March 8, 2015

The Boo Designs Gallery Dress - in knit!

I've been testing fabulous girls dress sewing pattern this past week or so called The Gallery Dress by Boo! Designs. It's basically a mod shift dress with a whole heap of fantastic options. I have been after a good simple shift dress pattern for so long and I am pretty sure this is my favourite Boo pattern ever, which is a massive call because I really like Boo patterns.

Simple designs often give more flexibility in terms of the fabric you can use, and although the Gallery Dress is designed for woven fabrics, and sized for woven fabrics, it is an easy dress to adapt to use knit fabrics as well. And anyone who reads this blog knows that I am a big fan of knits, plus my stash is out of control and I can't stop buying them, so I really need to sew with them!

I've mentioned this before, and the internet is also full of information about how not all knits are the same. It is important to understand this when sewing. Just because something looks lousy or good with one type of knit doesn't mean it will or won't work with another type. As you become more experienced with sewing with knits, you will start to understand these differences for yourself. For children's clothing I tend to favour cotton/spandex (also called cotton/lycra) blends. Most I use tend to have a lycra content of around 5 - 8%, and the rest is cotton. Interlock is a popular choice for many new to knit sewers - I am not a fan of interlock myself, but we are all different, so don't write your interlock stash off from reading that - you may like it. For this particular hack though, I am using cotton/lycra fabrics. And beware of super cheap prices. You usually get what you pay for with regards to the quality of knits. There is also information all over the internet on how to hem knits. I'm not going to cover this here - I will simply just tell you to hem via your preferred method. Rest assured this can be all done on your normal machine. You do not need a fancy coverstitch machine - I have one and I love it, but I survived years without one.

The gallery dress is a very simple sew in knits.  Before you cut though, think carefully about whether the fabric you have chosen will look like a dress all made up, or a nightie. It's really easy to cross that line with knits! I also recommend you measure you child, the chest measurement is particularly important. You should size down in width to convert this pattern for knits, and remember width is based on the chest measurement, so if you have a child who measures a 6 in height, and a 4 across the chest, you will need to cut a 3 width with a 6 height. Does that make sense? Also, if your child is at the lower end of the height scale (i.e. a few cm below the height measurement for the pattern), you may need to go down a size in length for the bottom hem as well - but you can always just chop a bit off at the end before you hem if this is the case. Knits sit closer to the body than most woven fabrics, and are a little heavier, so tend to sew up a bit longer when using the same pattern pieces.

To start with you need to cut the following
1 x front piece (cut on fold as per pattern instructions)
1 x back piece (also cut on fold)
2 x sleeves of your choice (and there are 5 different options in the pattern). I have cut the long gathered sleeve. Don't worry about facings, or sleeve bands at the moment, I will discuss them later on.

My pieces are above - you will see a fox appliqué mysteriously appeared on my fabric overnight to liven it up a little - don't be afraid to appliqué knits. Just go slowly and use fusible webbing to stick the appliqué to the knit prior to sewing. I have cut a 2 in length, and a 1 width. Zoe measures exactly 54cm for her chest (size 2) and 94cm for height (slightly above the size 2 measurement).

For all sewing, you should use a stretch stitch or an overlocker if you have 4+ threads are are confident with your overlocker. I am using white thread deliberately on this so you can see what I am talking about, but it would look prettier if you matched your thread. You should also know that knits are easy to stretch as they go through your machine. Try not to stretch them - you will end up with warped seams, and if you notice your seams looking wavy, especially on the overlocker, you need to adjust your differential feed. Steam is also your best friend with knits (it really helps snap any overstretched fibres back into place) and I would recommend ironing all seams with a good shot or two of steam after sewing.

Let's get started then.
1. Place front and back pieces right sides together. Sew front to back at shoulder seams. If you are doing a bigger size, and you have a fabric that has a lot of drape and feels heavy, you may need to sew cotton tape or clear elastic into the shoulder seams to stop them stretching out over time. I don't really ever need it with cotton lycra though - it is a very stable knit.
2. Set in the sleeve as per the pattern instructions. Your dress should look like this now.

3.  Sew the bottom sleeve seam, and  the side seam as per the pattern instructions, and you are almost finished. See how easy it is?
Now we are going to finish the sleeves. The way you finish the sleeve will differ depending on the sleeve that you have chosen. I recommend the following finishes
*For the simple short sleeve, just simply turn under and hem as per your preferred method for hemming knits.
*For the sleeveless version, I would finish with a strip of knit fabric applied in the same way as the bias tape in the pattern instructions
*For the long simple sleeve I would remove some of the length and add a cuff to the end.
*For the short gathered sleeve I would use the sleeve band pattern piece add it to the dress as outlined below.
*See below for the long gathered sleeve.

