When I was in my early twenties (so over half my lifetime ago!) I had this dress I loved. It was loose and long, with a high waist and low hem, turquoise jersey with buttons down the back. It should’ve looked like a sack, but somehow it was every kind of flattering. Easy to wear, to dress up or down. I wore that dress until it fell apart. I’ve often thought about recreating it.
This is the only picture I can find of me wearing the dress (with my friend Paula, attending a wedding circa 1992)
So for my third Sew Stretchy make I decided it was time to give it a go.
As I had acquired the lady skater pattern as part of the first perfect pattern parcel, I used the bodice as a starting point, but from there on it was a pattern hack with emphasis on the hack. I added abouth 4 inches to the width of the bodice, scooped out the neckline a bit, chopped a few inches off the bodice length and then made a skirt from gathered rectangles.
As I have not much experience of working with knit fabrics I am still learning how they behave. It turns out this one stretches rather more than I expected:
not the empire line I was going for
Neckline and waistline both ended up several inches lower than I anticipated. The bodice which was empire line length when I cut it fell to my natural waist with that gathered skirt attached. And though it wasn’t (IMO) hideous it did have the potential to be somewhat revealing:
plenty of wardrobe malfunction potential
So, what to do?
I’d serged that thing together, so those seams were solid. And as I had done waist seams before side seams I could not just unpick the waist and take it up a couple more inches. Anyway that would still leave the indecent neckline.
I considered pulling it up at the shoulders, adding a pleat and calling it a feature, but it just looked a bit too Laura Ashley circa 1987.
So I sat down with my seam ripper, the Wicked Stepdaughter and some girl telly and I unpicked. Every seam except the shoulders and sleeves. Which took about two and a half hours. I then hacked randomly, which took about two and a half minutes and sewed it back together, which didn’t take long at all.
please ignore the not-yet-pressed hem
What of the low neck? I hear you cry. I just flipped it (like a burger) and added a scoop back to the design.
The neckline on the original was probably about this deep – but with a button back
I used clear elastic at the shoulder and waist seams. At the shoulders it is purely for stabilising, but at the waist I used it to gather the fabric, too.
And can we just talk about the fabric a minute? I got it in the great 99p per metre birthday fabric haul of 2012. I didn’t like it that much on the roll, but I was finding inexpensive “practice” jersey difficult to come by, so I added some to my pile. Now it is made up I really like it! Somehow less of the white background shows than when it is flat and I think it has a bit of a Liberty feel to it.
mind out for the glare off my ankles
The astute among you will have spotted that this dress does not have a button back. I might give one a go one day, but for the time being I felt that buttonholes and packets in thin knit fabric with no instructions was just asking for trouble.
So the dress is not perfect; all the chopping and not much measuring has left some of my seams a bit wonky, and I went a bit off grain with the skirt, but overall I really like it and am going to make another in a solid colour.
Slightly stretched out neckband shot
Final construction notes for those who are interested. I cut the neckband 10% shorter than the neckline, but with a fabric this floppy I think I should have cut it about 12.5% shorter instead. I used a twin needle on all hems and to finish the neckline.
So, I’m glad that Sew Stretchy month has pushed me into sewing with knits. I’ve had all of my last three makes on my list since, like, forever and am now a total knit convert.