Sewing a festive outfit is true highlight of any sewist’s year – the pattern, the fit, the fabric and the fact it’s just the way you want it and of course that it’s totally unique to you!
To celebrate the festive season our fabulous blogger team have selected their favourite festive patterns to inspire you, which you’ll be seeing popping up on the blog in the run up to Christmas. And don’t forget to tag #sewthisischritmas for your own Simple Sew festive makes too – we’d love to see them!
Because it’s sleeveless (or very short sleeved, however you want to look at it) I’d never really considered it for an autumn or winter dress. However, I had an amazing print ponte in my stash, that was crying out to be used for a Christmas/winter dress. So I decided to add my own sleeves so that I can use this pattern all year round.
I started the process by working out how I was going to attach the sleeve to the existing pattern. I didn’t want to mess around with the basic pattern to much. I thought the easiest way was to draft my sleeve piece so that it would continue the shoulder line from the body pattern pieces, as far as I wanted and then taper it as necessary for a more fitted arm. It would be a drop-shoulder sleeve, so it wouldn’t need a lot of shaping.
I worked out my numbers, by measuring the width of the armhole from the pattern, the sleeve length that I wanted (I measured from the underarm, and I made the pattern piece long enough for a three-quarter length sleeve) and the circumference of the sleeve at the point where it ended. I added seam allowances and a hem allowance. I was a bit conservative about how much I tapered it. I decided it was better to leave it loose for now and have plenty of seam allowance to sew closer fitting seams if I wanted to, once I tried it on.
I was all ready to cut my beautiful fabric!
I got this rose print ponte at a fabric swap, and couldn’t believe my luck. I always love a big floral print, and this was a pretty gosh-darn massive one! Those roses are about a foot wide. The red and green colour scheme makes this a perfect Christmas dress, and since a significant part of Christmas consists of eating large meals, the comfort of a stretch fabric is especially welcome.
The fabric was over 150cm wide so I could easily fit both front and back pieces side by side which saved me quite a lot of fabric, even though I lengthened the dress substantially. I love how frugal the Shannon dress pattern is. I reckon I can get a skirt out of my leftover fabric afterwards.
I made up the dress by sewing the shoulder seams first, then attaching the sleeves flat. The sleeve pieces weren’t particularly shaped, and didn’t need easing in, so there was no point in making it harder on myself! However, because they are so squareish, I made the classic rookie error of sewing one of the sleeves in sideways, through not paying proper attention to the shaping. I’d even reminded myself with the first sleeve to make sure I was sewing it the right way in, so I felt particularly foolish for getting it wrong on the second one! But such is the way of sewing…we all have unpickers in our sewing boxes for a reason!
Once the sleeves were attached I was able to sew the side seams from the underarm down to the hem, and then from the underarm to the end of the sleeves. I tried the dress on to see if the sleeves I’d drafted were working. They’re a bit snug at the underarm, and a bit more dropped shoulder than I had imagined. But I can live with both of these factors. I think the tightness is partly a product of the thickness and bounciness of this ponte. Next time (because there’s bound to be a next time) I will cut the armhole/sleeve opening on the body pieces a tiny bit wider, maybe half a centimetre or so, to give myself a bit more room there.
As for the drop shoulder, this made the sleeves come out longer than I’d envisaged – to full length, so I ended up shortening them to get the three-quarter length that I like. I also decided that the sleeves fit my arms well enough and didn’t need to be tightened any more. Again, if I did this with a thinner fabric, I might sew the sleeves a tiny bit tighter along the arm length.
The other change I made at the trying on stage, was to shave a bit off the neckline, so that it was a little deeper. As I have done for my last few Shannon makes, I skipped the neck and armhole bands, and finished them with a simple hem. As this is such a dramatic print, I wanted it to be as clean as possible.
I think this is a perfect Christmas dress, but I have to confess I will be wearing it before then – it’s too nice to keep for special occasions only!
Béa blogs at Béa’s Sewing Adventures.
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