Hello again! Are you tempted to make a Joan dress in a knit? I used a ponte from Girl Charlee Uk which is lovely quality & a joy to sew with as well. But what did I do differently to take the Joan dress pattern that is designed to be used with woven fabrics, to get an almost nice fitting version in a beautifully comfy knit?
As promised I’m going to share the method & adjustments I used – I am not saying there isn’t an even better way to do this. But it worked for me!! Maybe it’ll launch you on your own journey to give it a go? Coming up with your own adaptations & ideas?
First of all I prepared myself with this article (very timely) in February’s Seamwork magazine on how you can use patterns that are designed for wovens for knit fabrics. It’s an excellent piece written by Christina Haynes & tells you what to consider about how adaptable the pattern is, how you can break the rules, how darts & closures are not always needed, It gave me food for thought & prepared me.
However, I think my best preparation, as already mentioned, is that I had seen how a tie neck bodice could be made in a knit with the Colette Patterns’ Moneta dress. I also prepared myself to make the bodice as a toile & sew each seam in basting stitches to fit before overlocking. And this I did (although why I did not get that sway back right irks me a bit as I will have to go back & adjust it).
Fitting – from woven to knit
So, after some thought I decided to make the Joan dress in my usual size & if necessary make it smaller. I also felt confident that I would not need any kind of fastenings, so cut the back pieces (bodice and skirt) on the fold (minus the seam allowances) The ponte de roma is a reasonably stable knit with some stretch but not toooooo much.
I was going to make this pattern up with darts & all because Joan is a shapely darling & just because you don’t always use darts with a knit, doesn’t mean they are banned or wrong. I think the first time I used darts in a knit was with one of Maria Denmark’s dresses, Audrey dress, which uses back darts for shaping). So I felt that the ponte would behave positively if I stuck to the darts to make this dress super shapely. And it did. I just had to make the darts bigger & take much bigger side seams. As I said, I sewed it all using a long basting straight stitch (with a ballpoint needle) to then work out what fitting I needed to do.
Long straight ‘basting ‘ stitch – see the adjustment I am making from the original stitching line
Once I was close to the final fit, I then used my overlocker for the final seams. NB I basted the side seams but did not overlock them until later, see below!
Here is how much I took the darts in by. And the side seams.
Please look closely – there are two lines of stitching, honest!
I plan to make more Joans in a knit, so made a copy of the bodice pattern as adapted for knits…will save me time next go. All in all by my reckoning the side seams came in by a further 1cm each plus the extra shaping at the darts.
I also used this approach when the time came to fit the skirt – sewing with my basting straight stitch before using the overlocker when I had done the fitting to make the final seams.
So that is how I got the fit (almost, bar sway back.)
Stabilising seams – from woven to knit
You wouldn’t generally stabilise seams in a woven, but I always stabilise my shoulder seams in any knit tops/ dresses that I make by sewing clear elastic, seam binding, or even narrow ribbon in the seam allowance. My overlocker has a special gap in the foot which allows you to thread through tape/ elastic (providing it is narrow enough) so that it becomes part of the stitching process as you serge the seam.
I also stabilised the waist seam – with clear elastic. You wouldn’t be able to use non stretch binding or ribbon here otherwise you would not be able to get the dress on & off without a zip. However I think it is needed & I sewed the seam attaching the bodice to the skirt, then used my regular machine to attach the elastic (not at all stretched, just flat) to the seam allowance. This adds stability & recovery should the seam get under pressure with being put on/ taken off. That’s my thinking, anyway, there might be other reasons that it is useful, it certainly will not hurt it.
Inserting the sleeves- from woven to knit
Of course you know that I am going to tell you that I inserted the sleeves flat, not needing to gather the sleeve heads, but carefully used the stretchy properties of the fabric to accommodate sleeves into armscyes. (I had removed the basting stitches before being able to do this) The sleeves were then completed with the side seams of the bodice in one single seam. (Which I knew would be OK, as I had already fitted the bodice by basting it together).
Process for attaching the collar & tie neck – from woven to knit
There were some adjustments I made to the process for adding the collar & tie neck. I still stay stitched the neckline, front & back (with a long machine straight stitch). I also cut the tie pieces on the bias, (as per woven pattern) as these pieces have to work hard to go around the curves & despite working in a knit, I think you need the bias to max out those curvalicious properties). Next time I will remember that I only need to cut the collar as one piece too! After all there is no centre back seam to allow for…But, here’s the main difference between the pattern for the woven & the changes I made- the pattern creates a lined bodice as a woven & this is how the collar’s finish is kept nice & neat, hiding the raw edges within the lining.
Now although my raw edges would be nice & overlocked, I did not want them peaking out at unforeseen moments, so I took the route taken with attaching the collar to the Moneta dress, sewing the right side of the collar to the wrong side of the bodice neckline, then flipping the collar out to the right side. This leaves the inside of the neckline, an area that I felt might come on show accidentally, super neat.
Attaching the collar – following on with the overlocker
(Tip: To make sure I got the collar sitting in the right places I also basted the collar on first of all, with a long straight machine stitch, before passing over with the overlocker. This is much easier than negotiating pins & the tie neck has some very specific match points needed & if they slip it would be more than a bit of a spoiler). However, remember I mentioned how the bias pieces are needed to navigate the curve of the neckline? Well I felt that even with a hearty press, the collar might not stay put on its own accord. I took counter measures & actually slip stitched the collar edge to the neck seam, as that is how the collar liked to sit – kind of folded along its length to hug the curve of the neckline.
That might not have made any sense at all to you, so here’s a close up. The collar is permanently (well as permanent as my hand stitching) in this position.
The kick pleat
Now the woven version of the Joan dress relies on the lining to help with the finish of the kick pleat. For a knit version, with no lining, you just have to make sure you create the same kind of overlap, securing where necessary to sustain it.
I trimmed some of the vertical pleat extension off for the edge that would be underneath the pleat & turned the long vertical edge over & secured it with a regular straight stitch.
The top layer of the kick pleat does not have any vertical stitching on it, but I have reinforced the diagonal top edge of the pleat with regular straight stitch. This also holds the top edge in place. The hem holds the bottom edge in place and together I think this is all that is needed.
This is a figure hugging dress which means the hem of the skirt could be subject to some stretch with a stretch fabric. Sleeve hems are definitely areas of potential stretch stress. So hem the Joan dress in whichever way you usually hem your knits- twin needle, coverstitch or triple zig zag.
What do you think? Tempted? Go on!