I love following a pattern, but sometimes, when an idea strikes you and you see an image of a garment right in front of your eyes, but can’t think of a pattern to use, it presents a great opportunity to get creative with what you have. This was the case when I saw this Art Gallery fruity jersey in the fabric shop. I knew I wanted a dress that would wrap over at the back and have a tie at the top for good measure, because we all know how much I love me a bow (and it’s also functional, preventing the dress from potentially slipping down the shoulders). I knew exactly what I wanted, I just needed to think of which pattern to hack to make it happen.
Considering the scale of the print and the fit I wanted, I was looking for something with a grown-on sleeve. That limited the options basically right down to the Sew Over It Molly top from the first My Capsule Wardrobe: City Break e-book. It’s a pattern I have made many times and one that I love. It’s a great basic with a lot of hacking potential. So, let’s go over the adjustments I made to turn the Molly top into this dress.
1. Sleeve length
The original Molly top is long-sleeved, with sleeve pieces attaching to a grown on sleeve included in the bodice. The original grown on sleeve is quite long, coming down your mid-arm, I’d say. I wanted more of a cap sleeve. So I simply took off about 7 centimeters off the sleeve length, measuring from the bottom of the sleeve up and cutting the excess off.
2. Shape and fit
The Molly top is quite loose with a substantial amount of ease around the waist. The bust is close fitting, so I went by my bust measurement in choosing a size and than took a fitted top pattern – the TATB Agnes – and traced the side-seam shape of that onto my Molly, making it close fitting. You need to do this on both the front and back piece.
As the dress was going to have a skirt attached onto the waist seam, you only need the top part of the pattern piece down to the waist. I found the waist on the pattern pieces, drew a line 1.5 centimeters below to add in seam allowance, and that’s where the top bodice piece finishes.
3. Front neckline
I wanted the neckline to sit slightly lower than on the original top. I lowered it by 2 centimeters, simply marking it down in the centre front and than redrawing the neckline shape to meet the original shoulder seam. I freehanded it and than used a French curve to neaten it out.
4. Back neckline & wrap
This is really where most of the hacking is:
- Firstly, I traced the Molly top back piece onto a folded piece of tracing paper and cut it out, so that I had a pattern piece for the whole back rather than the usual half.
- I marked the centre back, a kind of plane of symmetry.
- On that centre back I marked where I wanted my wrap pieces to overlap, i. e. how deep I wanted the wrap to be. In my case, it was 17 centimeters from the waist up. (With the right bra, it is still bra-friendly.)
- Next, I marked where I wanted the wrap to meet the waist seam, which determines by how much the 2 pieces will overlap. I marked this 13 centimeters away from the centre back.
- Finally, I drew the shape of the back neckline (wrap pieces), connecting the shoulder with the point we marked on the centre back and then the point we marked on the waist. Again, it’s best to freehand it and than clean it up with a French curve, or take a wrap dress pattern you already have and use that as inspiration.
- Et voila, here’s your new back pattern piece! Don’t forget to cut two mirror pieces.
5. Neckline binding
I didn’t want a neckband on this dress, so I bound the neckline instead. I measured the length of the front and back neckline. Depending on how stretchy your jersey is, calculate the length of the binding you’ll need (usually about 85% of the neckline length, which is what I did here) and cut a strip of fabric of the calculated length, about 4 centimeters in half. You can fold this in half lengthwise, attach it to the right side of the dress, raw edge to raw edge, trim the seam, fold it towards the back, and topstitch in place.
6. Back neck tie
To make the tie, I cut two 70-centimeter long and 16-centimeter wide strips of fabric. I folded them in half lengthwise (right side to right side) and cut one end of each tie at an angle, as I didn’t want a straight edge. Then I sewed up the seam from the angled short edge to the end of the long edge, leaving the straight edge open. I turned it through and overlocked the end. Than I attached it to the neckline, which was already bound at that point. I topstitched it in place over the topstiched binding. The placement is up to you, the top edge of my ties is about 4 centimeters down from the shoulder seam. Tie the ties in a bow and you’re done!
For the skirt, I decided to keep it simple and go with a gathered skirt. You could simply gather together a rectangle of fabric and be done with it, however, I hate gathered skirts that don’t have any shaping. So I usually default to the skirt of the Sew Over It Marguerite dress, which is narrower at the waist and than curves around hips.
Construction-wise, I sewed the bodice, tacking the overlapping pieces at the back waist, sewed up and hemmed the skirt, gathered the top, and than attached them together.
What do you think? Please let me know if you have any questions and if you want to give this a go. I hope it’s all clear. I didn’t take any pictures when I was making this last summer, so I hope you can get the gist anyway from the finished pattern pieces and the garment itself.
As for how successfull this hack was, I am pretty happy with it. It’s not perfect, the binding could be neater, and my bow-tying skills leave a lot to be desired, and even so, the bow might be a bit too heavy for jersey… Still, I’ve been wearing it a lot, because it’s comfortable and I absolutely love the print!
Anyway, till next time,