I got really inspired by this blog post of Heather Ross’s about ideas for converting her Summer Blouse pattern to a sleeveless shift dress using a Marimekko print or some other fabric with a large central motif, taking off the sleeves, and lengthening the pattern pieces.

So I ordered some home dec fabric with a giant vertical flower motif and set to work! Last things first, here’s the end result:

I re-traced the pattern pieces and made a bunch of modifications before cutting them out, based on my earlier Summer Blouse: lowered the front neckline, lowered the shoulder seams to make the armholes smaller, took in the sides a LOT, added back darts, and lengthened the dress, using my hip measurement as a guide and cutting straight down from there for a straight skirt style.

I made a muslin out of a thrifted bedsheet, made further adjustments to the pattern, and finally decided (after confirming I could get in and out of the dress without a zipper) that I was ready to cut it out from my fashion fabric.

I hit a slight snag, though–I had bought 2 yards of 60″ fabric, which was indeed more than enough to make a shift dress out of, but unfortunately not enough for a centered line of flowers down both the front and the back. I ended up having to cut the back in two pieces (adding a seam allowance to each) and lost the kind of neat colorblocking effect of the single vertical stripe on the front of the dress. Behold the weird double line of flowers:

I finished both the armholes and the neckline with 1″ bias tape cut from the main fabric, and sewn on using the method described in the book (I think)… I can’t find a photo tutorial for the life of me, but basically this is what I did:

  • fold the double-fold bias tape in half
  • align the raw edges of the bias tape with the raw edge of the fabric (neckline or armhole edge), on the right side of the fabric, and pin in place
  • sew the bias binding to the fabric, removing the pins as you go, stitching in the line made by the ironed folds of the bias tape
  • fold the bias tape to the inside of the dress neckline/armhole and carefully topstitch in place.

My bias tape and sewing were not entirely even, so I had a little trouble with this last part and spent quite a bit of time ripping out seams and re-sewing to make them look decent on the outside while also catching the folded bias tape on the inside.

When I made the Summer Blouse before, I didn’t read through the book’s instructions and just stuck the neckline into the fold of the bias tape and topstitched, which I think works just fine as well, but maybe doesn’t look quite as neat, and also doesn’t fold away the seam allowance accounted for in the other method, which might be why the neckline seemed so incredibly high first time around.

I thought about using this method as well: with this method, the bias tape is not visible from the outside. It also seems like it might be easier to sew. Maybe next time.

You can see the bias tape finish a little bit better here, and also the amazingly long placket that goes down to about my belly button (I think I did a pretty good job sewing up the center opening so that it’s not too obvious that there’s a big central chunk missing from the flowers in the placket region, but next time I might just skip the whole stitch-up-the-placket bit and just cut the placket to be shorter in the first place):

Pattern: Summer Blouse from Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross, heavily modified as described above
Size made: Small
Fabric used: 2 yards of Anna Maria Horner’s Anna’s Drawing Room home dec fabric, from Fabric.com, “Trellis Stripe” in Rose. If you buy anything from them, make sure to use a coupon code, they have tons of them out there! I believe I got 20% off with the code “SIMPLICITY”
Date started: forgot.
Date completed: forgot, but it took about two evenings to put together.
Mods: described in detail above
I think this dress looks a bit better with something to define the waistline, like a sweater on top:
(I love this red sweater… sadly, it’s not a handknit, but an end-of-season cashmere sweater from Old Navy)

The perfect dress for a visit to the zoo to see the capybaras enjoying the sunshine!

Sadly, the lovely weather in these photos didn’t hold up over the weekend, when I volunteered to demonstrate drop spindle spinning at the 2009 Great Midwest Alpaca Festival. It was a rainy and dismal day, but I had a great time meeting alpacas, spinners, and spinners-to-be. Rahul came with me and even he enjoyed himself, even though we were there for almost 3 hours and normally his patience with fiber events wears pretty thin pretty fast.

These bedraggled ones are suri alpacas.

These puffy ones are huacayas.

Alpacas are cute. And they hum! It makes them sound kind of annoyed all the time, like Marge Simpson when she makes that disapproving noise.

This dude has the smallest neck and biggest head in the entire world.

It was a nice way to spend a rainy Saturday. I spun up about half an ounce of silvery gray alpaca while I was there, and wrote down the Jenkins Woodworking contact information for about 10 people who were very interested in my Turkish spindle. (If only they had a referral program! I know at least one of those people bought a Turkish spindle after seeing mine.)

In addition to all this sewing and fiber festivaling, I will also have some actual knitting to show off soon. Really. I finally finished the accursed never-ending mittens I’ve been working on for the past month! However, continuing the trend, after taking forever to knit, they are now taking forever to dry. I think this is the third day they’ve been sitting there on a towel in a room with good air circulation, and they’re still faintly damp. I have faith that one of these days, they’ll finally be dry, and I can finally take some pictures and call them done and dusted.