SOSM Round 2: Christine Haynes Marianne Dress
Officially, Super Online Sewing Match contestants had ten days to sew Christine Haynes’ Marianne dress for Round 2. Practically speaking, I only had about 4 1/2 days to complete this challenge because I spent most of the last week in Montreal for the major international book history conference. Needless to say, I spent last Friday morning keeping a close eye on my email to find out whether I had made it to the second round and what we would be sewing. I was thrilled to learn that it was the Marianne dress, and, after spending a little while brainstorming potential design options, I headed to my local Jo-Ann to see what I could find. Fabricworm generously sponsored this round, but I had no time to spare waiting for fabric to ship–I’ll have to check them out another time. I hope this photo doesn’t make you cross-eyed! I used my macro lens to show that my main fabric is, indeed, a knit. It’s one of those denim-look fabrics that I imagine are meant to be used for jeggings. I came across it in the clearance section, and I decided to make a Marianne dress inspired by the classic combination of jeans and a t-shirt.
With fabric in hand, I got to work making a muslin. This was actually my first time using one of Christine’s patterns, though I’ve admired her work for a long time, so I definitely needed to check the fit. I was optimistic when I saw that my measurements fit neatly into a size 8, but the finished muslin was too big and looked frumpy on me. I got out the pins and made quite a few adjustments for a flattering fit. First, I went down to a size 6 all over. The most important thing that this did was raise that front yoke seam to the top of my bra cups, which immediately made for a nicer fit. I also nipped in the side seams significantly at the waist to avoid drag lines from the bust. There was even more work to be done in the back. I nipped in the side seams at the waist here as well, but I also removed 1 1/4″ total from the center back and did a 1″ swayback adjustment. Finally, I added 1″ in length to the dress along the lengthen/shorten lines because I never wear dresses that feel too short. Although my pattern pieces look fairly different from the originals, I think I’ve stayed true to Christine’s design lines while making this pattern work for my body.
Since I had removed some width from the center back, I had to do the same for the neck binding. This means that I have a slightly smaller neck opening than other Marianne dresses, but my head still fits through! In future versions, I may open up that neckline a bit to compensate and allow me to edgestitch down the seam allowance.
I am lucky enough to own a serger, but I almost never use it for the construction of a garment. I prefer to use the 3-step stretch stitch (also known as a lightning bolt stitch) for the seams, and finish with serging as I would on any other project so that I know the seams are nice and secure. In order to keep my seams from ruffling, I just adjust the differential setting on the serger.
This pattern calls for the shoulder seam to be reinforced with clear elastic, which I find really important for any dress or top made from knit fabric. However, rather than center the elastic on the seam line as the pattern calls for, I prefer to butt the elastic up to the seam, zig-zagging it within the seam allowance. This reduces the bulk in the seam, allowing it to be pressed nicely, but still provides plenty of support. I’ve been using a serger for a long tiem now, but it was only recently that I learned I could get a tidy finish on serging in the round such as this seam where the cuff attaches to the bottom of the sleeve. I used to have a little blip where I had come back to the beginning of the round, but now I’m able to maintain a pretty even seam allowance by serging just a few stitches past it and then pulling the seam out from under the presser foot just as I do when sewing. Much nicer!
The short sleeved view of Marianne would feel pretty good here in the heat of summer, but I decided to go with the long sleeved version instead. I have a decent collection of short-sleeved knit dresses from my sewing in the past year or so, and I just loved these cuffs too much to pass them up! I may have to wait a little while to wear it, but I think this version will make a nice three-season dress. When I started thinking through my jeans-and-a-tee-shirt concept, I considered all sorts of options I could incorporate into my dress to really drive the idea home: pockets, lots of extra topstitching…you get the idea. In the end, I chose to keep it simple. The buttons on my cuffs remind me of the buttons and rivets on jeans, and I did some double-needle topstitching on the hem. To make that topstitching pop, I used a silvery, slightly metallic rayon thread intended for machine embroidery.
It can be difficult to get a nice hem on knit fabrics, so I combine several techniques for a nice finish. I first serge the raw edge to clean it up and lend it some stability. Then I press up my hem allowance using Wonder Tape rather than pins to keep things perfectly intact until I can get to the sewing machine. I stitch with a double needle and a longer stitch length to allow for some stretch. To prevent tunneling, I drop down the tension as far as I can and use Wooly Nylon in my bobbin.
One last photo: my husband/photographer/artistic director decided that since my inspiration was “all American,” I should toss a football around in the photos. I do not know how to interact with any kind of sports balls, so that didn’t work out so well.
I’m just thrilled with how this dress turned out. I can’t wait to get some use out of it when the weather cools down, and I may have to make some short sleeved versions before then. If you’re looking to try sewing knits for the first time, this pattern would be a great start.