Julie Bowersett


Blog Writing Course Alumni

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My Birthday Dress

Not to be confused with my birthday suit :-)

Last year I made this dress in honor of my 10th wedding anniversary.

I love how easy this dress is to wear.  It is a lengthened version of my Pamela's Patterns Perfect T-Shirt and has the comfort of, well, a t-shirt.  I have wanted to make something similar ever since.

I celebrated my 50th birthday in October and decided I needed a new dress for an evening out with my husband.  I chose a simple princess line fit-and-flare dress which I have made a number of times out of wovens.  This time I decided to try it from a knit, eliminating the zipper to make this a pull-on affair.

The fabric is a tissue-weight knit from Vogue Fabrics.  The fabric is unusual in that sections of it are more sheer than others.  It is sheer enough in areas that it needed to be lined.

I used a nude, 4-way-stretch piece for the lining.  To hide the seam allowances, I underlined each dress section individually and then treated them as one.  I machine stitched the seams with a zigzag stitch and then finished them with the serger (the method I often prefer for sewing knits).  I like how the princess seams disappear in the fabric's pattern but still provide lots of nice shaping and fit. 

The sleeve hems gave me trouble.  I first tried a method I heard Sandra Betzina talk about recently in a workshop.  She stay stitches 1/2-inch from the cut edge, folds along the stitching line and zigzags just above the fold, trimming the extra fabric away after stitching.  This fabric was too unstable (even when I stitched over stabilizer).  Next I tried fusing a lightweight bias tape to the hem edge.  I solved the stability problem but now the hem stuck out in a stiff manner.  I had enough fabric left to recut the sleeves.  This time I cut the hem on a fold, making a double-layered sleeve.  I sewed the under arm seam then folded along the hem line and treated both layers as one.  This compromised the sheerness of the sleeve a bit but made for a lovely, bulk-free hem that looks very nice.

The neckline was bound with a fabric strip cut on the crosswise grain.

Already this has become a favorite, worn with a little jacket for cooler days.

My husband and I rarely exchange gifts, so imagine my surprise when I walked into my sewing room on my birthday morning and found a beautiful Alabama Chanin jacket draped on my dressform.  It was this one that I tried on when I visited their studio last November:

After I blogged about that experience, including a picture of this jacket, he contacted them and arranged to have this sent to him.  Then he held onto it for nearly a year before surprising me with it for my landmark birthday.  What a keeper (both the husband and the jacket).  I am really grateful for this beautiful heirloom piece.  It has been almost exactly one year since I traveled to Alabama for that wonderful weekend workshop.  The dress I started then is nearing completion -- it is in the construction phase, and I hope it will be finished in the next couple of weeks.  When I started that dress I proclaimed it a year-long project, and it will be just about that.  I can't wait to share it with you.

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Reader Comments (3)

Happy Birthday! You lucky girl. The jacket is a true prize. What a guy to capture that for you. I'm thrilled it is yours. It is one gorgeous piece of Alabama Chanin work. Can't wait to see you sporting it my friend.

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlinda

Happy Birthday from an admirer of your projects and blog. What a wonderful gift from your husband. I can imagine your surprise. I am looking forward to a photo of you in your lovely jacket. Thank you for sharing your projects and a part of your life. When I need some inspiration to sew I re-read your blogs. and I have learned a lot from your tutorials. I wished I could have connected with you while I lived in the DC area. i still miss shopping at G Street Fabrics. Best wishes for many more happy and healthy birthdays!!

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

I love the solution of doubling the sleeve with a folded hem. Brilliant!
Also love the Chanin Jacket. All I want to know is how he hid it from you for almost a year! He must have had a co-conspirator hide it away from the house. So glad he did it "right" for your special day.


November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLynn B

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