In two minds: Drape Drape 2 No 11 one piece dress

Drape drape 2 no 11 bodice closeup

This dress is from the Drape Drape books by Hisako Sato: specifically Drape Drape 2 style number 11. It’s an unusual pattern even by Drape Drape standards: there is only one pattern piece for the whole dress and it’s absolutely gigantic. The logistics of cutting out such a style at home would normally put me right off, but I was looking out for an interesting breastfeeding-friendly pattern that I could make quickly from stash fabric, and this ticked all the boxes. The neckline falls well below the bra band: I’m planning to wear it with a tank top underneath.

It takes nearly two metres of extra wide (165cm) fabric. You also need to cut a rectangular strip of self-fabric to make a casing for the waist elastic and provide a couple of cuff pieces to finish off the sleeves. I have the Japanese language edition of the book and I know no Japanese so I can’t tell what the recommended fabrics for the style are. Going by the pictures the body is done in a very drapey knit; I’d guess a single knit; and the cuffs are some sort of sequinned stretch fabric. I used an extra wide lightweight viscose single knit from Tissu Fabrics that had been lying around in my stash for a couple of years. Amazingly it’s still available for sale here at the time of writing. The cuffs are a doubled piece of the body fabric.

The only place in the house where I could easily make room to spread enough fabric out was the conservatory, which has a tiled floor. Hard on the knees, although it was nice to have lots of light while cutting. I had to pin the pattern piece to the fabric before cutting. Normally I use weights not pins, but I didn’t have enough weights to hold the shifty fabric in place so it was pins or nothing. This wasn’t ideal as they left a few holes in the rather fragile fabric. Transferring the markings was a challenge too. I cut out right side up but needed to mark the waistline casing on the wrong side. I was a bit dubious about using dressmaker’s carbon paper over the hard tiles so I pinned along the casing lines as well as around the pattern edges and then after I’d cut around the edges I flipped the lot over and chalked along the pins marking the casing. I guess tailor tacks would have been a better option but I didn’t have sufficient patience for that!

Sewing was far easier than cutting out. You could easily sew this up in an evening although I did take a couple of shortcuts: it’s not hemmed yet and I skipped making the openings in the overarm seams because in my opinion that feature really reduces wearability.

And here it is. Dressform shots only because my baby has not yet arrived and the waist is not compatible with a bump.

Drape Drape 2 no 11 front
Drape drape 2 no 11 back

It hasn’t come out how I expected. The first peculiar thing is that my version hangs completely differently than the one in the book. In the book version the skirt hangs evenly whereas mine’s really pulling to one side. My fabric has only one-way mechanical stretch which might explain this. Two-way stretch fabric with some lycra would probably have worked better.

The second odd thing is the sleeves. Now admittedly this is probably made worse by choosing insufficiently stretchy fabric, but the left sleeve is incredibly tight; I can’t raise my left arm above shoulder height. The first picture is the left sleeve and the second is the right. Hopefully you can see from the pics that the left sleeve is skinny and grows out of the waistline whereas the right sleeve is wider and starts higher up. It’s hard to say how much of a problem this is right now because it’ll fit me differently once the baby is here, but the sleeve lacks mobility even on the dressform so I’m not optimistic.

Left:

Drape Drape 2 no 11 left sleeve

Right:

Drape Drape 2 no 11 right sleeve

So as yet I don’t know if this is going to be a wearable dress or not. It was fun to make and I’m glad I finally found something to do with the fabric, but I may have to file this in the ‘failed experiments’ pile. Drape Drape often works out like that for me. I have made up a few different ones and they either become huge favourites or never get worn at all. Oddly enough, I’ve even had one pattern turn out both ways when made up in different fabrics. I’ll try to come back with a wearability update on this one at some point.

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Drape Drape Three Piece Deep Cowl Neck Dress

Drape Drape 2 No 6 front view

This is yet another make from the Drape Drape books. This one’s number six from book two, the so-called three-piece deep cowl neck dress. Every version of this I’ve seen made up has been done in stripes to show off the grain changes, and since I found this unusual grey and brown striped knit mine was not going to be the exception.

