Andrea: Grecian Dress

This Grecian beach dress has been on my make list for almost a year. Since seeing it in the August 2012 issue of Making magazine I knew it was one that I would make once I had got to grips with my first sewing machine.

I found the perfect fabric for this at the Sewing for Pleasure fair at the NEC earlier this year. The fabric is by John Kaldor and is a really slinky jersey knit fabric used by Phase Eight and I bought what remained of the bolt end (just under 3 metres for £20) and I have just enough left to make a shorter-length version.

The original pattern is a knee length dress with a contrast hem but I decided instead to make a floor length version and omit the contrasting trim.

andrea dress

It’s construction is very simple. The bodice is made from just two rectangles, two 4cm strips from the entire width form the ties and another two rectangles for the skirt.

Instead of cutting two skirt pieces, I decided in the end to cut a piece long enough to reach the floor and use the whole width of the fabric (just over 150cm), meaning there would be just one seam at the back rather than at each side.
In total I cut five pieces for the whole pattern!.

I have never worked with a stretchy fabric before, so I was a little worried that stitching the pieces together would be a nightmare. I had read on the Internet that using ballpoint needles and a walking foot were good ways of ensuring that the fabric would glide through the machine. I was too impatient to go and hunt out the needles so opted for just using the walking foot. It took a little getting used to but I found that giving the fabric a slight stretch helped too.

The fabric did take a little bit of getting used to but overall it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. The zigzag stitching used to finish the hem on the waist seam and the rouleaux ties was easier to do when stretching the fabric slightly, but it did have a tendency to veer off to one side. For all other seams I used a double turned hem and a straight stitch.

andrea dress back

I had never heard of rouleaux until the Great British Sewing Bee, and remembering how easy the contestants made it seem, I thought it couldn’t be that bad. Three metres of rouleaux is probably a bit ambitious for a beginner, particularly on a stretchy fabric. It’s a long time to have to wait for that “ta daa!” moment. At every point where the channel narrowed due to my slightly off-course stitching I had to apply enough force to pull the fabric back on itself but still be gentle so as not to over-stretch and break the stitching. This part of the dress construction took the best part of an hour or so and was by far the most complicated part of the whole process.

The rest of the dress was relatively simple to put together. As I was using a patterned fabric I knew the double twists on the shoulders would not look right if the underside of the fabric was showing. To fix this, once I had sewn the bodice to the skirt I added a short run of stitches linking the outer edges of the shoulder piece together at the point of the twist. This was enough to prevent the underside from showing.

A small piece of the tie was used to create a loop to attach the ties at the front of the dress. The ties are then looped round the waist twice and tied at the back to give the dress a Grecian look.

This shouldn’t have been my first dress. I already have another two dresses which are either in the process of being cut out or in need of a few adjustments before being completed, but as these dresses are more form fitting I decided to put them to one side in favour of a cooler dress for summer.

Thanks to the glorious weather over the weekend, I got the chance to wear it out in public. It’s a really comfortable dress to wear and as I was able to choose the length myself – I don’t have to worry about the hem getting tatty or having to hoist it up to prevent tripping over it when on the move. The fabric is also great because it doesn’t seem to crease, which makes it perfect for holidays.

Since wearing it out several of my friends have commented on how lovely it is and are amazed that I made it. It really is a simple dress to make and I will definitely be making more versions of this dress in the future.

This post was written by Andrea and originally featured on her blog, I’ve got a flair….

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