Ottobre Women 02/14 – ‘Tennessee’

We’re back to a dodgy photo location for this one because it was an unseasonable make, and it was incredibly windy when I took the photos – so windy that half of my lettuce plants got blown over, and my hair collapsed in on itself despite being styled when I started the photos. This was the best location I could find that was sheltered enough and close enough to a door so I could run back to my tracksuit pants the second I was finished. Which was good timing because as soon as I was indoors it started raining.

Look at that accidental almost-matching pattern on the front. Actually I know that’s going to annoy me.


This dress is from the Ottobre Design Women’s magazine for Spring/Summer 2014. It’s pattern number 12, called ‘Tennessee’. Just a simple knit dress. When I first got this issue I thought there was nothing in it I’d ever make, as I usually do when I get a new edition of this magazine. And, as usual, a year later I was thinking ‘I wonder if I have a pattern for a simple dress with a loose-ish bodice’ and here we are.

There were some birds. It’s non stop excitement here, I tells ya what.

In fact I specifically disliked this pattern when I first saw it, because of the loose gathered bodice and cut on sleeves. But now I see this silhouette everywhere in RTW, and I am coming around to cut on sleeves, so as usual Ottobre is right and I am wrong. I love that this magazine is chock full of wearable basics, and they also clearly have an eye on trends. Not the bleeding edge of fashion or anything, but general silhouettes and the kind of thing that normal people wear.The subscription isn’t cheap (especially since I just had to renew it with our crap dollar. Ugh) but I definitely feel I get value for money out of it.

Anyhow, the sewing of this was slightly fraught as I found holes in the fabric as I was cutting it out. The fabric is just a rayon knit from Spotlight, I think it’s a new line for them. (She says casually, as if she is not perfectly aware of the state of Spotlight’s fabric lines. Side note… is it a bad sign when the servers at your big box fabric store recognise you and call you ‘a regular’? And not only ask what you’re making, but ask about specific pieces of fabric that you bought previously, and ask if you’ve made it into anything? It is, right?? Really gotta upgrade my fabric buying habits and/or quit buying any at all, but the fact that my office will be moving into the same building as spotlight at the end of the year is probably not gonna help things).

I took the holey piece back and they replaced it even though I didn’t have my receipt, which I really appreciated. The person who served me said she thought maybe one of the nightfillers had cut it with a boxcutter when getting it out of the shrinkwrap – and indeed, it did look like knife nicks, all the way down one side of the roll.

The fabric is pretty thin and drapey and annoying to cut but feels really nice and behaved itself very well in the actual sewing.

I cut a size 50, with the neck and shoulders graded down to 46, as per my measurements, for a cheaters FBA. I forgot to add seam allowance but figured it was a roomy knit, so I’d be right. In fact it turned out quite a bit too big, and I took 5/8 of an inch off of the side seams. It was still pretty roomy then, though, and hung really limply. I wanted something breezy but I also want to feel comfortable in it, and that means it can’t be a sack or I’ll feel self conscious.

The skirt is gathered in to the bodice with clear elastic, so I thought maybe I’d gather it again, to suck in the waist. I originally did the whole waist and of course it was then too small, so I unpicked the front and now i’ts just gathered on the back. I also took in the seam at the shoulders about 5/8 of an inch, which meant I had to re-reinforce the shoulders and the stitching is visible on the outside. But since I never have to look at that, I figure it’s better than having a droopy dress.

Shoulder reinforcement
Back gathering
Back gathering. A bit messy but it does the job and when it’s on, the gathers hide it pretty well.

I didn’t pay attention to how they have you do the neck and sleeve bindings, and just did them as usual, to my cost. he instructions have you sew them to the right side of the dress, turn them under and stitch with a straight stitch, so that instead of a band on the outside, you are basically using them as a facing. This would have been much better in the thin rayon, mine came out all wibbly. I turned the band under and top stitched on the arms and it made the problem different but not any better.

Tired face, wibbly sleeves

They’re all still wibbly. And I neglected a close up of the neck but it’s pretty loose, I suspect it will stretch out quite a bit over time. On the one hand I’m glad I did the more traditional binding, because it gives me a bit more height at the neckline (must remember to cut any future version a wee bit higher). On the other hand, I don’t think this rayon has enough recovery to really hold the neckline in enough.

