Pattern improv: Burda 7739 (sort of)

I’ve learned a lot about my style and what I really like to wear since I’ve started sewing. A lot, but most definitely not all. After all this time I still find myself susceptible to patterns and designs that I like, but just really aren’t me, and I end up with garments that, despite being acceptably made, languish in my closet. But somehow, this time, I didn’t let that happen.

I’d had this dress in my head for a long time. Well, not the dress as it ended up, but this pattern and fabric combo. I picked up Burda 7739, one of the somehow-associated-with-Simplicity Burda envelope patterns, a good while ago at a (rare) Jo Ann sale, and attached it mentally to some gray doubleknit that I’d had in the stash from one of my first fabric.com orders ever. It got jogged to the front by Cation Designs’ Stashbusting Sewalong: impending seasonal change challenge (doubleknit is a great season transition fabric, right?). When that month came and went, I still wanted to make the dress, so I shifted my goal to May’s knits challenge. What I didn’t really consider was how that would change what I wanted out of the dress. The pattern, which I like in theory, features an empire waist and a high neck with faux button placket and a collar. I had the brilliant idea to make big covered buttons, but I hadn’t really thought about it other than that. And, well, the buttons were pretty much all that made it through.

Burda 7739 mod 2Not exactly like the pattern picture, right? Well. It was going to be when I started. I cut out all the pattern pieces exactly as drafted. I attached the faux placket first, making it a smidge wider to accommodate my 1 inch covered buttons. I sewed up the collar, interfaced it and topstitched it and everything, then suddenly stopped and thought about it a little. I don’t wear collars. I have very few high necked anythings. And my style, as it stands now, does not accommodate a cutesy empire waist collared puffed sleeve dress. As much as I like the idea, it’s just not me. Plus, the weather was warming up and I couldn’t imagine adding a collared, sleeved dress to the rotation right now. So I threw out the collar. I scooped out the neckline by 3 inches and just turned and hemmed it (doubleknit is so easy like that). I threw out the sleeve pieces and turned and hemmed the armsyces too. I pulled out the midriff piece from Simplicity 2281 (of previous sweatshirt dress fame) and cut out a midriff, since it occurred to me that a wide midriff would be so much more flattering than the drafted empire line, and I inserted it between the bodice and the skirt (still pleated as drafted). And, you know, it all worked out. This is a dress that feels like me.

Burda 7739 modOh, it’s not perfect. The neckline gapes a little, because it’s not actually that good an idea to just cut a tank top on the fly from a high necked fitted bodice. I should have made the neckline narrower and scooped out some fabric from the armsyces. The pockets are too low, since I only moved them up an inch and a half when I changed the waistline and I should have brought them up more. I randomly took three inches of length off the skirt without carefully pinning and measuring first, and it ended up a tiny bit shorter than I wanted it. But in the end, I’ll wear it, and that’s all that matters. I don’t know if I could have said that if I had ignored my instincts and sewed it up as intended.

But more than a wearable dress, what I got out of this experience was the realisation that I can actually change my mind midstream and make it work. I’ve never been very good at improv of the theatrical variety, but it turns out I really like pattern improv. Something not working out? Change it! Frankenpattern that sucker until it’s what you want. Follow your instincts. Sounds basic, but it was kind of a revelation to me that I could change my plans if they weren’t working out. Patterns are not sacred, so why was I treating them like they were? That’s why we sew, to personalize designs, right? And I’m so excited to start doing even more of that.

My full pattern review can be found here.

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11 comments
  1. dandeliondrift said:

    Super cute! I love a knit dress, and it’s just perfect for summer!

  2. Judi said:

    Your dress turned out cute and looks nice on you.

  3. Cute dress! I have been there on the tank top from high neck issue…I have a few gaping necklines in my closet before I learned my lesson!

  4. Wow! That looks great, and I admire your fearless modifications! I sort of white knuckle my way through most sewing, and I don’t think I would have been brave enough to just believe it would work out.

  5. What happened to the flowers??? (just kidding, I know they don’t last forever) Love your dress!

  6. Great dress! Very brave of you to change mid stream. I love that you changed the neckline. It makes it much more personal. Why not? If you wouldn’t wear it the original way, why not start changing it? It’s going to just hang there in the closet anyway. You may as well take the opportunity to learn from it.

  7. lisa g said:

    good for you for recognizing all that and being able to change it. i hate changing my sewing plans mid-stream, but every once in a while you just need to step back and reevaluate. the dress turned out really cute! i love the shape and style. great job!

  8. I think this is sooo cute! Sometimes you have to follow the path you and the fabric take you, right?

  9. Myra said:

    You’re absolutely correct! I do it all the time and with results like this really cute dress you just made, it should be a normal part of your sewing process. That way, you will master it! Great job on this very pretty dress! Also, I love your flip flops, I have a pair just like them, but mine have stones around the circle, they are the most comfortable shoes aren’t they?!

  10. Zoe said:

    I like the original pattern, but your version is more universally flattering. Such a high neck on me would look awful! I like the fabric you used too.

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