Grey knit dress twice over // And a quick how-to

Inspiration usually hits me like a brick. One minute I want for nothing and the next all I can think about is a long sleeve, grey, knit dress.

 

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My first thought was to make it from scratch. I already had a personal pattern for a sleeveless, fitted knit dress. I just drafted sleeves and extended the sleeve arms and the (ever so slightly tapered) bottom hem to the length I wanted.

You could easily modify any closely fitted T-shirt pattern to make a dress like this. I was going to look up some patterns for you, but Creative Chick has already done the research and I see no point in re-inventing the wheel. Check out her very comprehensive summary list of top patterns, with a quick description of each. For a dress like this, you will need a close fitting T and very stretchy jersey. A wide variety of necklines would suit it.

Once you have a T-shirt pattern that fits perfectly, simply extend the arms in a tapered fashion to the length you want. I’m fond of ultra long arms right now so I extended mine beyond the wrist. Use your fitted T-shirt as a guide when extending your pattern pieces. The diagram shows my extended dress outline in red and my measurement guide in green and black. My fabric had a lot of stretch, so I didn’t need to add any darts for shape. I simply narrowed the waist to avoid too many lower back wrinkles. Stable knits will need bust darts and back darts for a fitted look.

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I used a lofty, stretchy, wool/acrylic blend, sweater knit for my first version. I’m sceptical of how long the fabric will last, but right now, I’m totally in love with it. In fact, I liked the dress so much that I immediately made a second.

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My second version is a little more interesting. It’s a truly awesome pure wool ponte knit from Tessuti Fabrics. I’m labelling it truly awesome because it is warm, thick, has great recovery in a stable, ponte-style stretch, has been machine washed more times than I can remember, and just between you and me, I often throw it in the dryer in winter so I can wear it more frequently. It’s possible that the fabric may have faded a bit, but not that I can tell (it’s grey after all), but there is no pilling, no thinning, no stretching, no shrinking, and no other major signs of wear. It cost me a pretty penny but it has been worth every cent.

There’s also a story behind this fabric. In a fit of panic at the idea of landing in Kansas during the infamous polar vortex of two years ago, I purchased several metres of it before I left Australia. I used it to make myself two winter dresses. One was a drop waist Malvarosa and although the loose fitted style had me on the fence, I ended up wearing that (pyjama) dress almost daily for two consecutive winters. I also made myself a fit and flare dress (modified significantly from V8805) and a few other winter items for my girls. The contrast skirt on this second dress didn’t fare as well as the grey ponte knit so I cut it off last year and turned the dress into a simple long sleeve top. I don’t have photos of the top because it was just a wardrobe staple and not blog worthy at all.

When I made the top last year, I removed the (nursing friendly zipper) from the original dress and simply joined the front seam. I also finished the neckline and sleeves with black cotton ribbing. The top was functional, but probably not the most glamorous item in my wardrobe. I didn’t particularly like the neckline. It was just a bit wide for my taste. So for this knit dress, I wanted to see what I could do to fix it. Simply unpicking the original (serged) neckline would have been arduous and wouldn’t have fixed the size and width problem. My solution was to draft a (slightly) stand up collar, that I then attached directly to the existing binding using a small seam allowance. The effect is a contrast line of ribbing between the  collar and dress which I absolutely love.

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This second knit dress was made completely on the fly. The sleeves are possibly a smidgen too long (I got carried away with my length obsession) and there was a lot of (bulky) seaming involved in achieving the length I wanted. Because I was dealing with a more stable knit fabric, I kept the original bust darts and added two fish eye darts to the back for shaping.

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I love how my two versions turned out. Here are a few more RTW examples for your inspiration.

PicMonkey Collage

Love Culture            //            Proenza Schoeler             //           Banjo & Matilda

 

 

Simplicity 1435 // A quickie Summer dress for Miss Three

I’ve made this pattern more times than I care to remember. It’s a very simple style that is both comfortable and practical. It whips together very quickly and always becomes a favourite.

I made the sleeveless version this time. I bound the neck and armscye in my own way, with my own self-made binding, but only because I didn’t bother to look at the pattern cover to see that the pattern also included this view, and therefore would have included binding in the pattern pieces had I chosen to look.

 

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So, it seems that my little one hasn’t changed a great deal since I first made this pattern up for her. We’re still on a size 3. I’m sure she has grown a little bit taller, but she doesn’t sprout up at the ferocity of her bigger sisters. She truly is my little one.

