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!
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.
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!
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.
ALTERING THE WASHI PATTERN
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.
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.
SEWING THE RISTRETTO DRESS
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.
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.
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.
turn rightside out and press, and you’ll have perfect, frustration-free armholes! glorious.
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.
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.
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″).
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.
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.
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.
bonus: it’s perfect for twirling! i want to go to a wedding now so i can dance in this dress!
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!