Focus on Free Patterns: Mary Quant Minidress

I am consolidating my pattern reviews and will be adding blog posts of pattern reviews that were previously posted on a sewing website that I no longer participate on.

This garment was made in October of 2019. I’m highlighting it today as part of Sew Frugal 23, an Instagram sewing challenge in the month of March, 2023.

Alice and Co. created a free, downloadable Mary Quant mini dress in celebration of the Mary Quant exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London which ran from April 2019 through February 2020. Here’s a link to the V&A’s website on the exhibition.

In addition to this free pattern, the Minidress, the Georgie dress is also available for free from the V&A website. Search the exhibition website (paragraph above) for that pattern.

Although I was quite young in the swinging 60s, I love the images of Twiggy and friends on Carnaby Street. To me, little shift dresses seem like dresses that can be worn when walking, or dancing, or playing croquet. They are not a shape designed for sitting carefully at tea (although they certainly can be worn for any occasion!)

A link to the free pattern and background information on the V&A Exhibit and Alice and Co’s development of the pattern can be found here: Sew Your Own Mary Quant Minidress

The fabric used for the dress is stretch faux suede that I purchased from Fabric Mart Fabrics. It was featured in one of Julie’s Picks in 2019 and I loved the bright red that doesn’t have a hint of orange so it’s suitable for pink faced people like me.

When I received the fabric it felt more like a sueded scuba. It has quite a bit of bounce to the fabric and certainly does not drape. I thought that lent well to the A-line of the MQ Minidress.

Before I go into too many details, I want to add that the dress is really nicely drafted. It’s absolutely reminiscent of the 1960s but is also a very wearable dress for the 2020s. There are little details that add to the complexity and sophistication of the dress, such as the shaping at the top of the sleeves (photo below in gallery).

Adjustments

I paper fit the pattern and the bust darts aligned well so the only alteration I made was cutting the dress 2″ longer. Once I had basted the dress together I wound up removing over an inch from each side because it was just too big. There’s obviously quite a bit of ease in the pattern.

After stitching on the sleeves, I took about 1 1/2″ off of the width of the sleeves from the shoulder down to the wrist because my fabric wouldn’t drape well on the gathers. That likely wouldn’t be an issue with a lighter weight fabric.

After I had completed the dress I didn’t like where it hit on my legs so I cut 4″ off the length. I must have been feeling quite young that day because it’s now too short! It’s good over opaque tights but I don’t feel that it’s the best length for me.

And the keyhole is quite low cut, as you will see in the one photo of me wearing the dress with a vest/cami underneath. I will add more photos of me in the dress- but for today there is just the one from 2019.

Sewing ‘Challenges’

The primary challenge I encountered on this project was the front keyhole opening. The keyhole is intended to be faced but once I stitched on the facing it was really obvious – my fabric was too thick and springy. Adding to the challenge, this fabric did not take well to unpicking so I wound up with raggedy edges that needed to be trimmed. In the end, I settled on a baby hem around the keyhole opening. I stitched on my machine and held my breath, hoping that the edge didn’t pop out. This was a solution, but definitely not the best solution. This pattern will work much better with fabric that is lighter weight. If you see me wearing this dress, don’t look too closely at the keyhole opening, okay? 🫣

Somewhere along the way, I decided it would be a great idea to make the collar detachable with fashion fabric on one side and plaid on the other. Not having any idea what I was doing, I drafted a collar stand, added a placket, messed around with buttons then ultimate decided that it wasn’t going to lie flat or look finished so I unpicked a lot of stitches and went back to the original pattern. I think the collar would look better with a stand. The way it is, it does look authentically 1960s.

The final piece was the half-belt on the back, and I endeavoured to place it at the small of my back. This is indeed a reversible belt with one side plaid and the other red. I also used the plaid for the cuffs.

Now, over three years after making the dress, I do still like it and I wear it occasionally over opaque tights on cold days. After I had completed the dress and worn it a couple of times, I cut 4″ off the length. That’s was too much and it’s shorter than I would like, and it’s also a bit boxy but again, that is likely the result of the fabric. I may chop off several more inches and wear it over leggings next year, if leggings are still a thing.

