In the Folds Sweater Dress hack
Did you do Me Made May this year? We gave it a go, starting out reasonably strong with our awkward selfie skills, peaking on our little trip to Japan, then failing to show up again for the rest of the month. Despite our extreme selfie aversion I’ve gotta say I really enjoyed it this year – both as a (part time) participant and a voyeur. I felt like a learned a lot – about what I wear, what I tell myself I wear (but don’t), what I need to add to my wardrobe, and what I really need to let go of. What surprised me most this year is that it wasn’t a huge effort to wear at least one item of me-made every day. Not full outfits, but lots of bits and pieces. This is a bit of a jump from last year, and something that has crept up slowly. Because I sew at a snail’s pace and am just as time-slammed as the next person, I try to be realistic about how much I can sew versus what I need to buy. But over May it dawned on me that I’ve built up quite a little stable of home makes, and as a result have been shopping for clothes far less frequently. Just like that.
I may not be buying as much rtw – but I still look. Online. Sometimes quite a lot. On my phone. On the train. Etc….Maybe it’s habit, maybe I still subscribe to way too many newsletters and sale alerts, or maybe I just like to get inspiration for my sewing. Yeah, let’s go with the last option. Soooo I was, um, ‘seeking inspiration’ from a little Karen Walker browsing a few weeks ago and, as always with KW was struggling not to shut my eyes and press ‘add to cart’ under every damn thing on the site, when I stumbled across this little sweater dress: a simple, super short black knit dress with ruffly sleeves. ‘I could totally make that’, I thought (the ever-optimistic refrain of every sewist, everywhere), and set off to search the for fabric options. Who needs Karen Walker when you have a sewing machine and a stash the size of a small country?
I bought this black (charcoal? midnight?) French terry knit with a slight sparkle from Nippori Fabric Town on our recent Tokyo trip, with very solid plans to make a short-sleeved sweatshirt. I got the knit from a small offcuts store behind the main Nagato, it was stupidly cheap and I only bought a (very wide) metre because that would be plenty for my planned tee. How plans change. Once I had my heart set on the dress, I spent simply ages trying to work out how to squeeze it out of a wide metre and decided I could just pull it off. I knew the In the Folds Sweater Dress pattern (free from Peppermint Mag!) would easily lend itself to a bit of gentle hacking, and printed it pronto.
And just as I was about to cut those sparkly Sweater Dress pieces out, one of those little MMM-earned realisations popped into my head: I have too many short dresses. I don’t really wear short dresses unless I’m going out. I don’t go out much. I need tops. Work tops, weekend tops, going out tops, and tops that can do all three. I had to face the truth: the sweater dress had to be a sweater. Back to the original plan I went (but with some frilly sleeves for fun).
After all that deliberation you’d hope the top came together very quickly, but you’d be wrong. The body and neckline were a piece of cake and the ruffles were easy enough – just a couple of rectangles at double the width of the sleeves as they measured at the elbow, gathered using a couple of rows of wide stitch. But I fussed around with the length of the sleeves (four attempts); and couldn’t decide whether to add a row of rib to the bottom or not (four attempts) – and unpicking black stitches on black fabric takes SO MUCH TIME! There are some tiny holes in the fabric for my troubles, but a few little hand stitches hidden in the sparkles and all is forgiven.
Turns out my MMM instinct was correct – I’ve worn this top almost non-stop for a couple of weeks now and have no plans to take it off, ever. I love it. I wear it to work and feel smug in my office-appropriate windcheater. I wear it on weekends and ignore my mister’s jokes about pirate sleeves (the Seinfeld generation are so sensitive about pirate shirts!). And I wore it out for a drink with a friend and felt semi-glamorous because of those sparkles. MMM was right – I didn’t need another dress after all. Kind of makes all those awkward self-timer poses seem worthwhile…!