Sunday, November 23, 2014

Holiday Dress for the Surprise Sewing Bee

Well I made it to round three of the Surprise Sewing Bee at Pattern Review!  The challenge this week was to make a dress using the Winter Street Dress Pattern.  I'm not really sure why but this challenge was even harder for me than the last- maybe it was the knits? maybe it was the restriction of pattern choices? maybe it was the pressure of knowing there were 24 other sewists working as hard as me to get through...(nail biting!) anyway it was a little tough.  

 I think at first glance it looks like I didn't make many changes to the pattern but oh no my friends, I made a lot of small changes.  I really wanted to preserve the basic pattern pieces but tweak them to fit my shape well and be fairly easy to duplicate for anyone out there looking to get a better fit.

The Fabric: 
Both of these knits are from Hancock fabrics.  They were on the value fabric table and when I placed them next to one another they really jumped out at me.  This is not a typical fabric combination for me but I wanted to get outside of my usual comfort zone.  Royal blue is one of my favorite colors and I love the print on the bottom of the skirt.  The striped fabric is a poly knit with two way stretch.  The skirt is poly/nylon spandex something or other.  Slinky feeling but easy to work with.  I tried the skirt of this pattern in a ponte as well and the look of it was completely different so the fabric choice can really change the shape of this dress.  I also did a test run for fit on the top using some gold spandex and it looked great too.  For the stripe I worked hard to get all of the stripes to line up.  My method is to fold the fabric over and tediously pin each stripe line together matching them all up.  Then I cut out my first pattern piece and use that piece as the base for the placement of the other stripes.  I also lightly trace the stripe pattern on the first pattern piece I cut so its easier to match the others.  In the picture below with my arms raised you can see the stripes are matched all the way around (pats self on back). :)

 The Pattern: 
For my first test run of this pattern I lengthened the bodice and back to make a long sleeve top and I love the fit of it and will make more!  I used my favorite Target T-shirt to get the bodice fit just right. I folded the T in half and traced its fit on the waist area, small changes but perfected the fit.  I made the shoulders XS and from the bust down a size S.  The fit was great.  For reference my bust is a 34 but my shoulders are smaller.  I also changed the sleeve head on the pattern.  I have a winter top with small gathers at the sleeve head and love the touch of femininity it adds so I slashed and spread the pattern to get the amount of gathers I wanted.  In the picture above you can see how these small gathers make the sleeve head stand up slightly- which I love.
I also altered the skirt.  For one, I flipped the pattern piece upside down.  The dress was originally to have a tulip shape with box pleats in front and back but I have been there done that with box pleats see here.  I found that changing them to tucks and gathers much more flattering for my pear shape  So in the front there are tucks and in the back there are gathers.  But back to flipping the pattern piece.  I wanted more of an A-Line shape for my skirt and as I studied the pattern I could see there was already an A-Line shape to the pattern piece- it just needed to be flipped.  Worked like a charm and no pattern slashing necessary!      
The directions for this pattern were pretty good, they call for clear elastic to stabilize the shoulder and waist and that worked great.  I tried clear elastic in the past and failed but this time it worked great.  I think that maybe my fabric was more cooperative this time hence the success.  The method for finishing the neckline was new to me but it achieved the cleanest knit neckline finish I've ever done. There is a youtube video of Deepika (the pattern creator) showing you how to use this method here.  
I used a zig zag stitch on my machine rather than the serger because I wanted the option of unpicking any mistakes easily.  I loathe picking out serger stitches- ugh.  I also use a lot of steam on the seams to get everything nice and smooth.  I used a wet pressing cloth most of the time to protect the fabric and get extra steam.                                            

So I was hoping to make a dress that in theory could be worn to church or a Christmas party.  I think I achieved that!  It has enough dressy-ness for either.  I am wearing my usual bootie boots and tights with it.  I really wanted a cute necklace to go with this dress and wanted something that would pick up on the colors of the dress.  I dug through my abandoned beading box and embroidery thread and found some gold embroidery thread and a strand of royal blue wooden beads.  I kept digging and found some cute owl beads from my Mom (thanks Momma!) and put together this tassel necklace for the dress.  I love the necklace and don't get many opportunities to make jewelry anymore.  This was kind of thrown together in the chaos of my kiddos discovering the secret beading going on in my bedroom and going bonkers because- I mean BEADS!- kids love little beads.  However, I do not like cleaning up beads after my children tear through them so they stay hidden away most of the time.  

I have to say this is a really comfy dress and I have had a great time participating in the Surprise Sewing Bee.  I don't know if this dress will get me through to the next round- there are so many great sewists in this round- but I've had fun creating it and will get a lot of wear out of it.  So many wins here!  So fingers crossed maybe they will put me through to the next round!

In closing I will include a couple of technical shots of my process since someone out there may find them helpful for their own alterations!  
Shoulders XS bust S.  used favorite Tshirt for shaping and length to make Shirt.

Slash and spread of sleeve head for gathers and a bit of volume. 


  1. What amazes me most is the stripes meeting exactly! Great dress. Thank you for sharing at Make It Monday.

    1. Thanks for noticing that small detail Donna! Also thanks for hosting the link up!

  2. This looks so good on you. Love the way the contrasts in fabrics look. Hope you advance to next level and enjoy your dress along the way. Love u , mom

    1. Thanks Mom! I didn't advance but that's quite ok! I have way too much Christmas sewing to catch up on!!