As the year draws to a close, I’ve been thinking about my general work habits a lot. It seems my projects are either things that can be done at breakneck speed or slow, methodical affairs that take planning, precision, and ample time. I wonder what projects in the middle of the road would look like! This DIY quilted coat is the second type of project. It took research, careful thought and then just a lot of hustle to complete it, and I regret no minute extra I spent on it.
I haven’t mentioned it, but the past few weeks I’ve been a part of competing on So You Think You Can Sew. So You Think You Can Sew is a little competition put on by That Sewing Blab which is a weekly internet show about sewing hosted on Crowdcast at 7:30 Eastern time by Dawn Pengelly of Duelling Designs and Myra Rentmeester of Simple Inspirations. I created this chevron trim dress for my round of the competition.
The round started a few weeks ago with my and my fellow competitor opening up a package of mystery trim on the show. There was much silliness, and by the end, we had a little over 2 yards of this elastic trim. The black trim has silver metallic threads running through it.
My first thought when I opened the trim was, eek, it’s black! If you’ve been around Elizabeth Made This for any length of time, you will note that dark heavy colors like black are things that show up seldom in my own personal wardrobe. I knew that using this trim to make something that kept the same softness in form and color that is more my style was going to be a challenge.
After the show, I sat down with the trim and grabbed some pins. My goal was to see how it behaved and get a direction for my ideas from manipulating it. It turns out, it took folds really well. My brain went straight to chevrons
I recently finished a pattern test for DG Patterns’ Tessa Sweater. My project for that I’ll save for another day, but I will say that I love the wrap neck design of this pattern. Any style of sweater dress that I can wear in winter without adding an extra scarf or cowl is fantastic!
My idea was simple–I wanted a paneled bell sleeve hem with 3 layers of chevrons–one in black, one in silver, one in white. The silver would bring out the colors in the trim, and the white would be the bridge between the trim and the softer blue of the dress fabric. Originally I wanted periwinkle, but Colorado Fabrics had this slightly darker blue metallic jersey that caught my eye.
Paneled Bell Sleeve hack
For the sleeve, I decided where on the pattern I wanted the bell to start. Next, I measured the circumference at that point and divided by 8 as I wanted 8 panels on the sleeve. Then, I drew the slope of one size of the chevron (4 chevrons total around the sleeve). I used the same slope for the hem, but the hem is slightly wider at the bottom so that it does indeed flare out. It’s a subtle flare, but it’s there.
After I added seam allowance for the sides and top of each piece, I added 5/8″ at the bottom of the panel. I did make a facing piece by eliminating all of the seams and making one giant chevron piece, but added only 1/4″ for hem allowance.
Constructing the sleeve panel
Each of the sleeve panels is pieced together to make a complete bell. Then I sewed the ends of the facings together to make a tube. Next, I sewed right sides of the bell and the facing together at the hem. Because there was a little extra on the outside piece, the facing does NOT peek out on the bottom. The facing and the bell are basted together at the top.
Eventually, after the trim, I sewed the bells into each sleeve. Each sleeve was cut with the same chevrons. The effect of the chevrons going straight from the sleeve into the bell got a little lost I think because of the trim, but hey, sometimes things don’t work out exactly how you want them.
After I calculated how many chevrons it would take to go around the hem, I traced out half of that on paper to be a template for my trim. On the hem, I made the bends in the elastic by sewing a tiny dart at every intersection of the chevrons. This was really slow work. I couldn’t mark the chevron placement out ahead of time. I was afraid the stretch of the trim would give me some inconsistent results.
So instead, I sewed one dart, took it back to the template, then sewed the next one etc. On the sleeve, I got smart and instead cut the trim into little parallelograms that would create the chevrons on their own. The downside of this was having to zigzag across each seam to make it flat and so it wouldn’t fray.
Velvet foldover elastic and silver foil knit
The center silver trim is just the chevron cut at 1″ wide with added 1/4″ on either side. It was much simpler to work with the knit this way especially since this was by far the hardest fabric to work with. I have a feeling it would serge just fine, but this fabric did NOT want to be topstitched. It took several tries with different needles before discovering that a microtex needle was the way to go. Every other needle I tried made for skipped stitches and oddly, shredded thread.
The top white trim on the hem is cut from little parallelograms of white foldover elastic. I love foldover elastic for necklines and easy waistbands, but this is the first time I’ve used it as trim. What I discovered is that it likes to fray, so every chevron intersection got topstitched down and got some Fray Block on the ends.
Putting it all together
To join all three trims, I used Steam-A-Seam. After applying the Steam-A-Seam on the foil knit only, I overlapped the other two trims to cover the tape. I love that the Steam-A-Seam is precisely 1/4″ wide, so it makes for very accurate work. It also kept everything held together as I topstitched along the top and bottoms of the chevrons.
Applying trim to the dress
The dress itself sewed up very very quickly. It probably took 1 hour total which was good given the amount of time the trim took to make. I hemmed the bottom of the dress a little shorter than normally since the trim itself was 3″ wide. After that, I marked above the hem 1″. Next, I used the chalk line as a guide for the top of the chevron points. More Steam-A-Seam held the trim to the hem while I topstitched around the hem.
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For the sleeves, I simply applied the trim 1/4″ from the top of each bell. I wish the trim for the sleeves could have gone on the bottom of the bells, but I just didn’t have enough of the black trim. When it was all said and done, I only had 1/2″ left of the trim!
The Voting Show
I’m happy to say that I won on the voting show! My competitor had a really cute halter top where she made this great inverted T down the front. It was totally her style, and I loved that she highlighted the edgy nature of this trim. I always love it when I see creative people pick up an idea and run with it!
In December, I’ll be advancing to the finals of So You Think You Can Sew to take on Melanie Wise of It’s Melanie Darling. If you remember, Melanie and I squared off in the Fabric Mart Fabricista competition last year. and I couldn’t be more thrilled to compete against her again. She is such a wonderful lady and she can stitch circles around people–nay, she does!
Catch me on Instagram for more details as the dates get closer!