Friday, 9 November 2012

Peony-esque knit dress


I'm pretty excited to share my latest sewing experiment with you as it's something I've put a lot of time and effort into. My standard approach with dressmaking is to start with a pattern (usually after seeing somebody else's version) and copy it faithfully, perhaps shortening a sleeve or adding a lining, nothing too risky. What I'm NOT good at is drafting anything of my own design or dramatically altering a pattern (apart from the length, which is a standard adjustment for shorties). I just don't have the patience, the mathematical application or the precision required. That's all absolutely fine and I've never lost sleep over this - there are more than enough perfect patterns in the world to keep me happy forever. With this latest project however, I just couldn't find a pattern that seemed to tick all my boxes. 

All I wanted to make was a fitted knit dress with long sleeves and an A-line skirt. Nothing too unreasonable you'd think, but I changed my mind on this project so many times I lost count.  Throughout the whole process, one pattern kept lurking at the back of my head - the Colette patterns Peony. I've made it twice now - here and here - and having made a few adjustments to the back bodice the first time I made it, I was happy with the fit.  I wasn't totally sold on the boat neck though, even after lowering it and shortening the width of it on my second version. My solution? I simply traced the neckline of the Alma blouse (which I love) and merged the two patterns together. So far so good. I now needed to see how it looked sewn up. 

I thought it was all going to be so easy… my plan was to simply go down one size to allow for the extra stretch and hey presto, I'd have a Peony in knit fabric. Yeah, right. Going down a size was never going to be enough. So I spent an entire day sitting at my machine, deshabille, trying the bodice on, pinning it, taking it off, resewing the darts, taking it off, slicing a bit off the side seams, taking it off, fiddling with the shoulder seams, taking it off…. you get the picture. Knit fabric is very forgiving and very compliant, so before long, through sheer dogged persistence, my bodice was the exact fit I was after. By this point however, any pretence of measuring and pattern adjustment had flown out of the window. I was totally making it up as I went along and I have no idea what size and shape the bodice ended up as. 

Ooh, it's so versatile, you can team it with a red cardigan....

.... or a green one...

.... or a big, mad necklace...

For the skirt, I simply laid out my second Peony on top of the fabric and drew around it, adding a tiny seam allowance for the overlocker. I did feel a bit out of control and VERY slapdash, a bit like the episode of the Supersizers, where Giles Coren just draws round Sue Perkins whilst she's lying on the floor, then cuts it out and sews up the sides to make a dress…

I sewed the whole dress on my overlocker, with the exception of the darts (which were sewn with a straight stitch and a jersey ballpoint needle) and the hems, which were sewn with a twin needle - my new favourite sewing toy.  I love the speed with which a dress can be made on an overlocker, especially as there were no zips or facings. I deliberately went for a plain grey as I wanted it to be a blank canvas dress that would go with any combo of shoes/tights/cardigans (see above). For fabric, I used a grey marl Roma jersey from The Fabric Godmother. I asked for a sample first, just to see how stretchy it was and was impressed by what great quality the fabric was - nice and thick but still retaining a good amount of flattering stretch.

So, what did I learn from all this? If ever there was a case of 'do as I say, not as I do" then this is it. And what I say, is, if you're inexperienced sewing with knits (as I am), it's NOT a good idea to try to convert patterns specifically designed for woven fabrics and hope for the best. Next time I will definitely be using a pattern that's specifically designed for knit fabrics, I'm sure it would take about a quarter of the time. Perhaps something from the Sew U Home Stretch book, or Kwik Sew 3659 which Winnie used for her lovely polka dot knit dress.  Actually if anybody has any pattern recommendations for knit fabrics please let me know. You know my tastes by now, nothing too flouncy and preferably quite fitted.

Despite the unnecessary fiddling about, I did end up with the exact dress that I had in my head, which is the main thing. It's so cosy and comfortable, I can see this being worn a lot over the coming months. Making this dress has also made me realise just how awesome knit fabric is, I can't wait to sew more with it.  x

48 comments:

  1. love this dress! knit fabric has to do away with some of the annoying peony adjustments! looks great and i love the red tights and shows with it - very festive

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  2. Wow Jane! definately worth all the fiddling about!It looks very comfortable and just the thing for this chilly weather!

