My Spring for Cotton Dress – Construction Details

Hi,

I hope you’re enjoying some spring sewing! Have you sewed any eyelet fabric? If you have any tips, please pass them on. This was my first experience sewing with it.

A few days ago, I finished the dress I made for Lucky Lucille’s Spring for Cotton sewalong. The challenge was to make something from a vintage or vintage-inspired pattern using 100 percent cotton fabric. I went through my small stash of vintage patterns decided to make a sleeveless dress. This pattern was for a 36 bust, 28 waist, and 38 hips. I added a lining to my version.

Simplicity 2439 - vintage sewing pattern - csews.com

My waist and hips are bigger than the pattern (especially because I’ve gained about ten pounds since last year – the result of a busy job and not making time to exercise). My waist is about 30.5 inches (77.5 cm) and my hips 41 inches (104 cm). I made most of my adjustments before I cut my muslin, which you can read about in my post WIP: a Vintage Dress Pattern and Japanese Top. Here’s my brief summary of the flat pattern adjustments before I made my muslin:

  • 1/4″ small bust adjustment,
  • dropped armhole 1 inch,
  • added 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) to side seams of front and back bodice (total of 2 inches),
  • added 1/2 inch to skirt waist
  • added 3/4 inch to hip area.

Here’s what my muslin looked like (pardon the bad bathroom lighting). I decided to leave off the pocket detail because I didn’t really like it on me. They were decorative anyway, not actual pockets.

Muslin of dress - spring for cotton - csews.com

At first glance it looked like it fit quite well and I thought, great, now I can cut my fashion fabric. But when I turned around and looked at the back, I could see that there was a little gaping of the back neckline, which is a bit of a scoop neck that’s lower than the front neckline. Hmmmm. I had not encountered this issue before. But I hadn’t made a dress with a scoop back neckline either.

So I went online to see what pattern adjustment to make – and stumbled across Ginger Makes post: By Hand London Anna Dress: Back Neckline Adjustment. I don’t have narrow shoulders so this was the first-time pattern adjustment for me. Before I did anything to my pattern, I took off my muslin, pinched in where I thought most of the gaping occurred, then pinned it in pace with safety pins. I guess that 1/4-inch (slightly less than 1 cm) would do the trick.

1/4 inch back neckline adjustment - csews.com

Back bodice – pinned.
Bodice - back adjustment muslin - csews.com

I tried it on again and it looked good (sorry I didn’t take a photo of that), so I decided to skip making another muslin. I made a 1/4″ flat pattern adjustment, following Ginger Makes’ clear instructions. It was easy – just draw a line from the armhole to the area that gapes the most, cut along that line and overlap 1/4″. The point turner is where I sliced the pattern and overlapped it 1/4 inch. to see a larger version of this photo, click on it once and it will open another window, then click on the photo again, you’ll see a large version.

Back neckline adjustment - Simplicity 2439 vintage sewing pattern - csews.com

Then I did a bit of a reality check, tried on the muslin one last time and realized that the waist needed a little more ease. So I added another 1/4-inch (.6 cm) to the waist of the bodice and skirt, crossed my fingers, and began cutting my fashion fabric.

Meanwhile, I also did a muslin of the jacket but decided I didn’t like the boxy shape. So I didn’t make it.

Jacket - vintage Simplicity 2439 - Spring for cotton - csews.com

The challenge of making this dress is that I was using eyelet fabric for the first time and lining the entire dress with a contrast fabric. Here’s an image I posted on Instagram when I was shopping for my fabric at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics for this dress.

Eyelet fabric with fuschia - csews.com

I chose the hot pink fabric for the color – more like a fuchsia – rather than its weight, which was quilt weight. I didn’t think it would make the dress layers too thick because the eyelet fabric was lightweight and had a bit of drape to it. So I thought they would balance each other out. As a general rule though, it’s better to match the drape/weight of the fabrics you’re sewing together. In retrospect, it would have been better to choose a lining fabric that was lighter weight as you’ll see below. But the challenge of this sewalong was to use 100 percent cotton and I liked this color so I went with it.

Materials

  • 3 1/2 yards eyelet fabric [amount for dress and jacket, which I didn’t make]
  • 3 yards of lining fabric
  • 1 1/4 yards of 3/4-inch ban-rol waistband interfacing
  • 1-inch buckle kit
  • Gutterman thread
  • Schmetz 60/10 needle

I got my fabric from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley, ban-rol from Britex Fabrics (notions floor manager Natalie suggested that I use this for my belt), the buckle kit from Lacis in Berkeley. You can also buy the buckle kit at Lacis’s online store (search “buckle kit”).

As I began sewing this dress, I realized I needed to figure out if I would sew my hot pink lining fabric as lining or underlining. (For a good explanation of underlining, see Seamstress Erin’s post When to Underline your Sewing.) I decided that it would depend on the effect on the eyelet – and how thick the fabric would be. So the bodice was sewn as lining and parts of the skirt were sewn as lining and underlining.

I decided that the darts could all be sewn separately, rather than sewing the lining fabric together with the fashion fabric. so I sewed the all the darts first. Four in the front bodice…

vintage Simplicity 2439 - Bodice - front lining - csews.com

two in the back bodice…

vintage Simplicity 2439 back bodice - csews.com

and four in the skirt back. This is one side of the skirt back, which has a center seam and kick pleat.

vintage Simplicity 2439 - back skirt darts - csews.com

I also got a nice tip via Instagram from @sewbrooke, who blogs at Custom Style. She told me if the fabric seemed thick, I could press the darts one way for the lining and another way for the fashion fabric to take care of any bulk. I took her advice.

