Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Multiple Variations, Infinite Possibilities

I thought I would share a few more bits of the construction of my latest Britex project – thank you for all the lovely feedback on the dress, by the way!

Many patterns include multiple views that whet the creative appetite by showing one or two variations on a theme.  But there are so many more possibilities!  Add or substitute a piece from another existing pattern or draft your own, and things get even more interesting.

This gorgeous red wool was initially intended for a different dress, but when I had the opportunity to work with By Hand London’s new pattern, I jumped at the chance.  The only problem was that I knew a sleeveless wool dress was going to get buried under cardigans and sweaters in most situations – my fix was to add sleeves.

However, there is no armscye to work with. 

With any substantive change to a pattern I like to test things out in muslin.  I rarely make more than one muslin because it is not the most interesting process in the world, but I will admit to stitching and ripping four different sleeve options before I was pleased with the end result (which is so much better to do with cheap and replaceable fabric).  I will often leave off one of the sleeves to speed up this process, but in this case, the fit of the sleeve cap was extra important and I wanted to make sure it would be possible to get in and out of the dress with the side zipper. 

To attach the left sleeve, it was necessary to stitch the left side opening closed at the top edge for one inch.  I thought about moving the zipper opening to the center back, but that would have changed the lines of the dress and I wanted to avoid that.  Thankfully, getting in and out of the dress was not an issue.

The top of the sleeve was finished with a bias strip of wool with a piece of elastic inserted along the head of the sleeve to help keep them in place.  The lower underarm portion of the sleeve was then stitched to the upper edge of the side bodice. 

The fact that I had removed the straps created a problem.   In essence, the bodice and skirt pieces needed to stay up on their own with my sleeve choice.  My first thought was to add boning channels to a lining, as I would do with a strapless dress.  But after working with the wool fabric, I changed my mind.  I even ended up foregoing seam binding as a finish for the raw edges and instead went with a pinked seam because everything shows through this fabric and I did not want any added bulk or lines of stitching to be obvious.  So the boning was out.

But I still did want to add a full lining to the dress, partly because of my chosen seam finish and because it would make a wool dress more comfortable to wear (a lining also adds years to the life of a garment).  There are multiple ways to insert a dress lining, but my choice was to make a duplicate version in bemberg rayon. 

Once the sleeves were basted in place, the sleeves were pushed down and away from the upper bodice edge.  

The lining was then dropped over the wool dress, right sides together, and stitched along the top edge (the wool edge was previously stay-stitched and reinforced with a piece of seam binding - that step is shown here).  

The lining was then pulled to the inside and under-stitched, leaving a clean edge with all of the raw bits concealed.  No facing required! 

Using a small back-stitch, I tacked the lining to the dress along the underbust seam to keep it in place.

With far set sleeves, wearing a standard bra was going to be an issue, so I decided to solve two problems.  Instead of boning, I added a pair of bra cups which I basted between the fabric and lining layers.

To add even more stability, a grosgrain stay was added under the bust.  

This also relieves pressure on the invisible zipper – since they are not always the sturdiest of notions, I like to give them any extra help I can!  (More kvetching on that subject will come later . . . my Ceil Chapman dress project has hit an unfortunate snag.)

And to keep the sleeves from stretching out of shape, two ribbon hangers were added to take the weight off the shoulders while the dress is stored in the closet.

A classic silhouette in a beautiful red wool - thank you Britex and By Hand London!


  1. I am so pleased with the dress and buying it online. It makes me wonder how much profit those brick and mortar stores must be making.

  2. A beautiful dress, and very nice to see inside constructions :)