When I went shopping for a knit fabric for the Red Velvet Dress Sewalong, I decided to challenge myself and bought this Ella Moss chevron rayon jersey fabric at Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley. (You can buy the paper pattern here or get the PDF.) I bought small chevron fabric for the bodice and the bigger chevrons for the skirt. Then I got some solid black for the midriff.
I’ve only sewn knit stripes once so I admit that I was a little intimidated so it took me a while to get going on cutting the fabric. I felt that I needed to do some research and I found a really helpful tutorial “Cutting Striped Knit Fabric & Matching Stripes” on Sewholic‘s site. (Thank you Tasia!)
I’ll have to do a separate post on preparing the fabric for cutting. So for now I’ll just give you an overview of what I did to make this version of the Red Velvet Dress.
I should mention that this is my second Cake Patterns make so I was pretty confident that it would be easy to adjust the pattern. (I’ve made three Hummingbird peplum tops, which you can see here.) The week before this sewalong began I was busy on my Emery Dress so I had no time to make a muslin – yes, I was sewing dangerously! No muslin!!
Sewing chevrons is a little more tricky than stripes, which I really didn’t realize until I made a mistake in cutting the bodice. I was so focused on making sure that the chevron apexes lined up perfectly on the bottom edge and at the center fold that I didn’t pay attention to the sides. Big oops. So I ended up being 3/4″ off to line up the chevrons! Ack.
This was a bit discouraging. On Instagram, Katie of Kadiddlehopper (@kid_md) suggested that I baste and see if it still fit. (On IG my handle is @csews.) Thanks for the encouragement along the way, Katie, and for reminding me that rayon knit is forgiving!
I basted so that my chevrons lined up perfectly in the middle and it still fit. Yay! But what to do about the excess?
I posted a photo of my sideseam basted and asked what to do – trim and then sew? Susan of Moonthirty and Steph, the talent behind Cake Patterns reassured me that I could just trim off the excess and sew it. You can see the discussion on this Flickr photo. I had MATCHING chevrons! My sideseam was exactly in the middle of the apex. Wahooooo!
I promise to post plenty of photos about it in a later post. Meanwhile here are the details.
Red Velvet Knit Dress pattern – $20
1/4 yard of solid black rayon jersey – $2.75
2 1/4 yard of large black-and-white chevron rayon – $21.25
3/4 yard of small black-and-white chevron rayon – $6.37
Matching thread (I used black and white)
Schmetz jersey needle
Fusible interfacing (black) $5
Fusible stay tape
I got extra yardage to compensate for mating the chevrons and because I wanted a longer skirt. I rarely wear skirts that end at the knees. I just like a longer length.
My pattern adjustments before cutting my fabric:
Bodice – I lengthened the bodice by about three inches. When I held a measuring tape against my body, the bottom of the bodice seemed to end right in the middle of my bewb. Though I knew the bodice would stretch a bit with the weight of the skirt, I thought it would still be too high. I was surprised that the length of the bodice wasn’t one of the things that you draft to your measurements, like the Hummingbird top. For the Hummingbird pattern, you take your shoulder-to-waist measurement to determine the length of the top above the peplum. Of course you can make adjustments to the Red Velvet bodice yourself, which I did before I cut my fabric. I recommend taking your measurement from the top of your shoulder (going over the middle of your bewb) and then ending about an inch below your bust. This measurement will give you extra length, which you can easily trim later.
Shoulder – I moved the shoulder point 1/4″ out I have broad shoulders and did a 1/2″ shoulder adjustment to my Emery Dress for a woven fabric so I figured with a knit 1/4″ would be OK.
Waist – Moved my waist point on the midriff and skirt to a spot right in the middle of 32.5 and 30
Skirt – Made my skirt tea length – about 33 inches long on me
My adjustments after I cut my fabric:
Construction: Because I had to match my side seams, I sewed the side seams of my bodice, midriff, and the skirt separately instead of sewing the side seam all in one seam. This meant I had to line up the side seams of the midriff to the bodice and then the midriff to the skirt.
Sleeves: My sleeves were a tad short because I had to trim them down to line up. On Instagram, Melanie of The Seeds of 3 suggested that I might want to add a wide binding to the sleeve. So decided to add a band of black to the sleeves. I had done sleeve binding on my Hummingbird tops but here I would have to insert the binding. So I guessed at the length. The sleeve width from the bottom to the shoulder was nearly 6 inches so I cut a binding that was 5 3/4″ folded in half (11 1/2″ total). I didn’t take photos of this and explaining in words is a little hard to follow so I’ll just say that I stretched it as I sewed and it worked! Be sure to check out Melanie’s Red Velvet Dresses – yeah, she’s more more than one! Here’s her most recent version – a lovely polka dot one.
Neckline: I didn’t topstitch around the neckline because I didn’t like how that would look. Instead I did a bit of hand stitching to tack it down. But you can see some of the stitches so I’ve taken some of them out and may just leave some stitches around the shoulder. Steph also suggested that I stitch in the ditch at the shoulder seam.
Pleats: To match the chevrons on the side seams of the skirt, I had to move my seam line in 1/2 on both sides. This meant I had to adjust the front pleat to accommodate – so I didn’t overlap the tucks on the inside. Instead the tucks meet in the middle. (More on this in my upcoming post on matching chevrons.)
The beauty of Cake Patterns is that they are drafted with zero ease, which give you a LOT of room for adjustment. Patterns for knits usually have negative ease because knit fabrics stretch. See Steph’s explanation of why her patterns have zero ease here. If she didn’t have this ease I wouldn’t have been able to match my chevrons – and I would have been really frustrated. But instead, I got to match my chevrons. Yay!
When I make this dress again, I’ll give myself a little more room below the arm.
If you make this dress, be sure to visit the sewlaong pages on Cake Patterns site sewingcake.com. You’ll find more information about constructing the dress and plenty of tips. The instructions that come with the dress are rather minimal so I highly recommend reading the sewalong pages.
I haven’t sewed rayon knit in a couple years so I had some doubts – at one point I was wondering about whether I needed stabilizer to sew the side seams. I posed the question on Twitter (@csewsalot is my handle) and got some answers. Melanie told me she’s used fusible webbing (Steam-a-seam) with great results on striped knits. Katie of Kadiddleshopper suggested using a walking foot and Leila of Three Dresses assured me it would be fine to sew the side seams of my rayon knit without any stay tape and that I should only use it if it the seam was “wavy.” Good advice from all. It turned out that this rayon was easy to sew and was perfectly fine using a regular foot and no stay tape. But I did decrease the pressure on my foot, which I think helped.
Working with this rayon knit has been a dream (now that it’s done!) and a nightmare (took me hours to prepare my fabric for cutting). But my chevrons match so perfectly on the side seams that I’m going around telling everyone at work – “Look, my side seams match!”
Here are more photos – on the side views – my hands are near the side seams. How’s that for matching!
And here’s my celebratory twirl.
And thanks to all the sewcialists who gave me advice as I was making this dress. You helped me get through the sewing process!
What’s on your sewing plate?