The directions called for cutting the darts and pressing them open, which I had not seen before. I posted that photo on my IG feed (@csews) and asked if I needed to do this. Brooke said that this is often done in menswear and more necessary with a suiting or wool fabric. So I just pressed my darts.

Dart instructions - csews.com

However, the pleats in the front needed to be sewn with both fabrics sandwiched together. Otherwise, you wouldn’t see any of the pink through the eyelet.

As you can see here, the darts are slim enough that you don’t really notice that there isn’t any pink behind them. The pleats are a bit thick – something I hadn’t thought about when I bought my lining fabric. (I forgot to make a loop to hold down the end of the belt but I did make one the next day so I had it on when I wore the dress to work on Friday. It doesn’t stick out anymore.)

Spring for cottonn - Simplicity 2439 dress front detail - csews.com

I sewed my bodice pieces, following the instructions in How to Line a Sleeveless Dress from Blithe Stitches, a tutorial I used when I made a dress a couple of years ago. This dress has a side zipper. I left open the area just below the left armhole.

The skirt got a little tricky. I had to figure out how to sew the kick pleat in the back with the lining. The instructions direct you to first sew the two back skirt pieces together withย  5/8″ seam allowance, and then sew the center back seam, which is about three inches in from the other seam. You then fold over this three-inch bit of fabric to one side and sew it together when you attach the bodice to the skirt. This center back seam runs about 2/3 of the skirt length. The area below the center back seam forms the kick pleat. I improvised as I figured out how to sew the kick pleat with the eyelet and lining fabrics. (I cut my eyelet fabric perpendicular to the grain so I could use the scalloped edge of the selvage as my hem. The dress hem is a straight edge, not a curved one, which makes it possible to do this.)

instructions - kick pleat - csews.com

I skipped the first seam with the 5/8″ seam allowance and just sewed the center back seam, leaving the area below the pattern mark open.

Skirt back - kick pleat - csews.com

Then I sewed the center back seam of the eyelet fabric and pinned it to the waist of the lining fabric. Clearly, the dress would be too thick around the waist – six layers of fabric (kick pleat adds another two layers) – so I cut the fashion fabric above the pleat with my pinking scissors, close to the seam line. I didn’t trim the lining fabric.

Kick pleat - eyelet fabric - csews.com

Then I placed the lining fabric on top of the eyelet fabric and sewed the 5/8″ seam. Here’s a detail of the kick pleat before sewing the 5/8″ seam.

Kick pleat sewn

After I finished sewing the kick pleat, I was ready to sew the skirt side seams. I sewed the lining and the eyelet fabric together at the side seams. It was hard to line up the eyelet across the seam. I began at the bottom so I would be sure that the eyelet lined up at that scalloped edge. I pinned and eased as much as possible but it was all slightly off on the side seams. I decided to let that go and not get stressed out about it. I’m not sure what made it tricky – maybe because I cut the fabric against the grain or that the embroidery of the eyelet distorts the fabric slightly so things are slightly off? I didn’t use any stabilizer so maybe that would have helped.

Here’s what it looks like completed.ย  The seam in the center is that 5/8″ seam I mentioned above.

Kick pleat completed - csews.com

But you really don’t see that seam in the back pleat. Without the pleat, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to walk in this dress.

Spring for cotton - vintage Simplicity 2439 - csews.com

I attached the bodice to the skirt (note the zipper tape on the right). The waist seam is really thick – four layers of fabric and even more where the front pleats are. If I had to do this again, I would have picked a much lighter weight lining fabric. And I would add more ease in the hips. It’s not that it’s tight there but when I sit down, there’s small pool of fabric in my lap, which doesn’t look very good.

Waist seam - inside - csews.com

And here’s another photo of the finished dress!

Spring for cotton - vintage Simplicity 2439 dress pattern - csews.com

I really love the colors! I think I’ll do another post on accessories for this dress – the belt and fascinator. I was going to include info on making the belt and fascinator but it’s getting really long so I’ll save that for another day! Thanks for visiting and happy sewing!

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9 Responses to “My Spring for Cotton Dress – Construction Details”

  1. May 6, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    This is so beautiful. The pink with the blue is perfect!

    • May 6, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

      Thank you! I used to avoid pink but turns out I like bright pink – at least in small amounts. No pastels for me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. May 5, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

    Great tip to press the darts in different directions I will try to remember that one! You have done a fantastic job, I would not have thought to put those colours and fabrics together and it looks brilliant. Well done.

    • May 6, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

      Thank you so much! I recommend following Brooke’s IG feed for sewing tips. She’s also generous with advice when you post a question. I had been seeing a lot of eyelet lately so I wanted to try sewing with it. And I liked the idea of using a bright contrasting color behind it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. May 4, 2015 at 9:33 am #

    I love it! It turned out so well! The vertical eyelet on the bodice and the horizontal eyelet on the skirt adds some nice subtle visual interest.

    Eyelet is always a little tricky to sew because of the embroidered bulk around the holes but everything looks great how you did it! And the hot pink is beautiful with the cobalt blue!

    • May 4, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

      Thank you! I really didn’t think about what sewing issues might come up until I began sewing. You’re right about the embroidered bulk around the holes! I feel lucky that it worked out. There’s maybe one dart in the back skirt that sticks out a teeny bit at the point because of the embroidery. But I don’t think anyone will notice. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I’m really happy with the colors! Glad you like them, too.

  4. vivian
    May 4, 2015 at 5:16 am #

    Beautiful job, I love the colors. You did the kick pleat very well, I find them a bit of a pain. I might have to try your method.

    • May 4, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

      Thank you! I made another dress from a vintage pattern a few years ago that didn’t use the entire length of the skirt for the kick pleat. It does seem like a bit of unnecessary fabric above the pleat.

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