Stretching My Skills

Things have been a tad quiet on my blogging front lately, for a number of varying reasons. On a bit of a whim, I decided to completely re-decorate my entire work studio (it was long overdue, so it was always something I was going to eventually do at some point). So for the past few weeks I have been mostly covered in paint splatters and sawdust; and absolutely worn-out. Not terribly attractive! I have also had a few others things going on, which meant that blogging and Instagram have not been at the forefront of my mind lately.

Those things aside, as soon as my work studio was in a ‘workable’ state (ie – the paint was dry on the walls and the new flooring was down), I was straight back in there with my sewing machine! I still have a few things to finalise in there, namely making a blind for the window, sorting out shelving etc, but it’s a wonderful little sewing haven, and best of all – it’s MY wonderful little sewing haven! Anyway, back to my sewing plans..

I have been rather enthralled with stretch knit fabrics recently, having made the Jenna cardigan by Muse patterns a few months ago (read about it here). Actually, just before I started ripping up the flooring in my work studio, the last thing I made was yet ANOTHER Jenna cardigan, (this time in royal blue) which I haven’t had a chance to photograph yet. Browsing through the patterns that Muse Patterns has on offer, I realised there were quite a few I was curious to make.. Let me introduce you to the Natalie Dress.

First of all, I purchased some dark red interlock cotton jersey fabric online, which when it arrived was exactly the colour I had hoped it would be, hurray! So I got to work making the dress. I decided to go for the knee length version, initially without waist ties (which I then changed my mind once trying it on). I had hoped this dress would be my ‘main’ dress, ie – it would be wearable, but I ran into some problems which then turned this dress into a toile instead of a final piece.

Pattern Alterations I Made

  • As I was going to sew the version without the gathers UNDER the bust, I decided to make the central triangle and CF panel all one piece, so there would be no horizontal seamline in the centre.
  • I made the neckline higher, as I don’t really like low necklines, and I also realised I don’t own any ‘V’ neck items of clothing at all. So to make me feel more in my comfort zone, I decided to raise the neckline by about 1.5 inches.
  • I shortened the waist ties by about 2 inches each, as they seemed really long on me.
  • Added 1.5 inches to the hem of the dress, so it hits below the knee rather than on it.

After making the dress in the red fabric, I realised it was too big. I made it to a size 32 bust, thinking that the 32 would mean it would not be too clingy on my bottom. But it was big all over me, and made me look like I needed to eat about a zillion burgers! So for my ‘final’ version of the dress (which is the one in these pictures), I made it to a size 30, which is a more accurate reflection of my size anyway, but because I was using a knit fabric, in my mind I thought the 30 would be too tight. Weird logic I know. So the lesson from this? Cut the pattern to your actual size, do not size up.

Also, I really messed up the neck band on my red toile dress version. The main source of my woes was the fact that I did not cross over the bodice side panels to meet the intersect at the centre front triangle. The side panels should go beyond & above the central triangle, then you sew them together towards the top of the neckline where they meet. That is really hard to explain, but it means you should be left with a bit of fabric (which is the side panels) above the central triangle. As I did not do this, it meant that the neckline was too big. Which then meant that the neckband was horribly wavy. Yes, I stabilised the neckline (and the shoulders), but no amount of stabilising was going to solve this.

It was at this point that I decided the red version was now no longer a wearable dress, and I was going to buy some fresh fabric to make up my Natalie dress in. Which is fine, as I got this lovely printed stretch jersey instead, and I’m sure I will buy the same red fabric again to make up my Natalie dress in as I had originally planned!

Sewing Techniques I Used

  • Attaching the neckband using the quartering method was a new one to me, as was the ‘v’ central seam in the neckband itself. I would definitely say to ensure you mark the CB and shoulder points on the neckband pattern (as are specified on the pattern itself anyway). This makes attaching the neckband in an equal way much easier.
  • I decided to try out a twin needle in my sewing machine. I have never used a twin needle, and at first the thought scared me and filled me with lots of irrational questions – Where does the other spool of thread go? How do I insert the needle? What if my machine breaks? Etc etc. All of these fears were completely unnecessary, and after reading through my machine manual, attaching the second spool thread was a breeze. I sewed at a slower speed, as I did read somewhere online that the plastic part of the needle holder can heat-up causing the needle to break-off if you sew at faster speeds, or I guess if you do a lot of continuous sewing. I used a stretch topstitch for my twin needle sewing, to sew the arm hems and the hem of the skirt.
  • I interfaced the arm hems and the skirt hem before hemming. One of the things I fear about sewing with knits, is the dreaded ‘wave’ or ‘wavy hem of wrongness’. After all that sewing, no one wants to inadvertently ruin their hard work with a wavy hem. I fused iron-on lightweight interfacing to the skirt hem, and hand-basted the interfacing to the arm hems.
  • As I mentioned, I stabilised the neckline and shoulders prior to sewing with ribbon tape to prevent stretching out of shape.
  • And of course, I used a stretch stitch throughout, and a ballpoint needle. The debate is on whether a stretch or ballpoint needle is better for stretch fabrics. I have found that lightweight stretch fabrics; such as cotton t-shirting & some cotton interlocks work best with a ballpoint, whereas ponte de roma fabrics and heavier fabrics work better with a stretch needle, but that is just my findings and preferences.

