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A Somerset Dress Hack

PAID POST | This article was originally written by Susan Young as part of the Lamazi blogger team and the fabric was given to Sue by Lamazi fabrics in return for a review for them. After seeing the article I approached Sue and asked if I could share it here and she kindly agreed! I have paid Sue for her time, skills and effort.

As you all know I do enjoy a good pattern hack!

And with a very different looking Christmas around the corner this year I was delighted when this beauty by Susan Young popped up on Instagram recently.

Sue has made a glorious dress hack of The Somerset t-shirt pattern, complete with extra volume on those bishop sleeves. Sue made her dress in this stretch jersey cord velvet from Lamazi fabrics , which is lovely and soft, and perfect for a spot of smart-looking lounging, but will still be relevant to your wardrobe for lots of post-Christmas wear.

“Whilst I love a complex make to really get my teeth into I felt this wasn’t a garment which warranted lots of time. Making a special Christmas once-worn garment wasn’t appropriate any longer so I wanted something quite simple but adaptable and for that reason I’ve picked the Somerset T-shirt by Maven Patterns.

Sue Young

“I have to say that I’m really happy with this dress because it ticks all the boxes I wanted it to. It’s comfortable but it looks Christmassy, it looks great with opaque tights, heels and jewellery, but also with boots, a chunky belt, a roll neck top underneath for extra warmth or a cosy scarf…and did I mention it’s comfortable! #secretpyjamas It also has the advantage of rolling up and going in the corner of a bag or suitcase and coming back out again not needing a press. Bonus!! ” – Sue

“I’ve dressed it down with an ancient knitted gilet plus a wide belt, long boots and my much loved Alexander McQueen scarf ” – Sue

And it’s always good to consider the future wear of any of our makes #notjustforchristmas!

A quick little re-style and Sue is ready to go for the New Year and beyond.

You can find all the details of exactly how Sue created her Somerset dress HERE.

It’s a very comprehensive post – Sue covers

  • how to add more volume to the bishop sleeve

  • how she adjusted the t-shirt pattern to a dress

  • how she fitted the dress on herself

  • cutting and sewing tips for the stretch corded fabric

A huge thank you to Sue for sharing her pattern hack with us, & for letting me share here with you, I hope it inspires you with your makes!

 

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The Wendy Smock | the frilled dress hack

WENDY SMOCK HACK | I did a little hacking of our Wendy Smock pattern and, if I do say so myself, made a rather splendid dress! 

This was actually a salvage job from a previously failed hack and that poor thing has lain, neglected, in the pile of doom all lockdown. But then the sun came out and the UK got hot. And nothing fits anymore (I’m talking body and mood, here! hello menopause, lockdown and well…cake and beer) so I needed a new plan. And voila…she’s now a cool frilled hem dress that’s perfect for the heat!

There’s no actual tutorial just these ramblings…it really is just a case of making our Wendy pattern longer and attaching a frill, but check out our French Dart Frill Sleeve Hack tutorial if you are looking for a little more in the way of detail – it’s exactly the same process just on a different scale.

You’ll need to make a few decisions |

  • how long you’d like your dress
  • how deep you’d like your frill
  • how full you’ll like your frill
  • I’ve included my measurements as a guide but I’m only 5’2″ so bear that in mind. This dress finishes about 5″ above my ankles so adjust to your height/needs/desires! 

PATTERN |

First up: lengthen the bodice pattern.

  • overall length – frill depth = amount to add + seam allowances

I added about 5cm extra to the length of the bodice patterns and added 1cm SA to attach the frill. Please remember I am short! And keep in mind we are still going to add more length with the frill. Don’t over-complicate this bit, I literally just extended the side seams and added on the extra length. Do take the time to check your side seams are the same length and that they will create a smooth hemline when you join them.

FRILL | I didn’t actually make a pattern I just chalked it straight on my fabric as the frill is just made up of 2 rectangles, one for the front one for the back.

DEPTH | You’ll need to decide how deep and how full you would like your frill to be.

I made my frill to finish 33cm deep and added 1cm SA to attach to the body and 2cm hem allowance so I could turn it twice and have a cleanly finished hem, so I cut the rectangle 36cm deep.

