I can’t even remember the last time I made a dress from just one pattern. I’ve always liked frankenpatterning, but lately I’ve really been treating my pattern stash as more of an ingredient list than a recipe book, with individual elements to be extracted and combined to make the item I have in my head. Here are a couple of my recent concoctions.
Along the lines of my actual-weather-appropriate sewing epiphany, I wanted to make a doubleknit dress with cap sleeves. I love my two sweatshirt dresses (doubleknit with tall midriff and short full-ish skirt), and wanted another one. I immediately thought of Vogue 8685, which I made in the pencil skirt version years ago (and is sadly too small now). That pattern does have a full-skirted version, but I didn’t want the weird skirt yoke or a circle skirt. I grabbed the skirt from Burda 7739 instead. I considered using the trusty midriff from Simplicity 2281, which I have used several times for various frankenpatterns, but I went with the one from the Vogue for matchings-sake. I created my own pleats in the skirt, both because I didn’t want two dresses with the same pleats and so I could make the skirt match up to the midriff.
And, well, it kind of worked. As sometimes happens with me on center-pleated or -gathered skirts, the skirt pulls funny to the sides, like I need the fullness distributed more towards the edges rather than all in the middle. This seems to be exacerbated by the presence of side seam pockets (which I couldn’t bring myself to take out because I really like pockets when the fabric is heavy enough to hold my phone). I think I need to cut a bigger size in the hips? Or a steeper curve in the skirt from waist to hips? Or to just abandon center-weighted fullness? For now I’ll just keep my hands in the pockets to mask the problem.
Because I made it in a solid fabric, I wanted to add some detail so I topstitched on either side of all the shoulder/raglan sleeve seams and on the top and bottom of the midriff. In an attempt to make a clean and easy neckline finish, I zigzagged skinny clear elastic to the wrong side of the neckline before I turned and topstitched it, but I could’ve done without – it’s a little gathery because I didn’t get the elastic tension quite right.
The fabric is a nice very slightly variegated ponte I found on a bolt at the Michael Levine Loft earlier this year. I’m hopeful that because it’s not one of the usual pontes I see everywhere (Sophia Double Knit, I’m looking at you), it won’t have a big rayon content and so ideally will be more impervious to pilling. Just in case, I’ll try to mostly dry this dress flat rather than in the dryer, which I like to think helps delay ponte’s inevitable decline into a textured pilly mess.
Frankendress number two started, as they usually do, with a dress I saw at Boden a while ago. I liked the idea of a striped tank top dress with a chevron circle skirt. So off I went into the pattern stash. My trusty half circle skirt is from the Tiramisu pattern, and for the tank bodice I pulled out McCall’s 6109, which I made in the cowl variation a couple years ago and I absolutely love and wear all the time. I sort of used the midriff pattern to make the waistband, cutting it the same width but about half the height to get the narrower waistband of the inspiration.
The bodice I made as drafted, in the same size as my other version, but the tank view seems a bit shorter in the bodice than the cowl view. I also found the neckline too high and small. This was probably because the pattern instructs you to just fold over and stitch the neckline – I wanted a neckband, but I stupidly didn’t cut the neckline down at all to accommodate one. I ended up cutting off my first neckband and sewing on a fresh one, which brought the end result back to what was drafted (which I still find a little high and small). It’s also one of those deep scoop necklines that is really hard to get a flat neckband on. I should always remember to make neckbands with steep curves narrower than I’d like, so they’ll maybe actually lay flat.
I hadn’t intended to make the bodice have vertical stripes, but when I went to lay out my fabric (a rare JoAnn purchase, which of course means that it’s already pilling and has taken on color from everything I’ve washed it with), I realized that it’s a vertically striped fabric with just two-way stretch, so vertical striped bodice it was. Luckily the direction of stretch doesn’t really matter in a circle skirt, so I still got my chevron front seam.
As with most of my Frankencreations, I mostly am happy with the outcome but they’re not perfect. (Wait, that might be how I feel about all of my finished garments… but somehow it’s more personal with a pattern I assembled from assorted pieces.) The waistline on both dresses is slightly higher than I’d like it to be. Such is the danger with sticking a bunch of random pattern pieces together. I’m lucky in that I seem to be neither long- or short-waisted, and the big 5 patterns generally hit my waistline just right without adjustment. But something about the lazy mix-and-match I do throws that off slightly. I suppose I should make the effort to actually measure and check those things, eh?
Even imperfect as they are, I have a special place in my heart for all my Frankenbabies. I’ve already worn both these dresses a ton. I also made the bonus discovery that a circle skirt is fun to bounce in, when I wore the striped dress to a friend’s birthday party that had a bouncy house (yes, my friend is an adult, no, there were no children at this party, and yes, bouncy houses are absolutely for grown-ups too. So. much. fun.) BOUNCE!