Here's something I just whipped up quickly to reacquaint myself with my sewing machine after the holiday away. I have so many ideas in my head about what I want to create next – but none that won't require pattern tracing and potential adjustments, so I really wanted a quick win project to get myself back in the creative flow. These snaps are day two of wear (and I'm a wee bit hungover in these) so not the best photos, but I have to grab my moments!
This is the AprilRhodes Staple dress. I've made this three times now; the first time for my friend Holly, and then I whipped up the hi-lo hem version formyself as I needed something breezy to wear in the heat last summer. It's a great dress for keeping cool as it only really touches the body at the shirred waist, and it's sooo easy to make. For this version I was inspired by a top that one of my colleague wears that features dropped shoulders and these sweet little fluted short sleeves (sorry for copying you Kirsten!). I figured it would be easy enough to work with the Staple Dress pattern to achieve a similar effect, and it was.
I'm pretty pleased with the sleeve addition, and I think it's an easy nod to the trends as well as providing some cool summery coverage. This addition could be easily grafted onto any kimono-style cap sleeve so I'm sure would work with many patterns. I went with the straight hem version of the dress this time, and after being tempted to leave it loose in the middle (my boyfriend was not sold on this look) I brought it in with 6 rows of shirring, each 1/4" apart.
If you're keen to try this yourself, the steps are as follows (sorry I didn't take any photos along the way, this was very much an experiment that I'm glad worked out):
1. Draft your fluted sleeve by tracing the armhole curve* from the pattern. Draw lines at the sides for as long as you want your sleeve to be, adding 3cm for seam allowance at the top and bottom of the sleeve extension (I went for 14cm + 3cm for these half-sleeves). To achieve a kicky fluted effect I copied the curve of the shoulder seam on both sides to form the overarm fold and underarm seamline. Use a French curve to draw a smooth outer edge.
2. Cut 4 of your new sleeve extensions on the overarm fold, 2 as the sleeve and 2 as the facing. Attach your sleeve to the sleeve facing along the lower edge, using a standard 1.5cm seam allowance.
3. For the order of construction, I attached these after I'd sewn the shoulder seams, but before sewing my side seams (if I did it again I think I would finish my neckline first, as there is a fair bit of fabric manipulation while you're attaching and finishing the sleeves which I think may have stretched out my neckline a little). Right sides together, sew the inner curve of the sleeve extension into your arm opening.
4. Sew the side seams of the dress, sleeves and sleeve facings in one pass and finish seam allowances.
5. Fold the facings back into the inside of the sleeve and press. Press 1.5cm along the remaining raw edge and pin to cover the inside sleeve seam, easing as you go, with all seam allowances caught between the sleeve and sleeve facing. From the outside, stitch in the ditch (if you can! I'm rubbish at this) or, if you're me, 1/8” away from the seam to catch the facing neatly in place.
6. Ta-dah, you have kicky little flute sleeves!
Things I might streamline if I did it again:
1. *I hadn't factored in the shoulder seam allowance would make a smaller armhole when I traced that curve. Next time, I might shave this off, as I had to do a fair bit of easing to get the smooth sleeve insertion I wanted. Or, if I was making this in a floatier fabric, I could go the other way and add more ease here for a more bohemian ruffled effect!
2. Cut the facings slightly smaller along all the edges to make the final folding back and stitching in place smoother, and also to ensure the facings stay inside and out of sight. Depending on fabric, you could always ditch the facing and just do a baby hem to finish the edge of the sleeve.
3. The length of these sleeves hits me right in the crook of the elbow. Next time, I might either shorten them a cm or two, or even take the length off from the shoulder seam so they start a little higher up.
I traced this pattern out as large on top and medium from the waist down and I think if I made it again I'd just go medium all over, as actually it's got plenty of ease and I think there is too much in the back. It doesn't bother me too much though for these quick and easy summer versions, and I appreciate the breeze!
The fabric I made this up in is salvaged from my mother's stash. There are still a couple of metres left I could make another little dress or blouse in! This is I think a polycotton, judging by its texture, which is a teeny bit crisp. Its likely provenance is Peter Jones in the early '80s, as my mum used to work in the haberdashery department there.
So, overall not a bad experiment and definitely an easy dress to chuck on for work or a summery day out. I don't think it's the most stunning thing I've ever sewn, but it does seem to have earned me a few more doors held open for me than normal so that's something I suppose! Is anyone else doing any experimental sewing?