Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Miss Marguerite Blows Out the Candles: Sew Over It Marguerite Dress

Good afternoon, kittens! 

This past weekend, I turned 33, a delightfully palindromic age that required quite a bit of celebration. There was Black Forest Cake, a bird-festooned pink birthday crown, lots of family togetherness, and--of course--a brand new dress. This year, I decided to try the Sew Over It Marguerite Dress, one of the newest patterns from the prolific British pattern company. 

I own two other Sew Over It patterns, but fizzled out after making muslins. Their pattern block is drafted for someone with radically different proportions than my own, so it's easier to draft a garment myself or find a similar pattern. While I love their designs, they're not ideal for tall, busty women. I need darts and extra length and wearing ease! 

The Marguerite Dress, however, was too pretty to pass up. It features a fitted waistband with a gathered bodice, full gathered skirt, and dolman sleeves. While it's designed for woven fabrics, I own a ready-to-wear dress that is almost identical and made of a stable ponte knit. I've meant to knock off that dress for years, so it seemed like a great birthday project. 

How does one take a woven pattern and make it suitable for knits? Knits don't need much, if any, wearing ease, which necessitates a few simple changes. A good rule of thumb is to size down at least one size, remove any closures, and use construction techniques you already love from other knit patterns. To alter the Marguerite Dress, I traced off the pattern and made some fairly simple alterations: 

  1. Sized down. For a woven, by my measurements, I should have used the UK 20/US 16 size. Instead, I traced off a blend of UK16 (at the shoulders and waist) and UK18 (at the hips). 
  2. Eliminated the back zipper. I took the seam allowance out of the back pieces, then cut them on the fold, to get rid of the closure all together. (For this version of the dress, I almost ran out of fabric, so actually had to seam the back bodice anyway.)
  3. Rotated out the dart. This is one of the few SOI patterns where there actually is a dart in the bodice side seam. The one time I don't want one! To get rid of it, I rotated the dart into the bodice gathers and made the gathering a wider section. 
  4. Full Bust Adjustment. I lengthened the center front of the bodice an inch and did a cheater's FBA for a knit bodice. 
  5. Bound the edges. Instead of using the included facings and cuffs, I bound the armscyes and necklines. My usual method for making bindings is to measure the opening, then cut a strip 15% smaller. This worked well for the neckline, but I wanted to leave the sleeve shape, so I cut those using the same measurement as the original armscye length. 
  6. Added clear elastic. There is clear elastic in the shoulder seams and both waistband seams of this dress, so that it doesn't bag out over time. The waistband elastic is covered on the inside by a facing, so that it doesn't irritate my skin. Strictly speaking, you could also face the waistband in a very stable knit, to prevent bagging out, if you hate elastic.
  7. Lengthened skirt. Even with a knit, I'm still too tall for this pattern! To that end, I lengthened the skirt by two inches. 
Aside from the structural pattern changes, switching the pattern to a knit made construction much, much easier. I sewed everything with either my serger (for major seams) or a lightning bolt stitch (for fiddly bits), then finished the skirt hem with a twin needle. Poof! A chic knit dress in less than three hours.

The fabric for this dress is the real star, despite all the focus I've put on the pattern. This is a gorgeous floral cotton jersey that was given to me by the generous and lovely Susan of Moon Thirty, a few years ago. We met up at Chuy's, ate our weight in Tex Mex, and talked endlessly about sewing and blogging and general creativity. Since then, I've hoarded this fabric, waiting for the right pattern to come along. Of all the pieces I own, this fabric is one of the most "me" prints in my entire stash. It's the pretty--but not dowdy-- dark background, richly colored modern floral print of my dreams. It's all the more special knowing that it came from one of my favorite sewing friends. 

In the end, I was inordinately pleased with how well the fabric matched with my knit-friendly Marguerite pattern. The jersey has a really nice stretch, so the dress looks fancy and ultra-femme, but feels like yoga pants. Since having a baby, I value stretch in my garments 100 times more. It's not only the ability to move freely, but the actual comfort of it. I haven't been able to abide tight waistbands, since having Louisa. Anything constricting drives me mad, thus rendering many of my old projects unwearable. This dress, though, blends both my aesthetic love of floofy femininity and my newfound need for comfort. Joy! 

This Marguerite was such a success that I've already made another one and cut out two further. We're going to languish in summertime for a few months longer, so sensible, comfy dresses will get plenty of wear before sweater season starts. Even then, I think these would layer up well with booties and a cropped cardigan! 

What are you sewing during these transitional months, friends? Do you have any patterns that work even better in a knit than a woven?

Currently Reading: My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
Currently Listening: Dressed Podcast (Specifically, the recent interview with Dr. Colleen Darnell, Egyptologist and vintage fashion enthusiast.)

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