Instragram has informed me that making oneself a birthday dress is a thing. I had planned to make a dress, the fabric was sitting right there, my birthday was coming up so I thought I’d give it a try!
Last summer when I was in Calgary I just had to buy this crazy, Pucci-esque Telio knit from Olga’s Fabric Lane. It just looked like summer!
This was bought for a tunic, and for almost a year that was its destiny. When the time finally came to start cutting, I threw it over the dressform and it draped beautifully which made me question the tunic. I went to Instagram (love that anonymous polling feature!) where the majority voted that this fabric was meant to be a dress. In particular, my ‘in real life’ sewing friend Martha of nowsewing.blogspot.com suggested an a-line dress. She has great taste so that sent me off in search of a pattern.
A T-Shirt Dress
While not as drapey in the skirt as I had hoped for, Simplicity 8595 would work.
I cut a straight size L but added about 1/2″ on each side from the waist to the hem, hoping to create more of a swishy effect in the skirt and also so there was zero chance it would cling to my midsection.
The finished length of the short version was too short for my liking, so 4″ was added.
A few weeks ago I purchased an old marking tool on eBay, the Dritz Pattern Perforator (69 cents when new!). This little beauty cuts a small round hole in pattern tissue so you can more easily mark places like sleeve meeting points. I tried it out on this project and it’s really slick!
(The other little tool is the Dritz Tailor Tacker. Small ‘leads’ of chalk are inserted into each end for marking things like darts and pleats. I’m now on the hunt for chalk that will fit!)
Once all was cut and marked I applied knit stay tape to the shoulders and the neckline and started to sew. It’s a t-shirt dress – so the process is simple. Shoulders, neckband, sleeves, sides, hems. Only on this pattern you’re directed to gather the sleeves. What? On a t-shirt dress? No way. I just went through all of that mess with gathered sleeves on the Mixit top and although I have a better idea of what to do, I’m not gathering sleeves on a t-shirt. Okay?
Instead I pulled out the French curve and removed about 3/4″ from the top of the sleeve head, tapering down and around. I was able to ease the sleeve in with the natural stretch.
The pattern directions are to stitch the sides then add the sleeve. Another no. I stitched the sleeves in flat then sewed up the side seams with the overlocker.
By now it was Thursday evening and all I had left was to hem the sleeves and the skirt, so I pulled out the cover stitch machine. It had worked fine for the edge of the neck band so I expected this would be really fast. I stitched a sleeve hem. Skipped stitches. Carefully picked out. Ran a row of test stitches about 8″ long. All good. Stitched. Skipped stitches starting at about 9″! Messed around with the tension, differential and presser foot pressure. Again … this time I replaced the thread and the needles. And the same forking thing happened, this time about 12″ out. (Forever grateful to Eleanor of The Good Place for teaching me ways to publicly utter obscenities without actually being obscene.)
After almost 3 hours of this (no exaggeration) I threw in the towel and moved over to the regular machine then stitched the sleeve hems using a very narrow zig zag, and the skirt hem with just two rows of long stitches. One of the goals for sewing during the Canada Day/Fourth of July holiday week is to figure out the issue with the coverstitch and this fabric, then to redo the sleeves and skirt hem.
In spite of the hemming issues, the dress was wearable as my “birthday dress” and here are my takeaways:
- The shoulders of the large fit well.
- The sleeves are too wide for a ‘t-shirt’ style dress – they could be cut down a fair bit.
- This fabric is perfect. I love it. Drapey and comfortable.
- The style is so forgiving that
ifwhen I lose weight I can just shave down the sides with the overlocker and bring it in a bit.
This one will definitely be going in the case when I travel this summer! It does not crease at all, and the fabric feels cool and cling-free. I can see this being worn all day with a little sweater, then out at night.
Bonus: Before we even got into the restaurant the valet said he liked my dress. Okay, maybe he said that for a better tip, but I never turn down a compliment!