ristretto dress tutorial

i’m still enjoying my stint as a Britex Guest Blogger, and today i’m sharing a dress i made using Britex’s Smoke & Coffee Stretch Cotton, which i reeeally loved working with.  this dress is actually a remix of my favorite dress pattern, Made by Rae’s Washi Dress, and though as i sewed it i was calling it “Frankenwashi,” i came up with a prettier moniker for this dress now that it’s all done.  named after one of our favorite coffee shops – i’m calling it the Ristretto Dress!

ristretto dress tutorial

my favorite sewing challenge is to take a proven, great-fitting, well-written pattern and modify it into something new.  i do it when i sew for my kids all the time, but haven’t ventured into doing it for myself too often yet.

ristretto dress tutorial

when i ordered this fabric, i expected to make a skirt.  but once i got it, i loved it so much i decided squeeze a dress into it.  this is made out of just 2 yards of (56″ wide) fabric!

i started with the Washi Pattern, since the bodice fits like Rae designed it just for me, and a million different dresses can be made once you have a favorite bodice.  for the Ristretto, I changed the neckline to a v-neck, lined and lengthened the bodice, added pleats at the shoulders, added a full gathered skirt, and eliminated the shirring at the back (though you could still shirr it for a more fitted bodice – mine is pretty loose without the belt).  i love the little extra cinch at the waist that a belt provides, though, and i think the dress is barely recognizable as a Washi!

ristretto dress tutorial

those changes may seem like a lot of extra steps…but i promise it’s not that hard.  in fact, eliminating the bias tape save so much time, i daresay this might even be a quicker sew than the original!  and i’m here to walk you through it.  let’s go.


ristretto dress tutorial

use a straight edge to lengthen the bodice to hit you at your natural waist.  for me, that was about 3″ longer than the original pattern.  then angle your ruler to lengthen the bottom of the dart line downward to meet the new bodice line.  extend the fold line 3″ down as well.

ristretto dress tutorial

to create the v-neckline, i measured 1/2″ up from the bottom of the U cutout line on the washi pattern and marked it (i like a pretty deep v-neck, but feel free to mark higher up – whatever makes you feel comfortable).  then angle out from your point, gently curving up to meet the original shoulder line.  i played with this a bit until it seemed like the right shape.

for the back bodice, add 3″ to the last shirring line and taper the side seam to more of a right angle versus flared out, if you’re eliminating shirring like i did.  as a warning, i found the back skirt/bodice was too full to make my original idea – elastic casing – look right, and it might look similarly odd with shirring.  i opted to use the belt to cinch in the waist instead.  back darts may help if you don’t want to belt it – might take some experimentation.


ristretto dress tutorial

sew your lining’s darts and shoulder seams.  i could’ve taken my side seams in a bit more, and almost think i could’ve sized down on the dress entirely. i recommend making a muslin or using your lining as a quick muslin at this stage, to make sure the dress will leave enough room for you to slide it on, but isn’t too loose.

sew your main bodice like you did the lining.

ristretto dress tutorial

place the bodices rightsides together.  measure 1/2″ down from the point of the V and mark it with a disappearing pen.  this will give you a precise pivot point when you’re sewing the neckline.  pin generously and sew.  once sewn, trim straight down into the seam allowance at the point (not clipping the seam) and trim the rest of the seam allowance to 1/4″.  understitching is a good idea here.

ristretto dress tutorial

next, sew the shoulder seams.  because the Washi is not open in the back, you can’t just sew the shoulder seams flat – you won’t be able to turn it right side out (ask me how i know!).  instead, go watch THIS VIDEO SERIES by Rae on lining the Washi Dress.  video #4 is the one that addresses arm holes, and the one that taught me the amazing “sausage technique” that i’ll definitely be using again.  you can sort of see it above, but watch the video to fully understand.  then trim the seam to 1/4″ and clip into the seam allowance to release the curves.

ristretto dress tutorial

turn rightside out and press, and you’ll have perfect, frustration-free armholes!  glorious.

ristretto dress tutorial

next, separate the lining from the bodice and sew front to back lining and front to back main in a straight line.  turn right side out and press.  this is another good place to test fit.  if too wide, you can easily open it back up and sew another seam in from your first – i had to do this on mine to pull up the armhole and bring in the bodice a bit.

ristretto dress tutorial

now prepare your skirt.  i cut the fabric selvedge-to-selvedge in two 25″ long panels for this dress.  this particular stretch cotton is 56″ wide, so that is one full skirt!  i knew it’d look nice since it’s a cotton/rayon/lycra blend and those blends give it a lot of drape – with a less drapey fabric, a less-full skirt might be a better idea.  sew up the short side seams.  sew two rows of basting stitches on both the front and back, stopping at the side seams, and gather.

