Dotted Out and About Dress

A couple of weeks ago summer arrived in Geneva in a big way. It was suddenly super hot and sticky – the kind of weather where you just want to lie in the shade and eat icecream all day. As such, planned projects with sleeves and/or structure got unceremoniously shoved to one side in favour of something light and cool and comfy.

Enter the “Out and About” dress from Sew Caroline, a simple knit dress with a gathered skirt, paired with a lovely soft cotton jersey from Grünemeter – light grey with multicoloured irregular dots that look like they’ve been splodged on by hand. YUM.

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Construction-wise there were definitely some good moments with this project – I discovered that my machine has a “stretch stitch” (the one that looks like a lightening bolt), which was exciting. I used this with my walking foot for all the seams, and it worked well. The seams stretch but feel strong at the same time. I also used clear elastic for the first time to stabilise my shoulder and waist seams. This was easier to insert than I was expecting, is nice and thin and gives a reassuring firmness to the seams, I’ll definitely use that again.

BUT this was only my second ever attempt at working with knit fabric and I would be lying if I said I didn’t struggle a bit. Gathering the skirt was frankly a bit of a nightmare. For some reason Lady Janome just did not want to play with the jersey on a long straight stitch. I tried re-threading, I tried changing needle, I tried fiddling with the tension, but it just kept jamming… low point, paused for watermelon… I finally found through trial and error that if, when it jammed, I lifted the foot and gently tugged the fabric out/loosened everything back up, I could continue sewing (without cutting the thread) and still pull up the gathers at the end. Small victories.

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The pattern is deliberately loose-fitting so I deviated from the construction notes, checking the fit on the bodice before attaching the skirt. I took the waist in by 1cm at this point, lowered the neckline and added a couple of darts to better accommodate the girls / eliminate armhole gaping. However, once I attached the skirt I felt the bodice was still too loose and so took another 2cm off each side at the waist. I also followed Caroline’s additional tutorial to make the dress sleeveless, binding the arms with self fabric and topstitching with a double needle. M came in at this point and said – “hey it looks just like my tshirt”, which I’m chalking up as a win.

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Ultimately I’m happy with how the dress turned out. I’m not sure that the shape is as flattering as the fit-and-flare silhouettes I’m used too, but for a breezy weekend dress I think it does just fine. And it is COMFY – like secretly wearing your pajamas to the supermarket comfy. And when the weather is this hot, that’s a huge plus.

Siobhan xx

My First Knitadventure – Coco

I recently came across an online sewing community called The Monthly Stitch. The brainchild of sewist bloggers Kat, Mel and Juliet, TMS sets monthly challenges which are then blogged through a shared WordPress platform. As I’ve said before, I’m a fan of anything community-oriented and, whilst the general standard is perhaps a little higher than mine, I thought it’d be a great way to set goals and learn from more experienced makers. So I signed right up.

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The challenge for this month is called “Sew Stretchy” and the idea is to put aside the wovens and create items with knit fabrics instead. This came at a good time for me, as there was one particular item on my “to-sew” pile that had been eyeing me for a while – Tilly and the Buttons’ Coco.

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Like many others at the less experienced end of the sewing spectrum, I’ve always been wary of knits. They are, for anyone who doesn’t know, the stretchy fabric family. Think t-shirts, leggings and other comfy clothing. The idea of being able to make those items myself (rather than relying on H&M) was always undeniably attractive. But knits are preeeeetty high maintenance compared to wovens. Their stretchiness means they can be more easily pulled out of shape, and they are far more wont to wiggle around whilst cutting/pinning/sewing. You also need to sew them with a special needle that won’t snag (it pushes the fibres to the side rather than piercing them) and you need to use a stitch that will stretch with the fabric slightly. Sounds like a lot to take on board no? That’s why I’d never tried.

BUT I am delighted to report that it all went pretty smoothly. Admittedly this was largely thanks to Tilly’s awesome instruction booklet that comes with the pattern (there is also a sewalong on her website with even more pointers). I held the fabric carefully as I cut, used the special needle, zigzagged my seams, went slowly on the pedal and it was all good. I even used a double needle to do the topstitching. This was another first but I am in love, it gives such a fancy-looking finish.

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I went for the funnel neck and cuff variation, which I also love. Being on the curvier end of the scale I usually avoid anything approaching a roll-neck, but this is a whole different ballgame – comfy, flattering, lovely. Fit-wise I’m pretty happy, although I now realise the shoulders could maybe have done with a bit of a lift. As suggested, I tried it on with the side seams pinned and took it in a bit at the waist to make it slightly more fitted. The length is a little shorter than I’m used to, but then again (as the Mr astutely observed) that’s the look isn’t it?

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The fabric is Charley Harper Twigs in Mineral, a gorgeously soft cotton interlock I ordered from Grünemeter. I wanted to make a real feature of the patch pockets, so I went for pale grey leather from my stash (Swiss sewing buddies, Manor often has bags of leather scraps on sale) which I think makes a great contrast. I wasn’t entirely sure which needle I should be using at this point (leather AND stretch??) but I stuck with the stretch one and it worked out fine. As I couldn’t pin the pockets on (holes in leather last forever) I resorted to masking tape, which worked out fine. Although, for anyone thinking of testing this method, avoid double-layering at the corners, it makes it hard to rip off afterwards!!

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All round, I really enjoyed this one. The end result is a comfy, stylish weekend dress I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of wear out of. And I’m so glad to have finally addressed my (unnecessary) fear of knits. Next stop – tshirt town.

Siobhan xx