Cutting Chevron Knit Fabric and Matching Chevrons

Red Velvet Knit Dress - Cake Patterns - csews.com

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. 😉

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

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.

Chevron knit fabric - Girl Charlee Fabrics

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.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

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.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

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).

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

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.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

The Mistake

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.

Red Velvet side seam - csews.com

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)!

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

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!)

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

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.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Here’s my bodice side seam from the wrong side…

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

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!

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

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:

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

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.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

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.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

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.
Red Velvet Knit Dress - Cake Patterns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

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.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

After I checked and adjusted my basting, I trimmed the excess so I would have a 1/2-inch seam allowance.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Then I sewed and finished my side seam…

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

and got this!

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Yay!!!!!

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?

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

And here’s another side seam view. The bodice and skirt look like one piece, don’t they?

Red Velvet Dress - csews.com

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!

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric - csews.com

Have you ever sewn chevrons? Were your chevrons on knit fabric or woven? What was your experience like?

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My Chevron Red Velvet Dress

Red Velvet Dress - csews.com

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.

Red Velvet side seam - csews.com

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?

Red Velvet Dress side seam

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.

Materials

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 Pattern

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!

Red Velvet Dress - csews.com

Red Velvet Dress - csews.com

Red Velvet Dress - csews.com

And here’s my celebratory twirl.

Red Velvet Dress - csews.com

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?

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Everyday Dresses

Emery Dress and Red Velvet Dress Sewalongs

A few weeks ago I realized that I don’t have any everyday dresses in my wardrobe. Not one. I have everyday skirts but no everyday dresses. Yep. I’m more of a separates kinda gal so that’s part of the reason. And I guess the other reason is my attitude toward dresses. I guess I think of them as being something that you don’t wear everyday.

The five dresses I own only get worn a couple of times a year or not even that. They include a vintage black dress that I got years ago; the dress I wore as a bridesmaid to a wedding; two dresses I made from vintage Vogue patterns, and the dress I made for my BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern contest entry earlier this year (I was a finalist but didn’t win). I usually end up wearing a vintage hat with these outfits and even a crinoline with the one I made for the sewing contest – not exactly everyday wear but I do wear them to work when I’m in the mood and the weather is warm enough in San Francisco.

So when I heard about Christine Haynes‘s Emery Dress and the Red Velvet Dress by Cake Patterns – I had to take a closer look. At first I thought the Emery Dress was a touch too girly for me – I think the bow made me hesitate. But then I saw the striped Emery Dress by Devon of Miss Make blog and it convinced me that I should get the pattern. She cut the collar on the bias and it looks fabulous, doesn’t it? She kindly let me repost this photo from her blog post Emery Dress Pattern.

Emery Dress - sewn by Devon of Miss Make - pattern by Christine Haynes

The Emery Dress Sewalong has just started but Christine is only on fabric and notions. Muslin sewing starts on Oct. 30. You can view the schedule here. I think you could still join in on it if you order the pattern right away. In November Christine will focus on bust adjustments – small and full. I’m looking forward to that!

The Red Velvet Sewalong starts on November 11! So there’s still time to participate.It’ll be a series of ten sessions over two weeks. I participated in the Cake Patterns Hummingbird Sewalong earlier this year, which was a lot of fun. So far I’ve made three Hummingbird tops, which you can see here.

Melizza of Pincushion Treats was a pattern tester for the Red Velvet sewing pattern. You can see two of the dresses she made here.

And I also love the Lady Skater Dress that Katie of Kadiddlehopper made. She wrote about it in Lady Skater: Sakura Blossom Style and graciously let me post this photo of her twirling around in the dress. Check out her post for more photos of this pretty dress.

Lady Skater Dress by Katie of Kadiddlehopper

And last but not least, today my copy of Clothing for Everyday: Stylish Dress Book by Yoshiko Tsukiori arrived! I pre-ordered it on Amazon.

Clothing for Everyday Wear: Stylish Dress Book by Toshiko Tsukiori

This is the English translation published by Laurence King. There are dresses, tops, jackets, and pants in this book – a total of 26 garments – according to the book flap. There are plenty of photos in the book – slender, winsome, and unsmiling  Japanese models, which probably means grading the pattern up a bit for me. The pattern is sized for XS, S, M, and L. No XL folks.

The dimensions for large are 36 5/8″ (93 cm) bust; 29 1/8″ (74 cm) waist, and 38 5/8″ (98 cm) hips. Based on that, I’m more of an XL in the hips and height. Oh, and the pattern gives the same height for all four sizes – 63″ (160 cm), which must be a mistake. 63″ is 5′ 3″. I’m nearly 5′ 8″ so who knows what the height measurement means.

I’m looking forward to adding everyday dresses to my wardrobe. Have you made any dresses that fall into the everyday category? What patterns have you liked? Have you  made anything from Japanese pattern books? What was your sizing experience like?

And do let me know if you’re participating in the Emery Dress Sewalong or the Red Velvet Sewalong. I’d love to see what your version looks like!

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