Pattern Renovation: Saltbox Sundress

I've been thinking a lot about Saltbox this week, after receiving a beautiful book full of old New England houses from a friend. I love looking at photographs of old houses and seeing how much charm and character exists even in the most modest house.

It's hard to say the same about the majority of housing built today. Where I live, the new homes being built - often in big developments - are a hot topic. Last night I went to a workshop to help create an affordable housing plan for the town. Though they sometimes lack in amenities, small towns make for easier access to the decision making process that shapes the outcome of local projects. Whether town politics are your thing or not, the spirit of collaborating with your neighbors for the greater good is exciting!

This is a strange lead-in to a post about pattern hacking, but I promise there's a bit of a connection! One parallel I see between these two issues is the idea of building new constructions with new materials vs. renovating old buildings. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a fresh bundle of fabric and a new project as much as the next sewist (I also see the benefits of buying a brand new house!) But there's also something that feels really good about reworking something you already have, that already exists.

So, to bring the conversation back to sewing: Today I was craving a quick, summery project. Instead of whipping up a new design, I came up with a simple renovation using things I already had: A Saltbox dress!

Update: This idea had been floating around in my head since I saw @weboughtamanor's super cute version on Instagram a few years ago. I couldn't find her original picture when this post was first published.

View through the pear tree.

View through the pear tree.

I'd been contemplating a Saltbox dress after seeing one somebody made up on Instagram. I decided to use some vintage Marimekko fabric (from 1979) in my stash, thrifted a few years ago and waiting for a project. When I couldn't decide on a contrast, I went with an old standby trick: use the wrong side of the fabric!

And of course, since I was using the wrong side, I thought, "why not make the whole thing reversible?" I love setting myself up with epic challenges when a simple trek will do. I stopped short of trying to devise a reversible pocket. At 87 degrees and 60% humidity, it's way too hot for that much thinking. So no pockets...already regretting it ;)

I made it reversible by finishing each seam with a flat felled seam. I pressed the seams up towards the shoulder pieces so that the stitching was on the white of the fabric, but you could also press them down as instructed by the pattern. I made bias binding from the same fabric and sewed it on so that it would match the inside shoulder pieces. I lost the point of the Saltbox, but I think the bias facing in reverse has a nice effect. You could also do bias binding instead and press the seams down, which would give you with nice points on both sides.

Altering the Pattern

To create the Saltbox dress, first go ahead and cut out your pattern in the size you want, completing any necessary alterations. Slide a sheet of paper underneath your pinned together pattern.

Overlap your pattern pieces and pin them together to form the bodice front. They should overlap by 1" total (1/2" per each seam allowance.)

Measure 1" out from each hip and mark with a short line. Measure from the bottom edge the amount you would like to lengthen the pattern. Check the measurement on the pattern envelope to see how much you want to add. I added 12".

L: For a straight shape like the one in my version, connect the underarm to the line you drew, then draw a light straight down and connect it to the hem line at the bottom. Use a hip curve to smooth out the point where the two lines meet.

R: For a more a-line shape, align a ruler with the underarm and the line at the hip, then draw a straight line down to the hem guideline.

Trace just the bodice front (lower section) onto the paper below. Then, lay some tracing paper over each shoulder piece and trace around them, using the new side line.

Repeat with the back pieces (you'll be able to omit the back right shoulder, since it doesn't touch the side seam). Unpin, cut out your pieces and lay out on your fabric.

I didn't keep the side vents because of the flat felled seams, but you could easily recreate the vents at the bottom of the hem and/or add in-seam or patch pockets. I did turn up the hem with a double fold and got a bit of contrast on the hem that I really love.

Have you ever made anything reversible? Do you wear one side more than the other?