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The fabric I used for this dress is French terry, which is thicker and less fluid than what I’ve used before. I would have thought that this would have made for a closer fit, but it seems not. In general, I find that the sleeved versions of this dress are a lot more forgiving (and flattering) with fit.

This version (sans sleeves) is clearly comfy, but the wider fit through the shoulder seams (as required to fit the sleeves) isn’t the most flattering design. I’ll keep making it though. My favourite part of the dress is the complete lack of closures, which facilitates independent dressing, and lets me enjoy my morning cup of tea in peace.

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Jaywalk refashioned

This time last year, I made myself a dress and a maxi skirt in some striped jersey fabric. The dress is no longer with me. I literally wore that dress to death. I still like the skirt in theory, but the length of it was a bit off-putting for everyday wear. It was a simple issue to fix.

This refashion was quick and easy. I chopped the top off the skirt, tapered the side seams in a bit to fit my hips better, and re-attached some elastic to the waist. The top I’m wearing is my Camilla camisole. It’s a simple, bias cut cami that fits beautifully.

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I didn’t waste an inch of fabric in this refashion. The length I chopped off was just long enough to make a simple skirt for Miss Seven. I bought the side seams in by about 1.5 inches and shortened the elastic in the waist. She’s pretty chuffed because it fits the definition of a ‘fitted mini-skirt’ for her, which is something (along with heeled shoes) that I refuse to let a seven year old wear.

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Seeing double: Simplicity 1435

Simplicity 1435 is my go-to kid pattern for easy knit dresses. I’ve made it a few times already for my littlest peep. This time I really stretched myself and whipped one up for Miss Five too. The fabric I used is a very drapey viscose knit. The fabric is quite heavy so it does drag the dresses down a little at the waist, but I’m fond of a drop waist anyway, and I just love those stripes.

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These two girls are little peas in a pod. I spoke not a word during this photo shoot. It’s quite hilarious to watch them getting flowers for props and posing together.

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Every time I make a dress using this pattern, it always becomes a firm favourite with Miss Three and I know why. Fuss free knit dresses are so comfortable. She can dress and undress easily as there are no fastenings and the layered skirt provides just the right amount of swish-factor.

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Simplicity 1435 is a very simple pattern, a super quick make, and very practical for everyday wear. There’s nothing perfect about these versions. I whipped them up so quickly that the stripes aren’t precisely matched, but I know they will be worn to shreds. I just wish the little one would decide to like this dress too (which I think is utterly adorable), which hangs forlornly and completely ignored in her cupboard.

 

Little shorts

It’s taken a full five years, but I’ve FINALLY had a request for shorts. Both Miss Five and Miss nearly-Seven have come to the joint conclusion that skirts and dresses are not conducive to the most effective cartwheel, handstand, and monkey bar practice. Hallelujah!

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I was quite unprepared for this backflip in clothing preferences, so I thought I’d start with something simple. It didn’t take much effort to come up with this pair of shorts for Miss Five. They are a very simple style, with bottom panels for contrast and an encased elastic waistband. I used the ribbing as the contrast, not for it’s elasticity. Miss Five is all about comfort right now. I compared my design to a pair of her favourite tracky dacks to check on fit, and I think I managed to get it spot on.

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Miss nearly-Seven is a different kettle of fish. Her shorts won’t get a look in if they don’t have pockets. I think she’s also starting to appreciate unique design features like bows and pleats. She’s also noticed that I’ve been working a lot more on designing my own patterns and she quite likes the idea of me making things for her that have never before been made by anyone “in the entire world” (for example, her Twirl to Me dress). I’m constantly amazed at what children notice and how they interpret things.

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Vogue 8975…comfort over style

Last summer when I was in the middle of my summer drop-waist frenzy, I made a particular favourite using a stunning printed cotton from Tessuti. It was one of those rare occasions when I had a dress in mind and then went shopping specifically to find a fabric to match that vision. Usually, I fall in love with fabrics first and then draw inspiration from them.

Now this particular fabric suited my purpose well and I liked it well enough, but I probably wouldn’t have chosen it without a specific project in mind. However, it ended up being one of those prints that I fell madly in love with more each time I saw it, which was very often, believe me. So when I happened across a lovely jersey version of the exact same print (on my farewell trip to Tessuti), I snapped it up.

