Greetings panda bears! Today I have a real, live, finished dress to show off! I’ve made another version of the Claire Cami from Serendipity Studios (the same designer behind the book, Sew Serendipity.) I made the first version shirt-length and I like it, but I knew when I finished the first version that the dress-length version would be more up my alley. And here it is!

Yay! Isn’t the fabric fun? It’s a quilt-weight cotton from Joann’s – at least, the main fabric is. The trim at the bottom is from Sewtropolis. The little white, um, things (are those pussy willows?) have just a tinge of blue in them, so I thought a blue ribbon would work well on the waist. I also did most of my topstitching in blue – hard to see in pictures!

I had not intended to have a contrast band at the hem. The skirt pieces have multiple cutting lines for different lengths – tunic, above the knee, knee-length, calf length and above the ankle. I chose the knee-length and only checked the length once by holding up the pattern piece against me. Well, all you pandas know how un-helpful that can be! When I got to the trying-on stage, the skirt was scandalously short! And I think you bears know that I don’t mind short skirts in the least. It was show-off-your-bloomers short. Cheerleader short. Extra steps were necessary unless I wanted to convert this to a naughty Halloween costume. Goldilocks and the three bears, indeed.

I pawed through my stash (actually, my piles of fabric already selected for sample sewing, I owe myself a half yard of this to finish ANOTHER sample now!) and I liked how these two fabrics looked together. The instructions for the bands are very free flowing – no pattern pieces, just ‘cut a length as long as the hem of the skirt’. The actual instructions have you cut the length, double the width you need, fold wrong sides together the long way, then sew on to the outside (right side) of the skirt, which leaves an  unfinished seam on the inside. If I’d been serging that would have been fine, but I was at home, so serger-free.

I really wanted the inside more finished so I sewed one layer of the band to the right side, pressed under the other long edge 1/2”, folded to the inside then I zig-zagged on. It would have looked nicer had I stitched-in-the-ditch, but I wasn’t 100% certain I’d be able to catch the fold on the inside perfectly. Note I went with the gold thread rather than the blue to tone down my zig zags as much as possible! I was also watching a chase scene on Numb3rs (my current netflix streaming obsession) and apparently got overexcited and veered wildly off the seam. See why me and stitching in the ditch don’t mix?

I really like the fit of this dress! It has that sort of retro fitted bodice with full skirt (OK, fit’n’flare. I HATE THAT PHRASE!!) while being a super easy dress to sew and comfy to wear! In fact, I had picked a different pattern for the ‘retro full skirt dress’ class to teach in July, but due to some pattern supply difficulties, I think we are going to sub this dress out for the class. Not a true, vintage full circle skirt style, but a great pattern for beginner sewers who want a fuller skirt-style frock.

Since I was working without a serger, the inside finishing took a bit of extra effort. I used a mix of bias tape, french seams and the afore-described method of attaching the contrast band. I do love me a nicely finished inside.

I bound the edges of the facings with some bias tape I had on hand. I was planning on doing the sew-the-interfacing-to-the-right-side-turn-and-fuse trick, but I wanted some fun contrast on the inside so I went with the bias tape.

I attached the bias tape the lazy way. I tucked the facings into the fold (it was double fold bias tape), making sure the longer side of the bias tape was to the back. Then I sewed everything together at once by ‘stitching in the ditch’ using a decorative stitch – both to make sure I caught everything AND to cover up my sloppy stitching-in-the-ditch techniques!

I love that the neckline and arm facings are separate! Sure, it’s a bit more bulk in the shoulder area, but I HATE sewing one-piece facings onto sleeveless dresses. I have yet to find a way to do it that looks nice and while not requiring copious amounts of hand stitching.

The ribbon casing is attached to the bodice first, sandwiching the bodice between the two casing layers and leaving a nice finished seam, but the skirt is attached by stitching the bodice/casing piece and the skirt right sides together which would have left an unfinished seam on the inside. Again, fine if I was serging but I wanted to avoid to I attached using a french seam. Wrong sides together, trim, press, turn to right sides together, press and stitch again. It looks nice, but was a bit annoying to do since the skirt is gathered at the top which made it tricky to sew the more shallow seams required for a french seam.

A close up of the waist casing – the french seam is on the bottom. You’ll notice a lot of lines of stitching. Kay Whitt (the designer) includes LOTS of edgestitching and topstitching in her patterns. This really gives a nice finish and helps whip the quilt-weight-cottons into shape!

Another picture! I wore it to work the other day. Cute, isn’t it?? A double plus of the fabric I picked is that with some tights and boots this’ll make a great dress into the fall. The colors are very fall-like, no?

Alright you pandas! Off to your bamboo snacks. I’ve got coffee to drink.

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