Picking up her forgotten Cocoon Dress hack, Simple Sew blogger Susan Young, found the perfect fabric to complete her fab dirndl skirt version. Along with the addition of plenty of special sewing details…
I’d made two Simple Sew Cocoon dresses without alteration when the pattern was first released a couple of years back (you can read about the red crepe one here). However, you probably know that I love a bit of a pattern hack so I decided that the style would be good for an adaptation. I would have drawn a few sketches of ideas and had a rummage in the stash for some suitable fabric when a funny thing happened…
I found I had already cut out a hacked Cocoon in the past!! I realised I’d done it easily two summers ago but then abandoned it because I decided it would be too short. I remember it was a limited amount of fabric, probably 2 metres, so I put it to one side and forgot about it.
Changes to the pattern
Fast forward to now, I wanted to make it up but I needed to lengthen it in a way I was happy with. I had truncated the bodice at Empire line just below the bust and then the skirt was two widths of the fabric, a simple dirndl. I’d cut the facings too, but there was literally nothing else left except small scraps.
I went through various options including adding extra frill layers but to do that you gradually increase the amount of fullness needed for each layer. In other words, layer 1 would be 1.5x the waist measurement, layer 2 could be 2x the length of layer 1, and layer 3 could be 3x the length of layer 2. In simple terms, this means longer and longer strips of fabric are needed to form each frill to be sewn to the previous one. The longer the length of the dress the more layers you might need.
Basically, I couldn’t make the skirt any longer with what I had because it was already cut, and because of the lockdown, I couldn’t go out to look for suitable plain cotton. I returned to the stash and eventually found 50cms of cotton poplin which I know I bought at the same time as the original, I must have intended it as a contrast but never used it.
By cutting the 50cm piece across the width into two 25cm pieces, I could join them at the side seams to form a loop. I then folded them in half to create a 12.5cm deep band which I would sew to the hem of the dress! Simple!
Once I’d worked all this out I sewed up the bodice. Rather than hemming the cap sleeves, I used some binding from my stash so that I could maximise their length. I planned to twin needle some topstitching in various places and I used two different coordinating threads for this.
I did the same around the V neck once the facing was sewn on, in order to get a pristine join at the point I carefully unpicked a couple of stitches and secured them on the reverse.
I wanted side seam pockets (of course) so I had to cut them out of some plain cotton scraps, each piece was added to the side seam and then the side seams are sewn up.
The new band was initially slightly wider than the lower edge of the skirt. I restitched it until the two were the same width and matched exactly at both side seams. I used the overlocker with four threads to join and neaten the band in one step, I pressed the seam upwards and then twin-needle topstitched it to decorate.
The final step was to run two rows of gathering stitches at the top of the skirt then sew it onto the bottom of the bodice, matching at the side seams. I pressed this upwards too and topstitched it as well.
For a dress which had languished with not much hope for two years I’m really happy with it!! I loved the fabric (which was from John Lewis originally I think about 4-5 years ago!) I was so cross I’d cut something which I couldn’t imagine I’d wear if I sewed it up. By adding the deep band the skirt now has weight as well as length. It’s been so comfortable in the hot weather, why did I wait so long!?