Tag Archives: tips

How I made the Joan dress out of a knit

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?

joan dress

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.

joan dress

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.

joan (2)

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.

joan dress

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.

joan dress darts

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.

joan dress

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

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.

joan dress

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.

joan dress

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.

joan dress

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.

Finally hems.

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!

JOan  dress



The ever developing trouser fitting story

Well hello!  Here is a progress report on my trouser block, started at one of the brilliant workshops at RayStitch in London last autumn with Jane.  My quest to understand how to sew trousers that fit is a long one with the Ultimate Trousers being the best out of the packet pattern that I have used.  But there is still this urge to rid myself of any uncertainties & I aspire to my own custom fitted trouser block.


OK, it’s a slow burner, but I feel I am making progress.  This was my first draft.  My puppytooth check straight legs in an unhelpful viscose mix.   Jane also made her first pair in this fabric & had fabric issues (preparing me as she sewed hers first 😉 ).   I made these without the aid of a full length mirror when camping sewing, & it was only at the photo blogging stage that I saw how the fit was not there yet.  And I mean really not there yet.   But I wore them a bit despite this.  Saggy crotch and dragging hemlines and all, telling myself they were ‘vintage fit’.trousers

But they weren’t.  I knew work was still to be done.  With a fabric though that was more compliant to give me uncomplicated fitting.  And that’s where this fabric came in.

trouser fabric

This is some kind of a viscose mix, warm, but not drapey & without stretch.  And guess what?  It was a jubilant purchase from my new discovery – a fabric shop 10 mins drive away from my new home.  I never knew it was there, secreted in a larger craft shop, Rose Crafts of Midsomer Norton.  (Yes, I live near a Midsomer !!  but no Inspector Barnaby 😉 ) It’s a well stocked craft shop, but I have to admit I honed in on the haberdashery & the fabric.  I will be well served.  The fabric section is pretty good – both reasonably prices, and good selection considering there is limited space & therefore a smaller stock & it is only part of the overall craft shop.  But I even saw fabrics I have bought myself (eg in Goldhawk road) at the same price  if not slightly cheaper!  And haberdashery is not the size of that purveyed by the Bath Guildhall Market (I have been so spoiled having that on my doorstep!) but pretty wide ranging.  Still, a car journey away, albeit 10-15 minutes.

So this fabric is a darkish blue with a faint stripe & nice & warm to wear.  I cut out my trouser block again & sewed them up, fitting them in front of a full length mirror this time with fabric that I knew would behave.  I feel I am closer to a perfect fit now.  The darts, side seams & crotch curve are not causing any obvious creasing.  I also took in the leg width below the knee as the width I drafted originally really is too wide.

trousers (8)

What I love about this particular trouser block, & it comes from the method used at the class I am certain, is the way that the waistline sits perfectly on my waist.  So often I have made things (& obviously lie to myself) with a waistline that does not correspond with my natural waist.  But this is really good now, sitting there all snug, in its natural dips & rises.


I repeated the grosgrain ribbon detail instead of a facing & it also has a nice effect of cinching in & stabilising the waist – & when wearing it feels really nice & secure.

trousers So do you like seeing the Sarah shirt under a V neck – it’s such an easy look …loving it!  Wear, wash, dry (no iron) wear, wash, dry …..

Inspired by this fit I looked at the original draft pair of puppytooth trousers with the saggy crotch & uber wide legs, stood in front of the mirror armed with pins, & pinned out where there was excess – mainly around the front crotch curve.

crotch seam

Playing around with pins (but oh so carefully around that crotch 😉 Tip – do it on the outside 🙂  ) I saw that taking some of this excess out would probably give me a much better fit, which would feel nicer to wear as well.  I translated the leg width changes to this pair also & raised the hemline.


I do think I may have rescued these now!  My tips for trouser fitting are to have a resource available to you such as Pants for Real People (I do think this is the trouser fitting bible!) as this helps identify enough of the issues to give you a reasonable understanding about creases, pulls & sagging to diagnose common problems.   But by going through this learning I believe you have a better chance of trying out your own adjustments, eg playing around with pins to tweak the crotch seam & darts / sideseams so that you can see when you’ve got it wrong & new creases appear, what they mean…what to try next ….

So I now have a trouser block which needs to be traced onto a more sturdy form.  In theory I should be able to play around with fastenings, leg widths, pockets, waistbands….the lot!


I am likely to use this block to create the pattern for my posh wool fabric – I want to make a straight leg pair of front fastening trousers with back pockets that have flaps.  Maybe narrower legs, almost cigarette style….

Are you on the never ending trouser fitting journey?  Do you think you are there, then discover more or find that a fabric throws such a spanner in the mix that you have to relearn everything you thought you had got through?