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Teal Green Wool Boucle Dress by Angela

I have been sewing for more years then I can remember, being taught by my Grandmother Annie when I was a child. My first makes were dolls clothes, but by the age of 8 I was wearing my hand-made clothes to school. As I got older I bought Vogue magazine and copied the latest fashions – every Saturday I would go and buy my fabric and wear the new garment to go out in the following Saturday. I loved fashion and loved the way that I could turn a flat piece of fabric into something three dimensional. The thing I would like to say to new sewers is that it does take practise, even after 50+ years I still make mistakes and I am still learning, so please never be put off if you do something wrong – you won’t do it again! Be proud of the clothes you make and love them, after all we are none of us perfect!
A diagnosis of Parkinson’s has meant that I have had to adapt and learn new ways of doing things, but believe me learning to sew is something you will always be glad of. So, here is a very simple dress which even a total beginner can make. There are no zips or buttons to worry about and the texture of Boucle hides a multitude of sins, so what are you waiting for?
I chose a very simple Sewing Pattern so that beginners to sewing can make it up easily, it is designed for stretch knits only but if you have never sewn with stretch fabric before do not worry as I will give you some tips as we go along. To make the pattern a little more challenging for more experienced sewers I added a single jersey lining edged with stretch lace, and I also added some shaping at the waist.
For those of you who do not know, Boucle fabric is a heavy weight fabric made with Boucle yarn. Boucle yarn is uneven in thickness and texture because it includes loops of a similar size which can range from tiny circlets to large curls. The fabric therefore has a characteristic appearance similar to poodle-cloth. This Boucle Fabric is woven to include some wool and combines two or more shades of the same colour to create a tweed effect. This produces a fabric which has a textured look and feel which is warm to the touch, perfect for cuddly tops, jackets and dresses.
Let’s begin!
Whist you are waiting for your newly washed fabric to dry you can be taking your current measurements and choosing the correct size to cut out. Do please go by your actual measurements not your commercial dress size as this will differ enormously. You can then cut your pattern pieces out. I found this pattern quite loose around the waist, so do bear that in mind when cutting out. You will find actual finished garment measurements on the tissue pattern itself.
Following the correct grain fold the fabric from sides to middle as the front and the back need to be cut on the fold. The remaining fabric will be refolded for the sleeves. Think about the length before you cut out and make any adjustments necessary before you pin the pattern pieces onto the fabric.
Cut out, cutting around the notches please; never cut a slash into a seam – suppose you want an extra bit of room somewhere? You have wasted perhaps ¼” (at least doubled) of valuable seam allowance!
If you are lining your dress cut out the front and back in the same way, shortening the length by an inch.
The pattern instructions are easy to follow, so if you are making an unlined dress go ahead and follow them step by step. I am making a lined version so these instructions will differ slightly. The first thing I did (this applies to both versions) was to prepare the facing by pressing some lightweight stretch iron-on interfacing to the wrong side of both facing pieces. I also fused on some seam tape on the back to stabilise the shoulders and stop them from stretching. If you do not have any fusible seam tape, then stitch a piece of tape or ribbon along the seam line. Those bits of ribbon which seem to come attached to every garment you buy these days are ideal for this.
I used a piece of oven liner to protect my ironing board cover when attaching interfacings! Try it, it works brilliantly. I also use a ball point or a stretch sewing needle in my machine – these are designed not to damage the fibres of stretch fabrics, so do make sure that you have one in your machine. You will need to sew using a stretch stitch or a narrow zigzag and I like to use a walking foot on my machine as this stops the fabric from puckering as you sew. Have you ever sewn a seam only to find that that it slips about and ends up uneven? A walking foot stops all that from happening. A walking foot is perhaps my favourite sewing machine attachment. I also overlock all of my seams as I go along. If you do not own an overlocker then your sewing machine may well have an overedge foot which gives great results, failing that zigzag the seams. Don’t use pinking shears as the edges will still fray and you will shed annoying bits of fabric everywhere each time you wear it.
For both the lined and unlined versions make up the facing by joining the front and back at the shoulder seams, press carefully and neaten the outside edges. Stay-stitch the neckline to keep it in shape. Stitch the shoulder seams.
Pin and tack the side seams and try it for fit. This is your opportunity to make any adjustments. I found that I wanted a more fitted look to the dress so I took it in at the side seams, curving into the waist by an inch at both sides. I also added slim darts at the front, measuring from just below the bust line to just below the waist making sure that the darts were equally spaced from the sides and equal in length. I can still get the dress on easily without adding a zipper as the fabric stretches and it is still a relatively loose fit.
For the unlined dress, follow the pattern instructions and attach the facing and the sleeves before stitching the side and sleeve seams in one long process. Then finish the dress in the same way as the lined version.
Make up the lining next. I used a French seam by first sewing the shoulders and sides with narrow seam wrong sides together, trim the seam so that it is very narrow. Press open carefully then fold it the other way, i.e. right sides together and stitch another narrow seam. At this stage I finished the hem by turning it up an inch towards the right side and stitching it down close to the edge. Trim the hem down to ¼” and cover the raw edge with a piece of lingerie (stretch) lace. This method ensures that the hem looks good on both sides.
Stitch and finish the side seams and the sleeve seams. Run a basting stitch along the top of the sleeve so that you can ease it into the armhole smoothly
Place the lining inside the dress wrong sides together and baste at the neckline and sleeves within the seam allowance. Check that it does not pull anywhere. Attach the neck facing right sides together, grade and clip into the seam allowance. Press carefully using a pressing cloth and turn the facing to the inside. You may be happy just with under-stitching, but I top stitched the neckline again about an inch from the top.
Insert the sleeve using the basting thread to ease the sleeve in place. Once you are happy them overlock or otherwise finish the seam. I love the neatness that an over-locking machine gives although I appreciate that not everybody has one.
To finish the hem and sleeves I would normally use my invisible hem foot. But when I practised on spare fabric I found that the walking foot gave a better finish on the Boucle. So I finished the raw edges on my overlocker and topstitched the hems in place using a narrow zigzag and the walking foot - Stitches tend to disappear into this type of fabric, were I using a smoother fabric I would have used a twin needle for a nice effect.
A final press and check for loose threads and the garment is ready to wear.
I found the pattern instructions easy to follow and the measurements accurate. I am a size 12 and I made the long dress with the lower neckline. My version is definitely a dress for cooler days but the shorter length in a lighter weight jersey would be fantastic to pack in your suitcase for holidays as it will not crease and will be cool and airy to wear.
The fabric is easy to sew and is very good for people new to sewing stretch fabrics – the texture hides a multitude of sins and although it is stretch it has some stability to it. Just remember not to pull the fabric as you sew or you will get a “lettuce leaf” effect to your hems and sleeves!
I hope that you enjoyed reading this pattern review and that if you have never sewn with a stretch fabric before this will tempt you to make this dress too.
Thank you to Minerva fabrics for the beautiful fabric.
Angela @ Sew Angelic Threads

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