Wibbly sleeve

So, after writing that I decided that I couldn’t live with the sleeves as they were, that it was just going to annoy me and I’d never wear it. I tried binding them with a more stable knit but I think the problem is just that the rayon is too rigid when sewn on the vertical. In the end, I just cut the binding and turned over parts off all together, had another quick photoshoot, and then shoved it in a drawer.

Sleeves with bindings cut off

I was feeling really unhappy about it, and thinking that it fell into the same unfortunate category as most of my me-made knit dresses and summer home-wear, where it covers my nakedness but is sloppy and makes me feel bad about it. The general failure of it, plus the fact that the sleeves are now much shorter than I’d like, made me feel not good. I had originally sewn it to bulk out my summer wardrobe so that I would have appropriate clothes to go to Bali with the retreat that Suse organised (it was amazing, I am hoping to blog it but if I don’t manage it Lara’s written some wonderful blog posts about it. Dates are up for next year, you should consider going!) I didn’t end up bringing this dress because I was so down on it. That said, now I look at the photos I’m feeling ok about it again. It might get a look the next hot day we have, and I’ll reassess.

I do really like the pattern itself, and the mistakes were my own so hopefully that means I could improve on them next time. I did grab some more of this knit to make another, but I don’t think it’s a good pattern to fabric match – I might try a moneta so I can line the bodice and not need facings. If I make this pattern again, I will:

  • Use the adjusted pattern which I am definitely going to adjust immediately so I don’t forget what I’m doing (edit: It’s been a week and I still haven’t done that sooooo… good job, me?) (edit: it’s been a month now. Gold star work).
  • cut the neckline higher so I can do the turned-under binding without it being too low.
  • Not use a rayon, or other knit that won’t manage the vertical sewing. If I do, I will just leave the sleeves raw to begin with
  • do the bindings as instructed
  • cut a piece of clear elastic to the size of my actual waist, rather than the size of the bodice, to use for gathering. I like the way that makes the top just a tiny bit blousy.
  • I think the elastic I used the first time was not really stretchy enough, while the second lot was. So I’ll make sure I use a stretchy enough elastic, and I found a slightly wider elastic was easier to control as well.

10 thoughts on “Ottobre Women 02/14 – ‘Tennessee’

  1. I think the dress looks great! I love the print on the fabric, I’ve made a couple dresses now with the rayon knit from spotlight and it is sooo comfy 🙂

  2. I’m glad you at least have more of that fabric, because it is AWESOME, and it would be really sad if you didn’t get a dress you love out of it. That being said, your final version doesn’t look all that ‘wibbly’ in the pictures. Maybe it’s a thing that “normal” people would never notice? Although I totally get it too, even if it’s just you that notices something, because it can just make you feel less confident even if it’s no big deal!

    1. Thanks! 🙂 I think I would always have noticed the hemmed sleeves, but I’m hopeful that the chopped off ones will be ok. I’m going to try hard not to focus on them, and just be ‘normal’ and not ‘the person who made this’! It was always going to be a casual dress anyway so it doesn’t have to meet the standards that a work outfit would.

  3. I actually really like this on you and I like the print, too. I know what it’s like to be very critical though of things I make. I laughed at the “being known” at the fabric store like that. I find that people always remember me in stores, which makes me a bit crazy. I think it’s because I spend quite a bit of time looking carefully at things and thinking. I always worry they think I’m going to steal something, but I’m just looking! This happens to me in art galleries too – as though it’s weird to try to look at the brush strokes and actually think about a painting while looking at it, rather than just snapping a photo or a selfie with it and moving to the next one! Just call me old school! Though yes, having a fabric store in the same building as one’s office does not bode well for controlled fabric spending!

    1. Last week, one of the lovely people who staff the cutting desk *greeted me in the street*. I just about died. (I politely responded and asked how she was, and THEN I just about died).

      I do the same. I look a lot and then I am quick to serve because by the time I’m there I know what I want – or I know what questions to ask. I guess that’s memorable? Also I have reasonably memorable hair… 😛

      I do the same in art galleries, to the point where I sometimes get told off for leaning too close. But I want to see what the artist saw!

Whadya reckon?

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