Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Nettie Sweater Dress (Times Two!)

Look!  I've actually sewn a pattern more than once! And I finally managed to snap a few pictures.

The Closet Case Files Nettie Bodysuit and Dress is a pattern that came out while I was pregnant with Taco, so it went on the "sew this eventually" list. I love bodycon dresses and I love sweater dresses. So, it seemed pretty natural to merge the two loves. I haven't sewn very much with sweater knits, so before trying to work with the good stuff, I figured I would work with the okay stuff, ordered on-line.

Here's my first version of Nettie, with very little in the way of alterations. Aside from grading from a 10 on top to a 14 at the hip, the only change I made was to add a little length. I was counting on my sweater knit being a nice stretchy rib to account for the extra room I need through the bust these days. I'm happy enough with how this dress looks and fits. But check out the back. 

Let's talk about this puddling of fabric.  I think if I posted this dress on a sewing forum or this blog with a photo of the back captioned "Help! What is the problem/what alteration do I need?" it would spark a conversation about the sway back alteration. In reality, that is not what I think is going on.

Pre-Taco, I didn't need a swayback adjustment. And the most tangible post-partum change to my body is that my bust is a few inches larger (this will probably change after we finish weaning.) Since a bigger bust means that I need width and length added to the front of the dress in order to go over the bust, what is going on here is a puddling of fabric at the back waist, because the dress is essentially riding up in the front - taking the extra fabric it needs to go over the bust. Further evidence is that you can see that the wrinkles actually do creep around the side of the dress and terminate at the bust.

Wrinkles originate at the bust.

To test this theory - and because I wanted another, lighter weight Nettie for the warming weather - I sewed the pattern again.

Now in red

This time I made an FBA.  You can see that I left the darts in rather than rotating them out. There is a very logical reason for this: Taco woke up from a nap at that point and I forgot to go back and rotate them out before cutting fabric. These things happen with a small child. My FBA is very imperfect. It looks like the dart should be about an inch higher.

Bust dart.

However, shoddy job with the FBA aside, you can see that - having added width and length - I no longer have fabric pooling at the back waist. Voila. FBA for the win. Sort of. Adding fabric to the front left me with too much fabric at the front waist. I really should take it in a little bit at the midriff.

Oh look. No puddled fabric.

But, dang! Doesn't the back look great?

The long and short is that I am not done with this pattern. I actually see both of these as wearable muslins, the key reason being that the fabric just doesn't measure up for me. The gray fabric is a little scratchy. And the red one... Ahhh, the red one... I feel slightly fraudulent about these pictures, which make the dress look pretty good. I had to choose the red dress photos carefully so that my unfortunately colorful choice in undies and bra didn't show thru this thin red rib, which is also not very stretchy. It just isn't a lovely fabric to sew or to wear. It clings to every little imperfection.

There is a lesson to be learned for me here. I should always sew with fabric that I would be happy to wear, rather than just ok fabric. My sewing time is limited; I want my results to be top notch. And if I had started with beautiful fabric from the start I'd have two dresses that I love instead of two that I think are ok.

That said, I did learn a bit about sewing sweater knits. The favorite tip that I picked up was to use lingerie or other stretchy and light-weight elastic as hem tape. First sew the elastic to the right side of the fabric. Then trim and turn to the inside to form the hem. By catch stitching the elastic to the fabric, you get a very stretchy and invisible hem.

Red lingerie elastic as hem tape

Anyway, come Autumn, you can expect to see another Nettie in a nicer fabric. Although I'll call these a win for now.

I mean, really, just look at the awesome high and tight armscye. It's perfect! I need about a dozen more of these as dresses and tops in all the neck and back variations.

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