This dress was drafted to individual measurements, via an adapted block.
This pattern used the smallest plus cup size on a size 10 in the chart (10+) but also used a bit of extra length in the CB.
The style of the body of the dress is a basic A-line shift, finishing at mini length, with a neckline wide on the shoulders. All the detail is in the sleeves. The cuff end was developed using the tute on Rhonda’s blog, with a couple of changes. My sleeve was shaped in slightly to the elbow, then flared out slightly. The seam under the pointed fold was left part open and faced back. All in one facings were made for the front and back necklines and armholes. The top of the sleeve was reduced by about an inch so that the rouleau could form a pattern of loops around it. Facings for the cuff and for the top of the sleeve completed the pattern, with the bit trimmed off the sleeve retained to make a guide. The guide is marked with spacing for the rouleau loops which go at the sleeve head.
Though it looks complicated, it isn’t. It just needs accurate stitching and an unhurried approach. If I hadn’t already fitted the block it’s made from, I’d do a basic toile to avoid having to unpick and refit any fiddly bits. I cut out with 1cm seam allowances everywhere except the back seam, where I allowed 2cms to make putting a zip in easier.
Sew and press all darts. Fuse interfacing to facing pieces, neaten the edges. Face neckline on back and front.
Cut strips of bias half an inch wide and three and a half inches long, fray the ends. I chose to have the direction of bias giving a red fringe.
There’s a balance to be struck here, depending on your fabric. A better finish from the point of view of securing those end pieces would be to run a narrow zig zag along the fabric quarter of an inch from the end and pull the threads below this. My fabric feels like it will hold reasonably well, and I didn’t like the extra weight of the stitching. I didn’t zigzag and am taking a chance on the ties disintegrating in order to preserve the delicacy of the feathery effect.
Fold the strips in half and pin them round the armhole on the RS ends facing in toward the bodice, placing them to match up with the guide on the sleeve head. Machine tack just inside the seam allowance.
Ties secured round armhole
I chickened out of pinning the one at the shoulder. Reserve it to be applied later when the facings are done.
For each of the front and back bodice, turn the facing RS together on the bodice pieces and stitch round armholes, catching the folded edges of the bias strips in the armhole seams. Trim, turn and check that all the bias strips are free and now facing out over the armhole.
Now there’s a choice about how you get the shoulders sewn. Afficionados of the burrito method will be wondering why I didn’t pull this out of the techniques bag. Well … I worried about wrecking the silk, especially the delicate and feathery ties. Trying to pull them plus half a garment through the narrow shoulder I’d drafted seemed like courting disaster.
I tucked each back shoulder inside a front shoulder, RS together, changed to a standard zipper foot and stitched round. To my surprise the result was acceptable.
Shoulder Seam Not Too Bad
Had the silk shifted badly while I invited this little tube to roll round on the feed dogs I was ready to hand sew it instead, or machine the outside part and hand close the facing. If the sewing fairy is having an off day half an hour of backstitching with a betweens needle works perfectly to close the shoulder.
Now imagine what a laugh it would be to machine the shoulder with a feathery tie slap bang on the shoulder seam. See why I reserved it?
Next I took a moment to dither about whether I wanted one red tie at the top, or was there enough going on already?
How about Red?
Purple won, hand stitched at the shoulder seam.
I Preferred Purple
Back zip goes in and the back seam and side seams are stitched. I hemmed the skirt by hand. If you use a fine needle and slip stitch, picking up only one thread per stitch on the dress, it’s almost invisible on the RS. With a good light it doesn’t take long in a small size A line dress, and keeps the purity of line I wanted to play off the fancy dancy sleeves.
I didn’t line this dress, but it would be simple to do. A copy of the dress pieces, less the facings can be stitched to the facings (don’t forget seam allowances!). This can be done before attaching the facings, or as an afterthought.
Next the sleeves.
I made rouleau to finish about 6mm wide.
I put the top sleeve guide piece under a scrap of vilene (you could use anything which will tear away easily, but this is what I had to hand). I traced the guidelines for placement of the loops on the vilene and drew a seam allowance on the lower edge.
I pinned the rouleau in place looping it at each guide mark and running it into the seam allowance. Then I stitched it in the seam allowance just shy of the fitting line to stabilise it, and cut round the vilene guide shape with the lower seam allowance. Don’t cut the shape first, it’s too fiddly.
Loops of Rouleau
Then I pinned the vilene/rouleau piece to the top of the sleeve, RS together and stitched just shy of the fitting line with a large stitch size – you could hand tack if nervous of fitting curves, but it was actually easy.
Loops Set on Sleeve Head
The vilene, or whatever tear away stuff, gets ripped out at this stage. The loops are facing down towards the bottom of the sleeve.
The top sleeve facing is neatened on its lower edge then stitched RS together with the top sleeve on the fitting line, trimmed and turned to the WS.
Ready To Apply Facing
The loops then face up round the top sleeve, the underarm seam is stitched including the corresponding facing seam.
Purists might like to make the sleeve up first, but it’s easier to work the loop bit flat and a good press round the top of the sleeve gives a fair finish to the underarm point .
At the cuff end the sleeve isn’t complicated. The curved seam is partially stitched, finishing at the balance mark, the facing underarm seam is stitched and the contrast facing is stitched RS together around the sleeve base.
I didn’t want top stitching showing on the RS of the sleeve, so I slip stitched the top and bottom sleeve facings to the sleeve. If you were lining the sleeve, you could dispense with this, stitching each to the lining through a space left in the lining underarm seam and closing this by hand.
I covered buttons in the red silk to hold down the point of the sleeve drape. You can find good instructions chez Rhonda for this sleeve idea I cribbed. Rhonda used a nice tweedy fabric for her sleeve example. The main difference you’ll notice is the turned back facing on my silk one.