From bright scarlet to deep oxblood, I feel that red is a colour that just works with my pale skin and dark hair. I usually wear a soft, muted red lipstick as my ‘everyday lipstick’, and right now in my eyeline, I can spot my deep red satchel, my cherry red welly boots (essential in rainy Oxford at the minute!), and my burgundy tartan scarf. Safe to say, I adore the colour red!
Making myself a seasonally-appropriate red dress has been on my “To Sew” list for a while now, especially now that it has got colder. I spotted this ruby red ponte on sale at Pin & Sew and was instantly impressed when it arrived. It is such good quality — the colour is gorgeous and the actual fabric feels thick and structured, but so soft. It has a beautiful drape combined with a good amount of stretch (35% widthwise and 35% lengthwise). It is also a viscose/nylon blend, which I have been after for ages; I have seen many polyester blends of ponte, but viscose blends seem to be a little bit trickier to come across. Ponte is up there with one of the ‘easiest’ stretch knits to sew, as it is pretty stable and behaves similarly to woven fabrics — I made sure to use a ballpoint needle and pins, and my walking foot to ensure that this ponte behaved itself.
I poked around in my pattern stash to find a pattern that would work with ponte and came across New Look 6341. This is a cute skater dress with different sleeve and length options; I really like the princess seamed bodice and the knife pleats on the skirt! I went for View B, but left out the back inset and used my fabric for the sleeves, instead of the lace illustrated on the pattern envelope. I feel this is the perfect combination of ‘smart, yet cosy’ dress that I can wear to work — the scoop back is a nice detail and the pockets are a must (seriously, I will try and put pockets into all my me-made garments if I am given half a chance!). It is worth noting that although ponte is listed as a suggest fabric for View A and View B, all of the instructions for NL6341 are written with the focus on sewing with wovens — understandable, but I still got tripped up a few times. For example, I was having some trouble setting in the sleeves neatly after ease-stitching the sleeve head. I went back to my trusty copy of Stretch! and read up on how easy it is to set in knit sleeves on the flat… Except that I had already completed the pattern instructions to stitch the bodice together the side seams. Oops. I did eventually manage to insert my sleeves in the usual way, but it would have been nice if the pattern instructions deviated at points to accommodate the different techniques needed when sewing with the recommended knit fabrics.
I made several adjustments to the pattern, including shortening the ¾ length sleeves marginally (out of necessity, as I only ordered 2m of fabric) and moving the waistline up. The waistline on the original pattern sits at the low waist, which isn’t my personal preference and I knew the weight of the ponte would pull the waist even lower; instead, I cut the bottom of the bodice approximately 2″ above the marked waistline. I also didn’t line the bodice and instead made facings from some scraps of black and white polka-dot hearts cotton poplin I had to hand. I also contoured the princess seams at the bust to the waistline — I followed Emily Hallman’s tutorial and I think it worked pretty well for my first time! However, due to the stretchiness of this ponte, I should have probably taken off another inch at the centre front, as my princess seams are not directly over my apex.
As I am still a novice sewist, I am still learning a lot about stretch fabrics and the recovery, which leads me to the biggest change I made — removing the invisible zip at the back! As always, I used the finished garment measurements when deciding which size to make, which included grading between sizes between the bodice and skirt. This actually turned out to be totally unnecessary, as I have now discovered that ponte has more than enough recovery and stretch to fit… Again, this is something I wish the pattern specified a bit more clearly when suggesting double-knits as a recommended fabric. I was pretty much drowning in excess fabric when I basted the centre back seam, but I was thrilled when I could take this dress off without needing to put in a zip! I took the back in by approximately 3″ and then finished the dress with a 2″ deep hem.
After making all the alterations to the bodice pieces, I think I will make another version of New Look 6341, but out of one of the recommended woven fabrics next time. I definitely think I would have had an easier time if I had used a pattern that was designed for ponte, but I am still happy with my finished garment. I could also imagine this would make an excellent party dress out of a rich jacquard or a sweet summer dress in cotton lawn. I also think I may hack the skirt pleats into box pleats as well, or switch out the sleeves for additional variation!