Before this spring, I had never sewn with ponte despite having a few cuts in stash. I made up two pairs of pants this spring and they are very comfortable, although both are pilling a bit on the inner thighs. This meant I was pretty sure that any future uses would have to be dresses to eliminate that concern, but I had no plans. Then, this lovely bolt of wine colored ponte (rayon/nylon, which never happens) showed up at Hancock’s just screaming to become a dress.
Additionally, I needed a new dress as I was going to the symphony last weekend, but no, this didn’t get done in time, alas. After going through my ridiculous pattern stash, I settled on Vogue 1360, a Kay Unger design. Some of her designs veer matronly in my mind (1182, I’m looking at you), though apparently not enough to keep the patterns from being bought and in one case, tried. This one, however, was perfect for what I had in mind. The seaming is interesting without being too much and the princess seams were perfect for getting the fit right.
So let’s talk alterations. This dress is labeled close-fitting, but I didn’t want something that would need the Spanx for wearing on an everyday basis and I worried that the size 14 I normally cut for dress bottoms/skirts would be too tight, as, cough, I’ve put on some weight. I cut the skirt front and back side pieces out as a straight size 16. The front and back pieces were traced as a size 10 with ½” tucked out above the princess seams and then pivoted for the side seam only into a size 16 at the waist; I didn’t slide as I did not want to be adding length since I was using slash and spread for the FBA, which doesn’t add length. Same deal for the side back bodice. The side front bodice got a ¾” FBA and a smidge added to the side to line it up with the side front skirt cutting line. A quick tissue fitting showed that the bust apex was then 1 1/8” too high, so that was lowered. I measured the back length on a quick hunch and it was ½” too long still, but seemed fine in the front, so I tucked out for a swayback, though the back view shows that I still have too much extra fabric there.
Actually, now that I’m looking at the pictures, I don’t think a swayback tuck was the right answer. I should have shortened the entire bodice just above the waist. The curve of the hip is hitting a little lower than the curve of my hip. So I keep pulling the front down to smooth it out, obscuring the problem, but I’m not able to hide it in the back as readily.
Moving on, when sewing everything together I decided to test whether or not I had enough stretch in the fabric to get it on allowing me to omit the zipper. Happily I was able to and not just because I got to skip putting in the zipper. I have a continual problem with back necklines standing away from my body and extra fabric between the shoulder blades. I think I should be doing a narrow back adjustment, but I’ve never tried that and I am unsure what I should do with the neckline. My quick and dirty answer for this dress was to just take it in along the back seam to get a better fit. I ended up with a 1 ¼” seam allowance, but it did solve the problem for this dress. Deeper back necklines don’t have the same problem, so I think it’s something about my upper back and neck, but I haven’t bothered figuring it out yet. Hey, I’m just happy I remembered to petite this dress.
Back seam, showing the basting at 5/8″ and the stitching at 1 1/4″ Note the totally not matching thread. How did I end up with 6 different spools of red thread that are all wrong for this fabric? I settled on gray and purple instead.
Overall I’m thrilled with this dress and love that it’s comfortable, yet put together feeling. My other knit dresses all scream casual to me, so this is definitely a great addition to my wardrobe. Thinking about it, most of my dresses are prints and there is something nice about wearing a solid color. The ponte was a dream to sew with and everything was constructed with just the sewing machine. The only thing I didn’t like about the fabric was that it was not the best at pressing. Even at the lowest setting on the iron, I was getting impressions from the seam allowance and using a press cloth did not help. Weird. The tricot lining was a bit of a pain as it seemed to grow in size and wants to creep up under the dress (I haven’t tacked it at the bottom yet). I hemmed by hand using the weird invisible nylon thread, which I was not thrilled to be using, but I had no thread that would have worked otherwise.
I finished up in time to take the kids to Chick-Fil-A for dinner, and I was pleasantly surprised when the high school-aged girl behind the counter complimented me on my dress. No, it’s not the first time that people in person have said nice things about dresses that I’ve made, but it’s always nice to hear as I tend to worry that my handmade clothes stick out and not in a good way. So getting kind remarks from people who have no idea that I sew makes my day.