Post #3011: Spring time energies (bring on the dresses)

Recently a friend of ours wrote this to me:

“….you two are at the height of your creative edge. I keep thinking about you these days and say: “They are totally TURNED ON!” I hope you’re enjoying the ride.”

He was responding to our decision to sell the house and move out of the city, in addition to all the other things that we’ve got going on. Have I mentioned how much I love this friend? He has been in my life a long time, and seen me through many crazy life changes.


I bring this up only because it is spring and I feel like all my energies are totally turned on at the moment. I want to make things, I want to learn things, and most of all I want to get on with setting up our new life on Gabriola! But since that’s two months away I am sticking to the first two items on that list of wants (and trying to discard the excesses of our life in the city before we pack up to go in June).

This weekend was pretty good for that as far as it goes. I put up six jars of pickled asparagus, and three jars of asparagus soup base – in addition to working on my latest sewing obsession: the perfect cycling dress.

As I have confessed to a couple of people recently – with the weather getting warmer – I am all about cycling in “regular” clothes. But more than that! I am all about cycling in dresses, skirts, and my decent work shoes (with low heels even) because changing before and after work drives me a bit batty when I have to do it every day. Also, I want commuting to be something that I don’t always need specialized gear for. In the winter, we can’t help it – rain gear and warm layers are essential – but now that it’s spring? I’m all over riding in dresses when the weather allows.

So I’m working out what it is that I feel best riding in and I’ve decided that ideally, it’s a dress made of a knit fabric that comes to the knee, and is sleeveless – to be dressed up with a cardigan or other shoulder covering at work (tattoos doncha know) – but allowing for maximum flexibility on warm days. It shouldn’t chafe at the waist. And I should be able to wear it with leggings, tights, or bike shorts without looking ridiculous. Also – I’m looking for easy sewing and endless options for trimming something out.

Basically, what I have been looking for is an A-line dress for knit fabric and voila! (Thanks Internet) I have found such a thing in the Coco Dress by Tilly and the Buttons.

This dress is so straightforward (two main body pieces) that it takes less than two hours to put together (finishing all the edges and everything). It’s easy to custom fit because it’s a knit. And it includes sleeve variations and a funnel collar if such a thing is your bag — but is just as easily made sleeveless and one could design endless collar options as well (it’s a basic boat neck, easy to modify).

On Friday I finished my first version of the dress (my camera is missing in the move mess and my tripod is outside so we’ve going with badly angled mirror selfies here – sorry):


This first version was made with two and half yards of some bamboo fabric that was sitting around in my stash from a few months ago when I bought it wanting to make I can’t remember what – and it turned out to be the wrong weight and hand. For this project, however, it was almost right. Perhaps a bit more stretch than I wanted, but good enough to fit a pattern by making a wearable muslin. You can see here that although the dress fits me overall – there is a tremendous amount of neck gape which wasn’t really a surprise since the full bust creates a hollow above it that needs to be fitted for. Someone suggested to me that it’s fine because it looks like a cowl neck – and it a does, a bit, but those lines coming down the shoulder indicate too much fabric in that area overall. Additionally, there was a little gaping at the armholes. Again – that’s a bust fitting issue.

But never mind those things! I finished this in time to drive up to the cabin and wore it all weekend with a pair of leggings despite the gaping neckline and tacked in faux-darts at the armholes.

When we got home yesterday, I had it in mind to grade the neckline of the pattern down in an attempt to clean up the top, in addition to putting in darts at the bustline to fix the armhole gape (this pattern – btw – does not come with a sleeveless version so this is not a pattern fault, sleeves would fix the armhole problem without darts normally).

Again, I turned to a cotton knit in my stash that has been kicking around for awhile and made my alterations. Re-grading the neckline put an extra inch of fullness into the skirt when I centered it back on the fabric fold (first rule of pattern alterations – when you take fabric out of one part of a pattern, it has to go somewhere else) which was just fine with me as I like a fuller skirt. You can’t really see it in this photo, but the skirt is just a tad more kicky as a result of that. What you can see is that the neckline looks a lot more like the boatneck it is supposed to be:


All that extra drapey fabric is absent from this neckline, and the darts worked to shape the armhole easily. I am very happy with the fit of this dress. Also – with a cardigan, the fabric pattern will break up nicely – though I think it looks a lot nicer colourwise in person than in this photo. I am going to put some front pockets on this one, and possibly some decorative neckline buttons to finish it later today.

I have three more yards of knit fabric sitting on my ironing board at the moment, which will comprise a third version of this same dress – this one being a polyester knit and I suspect, a tad more clingy. I’ve also got my eye on a sleeved version of this for fall, as well as a couple of shirts made with the same pattern.

With the alterations – I think I’ve managed to find the perfect cycle dress – not to mention an all round easy dress to make, alter, and stylize. When sewing is this simple, it’s easy to get energized about doing more of it 🙂

While I don’t feel exactly like I’m at my creative height, I am full of ideas and plans at the moment. Some for right this minute, and some for the summertime. I’m thinking about new projects that involve other people – I’m collecting bits and pieces for my new studio space – and I’m feeling the renewal that comes with spring (not to mention moving house). So huzzah! Bring on the new dresses!


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