Saturday, November 22, 2014

Reverse Appliqué Jersey Dress: The Great Pattern Review Sewing Bee- Round # 3

So I, along with 24 other contestants, have advanced to the next round of the The Great Pattern Review Sewing Bee- Round #3. For this project, we have been given the Winter Street Dress, to make a dress using two knit fabrics. Both fabrics should be knits (printed or solid colors). There is no limit on how much or how little of the 2nd fabric you use, as long as its visible and enhances the garment.
Winter Street Dress Courtesy of Pattern Review
On my initial reading of this project and the rules, I have to say I was enthused. I am NOT a fan of PDF patterns with all of the cutting and pasting together. (I think I may have mentioned that a million times before). Additionally, though others look great in it, I am not a fan of this style of dress. I don't think the is waistline flattering on me. I do love the sleeve variations especially the slight flounce. Given a choice however, I would not have not have chosen this pattern.
Given my reticence about this round, I chose to rely on my old favorite sewing technique of hand-sewing jersey knit fabric. I thought the requirement to use two knit fabrics made this an awesome candidate for reverse applique. I briefly considered making my stencil, as I have done before. Given the time constraints, I decided against it. I recently purchased another fabulous home decor stencil from the same company that I used to make my Moroccan Halter and Tank top.  I had yet to use it and thought this would be a great opportunity.
Stencil image
The rules allow you to modify the pattern in any way you like. I was really excited about that. I wanted to accentuate the lattice work in the stencil. The front and back of the dress are cut as two pieces with box pleats. I decided to make the front and back pieces one continuous silhouette and eliminate the pleats. I have never done this type of modification to a pattern. I have a large  pattern stash. If I want a pattern in a specific style I simply look in my stash and find one that works. 

I thought the path of least resistance would be to change the pattern rather than working with the cut fabric. After downloading and cutting the pattern (grrr), I prepared it for my modification. I simply chose to pleat the skirt portion of the pattern and tape it to the upper bodies of the front and back pieces. This way I got the pattern to the size I wanted while eliminating the pleats.

I cut the medium to begin with, but graded down to the small.  My dress is constructed in a double layer of 100% jersey knit in cream and light green. The front cream layer of the fabric is airbrushed painted in an opaque gold paint. I stenciled the front in 4 sections with 30 minutes drying time between each painting. You can read about my airbrush in this long ago post.

Airbrushed along the edges because the centers will be removed.

Fabric stenciled in for sections and covered to prevent over spray.
Two hours later, it is all dry
This dress is embellished with the reverse applique technique. To achieve this effect, I basted the stenciled front to the green under layer at the arms and neckline. Using white button and craft thread, I hand-stitched along the outside of the stenciled shapes through the two layers of fabric.
Once the entire front was stitched, I cut the center of the shapes leaving about a 1/4 inch or so of the gold painted area.
Front of dress stitched with the centers removed.

I even like the back of the stitched panel.
Next, I sewed the front to back at the shoulders and side seams on my machine with regular thread. I checked the fit, and adjusted it at the side seams for a closer fit at the bust and waist. I serged the seams for a clean finish, pressed them to the back and felled them down with hand-stitches. A leather thimble was crucial to aid in sewing through six layers of fabric with the thick thread. 

The neckline of the dress is trimmed with 1.5 inch jersey bias binding folded in half. The binding was pinned, basted, and then secured with a hand-stitched herringbone stitch. This stitch was made using button and craft thread. The hem of the dress and sleeves are left raw and will curl in time.

Here is the completed dress:

Sleeve Detail

Solid back

Herringbone stitch on the neckline.
We are asked to explain why our garment should advance to the next round. Here is what I said:
This dress looks great on the many people who have made and reviewed it. I however, did not purchase this pattern because the front and back pleats and two piece front is not my style. I feel my modification is true to the original design while making it more appealing to those who passed on it for the same reasons I did. The fact that the modification is an easy fix further bolsters the appeal to those who may now be interested.

I made a largely hand-sewn garment in a fairly short time. I have made hand-sewn garments over the course of many months with impressive results. I am pleased that I was able to complete this dress with pattern modifications in a matter of days. I know many people have wanted to venture into hand-sewing projects, but are intimidated by the time commitment and perceived difficulty. I feel this project may inspire someone to see it is manageable and may encourage them to try something new. An impressive project focuses on the creator, while an inspiring project focuses back to the observer. I hope this dress achieves both of those things qualifying me for the next round. 

I am happy with this dress. I love the feel of the double layers of jersey. I am pleased with the way color scheme worked together. The sleeves are adorable and the length is perfect straight from the pattern. I love the texture of the reverse applique in this large scale motif. I will make this again. What do you think of an ombre dyed bottom layer?

We do not get feedback from the judges as to why we advance or are eliminated. I do not know where I stand. The results for this round will be announced in one week. I will let you know how I do on the Thanksimadethem Facebook Page.

Happy sewing,


  1. This is fabulous creation! Amazing! You look great!

  2. Cute - and very creative as usual! The sleeves ARE adorable!

    1. Thanks! Is it crazy that the sleeves may be my favorite part?

  3. Ooh! I love what you did with this. You are a MASTER of hand-sewing. Smart design choices--making the pattern uninterrupted and just doing the handwork on the front. I hope you make it to the next round!!!

    1. Thank you! The competition is tough, but I am hopeful. I am not sure I have the stomach for contests!

  4. Oh my…what a beautiful dress! Love the design, the colors, everything about it. Good luck in the contest.

    1. Thank you! I love it too and plan to make a maxi skirt when things calm down.

  5. I love everything about this creation and I believe you have been very convincing in your explanation as to why you should stay in the contest! Good Luck~

    1. Thanks Amy, Unfortunately, I have been eliminated. :(

  6. I loved your modifications because I would wear it (the dress as designed for all the reasons you highlighted, I would not). It takes so much more skill to modify a pattern as you have . . . and then to reverse appliqué and hand sew it-serious talent and hard work. I'm sorry you were eliminated. Maybe they were wanting fewer modifications?! You are such a winner in my book. Keep making things your own way-way more fun and unique.


    1. Thanks Hillary! I was bummed that I did not advance in the contest. I love the winning dress, but I felt mine was better than some that moved on. I agree that I may have made too many modifications. The next challange was pants and I would have attempted to knock off these by L.A.M.B
      I may give them a try after the holidays.
      If I advanced in the contest, I would have lost my mind. I had a craft fair this weekend and was working on items until the last minute. So, I guess it was for the best. I am excited to work on fun and unique stuff for me!