WIDTH | The width of your pattern will dictate how gathered your frill is. I decided on a gathering ratio of 2:1. That just means whatever the hem width of the front or back panel is, I doubled it for the frill width. My front had a hem width of 65cm; 65cm x 2 = 130cm + 1cm each end for the seam allowance = my rectangle was cut 132cm wide.

You can change the ratio to suit you and your fabric, a bit more or a bit less gathering to work with the amount of fabric you have will be fine! If you are short of fabric you can join several rectangles together to make your frill.  I just made the same size for the front and back panels as they weren’t very different in size and I was very short of fabric!

GRAINLINE | I cut the frill across the piece of fabric so it is on the same grain line as the bodice. If you have a plain fabric you can cut the frill with the longest length parallel to the selvedge, but be aware if you have a printed fabric it may look odd. 

CONSTRUCTION | remember to press everything as you sew.

It’s all very straight forward – make your Wendy as usual and when you get to the hemming stage, just stick a frill on the bottom!

  • Run gathering stitches across the top of each rectangle. I did 2 rows, but do 3 if you prefer, and I gathered each rectangle in 2 sections so I could gather half a rectangle at a time to make it more manageable. 
  • With right sides of the fabric together, join the frills at the side seam. Neaten and press seams open.
  • Hem the frill.
  • Attach frill to the body with a 1cm seam allowance. Neaten the seam together and press upwards away from the frill.
  • Waft around the house/park/shop at whatever is this week’s acceptably social distance.
  • If you need a little more frill info see our French Dart Frill Sleeve Hack tutorial as the method is the same.
  • I decided later to run my dress in a little at the sides and our High Neck Smock tutorial has instructions to help you!

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted a couple of other differences. I used a wider elastic, 2.5cm wide, at the cuff and I can confirm it’s quite comfy! And the neckline of this Wendy is different too as I have elasticated her rather than finished with the usual binding. This was actually the first method I tried out for Wendy at the toile stage many moons ago before settling on the binding method, but I think that will need to be a whole different tutorial!

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The Somerset | neck alteration tutorial

The Somerset t-shirt has a very elegant and lovely bateau neckline and we don’t want anything to disrupt the clean line.

But, one of the fitting issues you may come across with a slash neck t-shirt is a baggy neckline. The neckline doesn’t sit quite flat – it’s that annoying little bumpy gape you can see. There can be a few different reasons why this happens, we are all different shapes and sizes so sometimes we do have to adjust to fit. I’ve found that this is more common on the back neckline but it could be an issue on the front neckline too.

Before we jump straight into the pattern alteration, let’s just make sure it’s the alteration you need.

DON’T STRETCH THE NECKLINE | First of all, make sure you are not stretching the neckline as you press and topstitch. 

FABRIC & BOOBS | Before you adjust the neckline just take a look at how your t-shirt fits your bust. If it is too tight the t-shirt doesn’t sit where it should and instead works its way upwards and forcing the neckline to sit too high on the body and it then it can’t sit flat. A telltale sign of this is you keep wanting to tug your t-shirt down.

I have found fabric plays a part in how my t-shirts fit – a very soft lycra bamboo jersey gives me no problems, fitting nice and flat across the neckline. The stripey sample, however, is made in a much firmer cotton lycra knit that doesn’t relax as much over my boobage and therefore my t-shirt travels upwards with a little wear, giving me a baggy back neck. I should actually do an FBA but I probably won’t – next time I’ll grade between the sizes and go up a size for my bust while keeping neckline and shoulders my usual size. 

If your Somerset t-shirt is generally too big across the shoulders and neckline, you may be better to choose a smaller size for your shoulder area and to blend between sizes.

THE NECKLINE IS TOO BIG |

You’ve decided the neckline is indeed too big for you. Excellent! I have a pattern alteration fix for that! 

GOOD TO KNOW | I have used one of my original toiles for the photos in this tutorial, so it is only stitched with a normal straight stitch rather than twin needled. I’ve actually worn it quite a bit and it’s been washed and abused like any other of my t-shirts and that stitching has held up perfectly. It is also quite likely the cat slept on it immediately before photos were taken.

EQUIPMENT |

  • Copy of the back pattern (or the ability to re-print)
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Sticky tape
  • Tape measure
  • Paper scissors
  • Pattern paper

PREPARE YOUR PATTERN | First, as always with any pattern alteration, trace off your pattern. This gives you the opportunity to preserve your original and the chance to start again if things go horribly wrong! 

