Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Modified Dress #1: A How-To Tutorial

One of the things I really love about Sonya Philip's 100 Acts of Sewing patterns is the way they can form the basis for all sorts of mods. Sonya herself has introduced quite a few on her blog and in her classes on Creativebug. This one is all my own.


I've wanted a high-waisted gathered dress for a while. This one is made from Brussels Washer, a linen/rayon blend. I washed and dried the fabric on hot THREE times before cutting, and it still retains a lovely drapiness. Here's how I made it:

1. I tried on on of my regular Dress #1's and used pins to mark where I wanted the high waist to fall. Then, adding an extra inch of length for two 1/2" seam allowances at the shoulders and "waist", I cut out the front and back bodice pieces (I used Sonya's neckline template for help in cutting out the front neck).

2. Next, I tried on another dress I own to determine my desired skirt length (lower calf). As a knit designer, I know that using existing garments as templates is always a great idea.  Again, I added an extra inch to take the "waist" seam allowance and lower hem into account. I also measured the width of the front bodice. Then I cut the skirt pattern piece to that width by the length previously calculated. Basically, the skirt pattern piece is a big rectangle. I marked one side "PLACE ON FOLD". The final skirt is meant to be twice as wide as the bodice, but gathered at the "waist". I cut out two skirt pieces.

3. Finally I cut out two rectangles 7" x 9 1/2" for the pockets.

4. I began by sewing the back and front bodices together at the shoulders and sides, just as in the original pattern. I finished the seams (and all others) with the overcast foot on my Singer 4423 Heavy Duty machine.

5. I took time to add homemade bias binding to the neck and armholes as specified in the original pattern. I chose to do this at this stage because I was working with linen, which frays horribly. This way, the fraying was over before I worked on joining the bodice to the skirt.

6. For the pockets, I started by finishing two of the four edges. See diagram below.

Then I pressed those sides and the top under 1/4" to the wrong side. I turned the top down an additional 1 1/4" to the wrong side. I edge-stitched the top down (from the wrong side). Finally, I pinned the pockets in place on the skirt front with the unfinished edge right at the side seam. I decided that for me the top of the pockets needed to be 7" down from the high waist seam. I sewed the pockets to the sides of the skirt with a 1/4" seam. Then I edge stitched the other two sides to the front skirt, leaving the top open, of course. Pockets done! They really make this look.

6. I sewed the front and back skirts together, then finished those seams.

7. Because I was confident that the length was right, I also finished the hem at this point to eliminate extra fraying. I made two 1/4" turns and edge-stitched the hem in place from the wrong side.

8. Now for the gathers. I made chalk marks 1" from each side seam on both front and back. All the gathering was done between those points, with the side seams left free of gathers. Using the longest stitch on my machine and not doing any backstitching at the beginning or end, I sewed two lines of basting on both front and back, at 1/4" and 3/8". In other words, I did not sew continuously around the entire skirt. There were thread ends left dangling at each of the chalk marks. I used my iron to press a line at the centre of all bodice and skirt sections to assist with spacing the gathers. I began by pulling on the bobbin threads from each end and gently gathering the skirt until it was approximately the size of the bodice. Then, with right sides together, I pinned the side seams and centre fold points together. Finally, I adjusted the gathers until the they were even and the skirt fitted the bodice. I anchored the long bobbin thread ends around the side seam pins, and tied the top threads into a square knot. Then I pinned the skirt at about 1" intervals. Carefully, and with the bodice on top and gathers on the bottom, I sewed a 1/2" seam around the entire skirt. I pressed the seam to set the stitches, then finished the edge with my overcast foot. At that point I pressed the seam toward the bodice and top-stitched it in place 1/4" from the seam from the right side. Yay, all done!

I expect to get four-season wear out of this little dress. It can be layered with leggings and boots with a cropped sweater (like my Perth Cardi) in winter, and worn with sandals and a tee in summer. So versatile.

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