Christmas is fast approaching and there’s so many things I should be doing, non-sewing related of course, but making my dress for Christmas Day seems to have been a priority!
There’s an Instagram and Facebook group called Make a Garment A Month that I belong to and each month we are challenged by the lovely host SarahLiz who provides a theme to interpret and we sew a garment accordingly. November’s theme was Needs and I started out at the beginning of the month thinking of all the things my wardrobe needed, mainly an alternative to jeans, so I had thought of whipping up some winter skirts in woollen fabrics but by mid-month this hadn’t happened. Lots of christmas velvet dresses started popping up on Instagram and being easily distracted by everyone else’s lovely makes as I am, I was then on the quest for a comfortable dress in a stretch material, no point being constricted in a tight outfit on Xmas day!
I found this pattern by New Look 6469 that looked just like the kind of dress I imagined and the envelope stated ‘easy just for knits’ and that won me over!
I liked the look of the raglan sleeves, it would be a new to me technique, and it looked liked a comfy dress to wear for Xmas, that would be perfect for feeling a little dressed up but at the same time great for sitting on the floor playing games with the kids, and as a bonus plenty of room for over indulgence with no waistbands biting into one’s stuffed belly!
Fabric requirements mentioned stretch velvet and I already knew I wanted a purple or aubergine colour for the one sole reason to match my xmas decor! I have a purple wall at one end of my kitchen/diner and I always try to wear something along the same colour scheme so I can co-ordinate with the tableware and decorations, a bit sad I know! I went to my local fabric shop to buy some material and they only had 1m left of the perfect purple colour and because I didn’t want to come away empty handed (that’s just not what we do when we go to a fabric shop right?!), I opted for a dark blue crushed stretch velour, they didn’t have the velvet other than in black, and I did think I could always use this fabric as a toile version being only £4.99 p/m.
The pattern is really versatile, you can choose from 3 options for sleeve and hem length and 2 different necklines. I opted for Version A, long sleeves, above the knee length with the collar. The first thing I noticed with the pattern is the sleeves, neckband and collar band do not have all the sizes on the one piece. There are 3 different pieces for the sleeves and two for the collar/neckband and the sizing groupings are different so be sure to gather the right sizes to start with, the bodice front and back has all sizes on the one piece so that’s not an issue.
I cut a size 8 based on my bust measurements and ignored the fact that my actual waist measurement put me in at least 2 sizes more than this, but because of the shape and floatiness of the dress I didn’t worry about it not fitting around my waist, there’s plenty of design ease! I also went for the shortest length, I’m 5ft 4″ at the most and it’s turned out quite short but that’s because of my hem mishaps detailed below…
So there’s only 6 pieces to sew together for this dress, so it in theory it should come together pretty quickly, however it was a stretchy, slippery fabric so not without it’s challenges! What I did use to tame it was
1) Spray starch, it helped stop the edges from curling in but it also made my chalk marks disappear when I used it on the collar so mark after ironing if using it!
2) Wonder tape – this double sided tape was a revelation in getting the invisble zip in perfectly and making sure the collar seam lined up
3) Walking Foot – this foot came with my machine and about 4 years later I finally got around to attaching it! Most of the seams were sewn on the overlocker but I did attach the sleeves and collar using my sewing machine and the walking foot seemed to help control the slippery fabric.
My biggest issue was with the hem, the fabric must have moved while cutting it out and I ended up with the back nearly an inch longer than the front. I evened it up or so I thought and did the hem on my newly acquired Coverstitch machine (which makes such light work of hems, when they’re level of course), but on trying it on I could see the hem was completely wonky at the back, it was an inch longer on one side than the other and really needed unpicking. The thing with the coverstitch is if you pull the correct thread, the lower looper, the whole hem undoes itself practically, do you think I could find the right thread to unpick the hem? It didn’t help that the thread was black on the navy, I spent at least an hour trying to undo that hem, even getting my husband to hold a magnifying glass for me (it gave him an idea for a xmas present though and he dashed off to his computer to buy me one of those free standing magnifying glasses with a light, this I know because he put it in my Amazon basket for me to check out!). In the end with half of the hem manually unpicked after about 2 hours, I gave up and cut the hem off and started again this time making sure it was even and using the original pattern piece which I should have done in the first place rather than just eye-balling it. So the dress has ended up a lot shorter than planned and I’m trying to convince myself that my 40 something figure can carry it off….
I also had problems with the sleeves, one was slightly longer than the other and this was my fault because I had hemmed them in the flat on the coverstitch thinking it would be an easier task then in the round, it was but they weren’t level so a pointless task! Whatever time I thought I was saving I didn’t, I then had to add a small cuff to even the length out.
So did anything go well with this dress? I have a very invisible zip! The wondertape worked wonders in getting this in perfectly. I lined up one side first and then did the zip up and lined up the collar seam first before sticking the zip tape to the wonder tape. You can just stitch through it, no need for pins, and after washing all evidence is gone. The tape kept the fabric from shifting and the zip went in first time, no need for the seam ripper!
I have never been very successful in getting a square edge to the top of a zipper, so I folded the zip tape outwards at 90 degrees before sewing the collar facing down and just trimmed the excess off level with the seam allowance. When it came to turning the right side out the tape at 90 degrees seem to help the top hold it’s shape better.
I love the shape of the raglan sleeves and never having done them before I was surprised that they had darts in them. I didn’t quite get why they did, I have a rtw top that doesn’t have darts at the shoulders so I couldn’t quite see what the purpose of them was. They actually became the shoulder seam so if you have very wide or narrow shoulders you should probably double check the dart length, one of mine was a little shorter than the other so I did need to redo it to get it to sit flat on my shoulder. It’s really hard to photograph this fabric so you can’t see the shoulder seams.
It fits really well, the collar band is just right, not too tight or gaping, the bodice has a nice flow to it but I think I could have done with just a little more room under my arms. Based on this I would say the sizing is pretty spot on if not smaller than your rtw sizes, I wear and made a size 8, and apart from lowering the armscye if I made it again, I wouldn’t make any other adjusments, other that not messing the hem up!
I think it will be the perfect comfort outfit for the big day, and while trying it on I thought it would work really well as just a top, so I might make another version or alternatively wear it styled like this back in my comfort zone with a pair of jeans!