Apples and Pears – where did my waist go?

Inspired by one of the Stitch Sisters wearing this Hazy Floral Double Border printed Ponte Roma in one of their vlogs, I purchased 3m from The Textile Centre at just £3.99/metre.

I planned to use my TNT shift dress block, add long sleeves and a detachable cowl plus my favourite bias hem frill. I pulled the pattern envelope and was dismayed to find that the pattern for the hem frill was missing. There followed an hour’s search through various stashes of patterns in the vain hope that the missing pattern piece had been stored in a.n.other envelope. No luck.

However I did find McCalls pattern M7046* that had not just one but two bias hem frills included. I traced the pattern from view D (single frill) and set about cutting out my ‘Christmas’ dress. It was only much later that I remembered that I could easily have drafted my own bias hem frill using the slash and spread method. I will work on that when I have completed this dress.

Changes to the pattern: I cut the main pieces for the front and back, carefully centred on the border print design. I reduced the length by 8 inches to accommodate the hem frill. The sleeve pattern was for a ¾ length, I simply added another inch and would later cut a cuff to ensure that the sleeves would reach my wrists.

It should be noted that my TNT shift dress block is actually drafted for woven fabric but as I was unsure of sizing and stretch I cut the full size pattern which could then be ‘finessed’ in terms of fit at the side seams. I reduced the neckline curve at the front by approximately 2 inches and would see how that looked at first fitting.

I marked all the darts with tailor tacks. Having tested the stitching on spare fabric I found that horizontal (bust)darts needed to be stitched with a stretch (lightning) stitch and the vertical (body) darts could be stitched with a normal straight stitch. I applied a narrow strip of fusible Vilene ® to the front shoulder pieces and overlocked the shoulder seams.

I basted the side seams together which is when I discovered that I had ‘lost’ my waist. I have transformed from a Pear to an Apple!

I re-basted the side seams before overlocking to the amended size and shaping that involved taking in over 1 inch each side and removing any ‘waistline’ shaping. The front neckline also needed to be dropped by a further 1 inch at centre front before grading back to the original point on the shoulder seam.

Having established the new neckline I used my TNT method to apply a neck binding with which I am very pleased. So, onto the sleeves. As I had already stitched the side seams I could not do a flat sleeve insertion. It did not matter as the sleeves went in like a dream. However,they were very wide and needed to be reduced by over 1 inch at the wrist grading to 0 inches at the underarm point. I cut pieces for the cuffs at 5½ inches deep x 9 inches wide. Adding a cuff is a simple construction technique which does away for the need to twin-needle the hems so gets a ‘tick’ from me.

Now all that was left to stitch was the bias hem frill. I had matched up the border print to centre front and back and applied taking a 5/8ths seam allowance. On 2nd fitting I felt that the dress was a little too long. Rather than cut off the length of the frill at the hem, I re-stitched the joining seam taking a further ½ inch from the length of both the dress and the frill. Much better. As the fabric is a Ponte Roma and does not fray, for the time being I have left the hem of the frill raw (Gasp – sacrilege!).


Perfect pattern matching!

The dress is now finished (well more or less). I have to say that I am not in love with it. Not sure exactly why but partly because the fullness of the bias frill is nowhere near the fullness as demonstrated on the pattern envelope. I will definitely have to draft my own FULL circle bias frill for the future. For now I have decided not to proceed with the detachable cowl collar.

There is quite a long length of fabric remaining and providing that there is sufficient yardage, I would rather use it for a tee shirt-style top. Meantime, I think I will leave shift dresses alone for a while, so it’s back to waisted garments, probably with full circular skirts which are most definitely my favourite.

* McCalls 7046 – Having reviewed this pattern I have decided that I will never make it up with all those gathers across the main body so have listed it for sale on eBay.