If you are wanting to make an easy dress that has that Carnaby Street vibe, this is definitely a good choice. It’s well drafted and quite easy to sew. And free!

Vogue 1568 Ponte Tunic

Vogue 1568 Ponte Tunic

This project is part of my focus on Wardrobe Basics for Autumn 2022. I have a real dearth of basic garments in solid colours and so set about sewing things that will be reliable pieces for wearing to work or going out. These aren’t going to be trendy pieces but rather garments that can be worn over and over again and made interesting with the addition of scarves, jewellery, or interesting toppers.

You can learn more about these projects on my YouTube channel – Janine Sews – and the link to the video featuring this tunic is here.

The first garment is a tunic using Vogue 1568, a “Today’s Fit” pattern by Sandra Betzina from 2017.

The photos on the pattern envelope don’t do it justice. Think more JJill (like the tunic to the right) and less organza or netting. By the way, I used to wear a lot of JJill when I lived/worked in the U.S.A. I always liked the very clean lines that were more about comfortable elegance and less athleisure or coastal granny,

I looked at this pattern a dozen times before deciding to give it a try. Why the hesitation? It’s lined. Lined knit. I specifically wanted a tunic with either a V-neck or slash opening and after looking at other options, I decided to sew this since the line drawings represented what I wanted. I selected View B which is a pullover tunic with a V-neck and slits in the side.

Fabric

For this pattern I used a lovely mid-weight rayon Ponte de Roma that I purchased from Olga’s Fabric Lane here in Calgary. I bought enough to make a set of coordinates – top, pants and skirt. Those reviews will come at some point in the not-too-distant future.

The lining was purchased from Fabricland West. And it was almost a perfect match to the fashion fabric. The lining is sitting on top of the cut fabric in the top of the photo on the left.

Adjustments

There are no finished garment measurements on the tissue (although the instruction sheets refer to their existence) so I took a look at the few pattern reviews posted on websites and blogs and decided to go with what I normally sew. In the instructions it is stated that the shoulders are narrow which helped me to make the decision on sizing. I did, however do an FBA. Had there been finished garment measurements I would have definitely chosen a smaller size. In retrospect, had I taken the words ‘loose fitting’ seriously in the instructions, I would have had a clue πŸ˜…

The Process

Sewing a lined knit garment was quite a challenge! And the sewing steps did not make it any easier. For this garment, you sew the shoulder seams of the fashion fabric, then the shoulder seams of the lining, then the neckline. Then flip it wrong sides together and treat the fashion fabric and knit fabrics as one after basting them together with the machine. Ever tried basting knit to knit? It’s an exercise in patience!

Next steps are to sew the darts, side seams and sleeves. Because you treat the fashion fabric and lining as one, the seams for the bust darts and side seams are visible inside the garment, not hidden in between the lining and fashion fabric. Fortunately, my fabric and lining weren’t overly bulky but I was not enamoured with this treatment. If I’m going to take the time to line a garment, I hope to have a beautifully finished interior.

Once the garment was pretty much completed I realised that it fit well through the shoulders and chest but was too big and boxy from the bust down. As noted on the instructions, the shoulders are narrow so the sleeve cap sits nicely on my relatively narrow shoulders. Unfortunately, I wasn’t happy with the fit around the waist and hips. There was a two-hour long episode of unpicking followed by taking off about 3″ of diameter below the bust.

What Do I Love

  • The neckline finish. Going forward, a lined v-neck will be my first choice for both knits and wovens. (I’ve found a woven pattern that uses a lining instead of a facing and will be posting that review soon!)
  • The lining adds a rich quality to the garment so that it hangs beautifully and makes the top look more handmade and less homemade.
  • The general shape. This mimics what you would find in quality RTW.

Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

Thumbs Up – definitely. I’ll use this again with two changes: cut the right size, and have the lining end just below the bust so there won’t be as much fiddling about with basting knit to knit and also to hide the bust darts within the lining.

I wouldn’t recommend this for a beginner because of the whole knit fabric and knit lining thing unless the beginner is willing to just take their time and enjoy the process.

