Purple ponte pockets

Okay, so here’s my first finished make of 2017: a purple ponte pocket dress.

Before I delve any deeper though, let’s give due credits straight away: the concept of the dress was very clearly inspired by the Sew Over It Heather dress, one pattern everyone seems to have made by now (and with good reason), while the fabric pairing idea I got from Gingerella on youtube, who made the actual pattern in a purple ponte di roma from Fabricland.

So back to the project, I feel like since we’re only just getting to know each other, I must explain something about myself first…

I’m the kind of person who learns faster if I just jump into the biggest challenges I can find, immediately. Then I proceed to make lots of mistakes, learn from them, and go again… Given this tendency, and that I’m at such an early stage of learning to sew, my top priority right now is to make (and correct) a great many mistakes as fast as I can, at minimum cost… so that I did with this project, and to the letter too.

Maybe I should have bought the pattern instead of drafting my own, but on the other hand… I already owned a similarly shaped jersey dress I adore, and thought… what the heck, I should just give it a try, see what happens!

So caution to the wind, I embarked on this project without a solid pattern, or much of a clue about many of the techniques required. Just to name a few things that I never attempted before sewing this baby:

  • copying an existing knit garment
  • re-drafting a pattern to add style lines
  • inserting pockets
  • sewing with knits
  • tricky construction
  • finishing necklines with facings
  • hemming with a double needle

Combine over-confident cluelessness with perfectionism and what you get is often disaster. Lucky as I am though, the finished dress wasn’t a complete flop, and it definitely taught me heaps about how to attack this project the next time.

Firstly, always clip your curves before you topstitch… I feel like I’ve done well enough for a first try, but it was a mistake to assume that just cropping the seam allowance real close was going to get the job done. The neckline does lie flat enough but I do wonder if  I could have gotten a nicer finish had I clipped…

Then, the above photos hide it well, but there are some very obvious problems with the fit also, especially at the waist and back where there’s simply way too much fabric which results in bagginess and a slightly gaping back neckline. Part of the reason for this was that I didn’t want to straight up copy the Heather dress and was going to skip the style lines on the back. Lesson learned: those lines are there for a reason. Learn from the pros.

On the other hand, there’s a bit too much stretching at the hips, which in combination with the looseness further up the dress causes the hemline to slowly hike up on my legs so that the whole thing ends up around my waist in a big bunch if I’m not constantly tugging down. And besides, the stretched fabric doesn’t smooth over my well cushioned post-holiday not-so-hot bod in the most flattering way either.

Of course the solution to both of these issues above is simple: cut it wider at the hips, narrower at the waist, and convert the current front style line into more of a princess line (which at the moment isn’t shaped in any real way other than to add detail).

The final lesson learned is about hemming with 4mm double needles: it simply won’t look neat unless you have a sewing machine with variable bobbin tension… which I don’t. I ended up with a weird and unsightly puckering all along my sleeve and skirt hemlines.

For the most part though, I’m really happy with how this turned out for one of my very fist finished projects. I was quite concerned about adding bulk around my hips in the form of pockets made up in thick fabric, as this is my widest part, but actually this doesn’t seem to be an issue, things lie flat and neat and I don’t think it looks bad at all! (Other than the stretching issues mentioned above.)

Other than the obvious learnings, I think the attempt was a success, and I’ll definitely have another go at getting the perfect fit as I still have a good length of the cheap purple ponte left. As for this garment, I reckon I’ll cut it off at the waist, add on a wideish waistband, and potentially two cuffs as well to get rid of the puckering double topstitch hem — et voila, structured sweater!

I’ll definitely drop a wee update in here once that’s done. Until then… godspeed! x

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