I wanted a couple more dresses in my wardrobe, something shift-like in shape, that would be a comfortable wear but still look reasonably smart for work. I’ve seen several of the Simple Sew bloggers’ Zoë dresses, (check out Corinne’s version, and Sue’s three versions) and I thought I’d give it a go.
My first task was to grade the pattern for my bust. I opted for very straightforward extension, to add the extra width at the bust and grade down towards my hips which are about standard for the size 20. This was my plan:
It came together pretty easily. After cutting the front pattern piece along these cutting lines, I was able to insert 4 cms of extra width in the top half, and true the shoulder line.
With the top and bottom reattached, I reshaped the hip line.
These adjustments left the neckline and the sleeve openings intact, so the facing and sleeve band pattern pieces would not need to be altered. The sleeves are a drop shoulder so I figured the extra 4 centimetres that I had added at the shoulder would simply add a little bit to the drop, and it shouldn’t make a dramatic difference to the overall shoulder line.
Having made my adjustments to the front pattern piece, I repeated them for the back.
The Zoë pattern is actually designed for woven fabrics. However, I’ve already mentioned the comfort factor, so I wanted to see if it would work with a stretch. I pulled out a navy Jersey from my stash, and did some experimenting, to see if I could manage topstitching with it. Plain topstitching, using a narrow zigzag, was fine. I attempted to use some of the fancy stitches, hoping to make the topstitching a bit more decorative, maybe do it in a contrast colour, but that really didn’t work with the jersey, so I knew I’d be sticking with the plain stitching.
The dress came together very easily, my topstitching went OK, and all was well until I started on the neckline facing. I had stretched the fabric at some point and after a couple of mistakes led to much unpicking, the whole thing was just a MESS!
I decided I needed to sleep on it before making any irrevocable decisions on how to fix it. Don’t sew tired, folks!
The following morning’s reflection was that jersey probably wasn’t the best best choice for this sort of neckline after all (but obviously it was a bit late to change my mind about that!). I also decided that, actually, I wasn’t all that keen on the high boat neckline – with my full bust it made for a vast expanse of fabric. I feel happier with more of a scoop neck at the front. I realised I wanted to change the neckline quite dramatically. I decided that what it needed was a bit more texture, rather than being a stark, straight line. I also wanted to lower the neckline a little at the front, so there is a bit less fabric and a bit more skin showing. So I unpicked the facing, taking as much care as possible to avoid stretching the neckline any further. I trimmed the front scoop down by 5 cms, and measured the length of the new neckline, 89 cms.
I wanted to add a cowl neck. I have used this before, when hacking the Batwing dress, so I was fairly confident that it would work. I thought it would probably lie reasonably flat with this fabric, which is quite drapy, and it would pool nicely around the neck to give it the texture I was after.
Warning: here be maths!
I cut a rectangle of my navy fabric (fortunately I still had plenty to play with). The length of the rectangle was my 89 cm of neckline + 3 cm of seam allowance (total 92 cm). The total height I wanted for my cowl was 25 cm and the piece needed to be doubled so that it was on the fold, so the width of my rectangle was 50 cm + 3 cm of seam allowance (total 53 cm). I sewed up along the 53cm edge using a 1½ cm seam allowance, giving me a tube that was 53 cm high and now 89 cm around the circumference.
This navy fabric was a nightmare to photograph in artificial light, so I retrieved the images I used when I did my first Batwing hack, because it’s probably going to be much clearer than showing pictures of the real process.
I sewed up along the 53cm edge using a 1½ cm seam allowance, giving me a tube that was 53 cm high and now 89 cm around the circumference. Then, putting the right sides together, and positioning the cowl’s seam so that it matched the back seam of the dress, I sewed the cowl piece onto the neck edge of the dress. Next I then turned the top edge of the cowl under by 1½ cm, folded the top down to the inside of the collar and hand stitched it closed. I could probably have used the machine, but I like a bit of hand sewing.
I’m a lot happier with my neckline now! And the moral of the story is that even if you make a foolish mistake and your garment doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped, it’s not necessarily a disaster. There’s probably a solution. Sleep on it!
Béa blogs at Béa’s Sewing Adventures