Edit on September 30, 2022: I wore this top plus the pants made of the same fabric on an overnight flight to the U.K. and the fabric looked as good when I landed as it did in the morning. This Ponte would be wonderful for a travel wardrobe. I like it so much that I just bought another piece in plum πŸ’œ

Tilly & The Buttons Coco

Tilly & The Buttons Coco

In early November we took a drive up to Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania so I could visit Fabric Mart Fabrics. I buy a lot of fabric from Fabric Mart and it was fun to see the facility and the huge selection of fabrics. I also had no idea they carried so many notions and patterns! I came home with five pieces of fabric, a big bag of buttons, several spools of thread and stay tape. And I also met Julie of Julie’s Picks!

Fabric

This project started with a piece of fabric that I purchased that day in November. Although I had a list of specific patterns and projects in my pocket when I was in the store, it would have made no sense to just buy for those projects. After all, we drove for an hour to get there! While digging around I found a really lovely grey Ponte de Roma (grey is my black) so I pulled out the bolt, unrolled the fabric and was excited to see that the right side was black, grey and maroon plaid. So I bought a couple of yards. It’s Rayon/Nylon/Lycra blend with 60% stretch selvedge-to-selvedge and 40% stretch on the selvedge. It feels lovely – very smooth and stable. (Kicking myself now for not buying enough for another top or a jumper.)

Pattern

While I’m still working from home I am focusing on making tops that are suitable for daily video calls and that was my first consideration when selecting a pattern. Must look interesting from the waist up! Looking at this fabric, it clearly needed a design with some structure which led me only a pattern hunt. I wound up with the Coco top by Tilly & the Buttons. (I am only slightly obsessed with funnel necklines these days.) I purchased the pdf pattern and had it printed by PDF Plotting. This is the second time I have used this service. Printing prices are very reasonable but shipping adds to the cost so I have learned to print a few patterns at once to be a bit economical. (This time my other print jobs were two patterns that I had previously printed and done a lousy job of taping together, so nothing new to show!)

The Coco pattern includes the funnel necked top that I made, plus a dress and Breton top. Tilly’s size numbering is a bit different but this particular pattern fits US sizes 2-20.

I measured the pattern pieces, did a quick paper fitting and cut a straight Tilly size 8 which fit my bust. The shoulders are not too big.

While laying out the pattern I really debated with myself because I love the plaid (right side colour) but also wanted to take advantage of the pretty grey on the wrong side. In the end, I used the plaid side for everything but the collar. The pattern also includes an option for cuffs and pockets and at some point in the future I may add cuffs just for some interest!

Adjustments

I didn’t do an FBA because the pattern design has just a smidge of negative ease at the bust. I only wound up making one change to the pattern and that was after the top was made.

After I had finished the final bit of stitching (the cover stitch on the hem) I put on the top and noticed that the slits in the sides stuck out (photo to the left). It looked silly and no amount of ironing would make that right. The edges of the slits had been serged then folded over and stitched which meant all of that had to be unpicked. Ugh. At this point I realized that the hip area had more ease than I needed so I unpicked the top stitch on the slit edges and serger down the side seams. An easy solution that just happened to work out. (Sometimes sewing is all about luck πŸ™‚ )

This pattern seems to be designed to accommodate those with beautiful curves. The measurements for the size I sewed are: 44″ bust, 38″ waist and 47″ hips.Β  I’m more of a rectangle and I didn’t actually need the extra space provided by the slits.

Pictured below is my Ponte version. It is very comfortable and with the collar interest it works for Zoom meetings!

I liked it so much I made another!

The weather has been consistently cold (what do I expect? We live in up north now!) So while the grey thread was still in the serger and cover stitch I pulled out another piece of fabric (from Fabric Mart) and made it up again! This fabric is a very soft sweater knit that is just perfect for bitter days. It’s much floppier than the ponte. It also drapes a bit differently. I made two small changes with this version:

~ Added 2″ in length

~ Eliminated the side slits

The fabric pulled and stretched slightly when I top stitched the neck band, which is unfortunate but I think it’s one of those sewing things. “Don’t tell anyone and they won’t notice.” On this version you can really see the shaping below the waist.