ristretto dress tutorial

match the bodice to the skirt, right sides facing, and carefully sew together.  press seam allowance toward the bodice.  remove basting stitches.  hem skirt to your liking (i folded up 1/2″ then 1″).

ristretto dress tutorial

fold your lining under and pin so it covers the raw edge of the skirt.  either stitch in the ditch on the right side of the dress (where bodice meets skirt) or handsew the lining down.  then, after trying on the dress, i decided the shoulders looked too wide with the v-neck, so I made a simple pleat, folding out toward the shoulder and stitching in the ditch (seam line) to secure.  the shoulder pleats add a nice formality to the dress that i love.

ristretto dress tutorial

this dress is very comfortable, since the stretch cotton has a lovely linen-esque feel to it, and has a weight and softness that makes it ideal for skirts and dresses.

ristretto dress tutorial

i love the smokey gray color with a hint of brown, and i love that the skirt is substantial enough that it doesn’t need lining.

ristretto dress tutorial

bonus: it’s perfect for twirling!  i want to go to a wedding now so i can dance in this dress!

ristretto dress tutorial

you can follow along with lots more projects from my fellow guest bloggers over at the Britex blog (my posts are here).  and if you want to get your hands on this lovely fabric, stretch cottons go on sale July 15!

thanks (once again) to my husband for getting these fun “magic hour” photos, and thanks so much for always sending me the most beautiful fabrics, Britex!



43 thoughts on “ristretto dress tutorial

  1. Jane says:

    Kristin! this is beautiful! I’ve been wanting to drop the waist on a washi for quite some time…I love the V neck too. Oh thanks so much for sharing your little tute. Very excited to give this a try. And PS…i am “angry” at your for that nightgown tute you did for Delia…like I NEED anything else to add to my “to make” list! But now I’ve got something else thanks to you! 😉

  2. anna says:

    look at you!!! you look amazing. Love the dress, and the fabric is drool worthy, wish I could touch it! Love the mods you made and those shoulder pleats, didn’t see them at first, but they are to die for!

  3. lisa g says:

    beautiful dress! i wouldn’t have seen brown fabric and thought dress, but the color looks great on you! and i love that lining technique–it feels like magic every time i do it!

  4. Katie says:

    Such a pretty dress. I love the idea of a V-neck Washi, since this is by far my favorite basic bodice also. I watched Rae’s video tutorials on lining a bodice a few weeks ago and changed my world! (Ok, slight exaggeration). But I agree that her method is amazing!

  5. Kelly says:

    Kristin this is absolutely beautiful!! It is just so subtle and sophisticated…and you look so lovely! I am pondering the fabrics in my stash to see if one would work for this dress, thanks for the tutorial 😊

  6. Nancy says:

    What a beautiful alteration to the washi pattern, I also love the pleat in the shoulders. Thanks for sharing your tutorial!

  7. April says:

    I absolutely love this dress! I need to get the Washi pattern and make this cute variation. And the fabric is gorgeous! I’m definitely checking it out when it goes on sale.

  8. Megan says:

    wow! That’s awesome!! Would it be too adventuresome and time-crunched for me to try to sew up one of these {for the first time} for a wedding we’re going to on the 20th?! Ah! Now you’ve got me thinking… {and dreaming}.

    Beautifully done. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Megan says:

    {p.s. sorry if this is a duplicate comment}
    wow! This is awesome. Think it’d be too adventuresome and time-crunched to sew one of these up {for my first time} in time for a wedding we’re going to on the 20th?! ah! Now you’ve got me thinking… {and dreaming}! Thanks for the inspiration… beautifull done!

  10. Jess says:

    gorgeous dress, it looks great on you! Looks super soft and comfy. I need to sew more for myself! I will always chuckle at the name though…. 😀

  11. Lightning McStitch says:

    You had me right away with the “Smokey gray with a hint of brown” and then to turn it into such a pretty dress. Love the shoulder pleats and the dropped waist is a great modification.
    And you look fantastic!

  12. girllikethesea says:

    I love this dress! The color is amazing, and is definitely reminiscent of coffee in a really good way. And I super duper like the pleated shoulders. Yay for happy accidents! They make the dress! You must take yourself to a cocktail party in that dress now.

  13. Froo & Boo says:

    Your dress is GORGEOUS!! The style is so timelessly classic–it’ll always look as beautiful today as it will tomorrow. It’s the kind of dress you wish you had in your closet, but can’t afford to buy! You look great in it.

  14. Stef says:

    Kristin!! I’m scrolling down, trying to catch up, wanting to comment on every single post, but not able to stop myself from seeing what’s next – this, though, I MUST stop, this is goooooorrrrrrrrgggggeous!!!!! You amaze me! (I’m also convinced I need to get on that shorts pattern – sounds perfect for my tiny girls) and I want a ampersandwich shirt!!

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