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?

A Week of Peeks

The launch day of the latest BFS patterns is drawing closer! I'll be in California visiting family and have decided to use to the week to share more and more details about the new patterns until their launch the 2nd week of June!

This old drive in theater is somewhere on the coast between San Fransisco and Santa Barbara, though I can't remember where.

This old drive in theater is somewhere on the coast between San Fransisco and Santa Barbara, though I can't remember where.

I'll be spending a lot of time along the CA coast which seemed like a fun place to take some photographs of the new patterns! I grew up in California and I can't deny that it is quite beautiful. I take most of my photos in the New England country, so I'm keen on the idea of a 'location' for photographing the new pattern. I may have to wait until returning to Boston for the Saltbox photos - not a lot of colonial houses in the bay area...at least I don't think so. Too bad the next pattern isn't a Victorian!

Today I'll start by sharing some small changes I've made to the new pattern that I hope you all will appreciate!

One thing that I kept noticing when I visited shops that carried Cabin was that the tab closure didn't hold up well to the rough retail life of a sewing pattern. Nearly every 'display' copy had suffered some damage. Investigating other patterns showed that nearly all tabs tended to suffer the same fate. I like a nice neat little package, so some sort of closure was a must.

My printer suggested a low profile velcro - they have a lot of sample booklets using the same cover stock that close with velcro and they hold up quite well. I've seen some other patterns that include velcro in the past, so I know it's not a new idea. I also thought of having a sticker to close the folder that was resealable...like what you use on a bag of rice.

In the end, after testing both I decided that the velcro would be the way to go. It held up to 50+ openings and closings.  I'm sure it will be a drag to individually put velcro onto each envelope but I'm prepared to make it happen. My own labor is free, right? ;)

I also used a new method to create the illustrations for this pattern. I love the look of hand drawn, but I also feel like more technical or line-based illustrations don't communicate dimension, making certain instructions hard to understand. I used real construction photographs as a base, but drew the images by hand. Hopefully it achieves a nice balance.

The overall cover design - blue monochromatic - will be the same, but I'm looking forward to showing you the illustration for this cover. It feels kindred to the Cabin cover, but in a completely different style. Later in the week I'll be sharing an interview with the illustrator.

Last but not least, one of the major changes will be to my pattern production. I am a firm believer in the value of paper in hand, but at the same time creating printed patterns involved a lot of up front costs that can be tough on a small business.

I will still be creating printed patterns but I will also be releasing a PDF only companion pattern with each printed release as a way to keep my business more sustainable and balance out the printed pattern costs. Obviously with time, if a demand arises for printed versions of these patterns I'll do my best to make them happen. But for now I like the idea of a digital complement piece to my main pattern, and that where Saltbox was born.

I can't wait to show you these patterns during the week! They should be ready to ship by the week of June 8th and I'm beyond excited!

Be sure to follow @blueprintsforsewing on Instagram to see daily reveals of the new patterns! (and join our mailing list to get the scoop on upcoming sales *wink wink*)