Sewing a Tropical Jersey Maxi Dress

I decided to sew this tropical maxi dress after a battle with my last make that resulted in an unfinished project. I will go back to it when I can face it again, but in the meantime I needed a palette cleanser! This was just the ticket and perfect for the gorgeous weather we are experiencing in the UK right now.

The Pattern and Fabric

This Butterick pattern looked perfect: quick, simple, easy to sew. As luck would have it we recently managed to source more of our tropical jersey fabric and I knew it was the perfect match. Both the pattern and the fabric had been on my hit list since last year so it was a great opportunity to tick number five off my make nine list too.

Butterick 6206 and Tropical Jersey

I chose view C - a V neck sleeveless version of the dress. I thought our black cadiz cotton jersey fabric would be perfect for the bodice paired with the tropical jersey for the skirt. Unfortunately the cadiz is a slightly different shade to the tropical black background colour so Angela suggested making a band or a tie in one of the contrasting to tie it all together. I wasn't sure at first, but once we laid some red cadiz between the black and the tropical fabrics I could see it would work well. A pair of red tassle earrings would complete the outfit nicely!

The tropical jersey is super soft and has great drape for the flared skirt. Both fabrics were excellent to work with, enough stability to sew up very easily. I used my overlocker, but they would sew well on a sewing machine with a walking foot too.

Adjustments

I cut a size 14 based on my full bust measurement. I made my usual high round back adjustment to the back pattern piece. Even though it was a super easy sew I was still scarred from my unfinished project and decided to make a very quick toile of the bodice. It was literally two pieces of jersey sewn together at the side seams and shoulders so only took a matter of minutes.

I had to take a good 1 and a half inches off the side seams at the top tapering to about an inch off at the waist. I then had to make the corresponding adjustment to the skirt pieces, which I didn't bother to toile because I knew fitting the skirt would be easy.

I also had to shorten the bodice by an inch to allow for the additional waistband.

Sewing a Jersey Maxi Dress

However, I still cannot crack my armhole, shoulder, back region problems! I thought a high round back and forward shoulder adjustment was the solution to my fitting woes, but my previous project proved otherwise. In certain styles I am still getting drag lines from my armpits towards my neck.

I have been pondering this at length and wonder if it is because I have moved the shoulder seams forward all the way along the shoulder seam in my last couple of makes rather than just at the shoulder end tapering back towards the original seamline at the neck (called a sloping shoulder adjustment). It's funny how you can gradually slip away from something that was working so well previously without even realising it!

I plan to make a muslin in one of the styles I had trouble with and try this technique again to see if this is the issue. Unfortunately this epiphany only happened after I had moved the whole shoulder seam forward on this make so the drag lines are still there, although less exaggerated and less obvious in this jersey fabric.

I had to trim about 1/8" off the armholes because they were too wide, but I think this may be due to cutting a size too big (see below).

Jersey Maxi Dress 1

Sizing

I've also been revisiting the wonderful Palmer Pletsch fitting book. They have a fantastic new and updated version of the book out, which you can find here and am wondering if I am cutting a size too big, which is causing further problems in the armhole area.

Palmer and Pletsch The Complete Guide to Fitting

I have been cutting a size 14 based on my full bust measurement with the logic I can sew it smaller if I need to. However, Palmer and Pletsch suggest using your high bust measurement to choose your size. This brings me out between a 10 and a 12 and means the armholes are smaller and bust darts are better positioned for my frame. When cutting a 14 I also always have to take the side seams in extensively because the bodice is always too big and this then affects the armholes. How have I never thought about this before?!

I've already started work on my next project and made a size 10 toile for the bodice grading to between a 12 and a 14 at the waist and hips. Already it seems like a much better fit. I also made a small bust adjustment, which seemed to help with the fit, although there was still some excess fabric at the side seams to take in. Perhaps I even need to go down to an 8 here?

So it looks like I've taken my next step on the journey for the quest for the perfect fit. This stuff takes time and is an art I'm sure you'll agree. I'll be sure to share my finding with you in future posts.

Jersey Maxi Dress 2

Construction

The construction of the dress was super easy. Two pattern pieces for the bodice and two for the skirt. It was easy to adjust and fit thanks to the knit fabric.

Adding the band at the waist took a little bit of extra effort and patience, but was well worth it. I cut the band in the direction of the most stretch and made sure I cut it 10-20% shorter than the bodice and skirt waist circumference so it pulled everything in neatly.

I decided to create a binding to finish the armholes and neckline. Again I cut the bindings 10-20% shorter than the circumference of the neckline and armholes to make sure they weren't baggy. I also used our stretch interfacing to make sure they maintain their shape and don't stretch out with wash and wear.

Sewing a Jersey V Neck

In both instances I quartered the band and the relevant area of the garment to make sure the binding was applied evenly. You can see a video including tips for this technique here.

It was the first time I had sewn a V-neck neck binding so I will write a little tutorial on how I did it in the coming weeks. It was actually pretty easy to do and I am pleased with the end result. Here is the inside.

Sewing a Knit V Neck Neckband

I was thrilled to use my new Babylock Desire 3 coverlock machine to coverstitch the hems. Oh my goodness what a game changer! I have always had to use twin needles on a sewing machine to hem knit garments previously, but the results with the coverstitch are soooooo professional I never want to go back!

Hemming Knits on a Coverstitch Machine

It is so easy to do and there is no tunnelling of the fabric. Both sides look super neat and I didn't have to worry about the fabric stretching out of shape as I sewed.

Hemming Jersey on a Coverstitch Machine

If you make a lot of knit or jersey garments I can vouch for the fact a coverstitch machine is a worthwhile investment. We have a fantastic range for every budget here.

Final Thoughts

All in all a great little project with some fun techniques thanks to adding the bindings, the V-neck and the waistband.

I absolutely love the flared shape of the skirt and think it hangs beautifully. It is so flattering and so much better than the straight maxi skirt styles you often find on the high street.

I know I will get a huge amount of wear from this dress during the summer months. It is perfect for work, for BBQs and parties and will also make a nice comfy travel outfit for my hols. I'm also planning to make the short sleeved version, view D, in our navy cadiz cotton jersey fabric. I think it would also be a great addition to my every day wardrobe.

I do so love a jersey maxi dress. They keep you cool in the heat, but also cover your legs from nasty midges in the evenings or if the temperature drops.

Jersey Maxi Dress 3

Shopping List

Have fun sewing!

Lucy

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