I’m pretty slow at getting around to actually making something from an inspiration. How slow? Well, the inspiration for this make was a dress worn to announce the engagement of a couple who has subsequently married, had a child, and gone on a tropical vacation without said child. Yeah, it’s been a while. In fact, it’s been so long that Simplicity released a knock off pattern of the dress, I bought it, and it has since been discontinued. So while when I initially saw the dress all that time ago, I thought “I can hack that”, I waited long enough that I didn’t have to. See, it was a cunning plan all along! Yeah, no it wasn’t.
The dress is, of course, Simplicity 2145, based on now-Duchess Kate’s engagement dress heard ’round the world. What possessed me to finally make it up now is beyond me. Just before the opening of my show last month, having been suffering from a certain sewing malaise, I thought I’d pull my sewing-with-a-deadline trick and try to make a dress in two days, for opening night. I chose this pattern somewhat at random, but it fitted my requirements of being not-too-hard and suitable-for-winter and already-have-appropriate-fabric. But for once my deadline game didn’t work, and on opening night I only had cut out pieces of a dress and I had to wear something else. So I reassigned my deadline to Valentine’s day the following week. (I finished it in time for our Valentine’s dinner, but why am I just blogging it now? Clearly the excitement for this dress is slightly lacking.)
I pulled the perfect fabric out of my stash (hooray!) – a really nice, heavy, matte ITY jersey, almost certainly from the Crazy Fabric Store in Solvang. Sadly, I hear that the CFS has closed for good. Such a bummer! Granted, for the last year or two it hadn’t really had anything good, but I will always appreciate all the fantastic basics I found there over the years. I have a bunch of these nice heavy solid ITYs from there. Bizarrely, now that my source has dried up, I’m loathe to use them, but this seemed like a worthy use of one of the good cuts.
What I failed to realize, all the way up until I was about to cut it out and I went on PatternReview for some sizing guidance, was that this is inexplicably a pattern for woven fabrics. What? Kate’s dress was jersey, it looks like a million other jersey dresses I’ve seen, I would never in a million years think to make this pattern in a woven. Of course, that could just be my knit-lover’s bias. But still. I did cut my usual size 10-top-12-bottom with a little bit pinched out of the neck line for an SBA, because the ease didn’t seem too bad and I didn’t want it too tight. Where I ran into problems with the woven-to-knit conversion was with the front wrap pieces. I tore out that part of the side seam three times trying to get the right amount of ease in the wrap pieces – too loose and they drooped down in the middle, too tight and they pulled the back tight and gathered the front at the sides in an unattractive manner. I think I reached a good balance finally, or at least a good enough balance.
I made just a couple other adjustments. The sleeves, in addition to being drafted for a woven fabric, have a weird cuff pleat detail that I didn’t want, so I subbed in the sleeves from Simplicity 1716 (because I had it to hand) and they fit well. I also stopped sewing down the skirt pleats at the waistline, so the pleats would open up right under the wrap pieces. I initially shortened the pleats in back too, but they opened up in an unflattering place on my bum, so I went back in and sewed them down to the marked end point. It’s not the best fit in the back, still – I suppose I really should start making an actual swayback adjustment.
The last woven-pattern weirdness I had to deal with was the neckline. It calls for a facing, of course, and of course I never want to do facings. I was torn this time, though, because the facings would give it a nice clean look with no visible neckline stitching. I almost went with the facings… but then I came to my senses. The facing would never turn under neatly and stay there in this poly jersey. So I resorted to my usual clear elastic/twin needle neckline finish. I’ve had a request for a close-up view, so here it is. I zig-zag clear elastic to the wrong side, 2/8 of an inch away from the edge (it’s 3/8ths elastic, so that makes the edge at 5/8ths), then I fold over the neckline along the edge of the elastic and topstitch with a twin needle.
You can see the wide zigzag stitch that is from attaching the elastic to the wrong side, and the tiny narrow zigzag from the twin needle. The twin needle tunneling is worse on this dress than usual because I missed the elastic – usually I get the twin needle line closer to the edge so it sews through the elastic, minimizing tunneling. But, I was in a hurry, so I called it good enough. The thing I most love about this technique, particularly for poly knits and other unpressables, is that the clear elastic creates a nice hard edge that looks sharp without all that mucking about with turning the edge under just right and pressing. It’s also a super stable neckline that won’t stretch or deform. I can’t take credit for this method – I’m sure I encountered it somewhere on teh interwebs, though I’ve no idea where – but I love it and use it on all my v- or crossover necklines.
So, all in all, a nice, practical, dressyish winter dress. I must say, though, that I’ve caught spring fever bad and am no longer interested in making anything with sleeves. And the 80-degree weather we had last week has been backing me up in this regard. But, since it doesn’t actually get warm enough again here to go sleeveless until September, I think I can’t dive into halter dresses yet… so I’ll just have to keep dipping into the inspiration archives.