Finished - the Wendy, Marc and Moi dress
I know what you've been thinking. I've been thinking it too. There's just not enough puffed sleeve action around this place. ***
|*** actual puff may appear larger in real life|
This was one of those makes that I didn't need from fabric I normally wouldn't buy that almost didn't work out. A few weeks ago the Fabric Store had it's wicked 40% off sale (seriously if you live around Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne and haven't signed up to their newsletter you must do so, instantly if not sooner!) and I was drawn in, powerless to resist the idea of reduced merino jersey. I'd been the week before, sourcing the wool for my Style Arc Borderline Frumpy Cardigan (which as predicted I pretty much have worn every day since finishing) and noticed this unusual, deliciously felty merino knit. It's a Marc Jacobs merino, made in Japan and has the most amazing hand. It's so fine it feels almost like a heavy cotton. I left it that day, but was sucked in during the sale. The colour is quite weird - it's a marle (heather) that is definitely brown most of the time, but often a bit grey, and certainly not a colour I would ever consider, but it was so luscious I couldn't leave it behind. It was like a warm cup of really really good coffee. I figured it would probably just end up as a wardrobe basic but then I got thinking about making a dress.
I'd had a wool knit dress on my winter sewing list, but hadn't really settled on a pattern. I've a Vogue pattern with interesting pockets on my to-do list (V1315) but it wasn't quite right for this fabric. I figured the utilitarian nature of the fabric could allow me to make something a little more feminine but I also wanted something chic. I know the fit and flare knit style dresses are super popular amongst the blogosphere but on me I think I'd feel childish. And I didn't want to have to buy another pattern. Then I remembered I'd been taken with one of the Built By Wendy dress patterns in Sew U Home Stretch.
This is a really great book, fantastic if you're new to knits and excellent value for money. Essentially the book comes with 3 knit blocks - a crew neck tee, a raglan tee, and a dress/skirt. The book then teaches you to alter these patterns to come up with a huge range of garments - great basic alteration and drafting skills that you can adapt to many other patterns.
I chose to make the dress, as is, without any alterations. This meant a high crew neckline, alarmingly puffed shouldered sleeves, fitted through the bodice with a waistband and a straight skirt. My only criticism is that the drawings don't really give a great idea of the fit/ease in each pattern. I decided very early on that I would turn the neckline into a bateau as it was a bit choky on me. I traced off a small in the top, a medium in the waistband and out to a large in the hips as I just wasn't sure how it would fit and there was really very little out there on the interwebs about this pattern.
Construction-wise it was very easy - I did have to redo one sleeve to get my puffs matching but otherwise no real drama. I did discover that my elastic straight stitch results in a much nicer seam compared to using a shallow zigzag or lightening stitch - no puckers or distortion, so I think it will be my knit stitch of choice from now on.
I was a bit sad to discover that the skirt was very very fitted - a pencil skirt really, rather than a straight skirt. And with this lightweight material and a little bit of winter chub I looked rather like a sausage stuffed in a delicious woolly skin. For the purpose of science I've included some pics so you can see the fit. It's not pretty and I'm ok with that. As one of my delightful friends told me 'Look. Everyone loves a sausage'. True that.
Here's an hilarious action shot of me running away from my sausage self:
And a VPL view from the back. Fabric too thin, skirt too tight.
With no quick fix to reduce my muffin top I got to thinking about how to disguise the sausagosity. It had turned out surprisingly long - too long. In this colour, despite the puff sleeves I felt like a parking inspector from the former Soviet Union and the outlook was bleak. I knew this had to become a mini. I almost hacked off the length off and started jogging when I wondered whether a bit of deliberate ruching might help.
By George I think it did! It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but I rather like it, and will like it even more when I trim down a bit in my lower half (and please, I am by no means fishing for compliments or reassurance. I haven't exercised for a month due to illness and this is the first place I gain weight. It's a constant battle).
The ruching was easy - I used fine elastic (maybe 2/8 inch wide) and stitched it to the side seam allowances stretching it as much as I could. Initially I thought it best to cut the elastic to the finished length that I wanted but it didn't recover short enough so stitching it with maximum stretch was the way to go. A quick hem and some sleeve bands (I must have monkey arms) and this little number was good to go.
Will I make this dress again? Don't know. Certainly not like this anyway. I do like the puffed sleeves and would like to make a top using them, but I think the waistband adds too much length to my torso (I could cut it out but it would make the skirt scandalously short). The skirt would look better with more fullness and gathered (but a little bigger in a heavier knit like a ponte might work).
What's the verdict - yes, no or maybe? Do you disagree with my friend and in fact dislike sausages?