So long as the weather continues to hover around freezing, I could make up a dozen of these but for the next one I’d like to make the Breton version. Eyes are now peeled for striped fabric! Just not navy – I already have 3 navy striped tops in my closet πŸ˜‰

Focus on Free Patterns: Jalie Yoko

Focus on Free Patterns: Jalie Yoko

Yes, it’s been quite a year and I haven’t posted anything since, oh, a couple of days before the world shut down. One day let’s all plan to sit down with a glass of something and chronicle the year that was but, for now, I want to tell you about my latest make!

The Pattern

A couple of years ago, Jalie released a free sweater patterns – the Jalie Yoko. I immediately printed it out, placed the pages in a file folder and promptly forgot all about it. The pattern is described as: 

Square-shaped loose-fitting top with roll-neck, drop shoulder and semi-fitted sleeve. A cozy and versatile garment.

This pattern is free of charge! It’s sized for girls and women and you can print just one size at a time which meant I only printed 19 pages (plus instructions). Nineteen pages seems like a breeze after some of the 35-page t-shirt patterns I’ve encountered lately.

3896_4_1

Fabric

We moved late in the spring (yes, with everything going on in the world!) and I’m now in Pennsylvania where there are actual winters with snow (I am honestly thrilled!). Although I did buy some cold-weather fabrics when we lived in Atlanta, sweaters were a novelty worn only for a couple of hours on the coldest days (55F? brrrr) so I had to reign myself in when I looked at winter fabric catalogues. No more! I am enjoying looking at and seriously considering heavier and warmer fabrics and found this “Black/Lavender/Blush Mauve/Evergreen Brushed Sweater Knit” from Julie’s Picks at FabricMart Fabrics. I managed to snag the last 3 yards of it ($7.99 per yard). πŸ‘πŸ»

I received the fabric in the mail around December 10th and when we got 8″ of snow last week and the temperatures fell (and stayed) well below freezing I knew it was time to sew it up. I didn’t want to make yet another Toaster Sweater so I kept digging and found this pattern. It looked easy and that’s important these days because my brain just feels foggy with the way the last 10 months have gone.

Adjustments

I had no idea how this top would fit. Reviews and photos made it look quite big so I planned to cut a smaller size at the shoulders and taper out to an AA at the waist/belly. I had forgotten that when I printed out the pattern sheets I had only selected one – AA – so that’s what I went with. As it turned out, that was the right size.

Almost the entire garment was sewn on my serger except I did use my sewing machine to baste together the neckband before attaching it to the bodice.

Speaking of the neck band, the pattern piece isn’t loose fitting like a cowl or polo neck – it’s a turtleneck and those are very uncomfortable for me. After looking at several different “turtleneck to cowl neck” tutorials online, I just decided to make my own. 

As designed, the neck band piece is a rectangle (left photo below). Just like with most knit neckbands, you stitch together the back seam, fold the band in half horizontally and stitch the band to the neck opening.

To make my adjustment I traced the existing pattern piece onto paper. Then I marked a spot 2″ wider at the top/fold of the neckband and drew a line from the stitching edge to that edge. The band folds over at the point on the left side of the pattern piece (middle photo below). This gave me a big more room around my neck and that worked just fine. It’s not a cowl but is much more comfortable than the original turtleneck.

Result

I sewed the seams on my serger and hems on my coverstitch. Oh, my coverstitch was so kind to me on this one! It worked perfectly without a single skipped stitch and no tunneling! We are truly becoming friends πŸ™‚ 

The last task was to sew the hems on the sleeves and, as noted on the pattern, the sleeves are slim. They are not tight on me but they fit. Personally, I think this gives the top more of a Ready To Wear look. Sometimes home sewn patterns have big old sleeves that could be designed to fit better.

The sleeves were very long. My arms are average length, maybe a smidge closer to long than short. I wound up taking off a good inch extra from the length of the sleeves.

I cut the top on Sunday night, sewed it Monday night and wore it Tuesday. THAT is how I like to sew! 

This isn’t a super warm sweater because it’s a bit voluminous and that means a cold wind can whip up your back, but the fabric is cosy and comfortable and I will definitely wear it a lot this winter. And now that I know how easy it is to sew this pattern, I’ll make more!