springy and stretchy, the dress and its edges are merely zig-zag stitched together.
TOTAL COST: I really don’t remember any more, but I know I didn’t spend any more than $15 or $20.