Jersey Twist Dress
Hi friends! Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! First things first, that little bit of belly you see above is indeed a baby bump. The little one is due in August, which means I’m about half way through this pregnancy. My husband and I are in a race to see which will come first – the new baby or the finished kitchen. We’re definitely rooting for the kitchen. And, to help hedge our bets, our renovation pace has quickened in the last few months. Our new backdoor is ready, our windows have been ordered, and we’ll be starting the electrical work next week. But, keep in mind that we’ve already been working on our kitchen for two years now! So, even with our faster pace, we’re going to be cutting it close, but where would the fun of the race be if we weren’t?!
Now, the other thing I feel needs saying right away is that I’m not so sure about this dress. I actually started it back in January in honor of Jungle January, but I got frustrated with some decisions I’d made about pattern placement and put it aside, favoring instead to finish my skirt from December and make a long wool cardigan. Then, before I could begin another project, my belly started rapidly expanding (seriously, in the span of two weeks I went from not really showing to what you see here!), which made me think of this dress again with its nice, forgiving gathering across the front. So, I pulled it back out and decided to finish it up.
Here’s the back story. When I saw this jersey border print on the Mood Fabrics site (this “Amber/Brown/Burgundy Animal Jersey Prints” is no longer available, but Mood has a large selection of other fun jersey prints), it reminded me of the wild print used in the BurdaStyle Twisted Maxi Dress‘s product image. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worn the first two dresses I made from this pattern (the maxi version was blogged here, and the shorter, sleeved version was blogged here), so it only seemed fitting to make a third that honored the magazine’s own imagery of the pattern.
Whereas the wild print from the BurdaStyle ad really only darkened at the border, my jersey print was roughly a quarter amber print, a quarter brown print, and half solid brown. Therefore, I had to decide where I wanted the print and where I wanted the solid. Since the amber print was the lighter and brighter portion of the fabric, I quickly decided to put it up near my face and cut the bodice from this portion of the fabric. Then, because I only had enough fabric to make a short dress, I cut the lower front piece from just below where I’d cut the top bodice pieces – with the brown print at the top, fading into the solid brown for the bulk of the skirt. Then I cut the back piece, lining up the hem of the back with where the hem ended for the front skirt piece. It was at this point that my frustration with myself began. I realized the back of the dress didn’t have any of the amber print in it because of how I’d chosen to layout and cut my pieces one at a time. The amber-print to brown-print transition was what had originally drawn me to the fabric. Lesson one learned: to get a feel for how a border print is going to behave, lay out all of the pattern pieces on the fabric before cutting, or drape the fabric on a dress form (as Sallie Oh did for her stunning wrap dress). If I’d done these things, then I imagine I would have at least considered putting the print at the hem, which in hindsight would have maximized the amount of amber-to-brown print fade in the dress given my limited fabric.
The frustration continued as I sewed together the front bodice. Because the front bodice pattern piece includes both the bottom portion of the twist and a built-in neckline facing, I’ve never really had a clear idea of where the bust point is. And, I’d never thought to do the pattern work to find it. Lesson two learned: take the time to figure out where the bust points are when working with a bold print. When I look at the photo above, I see the outline of a snake’s face across the front of the bodice with the twist forming its mouth! My husband says he doesn’t, so either the bodice is a bit of an ink blot test that is bringing out the worst of my frustrations or my husband is being overly kind! It was about this time in the sewing process that I put this dress aside and moved on to other projects.
In the end I’m glad I went ahead and finished the dress because I actually like it from most angles. Well, except also from directly behind.
I thought I was being clever in salvaging a bit of the amber-to-brown print fade in the ties, but I realized when I was putting the photos together for this post that my cleverness resulted in the dress having a bright, fiery tail. Lesson three learned: think about the way even the smaller pieces impact the overall finished look when using a border print. The waist ties might not have been the best place to take advantage of this border print, especially when tied in a knot at center back. The next time I wear this dress I plan to try tying the ties in a bow or on the side to see if that minimizes the tail effect.
Since I do like the idea of the dress and want to make sure it gets its fair share of wear, I’m also considering over-dyeing the dress. I’ve never dyed fabric before, though I’ve always wanted to try. I’m wondering if toning down the amber by giving everything a wash in brown might result in a better overall effect – more of a subtle brown print to solid brown fade?
As for the construction details, the back neckline and the armholes were finished on my sewing machine using a self binding. The horizontal seam connecting the front bodice to the front skirt was sewn on my serger, as were the shoulder and side seams. The ties and most of the front twist were sewn on my regular sewing machine. Finally, I used lite Steam-a-Seam 2 to hold the hem in place before stitching it with my regular sewing machine. No cutting corners, even if I did have my reservations right from the start!
I’m thankful that I have a new dress that is comfortable to wear over my expanding belly! And, I’m hopeful that my frustrations with myself are making me overly sensitive to the print placement here. What do you think? Are my frustrations coloring my view of this dress? Or, am I right to be considering options like over-dyeing? And, more importantly, where are you placing your bets – do you think we’ll have a finished kitchen or a new baby first?!