Lately the tension on my sewing machine has been giving me fits. It all started right after we moved in November. After a couple of months, I finally deduced that it was the adapter I was using to power the machine. The voltage was wrong, or something like that, and it wasn’t supplying the sewing machine with enough power to work properly. Well, by the time I figured this out I had fiddled around with the tension so much that I now had a real tension problem. Finally, it’s just about back to normal. I got back to sewing with this simple shift dress pattern.
I made this shift dress with one of the Marimekko fabrics I bought in Dubai. It’s the Pieni Hattarakukka pattern and it’s made of 55% cotton, 45% linen. It’s a medium weight fabric, perfect for home items or a structured garment. I didn’t know what I wanted to use it for when I picked it out, but I was leaning more toward pillow covers or some other home decor. Then I decided that what I really need is new clothes. In the past year, I haven’t given my little expat wardrobe much thought. Now, some of my clothes are threadbare, others just don’t fit into my current lifestyle. So it’s about time I direct my efforts to livening up my closet. I particularly need easy dresses that will wear well during the hot weather in Saudi Arabia. These dresses should also easily go under an abaya, the black robe-like garment that women have wear in public in Saudi Arabia. I think this shift dress fits those criteria well.
I didn’t use a commercial pattern to make this dress. I still haven’t found a place in Riyadh that sells commercial sewing patterns. I also did not find a free shift dress pattern online, though there are many for purchase. I figured this pattern is simple enough for me to make on my own. I did take a patternmaking class long ago in college and I’ve recently been brushing up on the fundamentals. It amazes me the things that are buried in my brain. Slopers, dart manipulation, these things are still in there. I’ve retained a lot more knowledge of patternmaking than I thought. I was never much good at patternmaking. When I was younger I didn’t have the patience to work through the learning curve that comes along with anything technical. I’m so much better at that process now.
I used a sheath dress that fits me well as the template for the neckline and armholes. Then, I simply traced that dress and made alterations to the skirt and created a bust dart. I made the back of the dress lower, so that I’d be able to slip the dress on over my head. I mocked up the dress in muslin first and made adjustments before cutting out the final draft on my nice Marimekko fabric. This tutorial on Craftsy.com is helpful for making a pattern from an existing garment. I was a little apprehensive about how I’d feel about this Marimekko pattern as a dress, but I love it so much more seeing it in this way. And the fabric is structured enough to give the dress a strong, sixties, early seasons of Mad Men, shift dress silhouette without being too stiff.