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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Butterick 5173

This is an end of an era dress in my sewing. Knit dresses, specifically raised waist dresses, empire etc. have come the full circle for me. I had this knit and decided to give Butterick 5173 a try. As a result  I have a dress I will wear for those comfortable-tired day-shopping-casual occasions, just because it is so comfortable, but I won't be making more of these. I feel the fashion cycle has just about made a full rotation with this profile.

More structured is more me, and what I will be sewing the rest of the season, but sometimes structured isn't what you need. So despite some ambivalence this is still a wearable dress.

I made one design change. I added a band of solid black to match the inset/facing to the sleeves. This design change was motivated by a shortage of the patterned knit. I added the extra to make the sleeves longer.

I have to make my usual rant about the lack of serger or knit technique friendly instructions. Yes there was reference to a serger, as in you can use one, but none of the illustrations or techniques were serger specific, which is annoying.

I also found that some details were again written as if you were working with a woven, and obviously you are not as this is a knits only pattern.

I also was a little wary of the instructions to pivot at the large dot in negotiating the outside corners of the Vs, centre front and centre back, of the insert. To my mind this was a maneuver that had "rip it out and try again" written all over it so I reverted to a trick I learned a long time ago. The method I used is based on the principle that every time you pivot at a crucial corner you run the risk of pushing, or twisting, the grain right on the tip (ever had a little bump at the point of a V even though you stitching looks fine and accurate? This is why that happens). As a result, and this is supposed to be some industrial technique, you should aim to cross same direction stitching lines, each of those lines stitched toward the point, rather than pivoting. This meant at centre front and back I stitched down one side of the neckline from shoulder to point and then stitched the other side from shoulder to point, crossing the seams and allowing that intersection to create the point. The not terribly flattering picture of the back neckline shows I hope what a sharp and neat point you get this way. Of course it means the entire neckline is made of a seam made in four stages but the sewer stress reduction in my opinion is well worth it.

On the subject of the back neckline one thing I really liked about this pattern was that the back neck band was seamed at centre back - I was able to use this seam to take in the top a bit and this greatly improved the fit. I suggest you try on the neckband before you attach it to the dress in case you too might want to make a similar adjustment.

So that's it. A nice comfortable dress and my farewell to the empire waist until it comes back in style again.


RiAnge Creations. Ltd. said...

Nice dress. I was lamenting about abundance of empire styled dresses. I am desiring a more tailored fit in my clothing now. Though I don't think I'll be giving up my maxi dresses anytime soon. Great job on this dress.

Jane M said...

Oh, Barbara, you are leaving this trend before I'm willing to go. My refrigerator middle is happiest in this empire style. I'll try to enjoy a more tailored version since I have one in the muslin stage but I'm having a long good-bye party at my house.

sdBev said...


This is a really nice dress. As far as the instructions go, I long ago reached the point that I rarely if ever read the pattern instructions. I have a couple of reference books and of course my years of experience (read that errors and wadders). I do worry about the new sewist. I think the biggest hurtle for the new sewist is the pitiful and inaccurate pattern instructions.

Eugenia said...

This is a really lovely dress. It may be comfortable but there has been no sacrifice of elegance or glamour! I do so agree about pattern instructions for knits - why can't these companies update their instructions?!

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

You chose a wonderful knit pattern which makes the dress appealing...but you know best what works for you. So if it's a comfortable weekend dress, it's still a great one!