Maybe it was Carolyn’s recent binge on maxi dresses, or maybe it was that EVERY stylish lady in my office (and frankly, I think that’s all of the ladies in my office) has been wearing one at least three days a week for the last month, but I finally made time to make up Jalie 3245.
I meant to make this up last summer, but time slipped by me, as it often does.
The Black Version
As with most Jalie patterns, once you make one, it’s hard to stop. I made the first once in about two hours on a Saturday morning before I had to go to work, and that includes tracing out the pattern. I made it from a fairly heavy black knit (a doubleknit, I think) with a crep-like texture on one side—it’s got great drape and more stretch than a ponte, but is still a fairly firm and potentially sweaty fabric. Maybe not the best choice for a summer dress.
But it sure looks classy. I made this one up pretty much exactly as per pattern, only grading form size R at the bust to S at the waist and hips and adding a bit of length on the bottom. Since I recently ordered a million miles of narrow black fold-over-elastic off Etsy, I used it for the neckline and arm-bindings, which is super fast and would have looked great if I’d taken three more minutes to test my tension on a scrap or two.
FOE, slightly wavy.
As it is, it looks fine on but is a bit wavy off—limits the hanger appeal. Boo. Fortunately, handmade clothes aren’t really about the hanger appeal. 😉
The only major problem I had was that the skirt is VERY narrow. This means you can easily get the dress out of a pretty teeny amount of fabric, but it’s not great for walking in, especially in my rather firm fabric. There is also something slightly off about how the hips fit, which goes away when I hike it up about 1.5 cm—so for the other versions I made a small tuck between bust and waist and they sit very nicely. I’m glad I didn’t try to shorten the bodice at the shoulders, which is what I often have to do, because the armscyes are NOT deep at all, and in fact could probably be lowered a wee bit.
After the fact, I took a bit off the sides to get a closer fit in the back. It’s hard to get dresses like this to cling to the extreme back-curve I have there. The back is pretty wrinkly even when I’m not standing with my hips off to the side, but that’s life with a swayback.
How to walk in a narrow skirt.
The main problem with the narrow skirt is that I wind up walking around with it hiked up to my knees so I can take a decent-sized step.
Version 2 (or is it three?)
I cut out the other two versions together a couple of days later. Both are rayon jerseys of some variety, although very different in terms of their overall stretch and feel. This dark, processed-photo-looking floral (with blue roses!) is super-stretchy and very drapy, with lots of weight, but a hard, almost scratchy feel.
Back view, with seam.
In an effort to maximize my skirt width, I cut the second and third dresses with a back-seam and a non-directional layout. This also let me add a swayback adjustment and some shaping to the back seam, so really no downside here—and, I figured if the skirt was still too narrow for walking, I could add a slit at the back seam as well. (I know I could’ve left side slits on the original version of the pattern, but I just don’t like that look as much.
Flared skirt cutting diagram
This may not have been the best choice since technically both my prints are directional, but I’m hoping they are big and crazy enough that nobody will pay attention.
Incidentally, I wasn’t paying attention to print placement at all… for the third maxi, there’s a distinct repeat to those giant paisleys that wanders from almost dead centre at the hem to distinctly over to the left side at the bust. Oops. In my defense, what I was paying attention to while ignoring the print was the grain of the knit, so I’m pretty sure that the print is not at all square to that. And maybe this is better than direct boob paisley?
For the non-black versions, I didn’t have a fabulous matching fold-over-elastic to speed me on my way, so I opted to bind the edges.
Step one: overlock.
I pretty much always use the same method, only varying whether I include a bit of clear elastic in the mix or not: cut a band across the greatest stretch of the fabric, 1.5″ wide or so (I am not overly precise in this, and for the roses maxi I actually used the rather off-grain strip that was left from between the two pattern pieces—plenty stretchy in this fabric but it led to some rippling that was much less of a problem when using cross-grain pieces.) These days, I typically layer fashion fabric (right side up) – knit band (right side down) – clear elastic on top, and serge away. If I’m being good, I test to see how much tension I need on both knit band and clear elastic… if I’m not, hopefully I started somewhere like the bottom of the arm-hole so no one will really see how messed up the first few inches are. I don’t pre-measure and I don’t apply it in the round, more because I am lazy than because I think it’s a better way to do things.
Once I have this firm base attached, I wrap the binding around so that the loose edge is to the back and snug it up—having plenty of width makes it easy to pull it gently snug.
Wrap binding around to back and topstitch.
Typically, I actually just use a narrow zig-zag to topstitch—I have kinda developed a hate for twin needles, mostly to do with their cost vs. the teeny amount of sewing I’ve ever managed to do with one—I don’t think I’ve ever had one last through a second project (arguably, I am hard on my needles.) However, for this project I decided to try out a feature of my Grandma’s Rocketeer that I read about in the manual but hadn’t tested yet—it can actually hold two needles in its needle slot, side by side. How? You just keep opening the screw until they both fit. They do sit side by side, so it’s a narrow spread between, about 2mm, but that was perfect for the narrow bindings on these dresses. I’m pretty darn happy with how it worked, actually, and if I bust one, all I’m out is a regular stretch needle, not some fancy expensive twin.
Trim the excess off the back.
After topstitching, I trim off the extra from the back—hooray for non-fraying knits! (I wouldn’t want to use this on a knit that runs, but then those are like sewing with the devil anyway.
A little press and, voila!
I’m pretty sure I originally got this technique off of Pattern, Scissors, Cloth, which is no longer available, a fact which makes me cry on an almost weekly basis because Sherry had SUCH great info. Everytime I go to think about making a jacket now I want to go check up on her RTW Tailoring Sewalong, and then I can’t and the sadness just wells up.
I’m sure there are a million other tutorials on this way, and I know there’s lots of other ways to attach a binding, too, but this one is the one I keep going back to.
It seems kinda dumb that I just spent so much time going over the neck and arm bindings on this pattern, but really, that’s 3/4 of the sewing time—everything else is just a quick zip over with the serger. And the hem, of course—Steam-a-Seam is my go-to in that department.