I thought I’d got my sizing sussed with Drape Drape, but this make has come up too small for me. You can see the tell-tale creases across my stomach in all the pictures. I normally make one size smaller than the size chart indicates, but this time I should have used my true size. My fabric only has cross-grain stretch so I might have got away with it in a two-way stretch fabric. However if I ever make this again I’ll trace it again in the next size up; the pattern pieces are very unusual and I can’t quite see how to adjust the front piece to get extra width without producing a knock-on effect on the cowl.

It’s also astonishingly short. I added two inches to the skirt length before cutting out and haven’t hemmed it.

Drape Drape 2 No 6 side front view

When photographed directly from the front it looks pretty close to the version in the book. When viewed more from the side, as above, there’s a slightly pointy bit where the cowl attaches that I wasn’t expecting. However I’ve seen this in a few other people’s versions around the web so I guess it’s meant to be like that.

This is a slightly tricky pattern to sew. The diagrams are excellent, but the way the cowl is attached is sufficiently unusual that it took me a bit of head-scratching before I worked out which edges to sew to which. Around the back of the neck you sew the wrong side of the cowl to the right side of the dress, which had me confused for a bit, but the cowl part folds in such a way you don’t see the wrong side of it in the finished dress. It helps when attaching the cowl to have a fabric where you can tell the right side from the wrong side in the first place. It would have been even more confusing in a solid.

Drape Drape 2 No 6 back view

The back view is about as plain as you can get. The unhemmed edge is curling up pretty badly in the picture above. The fabric is a single knit so it’s not really a surprise. I don’t want to lose any length by hemming this though, so it’s just going to have to stay like that.

The photos above are how I’ll actually wear the dress, although with boots rather than wedges. However I did have a go with it as styled in the books, below. I won’t be trying this outside the house, even with the help of tape. It might make a nice photo when properly arranged but the cowl doesn’t stay put.

Drape Drape 2 No 6 indoors

So not my most successful Drape Drape make. It will probably get some wear when the weather gets colder.

Vivienne Westwood t-shirt dress knockoff

This is a dress inspired entirely by a piece of fabric; it’s a silver and black striped jersey that Amy from Almond Rock kindly gave me at a swap. As soon as I saw it I knew it was destined for a copy of a Vivienne Westwood style I’ve been admiring for years. The original is a boat-necked kimono-sleeved t-shirt dress that plays with the grain of the fabric. There’s a gathered section at the waist and that’s about the only place the stripes are horizontal. The reason it’s taken a while to sew this up is having to make the pattern. Here it is.

Westwood style stripey dress

Making the pattern didn’t go entirely smoothly. I started with the close-fitting jersey block from Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear by Winifred Aldrich and turned that into a kimono-sleeved t-shirt dress. Adding the gathers was just a case of slicing and spreading, but when I sewed the final pattern up it was quite a bit too large. I had to cut the side and shoulder seams down a lot. Easily done with the overlocker!

The back’s practically the same pattern piece as the front, just with a higher neckline. I should have spread the pattern a bit more and done more gathers; the grain changing effect is more subtle than I’d intended. There is a separate piece for the right front and left back sleeve which is cut on the regular grain. This adds some interest and also saves quite a lot of fabric! I had 2m of 150cm wide fabric, but there’s a piece left over.

Westwood style stripey dress

I finished the neck and sleeves with bands. I’m coming to prefer that to twin needle hems; it’s easier to sew and produces a better effect with my machine. Twin needle hems always seem to tunnel. I should have made the neck band shorter than I did because it stands up a little at the back.

So this hasn’t turned out exactly as I intended but it’s certainly a wearable dress. And in some of my favourite colours too – thanks, Amy!

Westwood style stripey dress

The wrong fabric

Some you win, some you lose. I’ve been banging on about my striped version of Burda 117-02-2012 for weeks. I finished it last week and…it just doesn’t work. Here’s the evidence.

