Modern day fashionable scuba knit has a reputation of having insulating properties which often renders it uncomfortable for any warmer weather. “Surely this does not have to be the case?” I have always thought. “There must be a way around designating it for winter or sweating uncomfortably in scuba knit”…this has been knocking around in the backburner of my creative brain. Anyone who knows me is aware I love a creative challenge, and I enjoy pushing real or assumed boundaries in sewing. I do find this still new-to-me neoprene fabric a joy to work with (for its extreme ease to sew). Yet it’s also a pain at the same time because I normally despise polyester. However the siren’s call of a sewing mystery overcame such objections in my head. Now, several projects in on experimenting with scuba knit, I think I have finally found a way to be able to appreciate wearing it in any season or weather!
Using a Burda Style pattern for a wrap-on sundress, this scuba creation just floats on my body and minimally hugs my skin for a sweat-free experience, whatever the temperature! It is a design with simplicity of shape yet small details that are special. It covers enough skin for my taste but is also daring enough to be a bit of a departure from my regular way of dressing. The foiled print of the fabric causes this dress to seem so fancy yet overall it is not so much over the top to still be wearable for many occasions. For a look a bit outside of the box, this sundress actually works pretty well worn as a jumper over a blouse or even a turtleneck for the winter. It was so remarkably easy to sew, as well, being a one evening project. In all, I could not be more pleased with this new creation! Not too often does an elegant dress turn out so versatile. I do believe I found the best balance yet for creating with scuba knit!
FABRIC: a suede finish polyester scuba knit
NOTIONS NEEDED: nothing but thread and two buttons (from on hand)
TIME TO COMPLETE: This was whipped up in 2 hours from start to finish on April 6, 2020.
THE INSIDES: …left raw as scuba knit does best
TOTAL COST: The fabric was bought on clearance at JoAnn Fabrics at about $30 for 3 yards.
From the moment I saw this Burda wrap dress pattern, I loved it but for some reason it took me 4 years to finally find the right material to pair with it. It is always such a relief to find such a successful and satisfying end to an idea so long on the backburner of my creative mind! I felt that with so much fabric below the waist in the skirt portion, and so little (comparatively) in the bodice, a jersey knit as the pattern recommends would only pull down the bust and straps to the point it might either warp the fabric or mar the look of it hanging on the body (maybe both). A scuba knit has a good stretch but is also quite stable so it was the perfect unconventional choice. I also immediately saw that the wide sweeping hem of the dress would be a beast the make a tiny hem upon, so the scuba knit wonderfully simplified this step. Along this line I also left out any bodice facings or edge finishing. A raw cut edge is just fine as it is when it comes to a scuba knit – so simple!
Perhaps the most interesting feature to this dress is the dual shoulder straps, cut on (continuous) with the front bodice piece. I love the way there are pleat-like folds that form in the front by this design feature! You have to turn each strip in on itself to create two tubes (more or less) connected to the bodice, and then stitch those to the back bodice. I did not iron them down flat – I liked the puffy way they look and feel on my shoulders. Just to note, I did not change up the design of the straps at all, I merely did not twist the two straps together as the pattern’s line drawing shows and instructions intended. To stabilize the straps (they cannot have any stretch but need to support the whole of the dress), I sewed in sheer mesh “stay tape” with the stitching.
The deep, wide bottom flounce panel to the skirt gives this dress such a fun flair. It is also the reason this dress needs so very much fabric! As I did not hem this dress (scuba knit, remember?) but traced out the pattern as if it was going to have one, it ended up a pretty midi length I think is a bit elegant. This is the same reason the neckline was a bit higher than it was supposed to be…no edge stitching because of no hem facing. That’s fine for me – I like the slightly better coverage so as not to show cleavage.
In lieu of long ties to close this wrap dress, I opted for a simple but fancy button closure using the one faux crystal notion leftover from making this cocoon coat (posted here). Inside the wrap, I used a single unmatched wooden button from on hand. To make the loops, there is a small remnant of ¼ bias tape sewn down in half lengthwise and stitched to the edge of the waist seam. The rich-toned, silver accented fabric speaks volumes on its own…long fussy ties would distract from that. Keeping the dress’s features relatively low-key adds to its versatility, as I said above.
Yes, I know, I might seem to contradict myself by overdoing the simplicity of the dress by adding a lot in terms of accessories. I went all out by adding grey stockings, bling (made by me), layers of pearls (vintage from my Grandma), braided up-do (can I brag about my upside down French braid?), and hair flowers (handmade for this dress), but can you blame me? This was the outfit I had for our quarantined celebration of our wedding anniversary. As this year’s celebration was at home, I had to go all out with my outfit, right?!
It’s amazing just how much can change a sewing project like the choice of fabric. In this dress’ case, the scuba knit elevated a simple, casual sundress into something deluxe and helped me find a new way to appreciate such a modern material. The skirt has more fullness to its silhouette and the entire dress keeps its shape better with the scuba…all just what I was aiming for originally. What I did not plan for was for me to like this project as much as I do. I felt rather doubtful and experimental at both the outset and the sewing of the dress. It’s so nice to have your expectations exceeded by a successful sewing project! I attribute it to giving scuba knit one more reluctant try because I had a wild sewing idea that gave me renewed energy. Never be afraid to be creative, inspired, and follow your dreams.