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  3. The dress is perfect. Why don't you trace pattern from this dress? You did great job.

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    1. Good idea! I may do just that when I've recovered from the stress of making it! x

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  4. Yeahh, that's fab.. I love the combination with the colourful cardies/tights... Great work..

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  5. Love the big mad necklace! I love the Peony. Your dress is very versatile! Love it!

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  6. What an achievement Jane, not only is it darling ( and just as you ordered) but you seem to have learned absolute heaps. I'd say it was worth it, and you've got yourself a highly covetable knit dress there love.

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  7. Ooh it looks fantastic! LOVE it! And a great gray that'll go with anything.

    While a totally different neckline, have you seen the pre-sale for the Tiramisu dress from 3 Hours Past? It's very cute, I think you'd like it. I'm thinking it will be my first foray into sewing with knit fabric since I've never done it and am too scared to plow forth like you did (though you were VERY successful in doing so!).

    p.s. over here we were able to catch some episodes of the Supersizers, they were showing them on the Cooking Channel but we caught it at the tail end of them showing them, so we only saw a few. LOVE. THEM. I didn't see the 70s episode and was nearly crying laughing at the clip you linked. :)

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    1. You obviously have a good handle on my taste in dresses Tasha - I ore-ordered the Tiramisu as soon as I heard about it! It looks great and I can't wait to see everybody's different versions of it.
      Re the Supersizers, so glad you liked the clip. they crack me up! I've just watched the clip again and the bit with Sue at the sewing machine is just so funny! x

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  8. Lovely, lovely dress! It looks great with red tights and I bet it's super cosy. I am still too scared to sew with knits, even though I've bought an overlocker. Eeek!

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  9. It may have been a tipsy turvy process, but the end result is great! Cosy and versatile.
    I tried emailing you, but have not heard back from you. Did you get my email?

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    1. Oh gosh I'm so sorry Karin. I thought I'd replied but have just checked and I didn't actually send it.... (blush). I've forwarded your address to Kate and she'll send your pattern to you directly. Happy sewing! x

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    2. Thanks again! Glad I asked- your life must be as hectic as mine!
      I'm looking forward to it.

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  10. Me likey your grey dress lots Jane :)!

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  11. Awesome, just awesome!! I'm definitely craving a nice cosy long sleeved dress as it's getting chillier & this is just adorable! I really love all the ways you've styled it, especially the red tights & shoes! ^__^

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    1. It really is so cosy, I've been wearing it today and am quite tempted to just keep it on when I go t bed! x

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  12. This looks lovely,totally worth the effort! I love Giles and Sue and incidentally have just botched a sewing project so a glass of wine,some nuts and that clip have really perked me back up,thank you!

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    1. Aw I'm sorry about your sewing project but am delighted that Giles and Sue cheered you up (along with wine and nuts which always help!) x

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  13. This is just the most perfect dress. I love it. And, I note, Fabric Godmother do the Roma in navy. Darn that fabric embargo! ;-)

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  14. Well done Jane, you've learned so much with this make and you've ended up with exactly what you wanted...despite the journey! This dress is so versatile, you'll wear it to death!

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  15. I am astounded at your tenacity - I would never have had the patience to keep working and working at it, trying it on again and again. Worked well for you though: your dress looks fabulous! Perfect color for the colder months and for mixing with all kinds of other colors!

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  16. How lovely!! I adore your red tights and shoes :) I recommend Simplicity 3673 for a knit dress pattern. I have made several version in both woven and knits and they work briliantly!

