I cut out three red dresses for the month of June’s sewing challenge at Pattern Review. The first was a cotton wrap dress in a fine red pin striped bottomweight plain woven. (link — I’m thinking about changing my blog’s setup and template one of these days so that I don’t have to keep doing these parenthetical links — this template is weird and doesn’t show the links well.)
The second was finished last Sunday, and it was a challenge.
This is a Butterick pattern from a few years ago. The second I spotted the pattern envelope, I knew two things. One, I had to make it, and two, it had to be in my goal-weight size. I knew I wouldn’t wear it otherwise. This is a dress that requires a bit of confidence in the wearer, one that might get a bit of notice because of the inset color blocking on the sleeves, and I didn’t want to feel self-conscious about my weight while wearing it. So I’m not going to show you a modeled shot of me in this dress yet because, though it fits, it’s too tight to wear yet. I’m close to goal, but not quite there yet. When the dress fits less like a bandage dress and more like a, you know, dress dress, I’ll celebrate with a new picture.
The pattern is Butterick 5522, and my version is a pretty near clone of the envelope.
Those sleeves were very tricky to sew and took me almost an entire Sunday. Sewing convex and concave curves together is always going to be tricky in any case, but in this case, it was complicated by using two very different weights of fabric. The red is a pretty normal jersey weight. The black is a heavier knit left over from an old project. I typically only keep leftover fabric if it’s in a half-yard cut or more, mainly because I know from experience that’s about as much as we need for decent color-blocking. Sometimes I’ll keep quarter-yard cuts if I think they’ll make good pocket linings or contrast facings on another project, but that’s more rare. I usually have to have the project in mind for that to happen.
In any case, joining the lighter red to the denser, less pliable black on a concave/convex curved seam was something of a challenge. These seams rippled like crazy. You know how that goes — if you stretch a knit while sewing it, the seam will usually ripple. But because of the way these curved pieces are joined, it was really tricky to sew without stretching. Let me show you what I mean with the pattern pieces.
These are the first two pieces. The oblong piece is red on my dress, and the U-shaped piece is black. The oblong forms the center top of the sleeve cap where it joins to the armscye at the shoulder seam.
When you lay the pieces on top of each other, right sides up, you can see how they should align. But we don’t sew them together like this, right? We have to flip them around so that the right sides are together and the raw edges are next to each other. This is what happens when you flip that top piece to start pinning or basting it in place for stitching.
That first long edge is no trouble at all but thing about what you have to do to get those curves to align along the bottom edges. Imagine pinning that into place. You have to sort of twist and bend everything to make those edges align, right?
And that is why it was rippling. And rippling, and rippling. I used mounds of pins and clipped the scenes carefully, which cut down the rippling by at least 90%. But there was still a tendency to ripple, and I think that remaining tendency stemmed from the different weights in the fabric. It reminded me a bit of trying to join a knit to a woven. If you’ve ever done that, you know it’s a process prone to a bit of wonkiness along the seams. This was much the same way.
Lesson learned: color block different weights of stretchy fabrics with different degrees of stretchiness only if the seams are mostly straight. If the seams are sharply curved, use fabrics of a similar weight and stretch.
I never did find a goof-proof way of eliminating all the rippling, but eventually, I was able to make the sleeves lay flat enough along those curved seams. It’s still not perfect, and if I look closely, I can see one or two spots where there is a small ripple. Those remaining ripples are around 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch long, and there are only two or three of them, so I decided that was good enough. Whew, etc.
I love the way this turned out, by the way, and I really look forward to wearing it. It’s very cute on (though too tight for public display yet), and I think it was well worth the trouble with those curved seams.
What do you do with your leftover bits of fabric?