Mark all the seam allowances/stitch lines on the pattern to make your life easier.

TOILE | Pop on your toile/offending garment and pin the excess fabric at the neckline a little way back from each shoulder.

  • Use chalk or an extra pin to remark the ‘dart’ so the neckline can lay flat.
  • It’s unlikely that the two ‘darts’ you’ve pinned are of an equal amount and in the same position along the neckline. Unless you have a pronounced difference in your shoulders we just need to even them out.
  • Measure them both and find the TOTAL amount to be removed. 
  • We will be altering half a pattern so DIVIDE the total amount by 2. In this example, I need to remove 4cm in total from the back neckline, so 2cm is to be removed from the actual pattern.
  • It’s the same idea for the position of the ‘dart’ – just split the difference. If you have pinned one at 7cm and one at 5cm from the shoulder – split the difference and use 6cm.

TRANSFER TO PATTERN | 

  • Transfer the marking from your garment to your pattern.
  • Measure the amount to be reduced on the FOLDLINE of the neckline, not on the outside edge.
  • This will give you 2 points on the neckline – A & B
  • Find the midway point between A & B.
  • Draw a line from that midpoint to intersect with the armhole stitchline. This is point C.

DRAW AN ACTUAL DART |

  • Join A to C & B to C
  • You are really just taking a dart out of your pattern to reduce the length of the back neck with the pointy end of the dart (point C) finishing on the stitchline, not the cut outside edge of the pattern. This will keep the armhole length the same so the sleeve will still fit!

CUT |

  • Cut along line A and stop at point C.
  • Make a snip from the outside edge of the pattern in the seam allowance towards point C stopping at the stitchline, leaving a small hinge of paper.
  • Point C will be the pivot point.

CLOSE THE DART |

  • Using the hinge at point C as a pivot point, close the dart up so the excess is removed and tape the pattern together. 
  • Nearly there now,  but you can see we now have a stagger at the neck and the armhole has a bit of a pointy shape.

SMOOTH |

  • Redraw a smooth curve at the neckline to even out that staggered line.
  • Smooth the armhole lines too and fill in the seam allowance by taping some paper behind it.
  • TIP | If you find your armhole shape has become too distorted it may be because you are trying to remove too much from the pattern in one place. Try spreading this alteration over 2 places rather than one. Or check your sizing as you may be better using the neckline of a smaller size and blending it with your body size.
  • That’s it – you’re finished!

 

 

 

 

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How to sew with a twin needle | The Somerset T-shirt

HEMMING JERSEY | TWIN NEEDLE

The Somerset T-shirt has a flattering Bateaux neckline, and on a minimalist style garment such as this, it’s important to understand that any stitching will a very visible detail. One of the ways to make your clothes look less home-made and more handmade is by paying attention to the finishing of your garments. And for jersey and knit fabrics, a twin-needled hem gives a very professional look.  Most factory-finished ‘Ready To Wear’ t-shirts will have been hemmed with an industrial coverstitch machine, which creates that unmistakeable double row of topstitching that has an inbuilt stretch to it. You can buy domestic coverstitch machines and if you’ve got one, happy stitching! But, if you have got one, I’m going to assume you’ve stopped reading this because it will all be a bit irrelevant!

Now, I don’t own a coverstitch machine and if you don’t either, don’t worry, as it can be easily replicated on an ordinary domestic sewing machine. You just need to use either a ballpoint twin or stretch twin needle for your machine. They come in different widths, which is the size of the gap between the needles and this is how far apart your 2 rows of topstitching will be. I use a 4mm needle, just make sure the one you choose will fit inside your presser foot.

THREADING YOUR MACHINE |

You will need to refer to your sewing machine instruction manual to get the exact information for your machine. Use your usual thread in the bobbin and then use 2 reels of thread for the top threading of your machine. Thread your machine as usual with the first reel of thread. Your machine may have a second spool to attach to hold the second reel. Not all machines do have a second spool holder and if like my machine yours doesn’t you can to use a separate spool stand. Thread the second reel of thread as the first, but when you get to the last thread guide above the needle leave it free to help prevent tangling (but again defer to your manual) and thread the eye of the other needle.

PRESS |

Press the hem or facing allowance 2.5cm to the wrong side of the garment (the actual amount may vary depending on your pattern).

