The biggest challenge in making this dress from the Red Velvet Knit Dress Pattern (a lovely Cake Patterns design) was preparing the fabric for cutting and sewing. So here’s my promised rundown of my experience cutting chevron knit fabric and matching chevrons along the side seams. (You can see more photos of the dress and read about the Red Velvet sewalong in the post “My Chevron Red Velvet Dress.”)
This was my first time sewing chevrons so I don’t think I can call this a tutorial. But hopefully you can learn something from my experience. And hey, I’ve got plenty of photos of my side seams, which I’m really proud of. So excuse me as I insert one here of the bodice side seam. 😉
This chevron fabric is a rayon jersey by Ella Moss, which I got from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley. The bodice fabric has chevrons that are about a 1/2 inch wide (about 1.3 cm for you metric folks) and each chevron from point to point is about 3 inches (7.6 cm) tall – with a really steep angle. The skirt’s larger chevrons are about 2 inches (5 cm) wide and each chevron is about 7 inches (17.75 cm) tall. I liked the contrast of having a larger print on the bottom.
I assumed when I got the fabric that it would be similar to sewing stripes. Hahahaha. Well, if your chevrons are shallow and the angle of the chevrons is 45 degrees, it probably is a lot more like sewing stripes. For example, the chevrons on this cotton jersey from Girl Charlee Fabrics are probably a little easier to sew than my fabric. The chevrons on this cotton knit are about 2 inches tall.
Meanwhile, I’m approaching my fabric’s chevrons like they’re stripes. Before I began cutting I read a really great tutorial on matching stripes on a knit fabric on Sewholic’s site here. So I began preparing the bodice fabric according to her striped knit fabric instructions.
I folded my fabric in half. I knew I wanted the apex of my chevron to be in the exact center so I folded it right in the middle. The fabric seemed a bit clingy after I prewashed and dried it (yes, I put it in the dryer on low to ensure it wouldn’t shrink any further but I’ll air dry now that it’s completed). This cling factor was both good and bad – good because the fabric didn’t move much once I folded it but bad because it was hard to smooth it out the ripples to line up the chevrons.
I pinned through both sides of my folded fabric, placing my pin alongside a chevron. I did this every couple of chevrons. Luckily I could see through to the other side of the fabric (yay for black and white!) so it wasn’t too hard to line up. But it took a long time to get those edges to match because this is a stretchy knit. I discovered I could gently pat the fabric to get the chevrons to line up – patting it in whatever direction it needed to go.
Then I flipped over my fabric to check the match – you can (sort of ) see the two pins near the fold. The apex of the chevron is on the fold.
I think it took me about an hour and a half to do the front and back bodice. Really! (At this point in the sewalong, most folks had already started sewing and I hadn’t cut anything yet!)
After pinning the chevrons, I placed and pinned my front bodice pattern piece on the fabric. My midriff piece was a solid black rayon and I wanted the tip of the black chevron to look like it was coming out of the black. So that’s what determined where I would place the bottom of the bodice. This pattern uses 1/2-inch seam allowances so I just made sure to add that amount.
When I cut the fabric, I left the pins in place unless they were in the way of my scissors. Here’s the front bodice (note: I added about 3 inches to the bottom of my bodice – you can sort of see the faint line I drew below the bodice, which is where I cut it).
Here’s the back bodice – you can see the pins are still in the fabric. I didn’t remove the pins until I was ready to sew.
I cut the front and the back bodice pieces separately. I had stripes (not chevrons!) on the brain and I just assumed that if I cut each piece with the chevron in centered on the fold and cut the bottom in the same place that everything would be fine. Uh, no. That would work only if the front and back pieces were the exact same width and everything was perfectly cut. But the front bodice piece has pleats so it’s wider than the back. Duh. Somehow I wasn’t paying attention to this detail.
I also needed to pay attention to where the seam line would go on the fabric. But I totally forgot about how I would match the side seams. If you want your seam to be at the apex of the chevron, then you need to make sure you place your pattern so that the seam line will go right down the middle of the chevron. So centering the pattern piece on the fold isn’t as important as paying attention to the side seams. Have your seam gauge in hand to ensure that you’ve got the right seam allowance.
Here’s what I saw when put the front and back pieces together so the chevrons would line up. Grrrrrrr.