I have absolutely LOVED making this dress, and even though it may be a simple stretch jersey dress, I am so proud of it! In all honesty, I usually only wear clothing from stretch fabrics in my yoga class, and previously if I saw a jersey dress for the sale in the shops, I would usually walk straight past it.  There has always been something in my head telling me that I shouldn’t wear stretch fabrics as they in their nature are clingy, and I usually like to ‘hide’ my figure in structured woven fabrics or layers of cardigans!  So I decided to break out of this way of thinking, and in making this Natalie dress achieve two things simultaneously: I expanded and built on my working with stretch fabric skills, AND I realised that YES I can wear stretch fabrics and not feel self-conscious, hurray!

I am definitely going to make up this dress again, firstly in the dark red that I had initially planned, as how perfect would that be for the Christmas season!? I also have my eye on pretty much every other pattern by Muse Patterns, so you will probably be reading my excited ranting’s on them again in the future!

Until next time dears!

7 thoughts on “Stretching My Skills

  1. Jessica Cangiano says:

    How exciting that you’ve been doing a big revamping of your work space lately! Isn’t it awesome to end (or very nearly so) the year off on a productive, delightful change like that?

    This dress is really pretty and channels such a great 30s feel. The dark hues also seem to suit fall and winter especially nicely. Wonderful job on this new frock, lovely lady.

    Big hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

  2. brigidboyer says:

    Splendid work Jenny! Your dress looks positively lovely on you. I have yet to make a knit dress that I am 100% satisfied with (my machine does not like working with knit), but your dress looks absolutely splendid!

  3. Jenny Frances says:

    Dear Jessica, it is SO WONDEFUL to finally get around to revamping my work studio! As I mentioned in the blog post, it is something I have been wanting to do for ages, so to actually put it into action feels so good!
    I’m glad you think the dress has a 30s feel, when I saw the pattern I did think the side and front gathers do have quite a vintage 30s/40s feel, so I’m glad I’m not the only one to have thought this!
    Love Jenny xx

  4. Jenny Frances says:

    Aw thank you so much Brigid!
    I have to say, that before I got my new sewing machine, sewing with jersey and knits would never have occurred to me. My new machine has a walking foot, which makes sewing with tricky fabrics (both knits and silks alike) soo much easier! I am definitely going to try out your flexi-sleeve adjustment tutorial next time I make a blouse, as like you, it drives me around the bend having my blouse come untucked everytime I move!
    Hoping you and your sisters are well,
    Jenny xx

  5. Cate says:

    It’s great to see you working with jersey, it’s something I generally tend to avoid opting for wool knits instead. However, I keep thinking about the fact that jersey was used a lot in the 1920s and want to explore using it more so your tips will come in handy.
    The dress is lovely and the print is gorgeous but I’d love to see it in the red too, that sounds very nice indeed! Can I ask where you get your jersey fabrics from? xx

  6. Jenny Frances says:

    Hi Cate, hoping you are well? 🙂
    I know, I have never really thought of jersey as a viable option for dressmaking, thinking that it was not authentic enough to support a vintage ‘look’. But, after having studied various vintage patterns & the suggested fabrics listed on the back, I see it was indeed used in the early 20th century, and it was just a misconception I had that it wasn’t used!
    Now, get ready for a list here:
    Fabrics – I use Tissu Fabrics ( but they seem to be having a lot of maintenance work to their site lately, so I use their sister site instead ( I generally navigate to the cotton section, then find the jerseys from there. I also browse Girl Charlee for a great selection of stretch fabrics ( and Guthrie & Ghani is good too (
    For great tips on working with knit/stretch fabrics, check out Colette’s blog series here (, and lastly, for a lady that is the living embodiment of Yes! Knits can work for a vintage wardrobe, check out Lauren of American Duchess’ blog piece here (
    Phew, I really hope the links are clickable! 🙂 xxx

  7. Cate says:

    Wow, thank you so much for all that amazing information! I really need to stop buying fabrics now until I’m made everything I want to from the ones I’ve already bought. I think I’m addicted to it! 🙂

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