On the Gentle Art of Screwing Up and Salvaging a Perfectly Simple, Idiot-Proof Dress

Honestly! Some days I think I should have called this blog “Senile Sewing.” Today I offer up proof that, no matter how old you are or how long you’ve been sewing, it’s never too late to make a rookie mistake.  (This debacle actually happened last spring, just in time for the weather to warm up. It’s taken this long to recover my dignity, and for the weather to get cool enough to put this on even to model it.)

The dress in question is the Style Arc Cher knit dress. With its cozy funnel neck, it begged to be made up for our chilly winter days, to be worn with leggings and boots and maybe a cool scarf or shawl. “It would make a wonderful sweatshirt dress in the gray speckled French terry that I had bought at the French Seam in Indianapolis, on a trip to visit my textile friends,” I thought.  The very idea of this dress made me happy.

I’ll bet some of you already see the problem, don’t you?

I was happy cutting it out, so I composed a poem to the dress–with apologies to Sir Walter Scott:

Breathes there a woman with soul so dead,

Who never to herself hath said,

“Would I could go out to dine

While wearing still this sweatshirt mine!”

I was happy sewing. The whole process only took a couple of hours–maybe three, including my lunch break, which made me even happier.

I was happy while I was getting undressed and popping the dress over my … uh-oh.

Friends, I could not get my head through the funnel neck. There was not enough stretch in the French terry.  (Maybe they call it the “Cher” dress because her head is longer and narrower than mine.) And do you have any idea how silly one feels, standing in the bathroom, arms waving helplessly,  swathed in acres of French terry with a gray funnel neck sticking up on top of one’s head? I must have looked like some bizarre textile homage to Three Mile Island.

Clearly a neckline revision was in order. I thought about v-necks and scoop necks and boat necks, but the coziness of the funnel neck had been one of the things I liked about the pattern. I finally decided to retro-finagle a cowl neck.

Luckily I had a fair amount of fabric left over, so I measured the depth of some of my cowl neck tops, and decided on a depth of about 6.5 inches for this none-too-drapy fabric.  I traced a scoop neckline onto the dress from a pattern that I had made before in a woven fabric, so I knew that I could get my head through it. After cutting out the new neckline and measuring it, I found a length of  25 inches. I cut a new piece of fabric–26″ x 14″, allowing for seam allowances and a double thickness.  After sewing the short ends together, I did the thing where you divide the collar and the neckline into four sections with pins, matched everything up, and sewed it together, and voila–a cowl-necked sweatshirt dress.

You don’t always get the dress that you planned, but it’s the journey that matters, right?




Lessons learned:

  1. Just because a fabric is a knit doesn’t mean that it will work for all knit patterns. If it’s a stable knit, make it in a pattern designed for a woven fabric. Style Arc doesn’t baby you with nifty little rulers that remind you that you need a fabric that stretches from x to y, so you need to think about these things all by yourself.
  2. Add pockets whenever possible. I didn’t, and I’m sorry.
  3. I’m not sure how I feel about the tapered skirt. I wouldn’t necessarily want it shorter, but it does constrain my stride. It’s been decades since I’ve worn narrow, pencil-type skirts, so it’s not a feeling I’m used to. It probably wouldn’t bother anyone accustomed to hobbling around an office in that sort of thing.
  4. The sleeves are a bit long–I always have trouble gauging the length when dropped shoulders are involved. But I am going to wash this a few times before I decide whether and by how much it’s necessary to shorten them.
  5. Sweatshirt dresses feel really, really good, and one might not be enough.





7 comments on “On the Gentle Art of Screwing Up and Salvaging a Perfectly Simple, Idiot-Proof Dress

  1. Despite sewing for clients for what seems like ‘forever’ it seems that I have forgotten how to sew and I’m making some astounding rookie errors. Doesn’t matter how long or how much you have sewn it can happen to all of us (and I could tell you a few tales about the client work errors……. and no – they never knew!)

    Liked by 1 person

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