Monday, July 22, 2013

A Designer Interpretation in Linen - Construction Details

I loved making this dress.  After the sewing room disaster and making two quickie skirts (still need to blog about them), it was great to immerse myself in the making of a dress.  My mostest favorite garment to sew - and yes I know mostest is not a word! *LOL*  

The details that I liked and wanted in my version of the Barbara Tfank dresses - was the full skirt, the pleat in the skirt front, and the piped waistline & neckline. The welt pockets are pretty on the first dress but since I'm primarily a "no pocket" girl, I never intended to include them on my dress.

So some details...

Fabric ~
I chose a medium weight crisp linen from Moods NYC store that I washed and dried only once.  I chose to pretreat it just one time because this dress won't get a lot of wear. It's part of my "Meeting Black Wardrobe" that only gets a limited amount of wear...not only is the number of garments growing in this section of my wardrobe...but I also primarily wear them during heavy meeting cycles.

Pattern Alterations ~
  • I started with my TNT dress pattern - Butterick 5147 - which is quickly becoming a much used/favorite pattern, as evidenced by the number of times I've made the dress.
  • Then I made a full dress front by tracing the right and left sides of the pattern and taping them together.
  • Figuring out the waist band was next - how big did I want it to be and where to place it on the pattern.  I did this by using my other TNT pattern for the right waistband placement on me.  I also made sure that the waistband wasn't too large so I ended up using a 2" waistband.
  • To make new pattern pieces for the back I used my pattern sandwich method to get new pattern pieces - back bodice top, back waistband and back skirt pattern with pleat.
  • After all of the alterations were made to the new pattern piece, the pieces were cut apart.
  • Seam allowances of 5/8" were added to all of the pieces.

Making the front box pleat ~
I'm gonna be honest here.  I have no measurements for the pleat.  After cutting the skirt pattern from the waist band, I added 5/8" to the top of the piece.  Then I slit the skirt pattern down the front.  I added about a 20" piece of pattern paper to the front of the skirt pattern.  To check to see if it worked, I folded the front piece to make a box pleat. Then I made sure the two original skirt pieces met in the back of the pleat so that I would know that the skirt portion still fit at the waistband.

It worked for me.  I don't know if this is the "right" or "accepted method" but I did it intuitively.  Then I basted the pleat down and before assembling the skirt I topstitched both sides of the pleat leaving a small space at the top of the pleat so that the waistband topstitching would not intersect it.

Back pleats ~
They were made essentially the same way as the front pleat.  I just inverted the pleat on each back piece.

I chose not to add any topstitching to the back pleats. I stitched down 6" so that the pleat did not open over my backside.  With the pleat sewn down, the pleat opens further down and it doesn't add bulk to my backside. 

Marking the seam for the inverted pleat on the dress' skirt back

Dress' skirt back with the inverted pleat stitched down

Waist embellishment and the zipper ~
I really wanted to add piping to this dress but I couldn't figure out how to do it without screwing up the zipper in the back.  I love this dress but putting the zipper in gave me such a hard time, that I just couldn't go there again, and I wear the dress infrequently.  So I put in a 9" zipper at the neckline.  I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get the dress on but I had no problems doing so.

Since I wasn't using piping, I decided to topstitch the waistband, as well as the armholes, neckline and the front pleats. I used the #5 triple stitch on my Janome 8900 and lengthened the stitch length to 4.  Prior to adding the topstitching to the garment, I auditioned a few colors.  Originally I was thinking a black garment with white piping but once I ditched the piping idea, I realized I could use whatever color thread peaked my interest.

As you can see, I did use several colors in my sample stitch out...however, it was the green that really caught my eye. So that's the color I went with for the dress. It's a little unexpected, not a traditional color, but I did have a short cardigan that coordinated with my thread choice so I used it.

Black dress lightened to highlight the topstitching

Correct color with green topstitching 

A few additional observations ~
As I stated earlier this was an easy sew.  The challenging part was the pleats. Once I figured out that I wanted a box pleat in the front and inverted box pleats in the back, it was a breeze.  Of course, it helped that I started the process with a TNT dress pattern.

Besides piping, topstitching is another one of my favorite methods to embellish a garment.  I wrote about my topstitching technique here and here. I loved the green thread because it looked fresh and fashionable.  I'm glad I chose it.

