Thursday, July 8, 2010

Swirl-tastic Yellow Pinnafore

This pattern was listed on EBay as "40s maternity dress". No one bid on it, except for me, so I got it for a song. I was so thrilled to have won it as it reminds me of the Swirl dresses that everyone is so crazy about.

My original plan was to make View 1 with the red/white/blue rayon my aunt sent me a while back. The rayon is intimidating because its a LOT wigglier than what I'm used to working with. Rather than plunge right in with the rayon, I decided to make a test version in cotton, a fabric I'm a lot more comfortable with. The stash yielded a sunny yellow broadcloth that would be just right.

With so many pieces, I was sure this pattern would be a bust but it actually went together well. There were a few new techniques in this dress that I hadn't tried yet, so I learned a lot. Here are the new things I learned:

Underlining - I thought I knew what to do so I just cut out each panel twice (once in the main fabric once in the lining) and stitched them together before assembling the pieces. After the dress was finished I Googled this technique and discovered that I should have turned the panels inside out before assembly. If I had, I'd have ended up with perfect finished seams on the inside. Oh well. I'm still happy with the way it worked out.

Ruffles - It turns out that sleeve ruffles like these aren't difficult, you just have to gather a LOT of fabric. Instead of gathering by hand, which is what I usually do, I used the zig-zag technique. It was SO much easier! Basically, you sew a wide zig-zag stitch over a piece of string (see below) being careful not to catch the string in your stitches. Then you just pin your pieces together, at the ends and center, and pull the free ends of the center string. The gathers magically appear and are ready to be pinned down and stitched.

Seam Binding (around the arm holes) - I'd never made my own seam binding before but it ended up being pretty easy. I cut out my strips and then made a guide on my ironing board using two pins. All I had to do was pull the strips through the guide and press the folded fabric flat. Then I folded the strips in half and pressed again to make it double-fold.

Aside from the challenge of learning new techniques, this dress went together really well. The only major issue was that, for some reason, the neck facing was an inch too short in the back. Weird, but an easy fix. I simply patched the center with a bit of scrap.

I normally detest making muslins or doing test runs of patterns but this was a big success! And cheap!! I purchased nothing new except for an extra spool of thread, which I didn't actually end up using. The rick-rack was left over from the belt I made for McCalls 5490. The trim (ruffle/pocket/ties/binding) was left over from Simplicity 1657. The main body (yellow broadcloth) was purchased, but not used, as lining for Simplicity 1657. The underling is a floaty white muslin (voile?) that I'd originally bought to line the living room curtains.

I just adore the Swirl-tastic style of this little housedress. The back is a little poofier than I'd like, but I think I just need to come to terms with the size of my caboose. This test run went so well that I think I am actually brave enough to try making this dress up in rayon.


  1. Turned out super cute! I was actually watching this same pattern on etsy for awhile, but someone more decisive than me bought it... I won a very similar one on ebay last night though and am super excited make it up.

    I've always done underlining the same way you did. I'm pretty sure that's how I learned to do it in school. Love the zig zag gathering idea. Have to use that when I make mine up!

  2. I just love those old pattern packages and want to frame them.

    Your pinafore is sooo cute too!

  3. @ Jennifer: That Marian Martin pattern is super cute! I'm glad to hear that my underlining is just fine. I think that if I had turned it inside out, it would have been weird trying to figure out the new seam allowances.

  4. This is utterly adorable...the color with your hair is fantastic......Sigh, I really wish I could sew,lol.

  5. If you sew a really slippery fabric between two sheets of tissue paper, it works pretty well. Then you just tear away the tissue. Et voila!

  6. So adorable. Love the bright yellow of the fabric. Cute, cute, cute.

  7. OHHH!!! It's SO CUTE! I love the color!

  8. Very cute Gaby! The back probably seems weird to you because it's just gathered and leaves too much fullness... if you tailored the back a little bit - like with panels or darts - more like the front, I think it might have a more pleasing result - and no coming to terms with a caboose that isn't actually big! But then it would be a totally different pattern too...

  9. That dress is almost identical to a 1940's dress I bought a while ago!!! (
    I think mine was handmade. I wonder if it was made using the same pattern...


  10. I don't turn my underlining inside out either. It can add extra bulk and you have to perfectly stitch the underlining seams or you can mess up the seam allowance for the garment.

  11. Oh wow! this is AMAZING! I absolutely love the color and the pinafore! Thanks for sharing your new skills (I'll have to try the gathering trick!)

  12. Love it! So bright and summery.
    I think I may have been watching that pattern, LOL! I was completely baffled as to what exactly made it a maternity pattern though...
    Can't wait to try the zig zag gathering technique, thanks for the tip!