Saturday, June 23, 2012

Knit Adventures, part 2

For my second go-round sewing knits, I made a maxi dress.

Yes, you read that right.  A maxi dress.

I was hesitant for a quite a while to go down this road because 1) I'm short, 2) I'm not super slender and 3) I'm on the old side for this look.  But my BFF talked me into it; she thinks it's OK, and she's shorter and older than me!

And the maxi does have its benefits:  you don't have to shave your legs.

So on Thursday I made the dress, and let me tell you, for a garment with only 3 pattern pieces and 7 seams, it sure did give me a lot of trouble.  But I'm pretty happy with the outcome:


This is how I actually wore it today, with a little blazer, a hat and some flat sandals.  But I wanted you to see the actual tank part of it, so I took my blazer off:


As Hubby took these pictures, he kept saying, "Pull your stomach in!"  Sadly, I already was before he even said that.

I have a lot to say about this dress, so let's dive right in!  If you don't sew, you might want to skip this part.  Or even if you do sew.

The pattern I used was the Mission Maxi by Jamie Christina.  This is the only pattern of hers I've used, so I don't feel like I can really comment on the quality of the pattern, since this is a pretty simple and straightforward garment.  The fabric I used was 100% organic cotton interlock knit from Fabric.com, and it was the source of most of my troubles, I've decided.

Remember how I said I ordered a bunch of knits without really knowing what they were, and my red polka dots ended up being a thinner fabric than I was expecting?  Well this one was quite a bit heavier than I was expecting, but I decided that might not be a bad thing for such a body-conscious garment.  And it was cheap, so I wasn't going to be too heartbroken if it didn't work out.

When I traced my pattern pieces, I followed the lines for the size 4 above the waist, and graded out to an 8 at my standard 10" hip drop.  My actual hip size according to the pattern envelope would have been more like a 12, but I measured the pieces at that 10" drop line on the size 8 and came up with 40".  My actual hip is 39", and I felt this dress should skim the body pretty closely, so I stuck with the size 8.  I think this was exactly the right adjustment for me.  The only other adjustment I might do in the future is to take a little bit off the straps so it's not quite so low-cut.

front view (after wearing it all day)

back view, slightly racer-back

I decided that I'd try using my regular sewing machine for this one, and even went so far as to get out my ball-point needles and walking foot.  I did several seam samples before starting, and found that the "stretch stitch" on my Kenmore (which seams to be a triple stitch) does produce a firm yet stretchy stitch.  When used with the regular straight stitch foot, the top layer of fabric did end up being longer, but the walking foot elimated this problem.  Unfortunately, it also really aggravated me:  it's very clunky and loud.

I also learned that the walking foot really doesn't work if you don't have the fabric extending all the way to its edge.  I was trying to do a very narrow seam when I applied the binding to the neck and armholes, but the walking foot just wasn't letting me, so I ended up having to make those seams wider.

By the time I got to doing the side seams, I'd had about all I could take of the walking foot, so I did those on the serger.  SO much faster and easier, even taking into account that I re-threaded the left needle to black!

Disaster struck when I tried to fold the bindings to the back and topstitch them.  No matter what I tried (and I tried a lot:  stretch stitch, straight stitch, zigzag) the bindings were getting very stretched out and wavy.  Each time I tried something new, I tried it out first on a scrap; when it seemed like it would work, I tried it on my dress and got a wavy mess which I then had to pick out!  Finally the binding on the right armhole was so stretched out that I stopped sewing and threw the whole dress into the washer and dryer to get it back to its original shape.  A bonus was that it also shrunk about 3" in length, so I didn't have to cut any fabric off the bottom like I originally thought I'd have to.  (And yes, I did pre-wash and dry my fabric!)

After all that, I just wanted to finish the darn thing, so I hand-stitched the bindings to the back and washed my hands of the whole business.



But I was really puzzled about why this happened, so I did some research and also whined about it to Alicia, and my conclusion (and hers) is that interlock is a difficult fabric to work with and behaves completely differently from jersey.

One of the little tidbits I learned in my quest for understanding is that interlock has a fair amount of horizontal stretch, but not much vertical stretch.  Well . . . I beg to differ on that one.  My dress that was exactly the right length so you could see my cute sandals continued to grow longer as we walked around the botanical garden today, until it was actually dragging on the ground!  I'll be very interested to see what happens in the second wash and dry cycle.

I have a second piece of this interlock, in kelly green, and I've already cut it into an identical dress.  My plan this time is to do the entire thing on the serger, attaching the bindings in the same way they're done on the Renfrew top.  So stay tuned for Episode 3 of:

Knit Adventures!

28 comments:

  1. This is some great advice! I just purchased this pattern (but got it sent to some of my relatives in the US, so I don't physically have it yet). I can't wait to try it. I found it hard to find a decent pattern I liked for a maxi dress (even though I wasn't so sure I really NEEDED a pattern for something like this).
    Can't wait to try it out, but I'll try to stay clear of interlock!!!
    I think it looks great on you and it must be pretty comfortable too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll look forward to seeing your version! It was pretty comfortable, but a little hot - this knit is very heavy!