I’ve been desperate to use it ever since but have been struggling with ideas. I spent a bit of time looking for a suitable pattern and eventually found one I quite liked, Vogue 8975.

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I just love big, draped pockets right now and I think that was the thing that drew me to this pattern. In hindsight, none of the dresses on the cover are really my style, but I was on a mission to sew up that fabric! Can anyone else relate?

 

The experience of sewing this dress was fantastic. The drapey knit was a little fiddly to work with, but not impossible. I still don’t have my overlocker, so I used the opportunity to experiment with the stitches on my Pfaff. I have a stitch and overlock stitch-in-one feature on my sewing machine. It works well but is very slow going compared to using an overlocker. You also have to go back and trim every seam after you sew them. But the end result is good (as long as you are VERY careful not to stretch the fabric as you sew).

The drapes on this dress are just lovely and the pocket construction was ingenious. I loved making this dress and watching the puzzle pieces come together. I would have loved to place the floral pattern a bit better on the dress, but I barely had enough fabric as it was. I wasn’t planning to use any contrast fabric in my version of this dress but unfortunately necessity demanded it. I found the contrast jersey knit at Jo-Ann. It was my first fabric purchase in the US, having been somewhat underwhelmed by the fabric shopping in Kansas. I was totally spoilt in Australia, living so close in proximity to the amazing fabric shops of Surry Hills. I now realise that I am just going to have to do my shopping online, but I have prepared for this with a nice 30″ screen to view my fabric on!

But back to this dress. I think it is a fraction too roomy in the upper chest and arms for me. It may be that the size is a little large, combined with the fact that my fabric is a little lighter and a bit more drapey than that on the cover photo. You can see the sizing problem best when my hands are on my hips. A closer fit would make for a nicer silhouette.  But I have to admit that it is still quite a lovely dress. I’ve since seen some other great versions of this dress in the blogosphere, here and here, and here which you might also like to check out. Call me boring, but I think I like the monochrome versions best.

At the moment, I’m a little undecided about the hems at the sleeves and bottom of the dress. At the moment I have left them raw (they roll nicely in this particular fabric). I just felt that hemming them with a twin needle would add bulk and affect the clean drape of this particular fabric. I’d prefer to do a narrow hem on the bottom of the dress using an overlocker (when I eventually get one). I could probably do this on my Pfaff using some stabilizer but I don’t want to lose any length on the dress. I’m also thinking of adding contrast cuffs to the sleeves, or simply removing the sleeves altogether.

End note: So when I had the photos taken and first started writing this post, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t wear this dress again. But the fabric is just so deliciously soft and the style so comfortable and perfect for Spring, that despite my misgivings, I have found myself slipping it on at the end of most days. It is a shame that this beautiful fabric doesn’t get the proper show-time of a regular day out and about on the town, but at least my neighbours get to admire it (styled with the regulatory in-house Ugg boots of course). It really has become the perfect little French house dress for me! 

Drop waist obsession

I have suddenly become a little obsessed with drop waist dresses. I’m not quite sure what happened but I woke up a few days ago and everything in my wardrobe seemed dated. I was craving something much like this!

My first port of call was to track down the marvellous Malvarosa dress pattern by Pauline Alice that I had seen a while back. Of course, at that point, I couldn’t remember the name of either the dress, blog or designer, and when I searched my bloglovin account, I couldn’t find it there either…disaster! So after racking my brain, Marvelosa, Malarosa….and fruitlessly searching Ebay and Etsy for other suitable matches for the picture in my head, I finally ended up drafting my own design with the help of Alice (my beloved dress mannequin).

After creating the pattern pieces, I decided to create a wearable muslin using a cotton knit rather than use my ‘nice’ fabric right off the bat. I chose the cotton knit for two reasons. I have a tendency to misjudge the amount of ease I need when I drape on Alice, and secondly, I wanted to use up a fabric that I wasn’t quite sure I loved anymore. I must also add that halfway through cutting my own design, I had a massive moment of doubt, finally tracked down the Malvarosa pattern, and purchased it.

But I really shouldn’t have doubted myself! I love the way my dress turned out and I love this fabric all over again. I don’t regret purchasing my Malvarosa pattern as I might still make a long sleeve version of this in a few months time, using my own bodice pieces as a guide (assuming they fit as well in a woven fabric).