I have always been a dress rather than a separates fan. It’s so easy in the blurry-eyed-denial state of early morning to pull one garment off the hanger that only requires the addition of some shoes in order to look reasonably put together. Cotton dresses have always been my sewing happy place, and until I sewed my first Lady Skater I had never made a knit dress before.
I have to tell you it was a total epiphany. I should also point out that although I now have an overlocker (knits are my friends) I ran up my first two incarnations of this pattern on a normal run of the mill sewing machine without any hassle.
I had seen Kitschycoo’s Lady Skater around the internet for a while, and always thought it looked nice, but I wasn’t sure about the fit on me. Would it work with such a big difference between my bust and my waist measurements – would I get the neckline to lay nicely? The questions always put me off tackling it. In the end it was the purchase of some wonderful very cheap viscose jersey that got me started. This fabric was such an amazing bargain that it didn’t really matter if I made a patterned jersey potato sack, so I went online, ordered the pattern and I was all set.
At just £7.50 for the pdf (around $12) it is one of the best value indie patterns available. One of the other fantastic things about the pattern is the very detailed instructions that come with it. Depending on your level of sewing experience you can sew along with really detailed step by step instructions (complete with photos), or you can follow a less detailed set of instructions if you are a more confident and accomplished sewer. As it was my first knit dress I followed the photographic version step by step which made it a breeze. Amanda includes loads of helpful hints and tips as you work your way through, from how to take your measurements to determine what size to make, to getting a perfectly finished neckline.
It’s really important on this pattern to understand the difference between your bust measurement and your high bust measurement. I spent many years making tops and dress bodices that would never fit quite right because I was cutting the size that matched my full bust measurement. It is much more accurate to cut the size that corresponds to your high bust measurement (measure just underneath your armpits to get this measurement) and then alter the bust with an FBA if you need to.
Amanda also recommends making a muslin/toile of your first bodice to get the fit perfect. I had cut the largest size throughout for my muslin (a silly mistake given my smaller high bust measurement and waist measurement) and then to compound the disaster I added no width into the sleeve to accommodate my chubby upper arms, and so I ended up with this:
Hmmm, galaxy patterned cube dress anyone?
Luckily, I had a lot of this fabric so it was back to the pattern cutting table. I tweaked my bodice pieces to better match my measurements, did my standard upper arm adjustment on the sleeve piece and then, voilá, success! I went slow with this version and yet it was still all done and dusted in a couple of hours.
Then I saw some other brilliant fabric in an online sale and I knew it was destined to be another Lady Skater. This time I was tight on fabric so the skirt is a little shorter than I normally wear (I don’t like to show my knees in a full skirt, but I felt that being emblazoned in scantily clad women drew eyes away from my pudgy knees). I love this star-spangled dress, it’s one of my most commented upon hand-sewn garments, and with my red cardi I do feel a bit like superwoman in it.
Now the fit was right there was no stopping me. Next up was my camo version. Again some bargain fabric, but this time it was a stretch jersey (that didn’t actually stretch!) It made for interesting fitting and even now when I first put it on out of the wash it feels like it is made from Kevlar, but it does ease in with body warmth.
By now my fit was perfect and I could run up one of these babies in around an hour and a half. I had finally tackled the art of twin needle hems and discovered the perfect length. Then I stumbled across some wonderful fabric on a german website and another incarnation was born. This one I made in the afternoon and wore out to dinner that night. I’m afraid I am something of an instant gratification junkie so this dress really works for me. I had some hilarious issues on pattern placement on this version, watching very carefully exactly where the windows and the door of the buildings on the print appeared. (You can read more about this on my blog.)
These four dresses quickly became my most worn handmade items of all time. It’s a pattern that can be dressed up or down and it lends itself to many different styles of fabric. I’m sure a plain black version would make a fabulous (yet comfortable) dress that could be worn to “dos” in the evening, or choose a thick ponte knit for the perfect autumnal dress with tights. Here in the UK we’re falling headlong into summer, so I wanted something more appropriate for the warm weather, something a bit more flowing, maybe even with some flounces …
With that in mind I set about Lady Skater dress number five – inspired by this bright floral print and the dresses my mum wore in the seventies. I altered the short sleeve into a bell sleeve (this is incredibly easy and I’ll be posting a mini tutorial soon), I lengthened the skirt slightly and then added a glorious frill at the bottom.
I think this is my favourite one yet.
In summary, this is a brilliant and easy pattern that you will be wearing long after other fad garments you’ve sewn have ended up at goodwill. It is definitely a piece of wardrobe ‘cake’ rather than ‘icing’ and I think perfectly suited to all curvy women whose narrowest measurement is under the bust. Remember, you can shorten or lengthen the bodice to make the dress more or less empire line as you require. As I generally want mine to skim over my stomach and thigh area I always sit bodices on my high waist.
TNT Pattern Details:
Sizing: 1-8. The largest size fits a high bust measurement of 44″/118cm and a high waist of 38″/96.5 cm.
What size did you make? I cut the 8 at the bust and graded down to the 7 at the waist. My measurements are 47-38-49.
What adjustments did you make?
- I shorten the bodice a lot (around two to two and a half inches depending on how stretchy my fabric is).
- I make a one inch width adjustment to the sleeve to accommodate my chunky upper arm – I don’t feel comfortable in clothes that cling too much in that area.
- I add extra swoosh to the skirt by adding to the side seams on an arc to extend to use the full width of the 60″/150 cm wide fabric.
- I add one and a half to two inches to the skirt length so that it ends just below my knee on some versions.
- In later versions I add knit pockets (so I always have somewhere to hide treasure!)
Fabric and Notions required: About 2.5m of fabric for the long sleeve dress, and around 2m for the short sleeve version. 2 yards of clear 1/4 inch elastic, a twin needle (for perfect hems).
Curvy Rating (1-5): 4.5 – This dress is perfect in every way once you get the bodice fit right. It’s a true multi season dress and so wearable, I practically live in mine. Be warned though, as making them is highly addictive.