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?

Geodesic Addition: Solid Back Piece & Cuffed Short Sleeves

One of the suggestions from my intrepid Geodesic pattern testers was the option for a solid back piece, as an alternative to having both a pieced back and front. So I decided to make one! To be honest, it's been drafted for quite a bit, but I've been reformatting Geodesic for print and decided to update the PDF version and tidy up the back piece pattern in the process.

So, at long last, here it is! **Updated 1/6 to fix error**

Geodesic Back Piece
 

Today, in honor of this pattern addition, I thought it would be fun to make another Geodesic using the solid back piece and a bunch of knit scraps that were taking up real estate in my stash. Geodesic is an awesome scrap buster and gives you an opportunity to get a little wild and wacky with color & fabric combos. I've seen some amazing scrappy Geodesics popping up on the #blueprintsgeodesic hashtag on Instagram. Be sure to check them out if you need some inspiration!

When I finished it, snow was falling. So I ventured outside in the flurry to get a few pictures for y'all. Hopefully the charm of these snowy pics will make up for the fact that they're a little slapdash and underexposed.

Here's the solid back piece in action!

After taking these shots, I promptly ran back upstairs to sit in front of the fire. Though being out in the snow in short sleeves was a bit refreshing, my hands were freezing! Any other sewists have constantly cold hands? My hands are icy even when it's mild out.

This is the 3rd Geodesic top I've made with short, cuffed sleeves, a look I really dig. Each time, I've experimented with a different method of cuffing the sleeves. While I'm not sure this one is my favorite, I think it does the job well and is a bit fancier than simply turning up the hem. This method also allows you to do a contrast cuff. For this version, I thought I'd include some pictures of what I did in case you'd like the do the same!

First, shorten your sleeve to however short you want the final sleeve to be. Cut a piece of contrasting fabric that is as wide as the hem pattern piece and as long as your armhole opening. Sew one side closed.

Fold the cuff over along the edge so the raw edges meet. Press lightly, but avoid creating a major crease.

Put the cuff inside the sleeve, raw edges together. We're going to attach it in the opposite way of the pattern instructions, so that the serged seam is on the outside. Sew and press the seam up towards the sleeve.

Fold the cuff up along the seam line.

Here's the tricky part: roll down the cuff slightly, so that the seam attaching the cuff to the sleeve is about 1/2" from the bottom edge of the cuff. Then, from the inside where seam is, pull out the excess fabric, creating a new fold for the top of the cuff.

In the picture below, you can see how the cuff has been shifted up by looking for the shadow of the original seam. This is right after pressing...when worn, the shadow/outline is not very visible. Part of the lumpiness of the seam is from the serger. If working with a thick knit, you could probably avoid this by straight stitching and trimming down to 1/8" or pressing the seam open.

I decided to do a small tack at the top of the sleeve as well, to keep it from unrolling. You could also do a second tack at the underarm.

I'm pretty excited about how this guy turned out! Looking forward to wearing it this week.

I hope you enjoy these additional options for Geodesic. If you ever have an idea for a pattern renovation or addition, please feel free to share!

Geodesic Renovation: Woven Geodesic Top

Though the seam lines look quite nice on a solid fabric or with one or two pops of contrast thrown in, I also envisioned Geodesic as a great pattern for using up scraps. I'm glad to say I finally made just that! I also used wovens, a super easy substitution with Geodesic (and paired it with a really wrinkly skirt... forgive me, it's nearly 100 degrees and humid today!)

 

While I don't have tons of large, coordinating jersey scraps, I do have lots of woven scraps just sitting in boxes languishing and waiting for their day to shine. As I've become more and more interested in quilting, these scraps which had previously been out of sight and out of mind have come to the forefront of my consciousness.

What can I use the scraps from this project for? Do these scraps work together? I've even started bundling like scraps together for future projects, quilting or otherwise. I may have a quilt all in earthone linen scraps next up in the queue.

I have a box labeled 'Large Special Scraps' on my shelf, which includes mostly the substantial side part of many cut-on-the-fold sewing projects. Cutting pattern pieces out on the grain is important, but certainly not the most economical in terms of cutting. With the goal of making a woven geodesic from scraps only, I dug into this box of goodies and pulled together a palette of lovely scraps.

I chose 4 fabrics that went together: An old nani iro print, a stripe/solid double cloth, some essex linen, and some vintage mauve percale. I cut a few triangles of each and started playing around with them on my 'design wall' (which is a felt back vinyl table cloth clamped onto a folded up ping pong table) I did this for the front and back, playing around with color and pattern placement.

While this isn't in my usual color palette (quite the opposite) I LOVE it. I also feel like it goes with things that are 'my colors' quite well! It has a bit of a Miami beach 1991 vibe.

In the original pattern, I wanted to include instructions for using wovens, but I decided to nix them to keep things nice and concise and consistent. The good news is that the process is actually quite simple and straightforward! Here is what you need to know when making Geodesic from wovens:

  • Size: Geodesic is pretty roomy, but if your jersey version is snug in the chest, you might want to go up a size or do an FBA (instructions for this are provided in the pattern!)
  • Cutting: While it can be tempting to cut triangles willy nilly out of scrap fabric, trying to cut them on grain is fairly important. You can cheat a bit if you're using stable fabrics, as I did for one of the stripes. Just something to be aware of, but not a 100% must if you're feeling experimental and extra recycle-y :)
  • Fabric: If you're using multiple fabrics, try to keep them in the same family in terms of weight and drape. I cheated a little as the nani iro and essex are on the stiffer side and the double gauze is a little drapier. For the most part, it's okay, but I can also see it starting to sag a bit as the day goes by.
  • Construction: Geodesic uses 1/4" seams and you can keep this for the woven version. I assembled my top entirely on my serger, but you can also finish your edges with a zigzag or over edge stitch. Since there's so many seams, I wouldn't leave them raw or you'll have a tangly mess inside your top in no time.
  • Neckline: I cut the neck band using the same pattern piece, but cut on the bias. I made this neckband slightly narrower than the original. My fabric was a very loosely woven chambray and stretched well on the bias. I folded the strip in half and attached just like the knit band is attached in the pattern.
  • Hem: You can do the hem in the same way as in the pattern, though you may want to add a bit of extra fabric since the knit hem band is slightly smaller than the shirt hem. I decided to serge and turn under 3/8" and do a blind hem, but I may go back and add a band of the essex. I like the look, but it's definitely very cropped.
  • Pressing & point matching: So much easier than with knits! Hurrah!

I also changed the sleeve length to short sleeves (easy, just crop the sleeve pattern piece wherever you desire and cuff, or not.) which has been one of my favorite Geodesic mods to date! Plus, it's been a million degrees lately.

While this may not be an everyday piece, I do really love it! It makes me happy. I hope if you try it, that it will make you happy too :)

I love it when my shirt matches my beverage! We just started getting this La Croix things here in MA and I <3 them.

Do you like sewing with scraps? Are you always searching for the perfect way to use them up? Any favorite patterns that are scrap busters?