The weekend I finished this wool dress was the weekend Spring came to Chicago, because of course it is. I have another wool project in the works, too… this might be the only time I have ever wished cold weather to return– I have seasonally-appropriate makes to finish!
Long ago, I made the Dixie DIY Ballet Dress. I thought it would be the perfect first foray into sewing knits. I made it with this adorable and shit-quality Girl Charlee sparrow print. I think this hearkened the beginning of the end of my twee stage. I liked the dress but the bodice fit all wrong (front came up way shorter than the back because: boobs so I had to do some janky maneuvering I was never happy with) and the fabric, while cute, was so thin I was constantly worrying about blowing out an armpit or something. I finally sent it to the thrift store about a year ago but always had it in the back of my mind to revisit. The bodice may not have been perfect, but I love a good knit dress and I really liked the skirt.
I got it into my head that the Nettie bodice would make an awfully nice replacement. I love all the neckline, back, and sleeve options of the Nettie, and knits are usually pretty forgiving when you mash two patterns together. I looked at the Kitschy Coo Lady Skater for a long time because everyone raves about that pattern, but eventually decided to approximate it on my own with two patterns I already had. #thrifty
I was out shopping with Ashley about a month or so ago at The Needle Shop and I was having one of those moments where you’re overwhelmed by choice and can’t decide on anything to buy. We walked over to the wall of knits and I started immediately touching everything (I want to know who these people are who are capable of shopping politely without molesting the merchandise) and my hand stopped at this. MERINO. Merino, fabric of dreams! They had it in two colors, this denimy blue heather and a charcoal heather. You know I loveeeeeee me a charcoal (or a black or a gray), but I had just gotten rid of my last blue work dress because it was pilling so bad (another Girl Charlee miss, I’m sorry to say. I love Girl Charlee but make sure to be really selective about what you get from them! I’ve had good luck with their cotton/spandex solids and bad luck with everything else) and I knew I would need something to replace it because the previous dress had been in such heavy rotation, despite how pilly and gross it was.
I pre-washed this the way I pre-wash all wool- soaked it in tepid water with Eucalan and let it air dry. I’m too lazy and cheap to dry clean so I figured if this is how I’m going to be washing the garment later, it’s kosher to pre-wash that way. The fabric is really wide- 61″ if I remember correctly-so I had a ton left over afterwards, which might end up being some thermal undershorts for my boyfriend (he plays club rugby, frequently in the cold and wet). After toying around with a bunch of styling options (I love my Fashionary) I decided to go with a scoop neck and three-quarter sleeves. I really wanted a high neck and low back, but I work in a field where I occasionally have to implore the impressive and well-connected to give me/my organization money, and the low back felt too sexy. Ironically, this came out with a realllllllly low neck, so while I can (and do) still wear this to work, I don’t think the low back would really have been such an inappropriate choice in comparison, ha.
I graded the bodice from a 10 in the bust and shoulders down to a 6 in the waist and cut it off at the lengthen/shorten lines. I kept the skirt piece from the Dixie DIY pattern with no changes- it’s a Small. I didn’t have any trouble matching up the two different patterns at the waist. This went together really easily, as most knits do- shoulders, neck binding, sleeves in the flat, side seams, waist. I still haven’t hemmed it because I want to make sure it doesn’t warp as it hangs, and at this point I’m not sure if I will since it’s doing fine and why do extra work if you don’t have to?
The merino was very easy to work with and I would definitely work with it again. For how thin and light it is, it is surprisingly warm and only a little scratchy on my arms. If The Needle Shop isn’t still carrying it, I know you can get merino from We Are The Fabric Store.
My only complaint with this dress is that I think I should have sized up in the bodice. The Nettie is meant to fit closely (it is a bodysuit after all), but I think I forgot HOW closely (you can see a tiny bit of pulling across the back in one of the above photos). So far though, it’s already served me well and I think I’ll make another for summer with some bamboo jersey or something. Blue staple work dress FTW!