Blog Archive

My (current) favourite stretch dress pattern

Welcome back!  It's a cold and damp Saturday afternoon here, but we are having a peaceful afternoon, catching up with paperwork, I've done a few rows of my sock knitting (knitting!!) and I thought I would round the afternoon nicely by showing you the dress I made last week.

I used my (current) favourite stretch dress pattern, McCalls 5974, which is another of the Palmer Pletsch patterns, which I talked about on my last blog post.

I must say though, that fitting when using a stretch fabric is so much less of an issue that I only do minimal changes.

I bought this lovely, heavy, polyester jersey when I visited my daughter in Oxford, at John Lewis' opening day.  I do love a bit of spotty dotty!

I know that some sewists are reluctant to use stretch fabric, but it really isn't that much of a challenge, as long as you use decent quality fabric.  Oh, I can't stress that enough!  Cheap stretch fabrics can be awful to handle, and it's really not worth your time or effort.  Shopping around can mean we find quality fabrics at genuinely reduced prices, which is entirely different to cheap fabric at prices.  Quality fabrics will be a pleasure to sew.  I will tell you a little story at the end of this post about how I re-learnt this lesson the hard way, but for now, I am cutting into this lovely quality spotty dotty, which was £10 a metre, and I needed 2.4 m.  No zip required, only the thread (which I keep stockpiled when it's on offer) so the dress cost £24.

The only alteration I have to do at the cutting stage is to fold out the sway back alteration lines, seen here:

I am fortunate enough to own an overlocker and a coverstitch, which does help to add a professional finish to stretch garments, but they are by no means essential.  What is essential is a stretch needle!  This has a slightly rounded point, which gently separates the fibres, rather than piercing them, which can result in laddering.

The original pattern has pleats at the centre front, but I find they accentuate my tum, and not in a good way, so I moved them to the side, which is a great improvement.

Here I am, basting the pleats in place.  As you can see,  you can never use too many pins!!

I used my Janome coverstitch machine for the neck and sleeve edges, as well as the hem.  I love the finish it gives, but it is by no means essential to have one!

Oh, and I always sew seams together with the regular sewing machine, not the overlocker, as it is easier to unpick seams if you need to.  Once the overlocker knives have done their business it's a bit late!

When setting in sleeves, I handle knit fabrics a little differently than how I described in this post, when I said I did three lines of ease stitches, one outside the seam line and two inside.  With knits I do two lines inside the seam line as I have found in the past that removing the line of ease stitches on the outside of the seam line left a row of tiny perforations which, after a few washes, made the sleeve begin to separate from the bodice! Whether or not that was a one off fluke, I don't know, but I don't wish to take the chance!

This dress goes together a dream.  I certainly never need to insert the optional zip, as it goes over my head very easily, and a little wiggle ensures I can pull it over my body relatively easily.

Here is Valerie, modelling the dress.  

I wore it this week and was so warm and cosy.  That was until I split egg yolk on it and had to put it in the wash...

Oh, yes, I promised you a little story about not using cheap fabric.  Well, I was so happy with my spotty dotty dress that I rummaged in my sewing room cupboard and found a length of thin jersey I have had for years.  It looked a bit cheap but I thought I would get away with it, as I like the pattern so much.  Well, I made it and tried to hem it yesterday.  It was horrible.  The pattern went off at an angle as it wasn't printed straight.  The hem was all over the place, as the fabric was stretching in all directions, and the sleeves were just plain baggy.  Dear Reader, I binned it.  Lesson learned! I sew almost all my own clothes and like them to look good and be proud to wear them.  I would not have wanted to put my name to this dress, so out the door it went.  All those hours wasted, but a valuable lesson reinforced!

A happy weekend to you all.

Donna x 

Making trousers

Helloooo!  I do apologise for the lack of posts since the New Year, but things have been a little busy. In a good way, I hasten to add!

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year.  As I said previously, we had DD home for the holidays and it was bliss.  Pure bliss.  We pottered and puttered and had a relaxing time.  Because we weren't rushing around, we finally had a chance to explore making her some trousers.  She normally wears skinny cords and the like, but needs more dressy trousers for certain times, such as when she was on her internship last summer.

In the same way she has difficulty buying shirts, as she is so tall and slim, trousers are a similar problem and the ones she bought last summer proved to be a disappointment.  One pair, from a large department store, started to come apart after a couple of weeks, so that was very frustrating.

Anyway, it is years and years since I have made trousers, so we selected a simple pattern, with built in alteration help.  It's a McCalls Palmer Pletsch pattern, number 6361:

We weren't keen at first on the photographs, as they looked a little old fashioned, but looking at the schematic on the back, it seemed to be just what she wanted.

Palmer Pletsch patterns come with detailed instructions on how to tissue fit, as well as 1" seam allowances on main seams, for extra adjustment to further fit-as-you-go.  There are extra hints and adjustment lines drawn on the pattern pieces to help you too.

After measuring DD we selected her size, added 1" to the leg length, and folded out all the adjustable width in the legs.  We tissue fitted (a bit fiddly, but easier than we thought) and seemed satisfied with the rest of the fit.

The trousers themselves were easy to sew.  The zip insertion was a little unusual, and I think I would do it the standard way next time.

DD wanted them to be 'ankle grazing' length, but we think we will make the next pair full length, although they would look better if she had put socks on!  She always wears brogues with trousers, so we don't have to accommodate heels.

DD was reluctant to pose for photos, but I got the best ones I could before she wandered off...

The darts in the back sit better in real life than in the photo, and the pockets sit flatter.  I think the flash on the camera must have highlighted them, and not in a good way!

In readiness for the next pair we have folded out a little more of the fabric on the rear thigh, to slim them down a little more.  I will also make the pockets from a lighter weight fabric, to prevent them showing through.

For a prototype though, we were quite pleased, and DD said they fitted better than any of the trousers she bought last summer for her internship, so I was very happy!

Once we have perfected the fit, I will be able to churn them out and post them to her, like I do the shirts.  

I love sewing for DD, so I am pleased to have added something else to the equation.  Even more pleasure to be had.

Donna x