Polka Dots in the Afternoon

Posted Tuesday, 20 March, 2018

Good evening (or morning!) everyone, 

I hope that this finds you well. It's been a little longer between blog posts than planned, but c'est la vie!

Today I bring to you the Wren Dress by Colette Patterns. This dress encompasses a couple of firsts for me. Notably it's my first foray into the world of sewing jersey as well as being my first me-made clothing which I classify as a "maternity make". 

As many of you already familiar with the Colette Wren will know, this dress isn't a maternity pattern. However, minimal changes to fit withstanding, I think that the structure of this dress lends itself to being a handy maternity/breastfeeding dress. I have sewn version two. This is a fit and flare style which is definitely something that I gravitate toward. In sewing up in a larger size than I would ordinarily, I believe that I should fit into this dress for some time (fingers crossed!).

For other alterations, I thought about doing the standard drop-the-hem-two-inches-to-even-it-up trick, but at this stage due to the movement of the fabric and the fullness of the skirt I don’t see the hem being a big issue. With woven dresses I will take some time to adjust the hem, but for the time being I’m happy with the length. I’m sure this breaks some rules but it does get hard trying to account for body changes and a bump that is constantly growing! If I started out with a bit of a dipped hem in the front, it would eventually even up but I’m unsure as to how long this would take. So at either end of this dress’ wear, the hem could be slightly off-kilter. This has been an insane realisation for the perfectionist in me to come to terms with. But the sleepy, pregnant lady that I am has conceded defeat on this count as I have other projects in line and would rather keep moving forward than obsessing about the things my body may or may not do. Anyone with a crystal ball that I could borrow, just let me know in the comments below if you would be so kind. Thank you!

Fabric-wise, jersey is the obvious comfortable choice for mothers, pre- and post-partum. A lot of women (sewists and non-sewists) have recommended it to me for its good recovery and as an easy option for dressing. I totally agree! Additionally, the short bodice of the Wren sits comfortably over my bump and the faux-wrap front with the gentle gathering at the shoulders adds a little interest to an otherwise standard dress. It’s actually quite pretty in the line-drawings and is a detail that I had thought may get lost once sewn up in a printed fabric, but happily they’re there!

I hadn’t sewn with jersey before because I really just didn’t have a project that grabbed my attention. (As an aside, this has changed now with the release of Tilly and the Buttons' – Stretch! Make Yourself Comfortable Sewing with Knit Fabrics, which I have on order). I also think that because I predominantly gravitate toward vintage patterns or indie-patterns which are vintage-esque, knits just didn’t really do it for me. I have got around this with my Wren as it features that classic silhouette and as soon as I saw this sweet polka dot fabric from the Remnant Warehouse I just knew that it would be a great match. Of course, a red lip and winged liner can do wonders insofar as lending a hint of vintage charm to an outfit. We all know this. 

All in all, I am very happy with my first jersey make. I do like things to turn out well the first time and can be a little (intensely) disappointed if they don’t. I mean, you should see the bitter disappointment that was resultant of my first wet set. My hair is too short. I have accepted this. But my experience sewing with jersey was an absolute pleasure. I am very very pleased with the neat little stitches that the twin-needle makes in the fabric. It’s so cute and tricky-looking!

I didn’t use the suggested elastic and instead opted for my usual ¼” ribbed elastic as the clear, lighter-weight elastic that the pattern calls for can’t be sourced out here and I didn’t want to place an order online. This meant that rather than shirring everything together neatly, I had to get creative and make a channel in the skirt in which to insert the elastic and then sew the bodice over it. Not the most elegant solution and things did get a bit bulky, but I’ll still claim it as a success. The finish is neat. 

For those who may not have sewn with jersey before, I also did a few little things to make fabric prep and construction easier on myself.

  • I prewashed to allow for shrinkage. This is important for all fabrics, but in my opinion it is especially important for any fabric with a rayon or lycra (i.e. stretchy) content as shrinkage in those fibres is super common;
  • I cut the fabric using a rotary cutter rather than risk distorting anything by trying to cut it with scissors. This is better for accuracy;
  • Before commencing sewing I used dressmaker’s carbon to transfer all pattern markings;
  • I loaded my machine up with a fresh twin needle and had a ballpoint needle to hand;
  • I cut out my little notches making them slightly deeper than normal so that I could identify them once they’d been through the overlocker, prior to further construction (where applicable). 

P.S. My overlocker has recently died AGAIN and I live so far from anyone who would be able to fix it. I learnt to use the overlocker to finish seams at the same time that I learnt to use a sewing machine so it’s a huge part of my dressmaking process and I miss it so much. SO MUCH. Sew much. 

I do have other seam-finish techniques in my repertoire but hands-down overlocking is my preferred finishing method. I just hate having to make-do without it. Last time this happened it took 8 months to fix!   

If there are any other remote-locality ladies, do you empathise with my plight? Also, what do you do when gremlins/bad vibes overtake your sewing apparatus?   

Also, (and this question is for both town and country folk) please tell me what your favourite jersey/knit make and pattern has been to date! Any recommendations or must-sews?   

Until next time, 



These photos were taken on holiday in South Australia. The afternoons were golden and the beaches were pristine.