The dress took 4.5 yards of 60" wide fabric to make...most of it in the skirt. The dress is lined with black rayon bemberg.  However, the lining is made from B5147 without the additional pleating.  I'd seen it done that way in a ready to wear garment, so I made the lining that way, sort of slip like.

Photos of the finished dress soon...but I'll leave you with a picture of my gorgeous grandbabies, who I'm hugging just a little tighter these days... always more later!


  1. The green topstitching really pops in your pictures. Looking forward to seeing it on you!

  2. Aren't those smiles just gorgeous and happy!!

    Love the green stitching. Looking really interesting. Looking forward to seeing a pic of it on.

  3. I like the green topstitching. Just the right touch of color.

  4. I love your dress! Its beautiful. Especially with the green topstitching. Can't wait to see it on ;)

    ...keep hugging your grandbababies a little tighter ...I have tears in my eyes after reading your post because I too am hugging my children just a little tighter these days too!

  5. The green topstitching is such a lovely effect! I'm hoping we'll eventually get to see some full-length shots of this dress, because it sounds amazing.

  6. Carolyn, I love the green topstitching, it really sets off the dress and adds so much. Great job.

  7. Love the dress Carolyn!! The green top stitching really changes the look of the dress. Love it!!

    Lovely grandchildren!!

  8. I really like the coloured top stitching - a bit of interest to the black.

  9. Love the green on black stitching.

    LOVE the grandbaby smiles. :)

  10. Oh, this sounds like a very chic dress. I love the green topstitching and can't wait to see pics! Isn't linen one of the nicest fabrics with which to work?

  11. Thanks for your detailed instructions. You did some beautiful top stitching.

  12. Gosh! You are a tease . . . showing us the construciton photos but not the finished garment!

    Gorgeous grangchildren more than makes up for that though!!

  13. The dress looks great Carolyn. I love the green topstitching. Waiting for pictures on you.
    Your grandchildren keeping getting more gorgeous!

  14. Topstitiching is also one of my favorite ways to embellish a garment. I can't wait to see the model shots
    Question. Do you always wear cardigans with your sleeveless dresses or will you sometimes wear them as is without a topper?

  15. Welcome back,Carolyn. You were missed. The topstitching looks great. Cute picture of your grandkids. BTW, I've always wondered -- do you also pretreat bemberg lining?


  16. OMG, that is my favorite color combination! I love the topstitching. Can't wait to see pictures of the finished dress.

  17. So beautiful and you have such vision. Those grandbabies are adorable!

  18. Lovely color combination, the green on black. Can't wait to see the finished product.

    Your GB's are lovely and as cute as can be. They will not grow up like the young man in Florida, of that I am sure. With such a loving family, and grandma :) they will be fine, and make all of us proud!

  19. I have been reading your blog for about a year and I get so inspired by your posts. I admire your skills, your vision, your style, and your willingness to share. Thank you so much! I hope to get back to garment sewing soon.

  20. Can't wait to see you in this dress. The topstitching really pops the seams, so that one actually sees the seam detail. Lovely.

  21. I hope you have some green shoes as well. This is a lovely interpretation. Those are some beautiful grandbabies. g

  22. Beautiful grandbabies; lucky you! My one-and-only Grandson is almost 25 years old, and I've not made as many things for him as I'd have liked. Cherish your darlings as much as you can!

  23. The pics of your grandkids made me smile... precious.

    I am loving what you have done with the dress and looking forward to the reveal. The box pleats reminds of Burda 8072 dress pattern that I have set to sew next.

  24. They are beautiful! Keep hugging them.

  25. I love your technique of working with the proportions till it looks right. I often have to argue with my husband because he wants to hang a picture or whatever by exact measurements. I find lots of times something may be placed properly by the numbers, but look way off because of other visual factors.

    I wouldn't have thought of green top-stitching on black (I guess going with shocking pink reveals too much about my age), but it's perfect!

    Your grandchildren are precious, so full of happiness, self-confidence, and love. I will do everything in my power to keep them as safe as possible from prejudgment so they can stay that way.

  26. Ooh, look at that topstitching! So cool!

    I can't get over how cute your grandkids are! They seem to be getting cuter all the time-- is that possible? Love to you and your family. :) You've been in my thoughts lots lately.


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