Totally not boring Grey Surplice Dress

This is the last of my 2016 makes to blog (completed early November), which means I’m not doing too badly this year! Blogging more promptly should definitely be a New Year’s resolution, though…

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In a Nutshell:

A simple, neutral knit dress that’s already become a firm wardrobe favourite!

Pattern:

This is the Surplice Dress from the Craftsy Sewing With Knits class. It’s a simple knit dress with an empire line waist, a wrap bodice and an A-line skirt. The sleeves are meant to be elbow length but ended up being slightly shorter because of an alteration I made (more on that later). Based on my measurements I cut a size M.

Fabric:

Grey ponte from Sewn Bristol (I can’t see it in the online store and I bought it back in the summer so perhaps it’s all gone now). I am seriously amazed by the quality of this fabric. At £5.50 a metre I assumed it might not wear all that well–after all, every single ponte I’ve bought in the past has bobbled after a couple of washes, despite me treating it like royalty with the finest delicates detergents, washing cycles and line drying. But this ponte still looks and feels every bit as gorgeous as when I bought it and it’s had a fair few washes so far. It has a yarn dyed stripe in charcoal and mid-grey, but on a micro level–just one stitch row of each. This means it looks like a solid, but one with some depth. Seriously lovely. It also has a great hand–beefy enough for a ponte, but with some drape and a really smooth surface.

New skills learnt:

None. This was a really easy sew that didn’t stretch me in the slightest.

Changes I made:

  • I decided to finish the neckline with a band instead of folding over with clear elastic, like Meg demonstrates on the Craftsy class. I also thought I’d finish the cuffs with a similar narrow band (more on that later!). To do this I removed about an inch from the neck edge (after sewing the shoulder seams) and from the sleeve hems, and made a band that was 2cm wide when folded in half.
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Check out that neckline band!

Construction:

This was a super simple dress to make, probably helped by the fact one of my TNT patterns (Simplicity 1469) is so similar. The main differences are that this pattern doesn’t have the underbodice for discreet breastfeeding (although it would still be suitable for nursing if you didn’t mind flashing some boob), or the waistband. Also, you use clear elastic in the waist seam of this dress, and the skirt is more flared. Everything on the construction side went really easily. I’d watched the Craftsy class years ago and I didn’t bother watching it again this time as the written instructions were perfectly sufficient now I have plenty of experience sewing knits.

I do wish I’d taken the time to baste and try on the neckline band as on the first try it stood away from my body at the back. I ended up having to unpick all my overlocking and redo it while stretching the band more, but it worked perfectly the second time around.

The only hiccup I had during construction was adding the banding on the sleeve hems. I think the ponte was just too thick to give a good finish with these relatively tight fitting sleeves, and it looked too bumpy. I did take a photo of this but have somehow lost it (probably when we had some computer problems that required it being put back to factory settings), so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Anyway, it wasn’t bad enough for me to rip the banding out straight away. That came after the hemming…

When pondering the hassle of setting up my machine to do a twin needle hem (which I’ve got very good at, by the way) I remembered a blog post over on Lucky Lucille I’d read recently about hemming knits with a zigzag. It got me thinking, and so I decided to have a go. The times I’ve used zigzags and been dissatisfied have been with very slinky, lightweight viscose knits and I figured this ponte might be a very different beast. I chose a wide zigzag in grey thread, and finished this hem in record time!

I’m really glad I gave this hemming method a go, as the humble zigzag stitch actually makes a fine hem finish on knits. I’m not sure why I spent so much time trying to ape the RTW coverstitch with a twin needle when the zigzag is so much easier. So what if my garments look homemade? Only another sewist is likely to notice, and if they did I’d be happy to discuss the finer points of hemming knits with them. Expect to see more zigzagged hems on future garments from me!

Anyway, the skirt hem went so well I rethought my sleeves, ripped out the bands and gave them a zigzag hem too. It means the sleeves are now slightly shorter than intended as I had removed the original hem allowance before adding the banding, but I’m okay with where they fall.

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Overall verdict:

This dress might look a bit plain and boring, but it’s been one of the most successful makes ever! It’s the kind of neutral, comfortable staple that I reach for day after day. Indeed, Stylebook tells me I’ve worn it 14 times in the 7 weeks since I completed it, so that’s an average of twice a week.

Why so often? Well, I can switch up the way it looks by layering different tops underneath–being grey it goes with just about everything. Also, I wear more colourful scarves over the top. It’s also incredibly comfy on days when I’m feeling a bit bloated–that full skirt is excellent for disguising a not-so-flat stomach!

I realise I probably won’t be able to wear this once the weather has warmed up, but since that’s not likely to be for another three or four months, I predict I’ll still get plenty of wear out of this dress in 2017.

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Fit-wise I’m really pleased with this dress, my only quibble being the way the skirt stands out at the back (see pic above). At first I thought it was unflattering and made me look like I was wearing a lampshade. However, I’m pretty sure this is down to fabric choice rather than the pattern and now I’m used to it I’m okay with it.

Here’s a few more pics of the dress styled for winter:

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Changes for next time:

If I make this again I think I’ll try a lighter weight fabric which will hopefully drape better, reducing the volume of the skirt. Or I could just make up my TNT Simplicity pattern in a smaller size. However, I suspect next time I make a knit dress with a wrap bodice I’ll be trying out the Colette Wren pattern as that has a few different design features I’d like to try out.

Costing:

Pattern: Part of a Craftsy class I bought on sale for $19.99, and this is the second pattern I’ve used from it, so I’m going with $9.98, or approximately £6.50 by the typical exchange rate back then.

Fabric: £5.50 per metre. Used just over 1m, so approximately £6

Notions: £0.00

Total cost: £12.50

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