Monday, 1 September 2014

Leopard surplice dress

So, another jersey dress - QUICK! BEFORE THE SUMMER ENDS! Hang on, did the summer begin??! This is another self-drafted jobbie, but more experimental than the previous stripy one, so involved a lot of unpicking and hacking.

Pattern description

Dress with surplice bodice with pleats, cut-on cap sleeves and A-line skirt with gathering at the front.

Fabric used

Medium-weight jersey, I think a rayon-spandex mix. In a rather understated print and colour.

Did it look like the sketch/idea when you were done?

Not really. I wanted elegant pleats in both the bodice and skirt, draping diagonally out from the waist. Well, it didn't look like that. No pictures, sorry, it just looked awful and I needed to IMMEDIATELY get the seam ripper out as it was offending my eyes. I think this sort of thing needs to be drafted by draping to see how it hangs (especially with a knit, which is unpredictable in how it drapes and stretches), but I was just doing it on the flat pattern. It ended up with the front bodice being way too long and loose, and the pleats on the front of the skirt somehow both hugging my belly and blousing over it. Nice. In the end the pleats were much less pronounced and the skirt became basically an A-line. At least I kept the surplice front!

Drafting details

This was drafted from my stretch block, with the bodice overlap having pleats at the waist, and the underlap being plain. The pleats in the skirt ended up being eliminated, but a bit of extra ease was added by a little bit of gathering at the centre front waist of the skirt.

Construction details

This was pretty much all sewn on my serger, with a bit of twin-needling thrown in. I made some bad judgements with my choices to stabilise the neckline, but I blame that on, erm, the hot weather. No, more likely the wine. The back neck was stabilised with bias tape, which meant it's not stretchy at at (normally I would have added a T-shirt style binding to this part). For the front overlaps, in a moment of madness, i decided to use clear elastic. Or to give it its full title Evil Elastic Of Doom. Do I have a crappy batch of elastic, or is it all lies that say you can stretch clear elastic as you sew and it'll rebound and gather up what you've just sewn? If I stretch it when sewing, it just seems to become permanently stretched out and ripply. Meaning using it in an edging is effectively a more annoying and bulky (if stretchy) way of interfacing the edge. What am I doing wrong?!

Anyway, moving on, the neckline, sleeve hems and skirt hem are all finished with a twin-needle, and I also added narrow (normal) elastic to the waistline seam for support, zig-zagging it to the seam allowance after serging the seam. I also made a tie-belt from the same fabric, although I've actually been wearing the dress with a plain black belt.

Would you sew it again?

Hmm, maybe. It needs rather a lot of refining to get to the vision I had of it. I might re-start with either a commercial pattern, or by draping (although the latter means I need to pad Wilma to mimic my shape a bit better). I do really like this style of dress on me, so it's probably worth persevering with. I think the pleats would be more flattering with the excess going into the side seams rather than the waist seam, so I will try this next time.


Although this didn't turn out as planned, and despite being rather hacked together in the end, I have actually been wearing this a fair amount. I really like this fabric, it holds up well to wearing and washing and is comfortable to wear. I'm taking it as a learning experience!

PS A word about the photos... I've been trying to take my photos in some more interesting places. These were taken on the way to an ENORMOUS brunch. The first lot were taken by some of the cool graffiti near the river, which include most of the best ones. But then I got worried that this meant something really rude in French, so I took some more in front of a lovely ivy-covered wall, although I ended up having a sour face in most of the second set because it stank of piss. But a pretty backdrop! Oh the sacrifices for art.


  1. It's really cute! I spent yesterday drafting a similar dress, as it happens... I think you might in fact have some cheap clear elastci on your hands, because I haven't found it *that* bad. That said, I prefer to stabilise knits with narrow fold-over elastic, because it's much easier to sew with and give much more reliable results! You made the dress work though, an that's what matters! :)

    1. Ugh, yeah I might just give up on it and go back to nice soft normal or fold over elastic! I think I will stock up on some more narrow FOE for this purpose. Yeah, given this is completely a trial and entirely flat pattern drafted, it's pretty wearable!

  2. It's too bad that it didn't turn out the way you had envisioned but I really like how this looks!

    1. Thank you! I was pleased that it did end up being wearable, as I really like the fabric.