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hanging on to summer with a mint-colored dress

mint_ruched_dress (6)I look a little sullen (which I wasn’t!), but I get a sort of cinematic vibe from the whole “big sky, posing on the balcony, framed by the doorway”, so I’m posting it anyways. Let’s just call it my serious look.

Yes, yes – I am hanging on to summer even though it’s October. I’m going to Barcelona this week – a trip with a couple of friends from school last year, and a trip we planned in February. You see, I therefore expect to get just a little bit of summer in before submitting myself fully to fall (which is totally here, leaves dropping and everything)! I finished this dress last week, and it’s a copy of a RTW dress I tried on in the beginning of summer and loved, but for several reasons didn’t buy. First of all, it was made in a soft t-shirt material that draped beautifully, but almost exaggerated any little lump and bump on my body. Second, it was so sheer I could see through the dress that my underwear was striped that day! I figured it was an easy enough dress to copy, so off to the fabric store I went.

Fabric: 1,5 meters (roughly – I didn’t measure) of aqua courtelle jersey from Stoff & Stil.
Pattern: Self-drafted, based on this dress pattern from (yet again) Stoff & Stil.
Techniques: Overlocking, binding, twin-needle hemming and ruched side seams with elastic.

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Not wanting a super sheer fabric, I ended up with this ponte-like courtelle jersey. The basis for the bodice is a pattern I’ve had success with before; this navy knit dress with zippers, and the emerald-green one with a v-neck. From there I raised the neckline and extended the skirt from the waist, to allow for the gathers. I also lengthened the front part of the bodice only across the bust – the gathers at the side seam gives more length over the bust, so they end up having the same function as a bust dart would have, more or less.

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I could turn this into a massive list of all the stupid mistakes I made trying to make this dress (I mean, it took me two months from RTW-inspiration to finishing this!), but that might get a bit boring. So, let’s look at the things I learned instead! (keeping it positive, folks.)

  • Use a pattern that is suited for the type of fabric you’re working with. A positive ease, slouchy t-shirt pattern will make a ponte knit dress look ridiculously frumpy. Fitted thicker knit garments like negative ease.
  • Thicker fabrics can handle less gathering before getting lumpy. The inspiration garment was a thin t-shirt fabric, with tight-looking ruching that skimmed quite flatteringly over the body. I re-learned that ruching creates volume, so now I have some unintentional and unnecessary volume especially across the stomach. I get why maternity clothes use this design element!
  • Knit fabrics need different techniques than woven. Elastic fabrics need elastic constructions, which is why I finally ended up ruching the side seam by serging the two layers of fabric together along with a length of elastic pulled taut. The elastic is added to the seam only from about the waist and down.
  • Peg the skirt and attatch the elastic all the way to the bottom edge of the skirt – or else the bottom part of the dress will flip outwards in an unflattering way.
  • Ruching the layers together instead of separately and then joined together, makes for a more even result (um, duh!).
  • Wow, quality of elastic makes a huge difference. Use elastic with good retention that doesn’t stay stretched out after zig-zagging. It was a total trial and error which ones of my elastics held up and which ones didn’t – which explains why there are three different ones used here, and two layers of elastic. Yep.

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I like this image above for showing all the ruching at the side. Also, I was sort of inspired by Gillian and her Better Pictures Project to find natural lighting and an outdoor space. My little balcony overlooking the local soccer field might be stretching the definition of “outdoor” a bit far, but I’m quite pleased, and I might make this a regular spot. Yey for the natural light at least, and my goodness – using the Portrait mode certainly helped!

Finally… this last year. It’s been a crazy one. I’ve written about going back to school to get my teachers certification, which was demanding in terms of work load, and challenging in terms of getting to learn and practice just a small part of what it means to be a teacher (such a huge, and important job – and so much consideration goes into it!). In this past year there was also the end of a long-term relationship (you might have seen John’s face here on the blog – he’s been the recipient of a number of things I’ve made over the years). Bookended between my 30th and my (this past week) 31st birthday, it also saw me move 6 times, hold down a new part-time job teaching sewing (mentioned here in my post about the kimono I made), and now (happily sort of successfully!) a new job market. I have been doing temp teaching through an agency, and I have loved it – teaching among other things swimming (!) and geography to 7th graders, math and science to 9th graders, and English to 10th graders. The latest work-developement is that I am doing a 2-3 month part-time gig at a high school, teaching “Design and architecture”, and I can’t wait! The thought of just having a string of temporary jobs would at one time have terrified me, but right now I’m excited about the different experiences I am getting to have, and I believe fully that a more permanent position will come along at some point.

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Until then, I am really enjoying the fact that my current (more permanent) living situation offers me not only a balcony with a view to soccer practice (my favorite. Not really. But I don’t mind them too much – and I really love the openness of the space!), but also a decent amount of table-space for my sewing machines. Having lived quite temporarily in this past year has taken a toll on my sewing time, but lately I have been able to sew more and even finish some old projects, and it feels very good! And now I will pack my bags and go on my mini-holiday tomorrow – of course bringing my summery aqua-colored dress with me. Vayamos!

  • These pictures are gorgeous! I love the way the light hits your you face and highlights your hair, but there’s still enough ambient light to show off the sewing. So pretty!
    And the dress – lovely! That’s not a colour I see often, but it looks great!

    • Thank you Gillian! ♡ I’m very pleased with the pictures, in part from using the portrait mode on my camera. The light was so good I took som actual portraits too – I’ll probably change out various profile pictures now. And the color – I love it! I found several fabrics at the store that could have worked, but picked the one that worked the best with my own colors. The power of sewing it yourself! :)

  • lsaspacey

    Wow. That dress is amazing from the color to the fact you created it without a pattern. Teaching sounds great, congrats! Also, when you said your balcony overlooked the soccer field, you were not kidding!! Wow, that’s an amazing view!

    • indigorchid

      Thank you so much! It was more hacking a pattern than drafting it from skratch, so I can’t take all the credit. :) And yes, overlooking the soccer field is quite fun! I especially love seeing how much it is being used by the local kids – it’s totally their hang-out spot.

  • Sounds like you had a rather exciting year. :-) The teaching job sounds lovely.
    Love the dress, the colour looks great on you and the ruching turned out really nicely. The photos look great!

    • The year certainly gave me enough to do! I’m looking forward to a little more quiet period now – more time for sewing and knitting! 😉 Thank you, I’m very happy with the color and how the ruching ended up finally – I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of the dress!

  • That is a most lovely dress. It looks very flattering on you, and I’m impressed that you started on it without an actual pattern. As the other ladies said, it’s a great colour too. The photos too look great. I too follow Gillian’s better photos series, and it’s great to be able to pick up some new points. We all wants to take photos that show of the garments we make in the best possible way. Good luck with your teaching job.

    • Hi Anne! Thank you for you nice comments, I’m very happy with how the dress finally ended up, and I’ve worn it quite a lot! I did have a very good starting point with a bodice I knew fit very well, but thank you! :)