I do truly, truly love how quick knits can be to sew up (especially when I’m floundering for a blog post ;) ). I made up the pattern for this after supper last night and had the entire thing cut out and stitched up before bedtime. Yay!
Last week when I asked about ideas for my lace, there were lots and lots of very good thoughts, including another one of my 70s maxi-dresses (which would’ve been divine) or a top-and-skirt combo (and some links to some really neat skirts, too…) but the t-shirt dress, a la Carolyn, seemed to win out overall, and, most importantly, to me.
So I made one.
Patty made an interesting point on her awesome skirt post that self-made patterns can be frustrating to read about since you can’t go out, pick up the pattern, and make it yourself. I get what she’s saying—but not enough to give up making up my own patterns, which is SO MUCH FUN (regardless whether I know what I’m doing or not.) So as a compromise, I figure I’ll mention a bit more about what exact changes to my basic pattern I made. (This is also good because then I’ll remember them for next time when I lose the pattern pieces)
As with the great cowl adventure, this all began with my trusty “knit top sloper”, the pattern formerly known as Lydia. The changes this time were minimal—I made a square neckline (just by squaring off the corner of my usual scoop-neck) and lengthened the bottom; I just followed the angle of the hip of the sloper on down and out, which created a slightly A-line skirt. For length, I picked 20″ below the waist (I have a waist line marked on the sloper for just such purposes, although I was too lazy to include it in the diagram, sorry) as a nice, above-the-knee-but-not-dangerously-short length. (I feel like I should add that I have nothing against micro-minis per se, it’s just that sad experience has taught me that if a skirt is short enough that I spend a considerable amount of time worrying about who I’m flashing while I’m wearing it, I will end up just not wearing it. Sad but true. My micro-mini skorts, on the other hand, get worn to death)
For the sleeve, I eyeballed a “nice, just above-elbow” length, which turned out to be about 18cm below the armpit. I added quarter-inch seam allowances, and proceeded to (ulp!) cut my fabric.
I think it’s worth mentioning a couple of things about the fabric. You all met the lace, a gorgeous bargain-bin find, last week, of course. What I didn’t mention is that one of the reasons I hadn’t done anything with it yet (other than the weather) was that I didn’t have the right underlay. So last week, aside from juggling children, schoolwork, and ER visits (no lasting harm done), one of my goals was to acquire said fabric. It had to be smooth, stretchy, not to heavy, and set of my lace. Syo and I wandered high and low through Fabricland draping my lace over every solid-coloured knit. We started in the bargain centre, but of course what I settled on in the end was a much pricier cotton-lycra blend, setting me back roughly $10/m. Not humongously expensive (especially compared to the bamboo knits or some of the other nice athletic solids), but considering this is going underneath a $2.50/m fabric… yeah. Well. Anyway, I bit the bullet, and I have to say I love the fabric—its feel, stretch, recovery—more than enough to pay that much again. After much hemming and hawing, I picked a bright white, too, rather than an ivory or cream colour—I like how it brightens the overlying lace.
So, I had both my fabrics. I cut the bodice front and back out of both, but the sleeves only out of the lace.
Now, stretch is always the wildcard when it comes to knits. Depending on the fabric, my knit sloper can produce garments that are either tent-like or alarmingly form-fitting. I wanted the lace dress to be form-skimming rather than sausage-skin-like, so I had checked its stretch, in a very rough and ready way, by marking a length of the fabric equivalent to the bodice front across the bust and then stretching this on me to see how snug it was. If it was too tight I was planning to add a bit of extra ease to the bodice, but it seemed all right—yay!
I did not perform said test with the underlay, choosing to hope that it would be, at least, no more droopy, and hopefully just a bit more snug.
For once, the sewing gods were not vengeful, and that seems to have been the case. In another interesting observation of knit/stretch, I meant to trim the underlay shorter (since you wouldn’t want it hanging out from beneath the scalloped edge) but totally forgot. Once assembled, however, the lace naturally stretched to an inch or more below the underlay bottom edge—perfect!
Construction wise, I pondered a bit. I knew I wanted it attached at neckline, shoulders, and arms, but I figured I wanted the side-seams of the dress to move separately. This took a bit of mental gymnastics, and some fudging, as I basically followed my usual construction order (one shoulder, bind neckline, other shoulder, set sleeves flat, sew underarm and side-seams in one pass, except it was two passes this time.), but mostly has worked out.
Now, in fairness, all is not perfect. There are any number of oddly-pulled areas, around the hem, side-seams, and shoulders; my neckline didn’t come out perfectly symmetrical (boo!), the lace tends to droop in one spot, which I can relate directly to the ends of the fabric piece being more stretched out than the middle when I was cutting. For the most part I’m not going to sweat them until I wash the whole thing at least once. I was at a loss as to how to properly bind a square neckline in a knit (google mostly pulled up stuff featuring woven bias binding, not at all what I was looking for), and the V-neck methods I was hitting on all seemed to have a much wider band than I wanted. I did toy with trying to use the scalloped edge on the neckline, but the scallop seemed a little big and floppy. So in the end I just bound it with a strip of the lace and a bit of clear elastic. As I’ve been doing with my more floppy knits lately, it seemed easier to just turn the entire band to the inside and topstitch… In the end this worked all right, although the corners aren’t crisply square any more. Meh. I was hoping to skip out on hemming the lining fabric, but it’s one of those knits that rolls like crazy so I will probably have to :P.
On the whole, I’m not bothered, though, because I have a great lace T-shirt dress!
And, even better, I still have over a metre of my lace fabric left… what to do, people, what to do?