      Delete
  2. Looks great on you! You can definitely pull this look off! We must have been on the same wavelength-- I JUST finished this same dress! I think my fabric wasn't heavy enough-- it's a bit too clingy and stretchy. :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is so funny, because when I finished it, I kept thinking, "This would look fantastic on Ginger!"

      I have fabric for a third one, and it's the one I consider my "real" fabric, this one and the green one being basically muslins. But it's quite thin too. Makes me wonder how well it will work. But I think if it doesn't work, I can cut something else out of the broad expanse of fabric that is the skirt!

      Delete
  3. Hmm interesting knit adventures! Sounds like it sure gave you trouble! But you conquered it in the end, wooohoo! Makes me wonder how I'll fare without a walking foot or seger, eep!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. p.s It looks lovely and drapey and luxurious. I love it with the blazer :)

      Delete
    2. The directions say to use a zigzag stitch, which I think would be very effective. But my machine doesn't have an option to make a narrow zigzag, and the zigzag it makes is quite wide, so I didn't want to use that!

      Delete
  4. I like it a lot on you, nice pattern! The fact that the dress lengthens during wearing is certainly worrisome, I hope the second wash and dry cycle will fix that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm just glad I didn't go ahead and cut off those extra inches before washing! I think I'm going to wash it a few times before I decide on the final length.

      Delete
  5. It looks great! I find with interlock that it can look wavy and horrid but after a good going over with a steam iron it shrinks back and looks much better, it does stretch more for bindings though so I tend to stretch it as I sew and then cut off any extra when I reach to the end. I don't use a walking foot with knits and going against all given advice I sew them with a plain straight stitch and I've not had any issues with that, maybe I'm just lucky!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very interesting! Thanks for that input!

      Delete
    2. Yes, I also suggest steaming the heck out of it. It usually works.

      Delete
  6. I read the beginning and I thought you had hand-knitted a maxi dress! :O
    Now that I have recovered from the shock, I see that you haven't! :D

    I think it looks great on you - and age doesn't come into it!

    My only tip re the sewing: try stay-stitching the neck or arm edge before you attach the binding. Simple, but it works!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would just be insane!

      Thanks for that tip - never even occurred to me, LOL!

      Delete
    2. Oh, you can also use a thin strip of fusible knit interfacing. I've used that on my jersey tops to success.

      Delete
    3. Do you mean on the binding itself, or on the neck or armhole edge? My problem is that the binding is stretching out, not the body of the garment.

      Delete
  7. I'm finally back! I've missed you!

    As usual, you have been up to fabulous things! Congratulations on the dress! Would it help to hang it up for a bit and then rewash/dry to see how much more the straps and hem grow so you can figure out whether you need to adjust the green one? As for the wavy edges, using water-soluble stabilizer may help that.

    P.S. Tell DH you don't need to suck in, LOL!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I missed you too! You are one busy lady! I hope you at least had time to keep your nails painted ;-)

      And thanks for adding more great tips to my bank of knowledge.

      Delete
  8. i've been buying fabric to made a very similar mccalls pattern but each knit i order turns out to be wrong... it's so hard to find just the right material for this type of dress, but i am determined to make it at some point! my most recent fabric turned out to be way thinner than expected... grrr!

    for construction i do as much as possible with a 4 thread serged seam. the bindings are definitely easier to do if you serge it first. as far as topstitching on knits, i've had to play around with lots of different stitches, but i find that if i loosen the tension just slightly (by about one setting) the top stitching looks even, but the bobbin thread waves just a tad and so retains enough give to work out for me. every knit is different though, and can be so frustrating! i'm thinking a t-shirt cotton jersey knit will be best for this type of maxi though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for these tips, Lisa! I had no idea there were so many different kinds of knits out there - makes it confusing and difficult to find the right one for a project.

      Delete
  9. Well I think it looks great. I'm short too - but you've tempted me to try a Maxi....
    Great info about the sewing up - I've read that you're supposed to wash and dry stretch twice before sewing. I never have, but hopefully that's the end of your shrinking, or not, if your dress keeps getting longer when you wear it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting - I've never heard that! I'm also having trouble because I'm undecided about what is the correct length. It seems you can either have the right length for flat shoes or heels - not both!

      Delete
  10. So many variables in this project.
    It's boggling my mind this a.m.
    Perhaps another cup of coffee is in order

    It is a great looking outfit, Gail.

    hugs ♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Boy, I feel like I could use one too!

      Delete
  11. Gail,

    Like Roobeedoo, my first thought was that you knitted this dress, and I was more amazed than I usually am at your talents. But reading further, I discovered that you sewed it with knitted fabric. O.K. I'm still amazed at your talent, especially after all the troubles you describe with the waviness occurring when sewing the bindings. I'm glad you persevered and I think it looks gorgeous on you, especially without the jacket.
    Claire

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Claire! I do feel a little self-conscious without the jacket - I tend to dress pretty modestly, so these dresses feel very revealing for me!

      Delete