Back to the dress I mentioned last Thursday, which evoked this reaction in me when I was nearly done with it:
There is really nothing worse than getting so close to getting a garment finished and then realizing you hate the way you look in it. I glanced over quite a few reviews at Pattern Review and noticed on a couple that people mentioned alternations on the dirndl skirt because the design as-is created a maternal look. I decided, eh, it should be fine – I’ll sew it together as is! And then I also decided to add clear elastic to stabilize the area. Do. Not. Do. Either. Of. These. Things.
The elastic pooched the whole thing out way more than it would have otherwise. The effect wouldn’t have looked so bad if I had been using a lighter fabric, and having finished the dress, I would definitely go that route next time. The double knit I used was about mid weight, and I wasn’t sure how a lighter weight fabric would perform in the bodice arena.
I spent a good while seam ripping out the serging at the waist seam and deciding on what I should do instead. take some fullness out of the skirt to create less severe gathers? Cut out a 1/4 or 1/2 circle skirt instead? The cheapass in me decided I wanted to use what I had already cut (even though I have more of this fabric…and maybe not enough to do much else with) and I created 3/4″ deep pleats to ease the fullness of the skirt into the waistband.
I was hesitant to take in the waist a bit, since I didn’t install the called-for zipper, (it’s a knit…unnecessary!) since I thought I should leave it as is for on/off ease. But in the end, I ended up taking it in 1/2″ on each side for a total reduction of 1″. I could’ve almost done a little more, but I’m happy with the ease in the waist now.
Now that we’ve got the scoop on the skirt, let’s talk about the rest of this thing. I thought it would be super fast, as many knit projects tend to be, but there were some obstacles:
I added the interfacing (I used fusible knit) that was called for, but do not recommend this. Maybe it will keep the dress in better shape over time, but after I got the whole thing put together it was SUPER itchy because the seam where the bodice attaches is not enclosed. Itchy to the point that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to wear it. I serged the edges, and this helped a bit, but the yoke would be more comfortable and would conform to the body much better without.
I also was not pleased with the directions regarding attaching the front strap to the back strap, AKA the shoulder seam.
For both the front and back yoke sections, the pattern calls for turning under the lining to the seam allowance line, pressing and trimming. Then it has you sew the outer edges of the shell (outer garment) piece to the lining piece and turning right side out. At this point you only have 3/8″ sticking out that has to be precisely sewn to the corresponding front or back shell piece. Everything was so thick by this point that I couldn’t get right up to the sewing line. I ended up ripping out about 1/2″ of the outer edge seam on each side so I could accurately sew the shell pieces together.
Also, these pattern pieces let you know that they have a 3/8″ seam allowance, but it’s unclear if that also includes the shoulder seam. I made it 3/8″, and I think that was correct based on where the underarms of the bodice hit me, but it didn’t really seem clear either way in the directions or on the pattern.
Attaching the yoke to the bodice
For starters, use a walking foot:
Use the walking foot even to baste the edges of the yoke pieces together, and pin, even if you don’t feel like you should need to. I didn’t pin or use a walking foot at first and since the shell piece was stretchier than the interfaced lining piece, things got interesting. Much seam ripping ensued.
As for the actual sewing of the yoke to the bodice, you’ll want to use LOTS of pins..
…and sew slowly. To minimize stretch out, only clip the yoke around the very tight curves (the 2 in front and 2 in back). I found that I could get the rest sewn without having to clip anything. Generally, I prefer to use my serger on all parts of a knit dress, but with those tight corners, I chose to sew this part with a narrow zig zag. I wouldn’t advise serging it unless you are very confident.
My first curve came out beautifully,
but I ended up having to resew 2 of them because there were problems with keeping everything flat while navigating those turns, and 1 because I didn’t feel like I had caught enough of the yoke in the seam. Just go slow and know you may have to pick and resew.
After all of these little bumps, I finally finished the dress. Here it is!
The yoke sticks out a bit near the underarms, which could be remedied by pinching some of the fullness out and transferring for the pattern piece (if I make it again) or might even resolve itself if I omit the interfacing, since the fabric would stretch to mold to the body. It’s also still not a very flattering dress, but I’m afraid if I take in the waistband any more than I have, I won’t be able to slip it on.
I also noticed a distinct tilt to the waistband. It’s way wrinkly in the back, so I think I needed a swayback adjustment (which I’ve actually never done before – have just read about it). I’m not going to worry about it for this dress, but if I make another I’ll know what needs to be done.
The dress is wearable despite these foibles, though…so…rock on. It’ll be something nice to wear to work or for running errands around town. I’ve also kind of planned another one out in my head, now that I’ve sewn it once and know what to expect. We’ll see if that ends up happening – there are so many great patterns out there to try!
1. I didn’t add the interfacing to the waistband so it would stretch to take on and off; I omitted the zipper.
2. The dress ended up about 3 1/2″ shorter because I accidentally made a hole with a broken needle while hemming it.
1. Baste the skirt onto the waistband to make sure you like it as designed. If you don’t like it, it’ll be easy to pull apart and adjust.
2. Don’t use interfacing in the yoke. Optional in the waistband, depending on whether you’re installing a zip or not.
3. Leave more fabric free at the shoulder than called for so you can easily sew the shell pieces together.
4. Use a walking foot.
5. Pin like a mofo.
This dress should’ve been dead simple; it was, in many ways. But sometimes you need a few tips to help make something that should be easy to sew stay easy to sew.