It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I didn’t get much sewing done in December – it was a month of holidays, travelling, and redecorating our apartment. It was actually nice to focus on thing besides sewing, and then to dive back in in the New Year. When I did dive back in, it was project after project of quick and easy garments – if you check out my Instagram you’ll see what I mean. One week I finished three garments on consecutive days. By the end of it, I really felt that I was missing the challenge of creative fabric use and garment construction.
When I wrote my “Make Nine for 2019” list, I listed a patchwork dress as something I wanted to make this year. I have a lot (not a huge pile, but a lot) of substantial fabric scraps and I had been holding onto them with the hopes that I’d use them some day. But new and exciting fabric always took precedence. This time, I decided to dive in and start my patchwork dress already. I told myself not to overthink it because in the end, I wasn’t going to waste the fabric, and it wouldn’t cost me anything other than time!
I started by taking a great tried-and-true pattern that I use over and over because I know it fits me so well – the Elisalex dress pattern from By Hand London. I took the bodice pieces and marked lines on each of them, dividing the pattern pieces into chunks that could be patched together. I traced those “chunks” and added seam allowances to them, being careful to number each tracing and write its coordinating number on the actual pattern piece. For example, the front of the bodice was divided into 8 patches, and each patch was marked “1F (for front), 2F, etc.” so I wouldn’t be looking at vague rectangles later on wondering where they go.
Then I just picked up the pieces of fabric from my scrap basket and played around with which ones I thought looked nice together, before cutting out the pieces. There were times when I cut out the pieces only to realize they didn’t really look nice together – but it was fine, because the patch pieces were so small that I had extra fabric to play with.
When I had settled on the pieces I liked together, I sewed them together and the result was a normal bodice pattern piece, only made up of smaller pieces! I was then able to sew each of the pattern sections together as usual.
To make the skirt, I really just improvised. I cut out rectangles and rearranged them until I had two rectangles about 30″ wide and 25″ tall. I sewed in pockets and gathered the rectangle to make a gathered skirt.
Since there were so many seams that weren’t finished in this dress (I wasn’t going to serge/overlock each patch seam), I had to line it. I used scraps to line the bodice, some random blue cotton I found at a textile sale to line the sleeves, and some gorgeous viscose batiste from Fabrications Ottawa to line the skirt (the only part that didn’t use scraps).
I used an invisible zipper I had lying around and basted it in to be sure that all the patches lined up in the back, and then I hand-stitched the lining in (usually I’m lazy and machine-sew the lining to the zipper but I wanted to go all-out here). Then, as the final touch, I finished the armhole seams with some bias binding (I wasn’t going to take out the serger for two seams! Also it looks so much nicer.)
And that was it! With all the pattern matching and piecing together, it took me a solid week to complete this dress. It was so much fun to flex my creative muscle and sew something with a lot of creative play involved. I had a lot of people comment on Instagram that they’ve always wanted to make a patchwork dress – we all have scraps! – so if you’ve been thinking about it, I encourage you to dive in! You have absolutely nothing to lose 🙂