4. Sew gathering stitches around the bottom of the sleeve as directed by the pattern

5. Cut your sleeve band piece, but make it shorter width wise than the band piece. It will stretch and go over the wrist easily (provided you cut it in the direction of the stretch if you only have one way stretch) and for knits, I think you want the sleeve band to sit nice and snug so the sleeves don't ride up.

You can see how much shorter I have cut mine, and I could have cut it a little shorter. Direction of stretch must go with the width of the cuff. Just ignore the word draft on the pattern piece above and remember I was testing when I photographed this piece, which is why the word draft is there.

6. Sew the short ends of the cuff together (right sides facing) to turn the cuff into a circle.

7. Open up the seam allowances and press open. Now fold the in half wrong sides together to cover the seams and form a cuff. Mark the halfway points to the cuff with a pin. Now take your dress and turn it inside out. Place the cuff inside the sleeve (on the right side of the sleeve) and match up the pin on the cuff on the seam with the sleeve seam that goes under the arm. Match up the other halfway point of the cuff with the outside sleeve seam. Pull the gathering stitches until the material fits the size of the cuff.

8. Sew around the sleeve cuff and secure it to the sleeve using a 1cm seam allowance. Finish the seam and press seam allowances back towards the sleeve. Repeat for the other side and your sleeves are all finished. Sorry the picture is so blurred - I didn't realise it was that out of focus until I uploaded it to the computer and its the only one I have. Just squint a little and it will be clearer….
9. Time to finish the neck now. We are going to finish the neck with a band. There are a few different ways to do this. I have described one way here for those of you who want all seams hidden on the inside. When adding a neckband, you need the band to be approximately 80% the circumference of the neckline, and you want to stretch it a bit as it is sewn on to make sure the neck sits nice and firm against the body and doesn't gape. Make sure you cut the length of the neckband with the stretch of the fabric.
For me I use the highly accurate sight check method - where I find the centre front and centre back and lay the dress down with one of these at each end. Then I cut the band to be around 80% of this length - remembering seam allowance of course. 
See, there's my dress and you can see I have cut the neckband that bit shorter. My neckband is around 1.5 inches wide because I am going to use my coverstitch machine to sew it down. I'd recommend about 2 inches wide if you are just overlocking it on. I do realise I haven't given you accurate measurements here and that is because quite honestly, near enough is good enough and will work. However if your name is Brooke Sleep (couldn't resist), or you are a very particular sewer for whom that is not acceptable. you should measure the circumference of the neck and cut the band to 80% of that length plus seam allowance.

10. Sew the short ends of your neckband together (right sides facing) to create a circle, just like we did with the sleeve bands. Press the seam allowance open, and then fold the band back on itself to cover the seams and create a band. Press the band.
11. You can attach the band a few ways - 
* there is the method I used here, which will cover all the seams, OR
* you can divide the band into quarters and pin the quarters. Do the same with the neckline of the dress.  Turn the dress inside out, and place the band inside, matching and pinning at quarter points. The neck of the dress should be larger than the band at this point. Make sure you place the seam of the band at the back of the dress, not the front. Sew the band and neck together, stretching the neckband to fit the dress as you go using a small seam allowance. Finish the seam,press seam allowances toward the dress, and the band is on (You can topstitch the seam allowances to the dress at this point if you wish) OR
* unfold the band, mark quarter points and sew it on like you would bias tape, one side at a time, stretching as you go to make the band fit the neckline. Overlock the seam allowances before you tip the band over and sew it to the other side. Use a coverstitch machine to sew the band down at the end, which is what I have done here. Sadly my machine has skipped over the bulky seam allowances at the back (grrr) so I am going to have to unpick and resew at some point. You can see the gap in the sitting at the back. So frustrating!!!
Finally, hem the dress using your preferred hemming technique and it's all done. Here are some pictures of mine on my daughter, mostly because I was trying out my new lens and want to post them because I am pretty proud of myself…..even though my photography friends will still laugh at me!

During the testing process, my friend Tiffany from Eva and Lucy also sewed up a top and a dress. Here they are on one of her adorable twins (or possibly both, I can't tell them apart).

It works really well for the top length as well. And if for some reason, it is too tight to fit over your child's head, don't despair and cry and throw it in the bin. You can just use the quick fix here to add a closure point to the back of the dress.

For those who are interested, my striped fabric is a Hilco knit from Crafty Mamas Fabrics.
The Solid Blue is a denim blue cotton lycra knit purchased from Zebra Fabrics.
The Boo Designs Gallery Dress pattern is available for purchase from the Boo website - just click below the Boo monkey on the right side bar.

I hope this all makes sense and thanks for following along. Please note I am not paid to write this hack - I believe all the information you need to sew it is here, and I have very limited time to blog and sew for leisure because I have a family and also dresses people have paid for to make! I will help where I can, but please just be brave and have a go yourself! Thanks for reading along and happy sewing,


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