Knit (and fit!) success!

About a year ago I bought myself a Brother 1034D serger.  I had some lovely knit fabric in my stash that I wanted to make up in to a dress, my trusty vintage Singer did not do great on knits, and this machine had rave reviews on Pattern Review.  I received the box and set the machine up right away. It came pre-threaded with different colored threads.  I tried it out on a few scraps of fabric.  It made beautiful seams, and seemed easy enough.  I made plans to cut my fabric for my dress right away.

And then I didn’t.  And the machine sat.

The serger was a little intimidating to me.  While the ability to make, finish and trim a seam all at once is pretty awesome, you don’t have the same leeway with a serger that you do with a regular sewing machine.  If you mess up a seam or need to adjust fit, it’s not just a matter of unpicking and redoing.  The serger is not at all forgiving!

I’ve been focusing mostly on work clothes in the make-my-own-clothes challenge, and I needed dresses.  That lovely black and tourquise knit was sitting on my fabric shelf, staring at me, daring me to make something of it.  Part of resigning to make my own clothes was to challenge myself and learn new techniques, and if becoming confident on the serger didn’t qualify, well, I don’t know what does!  So out came the fabric and the shears, and three days later I have a new knit dress.

A GORGEOUS knit dress.



I chose McCall’s 5974, the Palmer/Pletsch perfect knit dress.  It had some great reviews on Pattern Review, and seemed like it would be a fairly easy dress for the beginning sergist.  I made view D with a few minor changes – leaving off the side ties and leaving out the back zipper.  One of the things I’ve struggled with in the past is cutting the correct pattern size.  With knits especially, it’s important to check the final measurements of the completed garment, and make sizing decisions with those measurements in mind.  I cut a size 14 based on high bust and final measurements.  To be honest, I was really, REALLY worried it wasn’t going to fit – 14 is a much smaller size than I usually cut to accomodate my waist and hip measurements.  But I think you can see it ended up fitting pretty darn well!

Although this was a knit with a lot of stretch, I did end up doing a 1.5″ FBA per the Palmer/Pletsch instructions included with the pattern.  I don’t like the look of things stretching and straining across my chest.  I think the FBA really did the trick with this dress.  The bodice lays quite nicely over my bust, and creates some really great lines.  I even like the low cut neckline – it’s great for a night out, although for the office I’ll wear something under it!

Whoops! Maybe NSFW….

I’m really proud of the fit I accomplished with this dress.  I love the color, the lines, and the way the dress flows.  It’s a lovely article of clothing, and I think I’ll definitely make at least one more.  I have a gorgeous J. Crew knit in white with small geometric shapes in coral and gray from Fabric Mart that would look wonderful in this design.

There are a few things that I need to work on before I tackle this again: I need to be MUCH more careful when matching up pieces.  I inadvertently shortened this dress by more than an inch because I serged the skirt front on to the waistback backwards.  Ugh.  I had to slice the skirt off just beneath the seam, then reattach the correct way.  Luckily I’m short (wow, never thought I’d say THAT!), so shortening the dress works in my favor. I also need to figure out a better way to do hems.  My vintage Singer, while a lovely machine that works marvelously for most things, doesn’t really like knits – especially multiple layers of knits.  The neckline, arms, and hem on this dress are a bit wavy from where my machine stretched them out while feeding through.  Also, I think I may be using the wrong needle as the holes in the seam seem really large.  I’m going to research this a bit more, and if I find a solution soon I may go ahead and fix the arms and the hem.  They’re both long enough that I can remove the existing hem to shorten a bit, and put in a new one. Overall though, I’m very pleased with myself.  I feel like I’ve made my first wearable garment in my self-imposed challenge, and I’m now on my way to filling my closet with self made clothes.  I plan to wear this dress to work tomorrow, in fact!

When I put the dress on today for pictures, my wonderful boyfriend and photographer told me, “That dress just screams for a hat!”  I think he’s right – a big, floppy black hat would look wonderful with this dress!  All I had that seemed appropriate in my hat collection was this cloche.  It works, but I think I may need to add a nice big fancy black hat to my collection soon!