knit shift dress | renfrew meets mccalls 6559 meets laurel

if me made may teaches me anything, it’s that my sewing is seriously out of sync with my blogging. and instagram is just an enabler since my makes are almost always seen there first. but, i have a several project backlog of photographed makes, so there does stand the chance that i’ll actually get them on ye olde blog soon-ish.

IMG_3022

a couple weeks ago i had a rare evening out with a group of moms from my daughter’s kindergarten class. naturally i needed to make something new for the occasion… you know how it is. but i should back up… i’ve been itching to add some flowy knit maxi skirts to my wardrobe, and i had a 2 yard piece of black cotton/lycra and thought that would be perfect. i drafted out a 1/4 circle skirt, but alas i was about 1/2 a yard short. i decided to try anyways and make an a-line maxi. chalked it out on my fabric, cut it out, sewed up the side seams and… well it was okay, but it just didn’t totally feel right. it was too fitted from waist to hip and would probably end up not worn very often.

awkward arm pose...

awkward arm pose…

i was bummed, but then i remembered the dinner outing and thought maybe i could get a shift dress even if i had to piece it together. well turns out that a failed maxi skirt is the exact amount of fabric required for a shift dress—no piecing necessary! i cut sleeves and binding from my remaining fabric (which i still had a good chunk of) and had a new dress hours later.

photo 1

so let’s talk about my pattern. you may recall last december that i made a shift dress for christmas out of a heavy sweater knit. i wore that dress a lot, so i knew i’d be making it again. i had hacked it by combining my sewaholic renfrew for the top with mccalls 6559 for the bottom. for this dress, i also narrowed the skirt hem, using my colette patterns laurel as a guide. (side note: why didn’t i just use my laurel—minus darts—for this dress? i had intended to, actually, but i pulled out my renfrew for comparison and i was afraid it would take some serious tweaking to get right. with my renfrew/shift previously hacked, the bulk of the work was already done.) basically all i did was line up the waist marking on the mccalls pattern with where my waist hits on the renfrew. line those two up and you’re ready to go! okay, mostly.

photo 2

one thing that has bugged me on my chevron dress is some excess fabric in the back, and little bit of pulling on the front causing the back to look like it’s sagging. to fix all that, i retraced, narrowing the back piece in quite a bit at the waist. then to address the pulling at the front i added in some bust room by slashing at the bust line and adding 3/8″. this excess i simply eased in when i sewed the side seams, keeping the excess concentrated from the armhole to just under the bust. i would tell you that adding in the extra room was my brilliant idea, but that’s how the mccalls pattern is drafted so i figured it was legit. just note that if you have a striped fabric, start your stripe matching under the bust, not at the armhole!

IMG_3043

i finished the neckline with a binding facing, rather than a neck band for a nice clean look. i serged a strip of fabric to the front, then turned it to the inside and top stitched with my cover hem. oh yeah… i bought a cover hem (!!!). we’re just getting acquainted, so i’ll hopefully post more on that later!

IMG_3040

and that’s about it! i can see this dress covering all the bases from a casual day dress to an accessorized date night dress for almost any season. versatility at it’s finest!

—lisa g.

chevron shift

not long ago i found this ah-mazing fabric from fabric basement (local). i was browsing the sweater knits for my coppelia cardi, when i came across this ultra soft chevron sweater knit. you know how so many sweater knits are super thin and nearly unusable? and/or 100% poly? this is the opposite of that. it’s nice and beefy, stable, opaque, and rayon. at $8/yd it was a no-brainer. in fact, i would have happily paid twice that! folks, this fabric is so soft, i can’t adequately describe it. the only problem is, however much i love the fabric, the chevron seriously messes with my vision. i’m prone to migraines, and this fabric tricks my brain into thinking it’s experiencing the visual aura associated with them. if you’ve experienced this, you know what i’m talking about! the fabric, coupled with really bright sunlight actually triggered a migraine when i started making this. the things i endure for sewing…

IMG_2098

i bought a yard and a half because initially i was going to use it for my daughter, mostly because i thought the chevron might be a bit cray cray for my own use. however, i got it in my head that i could probably squeeze out a shift dress for myself, so i ordered her a different fabric to make up for it (yet to be sewn). i put out a plea on instagram for recommended shift dress patterns and while there were some great suggestions (HERE, HERE, HERE, and soon to be released T & TB coco) i decided i wanted to go with a pattern i had experience with. or rather, patterns—the renfrew and mccalls 6559.

now i hadn’t mashed these two before, but it was pretty easy to do. i simply marked the waistline on my renfrew and lined that up with the waistline on the mccalls. i wanted less shaping than those patterns have, so i cut it relatively straight from bust to hip. the mccalls dress is more fitted in the hips, so i added an inch to the side seams, giving me an extra 4″ all around.

IMG_2107

i wanted a higher neckline, and i planned to do a binding instead of an added on band, so i cut the neckline accordingly. i tried out a few methods of binding on scraps and finally came up with the following: i measured around the neckline and cut a 2″ strip to that exact length. then i sewed it into a circle with a 1/4″ SA (making the strip 1/2″ shorter than the neckline). i pinned it RST around the neck, stretching it slightly around the curves. then employing my walking foot, i sewed it on with a zig zag stitch to retain stretch. i aimed to have the leftmost swing of the zig zag at 5/8″, because that is how wide i wanted my binding. i trimmed down a little of the binding  to reduce bulk, then i pressed it up, careful not to pull too hard, and pinned it to the inside. then i used my twin needle to topstitch the binding in place. on the inside i went back and trimmed off the excess binding.

IMG_2122

sorry i don’t have any step by step pics, but it’s basically the same as this method, only wider. since my fabric was so beefy and doesn’t have a ton of stretch, this was ideal. a regular renfrew-esque neck band just wouldn’t have worked. i have to say, i am pleased as punch with the binding—it looks so legit! then i finished the sleeves and hem with a simple turn and twin needle. this fabric was so easy to work with it gave me no problems whatsoever.

IMG_2124

the shift dress is really a new shape for me, and i’ve quickly fallen in love with it. way back when colette patterns released the laurel, my thought was eh… great for a toothpick, not so much for my pear shape. however, this fabric spoke to me and suddenly i thought i’d try this shift business out. lo and behold, i’m really loving it! i’m as self-conscious as the next gal about those mushy tummy bits, and this completely avoids cling in that area. it’s cute for christmas mass, yet cozy enough to spend the whole day in. and EAT in. hello christmas cookies, caramels, and fudge!

IMG_2097

hope you all have a wonderful christmas!

—lisa g.