Burda 117-02-2012 stripes front view

Burda 117-02-2012 stripes front view

The back view’s not so bad. But the front is Wrong. I used to have a housemate who could pronounce ‘Wrong’ so that you could hear the capital letter. I can hear him saying it now about this dress.

Part of the problem is the stripe placement. What looked good on my sketches doesn’t actually work on a body. The stripes on the front shoulders need to go the other way. More like this, in fact:
Stripes front view - midriff slants top left to bottom right

I think it’s not just the stripes though, some of it’s the fabric. The shade of red doesn’t work on me, and it’s much too lightweight and clingy. There’s a reason I am not showing you a side view of this dress even though I matched most of the stripes at the side seams.

I made a Vogue 1250 with what was left over of the fabric after cutting out the Burda, and that was so horribly unflattering I have destroyed the evidence. (Well, shoved the dress in the scraps bag. The contents are going to a primary school where they will be chopped up for cut ‘n’ stick, so someone will get something pretty out of this project at least.)

So I’m writing this off as a learning experience. I still want to make a striped version of this dress but I’m going to wait until I find a heavier striped knit. And in the meantime I’m going to trace off a pile of autumn patterns and do some serious comfort sewing.

My eyes are crossing

A few weeks ago SewingElle posted about a wonderful striped Anthropologie dress. It has several diagonally slanted panels on the waist and skirt with the stripes running in different directions on each panel. The effect is very eye-catching. After reading her post I fell in love with it too and wondered if I could get a similar effect by making up my beloved Burda 117-02-2012 in stripy fabric.

Here are the style lines of Burda 117-02-2012. The back has a strong line of mirror symmetry down the centre back seam but the front is very asymmetrical. The large triangular panel on the skirt has borders with three other areas, two of which also share a border. This means at least three directions of stripes are required if they are to change direction on every seam.

Burda 117-02-2012 technical drawing

I did a bit of research (well, checked all my sewing books) to find out the official line on How One Should Align Stripes. I didn’t find a lot of help in most of them, although as always Ann Ladbury’s The Dressmaker’s Dictionary had some definite opinions on the subject. Did you know that the traditional direction for diagonal stripes is from the left shoulder to the right hip? I certainly didn’t.

There’s a school of thought that horizontal stripes are widening. There’s another school of thought that they are slimming. Ms Ladbury seems to prefer horizontal stripes on the whole, but says that vertical ones can be ‘improved by being broken’. I’m not sure who’s right, but on the whole I think I prefer horizontal stripes for large areas. Compare these two variations. The one with mostly horizontal stripes looks a lot nicer. By the way, I’ve put a border round my favourite in each of the following pairs of options because I’m pretty sure the pictures won’t come out side by side on all screens.

Stripes back view verticals and horizontalsStripes back view - midriff vertical, skirt horizontal, upper back horizontal

So I chose to put horizontal stripes on the large triangular panel and diagonal ones everywhere else at the front. There are two possible ways to arrange the diagonal stripes, below. I think the version with the stripes almost perpendicular to the neckline is best because in the other one the neckline looks a bit awkward. The problem is that the stripes won’t be quite parallel to it.

Stripes front view - midriff slants top right to bottom leftStripes front view - midriff slants top left to bottom right

If the front of the dress has a lot of diagonal stripes then the back ought to have some as well. However I want to keep the stripes on the back skirt horizontal so as to match up at the right side seam with the large horizontal striped panel on the front. This gives these two options for the rest. There’s not much in it, but the one I’ve picked gives me a little more matching on the right side seam than the other one.

Stripes back view - midriff upwards chevrons, skirt horizontal, upper back downwards chevronsStripes back view - midriff downwards chevrons, skirt horizontal, upper back upwards chevrons

My final choice is this pair.

Stripes back view - midriff upwards chevrons, skirt horizontal, upper back downwards chevronsStripes front view - midriff slants top right to bottom left

Of course now I have to get round to actually making the dress. I have some fabric (of which more another time) but there are a few things ahead of it in the sewing queue and I may well change my mind about the placement between now and then! There are many other options. All the stripe variations I’ve drawn can be found here.