WENDY’S TOP TIP! | Machine baste the facing

I can’t take credit for this tip! Wendy, one of my lovely testers, passed on this to me as she always does this before twin needling, stitching a facing or hem from the right side of a garment. It’s much quicker and gives an accurate guideline to follow. It’s also quicker than tacking by hand.

  • Use a contrast colour on your bobbin, it will give you and an easy-to-see and an easy-to-remove colourful basting stitch on the right side.
  • Set your stitch to the longest length.
  • With the wrong side of the garment up, stitch a row 2cm from the folded edge. (Adjust the measurement for your particular need!)
  • This will give you a stitch line to act as a guide for your twin needle row.
  • After twin needling, you can remove the basting stitches.

TWIN NEEDLE |

You want both needles to catch the hem allowance. I have a 2.5cm allowance but I line up the folded edge with the 2cm mark on my machine throat plate – 2cm will actually be the midpoint between the 2 rows of stitching, so I can make sure that I catch the allowance easily (that should also allow enough allowance if you are using a twin needle bigger than 4mm). I’ll trim any excess allowance away later if it needs it, but usually, it is quite a minimal amount so I don’t worry too much. The twin needle creates a zig-zag on the back so there is no need to pre-neaten your hems, but jersey doesn’t really fray anyway.

  • Use a stretch or ballpoint twin needle to create a faux coverstitch.
  • Stitch from the right side of the garment.
  • Test the tension and stitch length on a folded piece of fabric so you are stitching through 2 layers.
  • Check there is enough elasticity in the seam so the stitches don’t crack and snap when pulled.
  • Remember to make a note of your stitch settings so you can switch between settings on your machine with ease during the construction phase.
  • Use a good quality thread to help prevent it snapping.
  • Leave long ends and don’t backstitch, just stitch the ends in by hand later.
  • Increase your stitch length for neater looking stitches.
  • Don’t stretch as you sew.
  • A good press with steam often improves the look of the twin needling.
  • I found a higher tension and slightly longer stitch length worked for my machine.
  • On the wrong side, trim away any excess hem allowance after you’ve finished.
  • OPTIONAL | A walking foot (great if you’ve got one, but they can be expensive if you haven’t) will help feed both layers of fabric through your machine evenly.
  • Alternatively, you could use a zig-zag stitch set to a medium width/length.

OOPS! WHAT WENT WRONG?! 

First of all, did you give it a good press? Never underestimate how much pressing your seams and hems will improve the look of your finished garment. And do remember that pressing is just that, lift your iron and use it in an up and down motion, not a dragging side to side motion. And be gentle, you don’t want to stretch anything.

TIME TO TROUBLESHOOT THOSE STITCHES |

Sometimes, no matter how much fiddling around with pressing, tension and stitch length settings, you may find using a twin needle creates a ridge or ‘tunnel’ effect. Before you get upset by it, go off and have a coffee or something, come back and look at it with fresh eyes. Would it have bothered you if you bought it from a shop or are you chasing unobtainable perfection? Because you know what, that picture above, it’s not that bad! But if it is bothering you…

Stabilising the area may help. Try these ideas;

  • try using spray starch to stabilise the area
  • place a tear-away stabilizer underneath before sewing and gently remove after.
  • You could try using wash away wonder tape on the hems. This is a double-sided tape that washes away. When I tested it I found due to the curved shape of the neckline and the tape is straight and not cut on the bias, it caused more problems than it solved, but you may find it useful for hems. And as all fabrics respond differently, it might be worth a little test sample of the neck area to see if it works for you.
  • Stabilise with strips of tricot interfacing.
  • Don’t forget, it’s not worth getting hot and bothered over! You can always use a different stitch, just select a zig-zag or other decorative stretch stitch to finish the hems and neckline.

STABILISE WITH INTERFACING|

To improve the look of tunnelling try applying a strip of fusible interfacing to the hem allowance before stitching. Use a tricot (knitted) interfacing, this is a stretch lightweight polyester iron-on interfacing and is available in black or white.

 

Cut the interfacing into 2.5cm (1”) wide straight strips (or whatever the width of your hem allowance is) with the most stretch running in direction of their longest length, so it will stretch with your knit fabric and finished garment. As we are using knitted interfacing you will be able to curve the strips into shape as you press in place on your t-shirt. And then test your stitches again!

Other Somerset T-shirt tutorials | Sewing with Knits