Thursday, December 15, 2016

Miss Georgia Knows These Woods Well: Cashmerette Turner Dress

Good evening, kittens! It's hibernation season, down here in Texas. We've had a surprisingly chilly beginning to winter*, the kind of weather that demands tights and coats and copious amounts of tea. It's also the kind of weather that makes me want to do nothing but lounge around, reading books and eating spice cake. Some selfless sewing has happened--a few shirtdresses for my mother, perfecting a pants pattern for Sam's lovely aunt, and the unstoppable tide of Christmas gifts--but most of my inspiration has curled up into a ball, trying to keep warm. 

Luckily, the indomitable Jenny has rescued me, once again. Last year, my winter sewing obsession was the Appleton Dress, with its slinky fit and elegant wrap front. This year, my new love is another Cashmerette Pattern, the Turner Dress. This fit-and-flare knit dress has a v-neck bodice, three sleeve variations, and a swishy, semi-circle skirt. No doubt, you've already seen a parade of Turner Dresses marching through your Instagram feed and blog reader. It's been a smash hit with the curvy sewing community, since its release last month. After sewing it up, I am absolutely on board with the lovefest. This is a fun, easy project with elegant results. Who could ask for more?

*Yes, Virginia, we do have winter here. Well, kind of

Of all seasons, winter gets the least amount of love in my sewing cave. December through February are legitimately cold months in Central Texas, but I rarely sew for them. It's all ready-to-wear coats and sweaters, nothing at all like summer wardrobe, which is entirely sewn. This season, I plan on addressing that discrepancy. I prefer wearing cold weather clothes, so why shouldn't I start sewing some?

The Turner Dress is ideal for such purposes. It's a fairly basic pattern, which means fabric choice and small design variations can produce a whole wardrobe of looks. Shorten the sleeves, it becomes a casual sundress. Add an overlay, it's a super chic cocktail dress. Plus, knits are so quick to sew up. If you want to build a mini-wardrobe in a hurry, knits make life easier. 

Luckily, I have a few great knits languishing in my stash. Lillestoff  sent me this jersey, last year, along with the blue tropical jersey used in my 30th birthday Myrtle Dress. It's a retro floral, with yellow and pink poppies on a plum background, which makes the perfect winter print. Like other Lillestoff cotton jerseys, it's a true medium weight, with good stretch and very springy recovery. That makes it easy to sew with (No bagging out! Yay!), but clingier than other cotton jerseys. 

Alterations wise, this was a cake walk. Like other Cashmerette Patterns, Jenny drafted the Turner Dress for multiple cup sizes, eliminating the need for a Full Bust Adjusment. Based on my 46.5" bust measurement, this means that I'm either a big 16 G/H or a small 18 E/F, depending on waist and hip measurements. I opted for the 18 variant, to counteract the fabric's clingy tendencies, and did my only adjustment: adding length to the bodice and skirt. An inch on each, to make up for my height, and voila! Adjustments finished. 

The v-neck of the Turner Dress is achieved by fully lining the bodice, instead of finishing it with a neckband. I didn't have quite enough of my main fabric to pull this off, so I lined the bodice with a bright orange bamboo jersey. (Just visible in the photo above!) I ordered that jersey from Mood, last year, but it was sooooo much brighter in person. Cheetoh bright, y'all. Instead of gritting my teeth and using it for a traffic cone costume, I'm calling it a lining and hiding it inside other garments. 

The construction of the Turner is that of a classic knit pattern. If you've sewn up the Colette Moneta or the Sewaholic Renfrew, there will be no surprises here. In fact, thanks to the circular skirt, this pattern is even easier to sew than the Moneta. There is none of that fussy elastic gathering to worry about! I can't tell you how many sewing machine needles I've broken on that particular task. Jenny does have you understitch the neckline, which gives a neater turn to the fabric, but there are no particularly tricky steps. Mark everything well, make sure your tension is right, and use a ballpoint needle. You can't go wrong. 

Due to its simplicity, the Turner dress can be sewn almost entirely on a serger, but I used my sewing machine instead. I like that extra control it gives, especially when working with the smaller seam allowances of a knit pattern. For main seams, I used the lightning bolt stitch on my BERNINA 350 PE and for hems I used a narrow zig-zag. There is elastic at both the shoulders and the waist, for added support, and fusible webbing in the hems for stability. 

Huzzah! That's it. How sick are you of reading my This Is How I Sew Knits spiel? I feel like the technical details must be included, for those who are coming to only this review, but it's the same on almost every knit pattern. Stabilize, be careful, and use a sewing machine. Maybe next time I will use a serger, just to keep things exciting. I'm channeling Fixer Upper, it seems. Inventing drama through perfectly planned disasters! If I accidentally slice off important fabric pieces and ruin something, I'm blaming Chip and Joanna. It's only fair. 

This dress is such a hit! It's already in constant rotation in my wardrobe, worn a half dozen times before I even snapped these pictures. Not only is the fabric super cozy, but the fit is great. There is some light pulling above the bust, but everything else is perfect: the shoulders are slim enough, the neckline isn't too deep, and the waist sits at my narrowest point. I will switch to a different cup size on the pattern, next time, which should get rid of that pulling. My only other slight quibble is that the point of my v-neck has rounded itself off, after a few cycles through the washing machine. I obviously need to reinforce that neckline a bit more in future versions! 

And, yes, there will be future versions. I've already made a rayon jersey one for my forthcoming Mood Sewing Network outfit and two sweater knits are in line for another round. I'm playing with the neckline and design elements, as you might expect. Bell sleeves, jewel necklines. Those are just my initial evil plans! Be warned, kittens. You're going to be sick of Turner Dresses on Idle Fancy, before this season is out. 

In the meantime, I hope you're having a lovely holiday season! We're about to embark on The Grand Danielson-Perry Christmas Extravaganza, where we bounce between Austin, Waco, and Houston for a few weeks, visiting family and catching up with friends. Thank heavens for knit dresses and e-readers! I wouldn't survive all that driving without secret pajamas and new Gail Carriger novellas

Fabric: c/o Lillestoff 
Pattern: c/o Cashmerette -- Jenny originally sent this pattern to testers, last spring, but I was traveling during that testing period and couldn't fit it into my sewing schedule. This is the final version of the pattern, which she kindly sent along anyway, right before the launch

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