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  17. Have you looked at the pattern by MariaDenmark at shopONION.com they have a range of knitted fabric patterns including dresses a bit more expensive than most (after shipping) although there is a freebie t-shirt,

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    1. Ooooh I've never heard of this pattern designer, it's EXACTLY what I'm after! Thanks so much, I've just ordered two patterns! x

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    2. Glad you liked the patterns they were what I was after too. Just to update you I made the mistake of forgetting to order the translation for the patterns and had to send off for it after patterns arrived - a bit cheeky as they charge you for it. I did try to have a go at translating it myself but just avidly watching 'The Killing' doesn't quiet make you a Danish speaker.

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  18. I love it! You look fantastic and it looks awesome with the red tights. Well done :)

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  19. It's fantastic! I admire your stickability with it, and the fact that it's jersey. Jersey scares me; jersey and rotary cutters (shudder!!). I loved the Supersizers clip, that show was brillant. Sue Perkins is so fantastic. :)

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  20. The dress is fabulous, I love your sense of style. Well done for leaping into the unknown, you are very brave, the final result is perfect. As for knit patterns look at 'Peggy's Closet' she has made three versions of McCalls - 5974. No I have not gone barking mad! The wrap dress is not your style however look at the pattern http://sewdirect.com/acatalog/M5974.html the round neck dress is a dead ringer for a polka dot navy dress I bought in Laura Ashley for £69. East also had dresses in the same style, which is flattering and comfortable, but they were in sludgy boring patterns and colours. This is going to be my first sewing project in thirty years! Not only that my first venture at sewing knit fabrics. During the Christmas holidays I am going to get to grip with my mother's overlocker and take a leap of faith - inspired by you.


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    1. Aw that's wonderful, thank you! And good luck sewing with knits, if I can do it anybody can! X

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  21. Super-versatile! You could wear that every day and still look different :)
    So glad it worked for you. When I start improvising, it usually all goes a bit crazy. I have to stop myself from just slicing into things like Edward Scissorhands :S

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    1. Edward Scissorhands!! That's exactly who I felt like! x

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  22. Jane the dress has come out wonderfully, you really did justice to that fabric as well! I love the Peony (I know what you mean about the neck though it can feel a bit as if it's chopping you in the windpipe) have made a few different ones but I like the idea of a jersey one I may have to copy you! xxx

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  23. Wow, great make Jane and especially good with the red, it's very you! One day I might be brave enough to try a stretch knit, well done!

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  24. What a great dress. I'm also rather hoping you'll reveal the source of your wonderful shoes.

    Have you looked at Hotter Patterns for knit fabric patterns? They do quite a number of designs you might like.

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    1. Thanks for the Hot Patterns suggestion. My red shoes are from Clarks (as are most of my shoes), I think they still sell them even though they're about 2 years old http://www.clarks.co.uk/p/20347931

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  25. Achieved! It is indeed a wonderful base for colourful accessories and I think it looks amazing in all the combos you showed. Brilliant!

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  26. NICELY DONE. I love it! And damn, I had never thought of using the neckline from a pattern that fit me (eg Simplicity 2591 or Simplicity 2444) to fix my Peony neckline problems but I am now very tempted. You look adorable as always in this, Jane. Well done! x

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  27. Wow Jane, this looks great - nice work! I love it. Oh and by the way, the giveaway prize I won from you has arrived safely, so thank you so much! Can't wait to use the fabrics for something crafty!

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  28. What a great dress - and so versatile - dressed up with the pretty necklace, or down with a sweater. love it.

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  29. This is smashing! Love the idea of freestyling when you can end up with something this versatile! Well done :D

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  30. But it looks fab!! And such a versatile colour and silhouette. And your fire-engine red tights are to die for!

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  31. Super nice. I love the big bold necklace too.

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  32. Wow - what a fantastic dress! I love it!

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  33. I have never sewn for myself in any knit fabric (I've done a few costumes in knit though) so it's very interesting to hear how this worked for you. It looks great, nice and 'neat' and simple but as you've pointed out, perfect for teaming with nice bright cardis. I love it! Bethx (thelinencat)

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  34. Wow really love this dress it looks great on you.

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  35. Love the dress Jane. Well done for persisting - I think I'd have given up! Have you looked at Kitschy Coo's Lady Skater? I have one cut our ready to sew tomorrow and it looks similar.

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