Sunday, January 4, 2015

Miss Bonnie Goes Rogue: BlueGingerDoll Bonnie Sweater (Dresses)

Happy New Year, friends! This past week, I've experienced a fit of obsessive sewing. Upon returning from New Orleans, I made a knit sweater dress for my Mood Sewing Network project. Then, I made another one. And another one. 

Y'all, I've gone through ten yards of clear elastic in less than seven days. All I want to sew right now are warm, stretchy dresses. This makes a certain amount of sense, since they're also all I want to wear right now. Our weather forecast in Waco is grim. There's nothing but cold, drippy weather for the foreseeable future. It makes a girl want to curl up in comfortable clothes, drink piping hot cups of tea, and never leave the house again. 

As a newly stay-at-home writer, that's an option I actually have. If it weren't for sweater dresses, I'd probably wear yoga pants and sweatshirts clear through February. The only thing as cozy as pajamas are deceptively elegant dresses that feel like pajamas. Taking the lovely Naomi's cue, I've decided a closet full of warm, knit dresses is my wardrobe's winter salvation. 

This obsessive bit of sewing was helped along by the arrival of my perfect knit pattern. Or, rather, Frankenpattern. Of course, there are a ton of knit dress patterns on the market. It seems every other independent designer is releasing their take on the simple, stretchy dress. None, however, are quite perfect on me.

Though I initially liked the Lady Skater, neither iteration gets worn very often. They're too clingy for comfort, obviously designed for a woman less extravagantly (ridiculously) curvy than I. The base Moneta bodice really is fantastic, but the wide, gathered skirt is not my favorite look for a sweater dress. I like a little swirl, but minimal bulk. Plus, the Moneta's turned under neckline makes me doubt the longevity of its bodice. 

I could have drafted a neckline band and circle skirt for the Moneta, but such labors were unnecessary. Instead, BlueGingerDoll Patterns saved the day. This past fall, Abby released two knit patterns of her own, Bonnie and Violet. Bonnie is a retro sweater, with neckline variations, puffed sleeves, and two length options, while Violet is a pieced bodice, v-neck dress with sleeve and skirt options. Both are patterns I tested and swooned over. Not only do they each fit my curves well, but they're a cut above the standard, simple knit pattern. Here, there be design details!

While I initially planned on making a Violet for my MSN dress, the fabric didn't cooperate. Though absolutely gorgeous, this charcoal wool and silver lurex sweater knit, was just too chunky for Violet's pieced bodice. All those lovely details would be lost to the knit's fuzzy abandon! Instead, I pulled a Frankenpattern. Could Bonnie's elegant, retro bodice and Violet's circle skirt be my perfect sweater knit dress?

Yes. Yes, actually, it could. This pattern mash-up is my knit dream come true. The FrankenBonnie, or Bonnielet, has all the small things those other patterns were missing:
  • Extra bodice details - Puffed sleeves! Banded neckline! 
  • Bosom-friendly fit - Abby drafts on a D-cup. Hallelujah! 
  • Swishy skirt - Violet's half-circle is the ideal knit skirt shape. It's neither clingy nor bulky, but skims everything beautifully and retains good movement. 

The actual patterns for knit garments are so simple, lacking any pesky bodice darts, so this combination was a breeze to pull off. I narrowed the Bonnie bodice pattern (size 18) by 1.5 inches at the waist, then tapered up along the rib cage to my bust line, to better match Violet's original bodice proportions. Dresses, after all, fit much closer the body than sweaters. Then, I used Bonnie's original sleeves and neckband, and attached the unchanged (size 18) Violet skirt. 

Voila! A perfect knit dress. The sleeves lightly puff, the skirt swirls in a most becoming manner. Nothing, not anything, hugs my lumpier bits. It is ridiculous, I admit, that I took two detailed patterns and combined them into one, much simpler dress. What can I say? Rogue sewing is my jam. 

Insides! Wahbam!
It's always a good sign, when not two minutes after finishing a first dress, you're already cutting out another iteration. After the gray FrankenBonnie turned out so well, I wondered how it would turn out in a traditional wool jersey. Unsurprisingly, it looks even better! The claret colored wool jersey (also from Mood) has greater stretch recovery and is lighter weight, so the bodice fits snugger, hugging my bust admirably. 

Both dresses were sewn almost completely on my serger, save for the gathered sleeve puff and finishing techniques. They're stabilized with clear elastic at the shoulders and waistline, while the neckline is stabilized and finished with that lovely thin band. I used Dritz Stitch Witchery on the hem, then finished it and the sleeves with a twin-needle. So, so easy!

Apart from how freaking cute they are one, my favorite things about these dresses are their construction times. The gray sweater knit took a little over three hours, while the maroon wool jersey took just two. While wovens will always have my loyalty, there's something really fun about finishing a dress, in less time than it takes to watch Lord of the Rings. 

So, there you have it. Two cozy, stretchy dresses of wonder. Throw on tights, a knit slip, and they're like wearing secret pajamas. Don't you love a good Frankenpattern? I have a few more of these babies on my docket, as well as finishing up two more shirtdresses before my January 10th deadline. I'm going to ride this sewing frenzy as far as I can! 2015 has started off with an awfully productive little bang. 

Note: Both fabrics were bought with my monthly allowance from Mood Fabrics, as part of the Mood Sewing Network

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