To get the pieces to line up perfectly, I should have cut one bodice piece, put it on top of the fabric, aligning the chevrons of the cut piece and the fabric. Then I could mark the side seams on the fabric so they would match.
I panicked for a moment wondering if I needed to run to the fabric store and buy some more fabric. But then I took a breath, and pinned and basted the side seams. Thanks again to Katie of Kadiddlehopper for the advice and reassurance on Instagram (her IG handle is @kid_md, mine is @csews)!
Then I basted the midriff pieces together, pinned the bodice to the midriff and adjusted the width of my pleats to compensate for the side seam change.
I removed all the pins after I basted. Then I tried on the bodice. It still fit! Here’s the photo I posted on Instagram (@csews is my handle there) of the basted bodice. (Excuse the dirty bathroom mirror!)
And basting this short side seam was good practice for the skirt. I basted down the exact middle of the chevrons. Basting is an absolute must if you want to match your pattern. After I basted, I checked the seam to make sure I wasn’t off anywhere and then I sewed my side seams.
Because I had such a tiny seam allowance, I decided to leave my seam unfinished (I don’t have a serger) but I wanted to make sure I had a strong side seam so I used the ugly straight stretch stitch on my machine. The stretch stitch goes over each stitch three times. Here’s that side seam.
Here’s my bodice side seam from the wrong side…
and here it is from the right side. You can’t really tell where it is, can you? Well, it’s where the apex is slightly shorter than the two chevrons next to it (third chevron from the left). So I was slightly off but you can’t really tell because the chevrons are the same width so it all blends in!
So what about the shoulder seam? Well, I decided to forgo any attempt at matching the chevrons at the shoulder. I decided I would just let it be whatever it was. Plus I wasn’t sure if it was even possible to match anything there.
Here’s what the shoulder seam looks like:
Nothing matches but it’s fine with me. I’m side-seam obsessed anyway.
Now for the skirt – big chevrons! For this pin job, I put pins at the apex of the chevrons. You can see how the fabric isn’t quite flat. I spent at more than two hours (two!), getting the first skirt piece to line up and lay flat. I began one evening and then had to stop and go to bed and then the following day got back to it after I got home from work. I had no idea the large chevrons would take longer to prepare than the small ones.
The great thing about the Red Velvet pattern is that you use the same pattern piece for the front and back of the skirt. Perfect for matching! Cutting the back was so much easier! By this time, I realized that all I had to do was lay the first piece down on my fabric and make sure the chevrons at the sides top, and bottom matched. If there were wrinkles in the middle, I left them. It was only important for the first piece so there wouldn’t be any distortion.
Here’s my first skirt piece. I lengthened it by several inches as you can see below. The pattern piece has a curving bottom to allow for the pleats at the top of the skirt.
Now’s a good time to show the line drawing of the Red Velvet pattern so you can see what I mean. I used a box pleat on my dress.
After I cut the first skirt piece out, I opened it up and put it on top of the fabric, pinning and lining up the chevrons. I didn’t use as many pins here, most of them were near the edges (top, bottom, and sides). My table wasn’t as wide as the fabric opened up so I moved it over to cut.
Then I pinned and basted through the apex – notice that I needed to come in a bit in the hip area and down the sides so I could place my seam in the middle of the apex. Lucky for me Cake Patterns are drafted with zero ease so I could come in a half-inch on both sides and the skirt would still fit.
After I checked and adjusted my basting, I trimmed the excess so I would have a 1/2-inch seam allowance.
Then I sewed and finished my side seam…
and got this!
Then I attached the midriff piece to the skirt, adjusting the front pleat to fit. Here’s a close up of the front with the bust pleats and front skirt box pleat. See how the black chevrons emerge from the black midriff band?
And here’s another side seam view. The bodice and skirt look like one piece, don’t they?
One last thing – I used white thread at the hem and then I used a Sharpie on the white thread on the black chevrons. Thanks to Staci (@arubyrosebud on Instagram) for mentioning the Sharpie to me earlier this month. And thanks also to the folks who voted that I use a Sharpie when I posed the question on Instagram (@gjeometry aka Catja of Gjeometry, Staci, @kid_md aka Katie of Kadiddlehopper, @sewbrook aka Brooke of Custom Style, @theseedsof3 aka Melanie of The Seeds of 3, and @Sewsowninlove). Whew!!!!! Thanks for reading!
Have you ever sewn chevrons? Were your chevrons on knit fabric or woven? What was your experience like?