Tuesday, August 26, 2014

One Hour Dress? Not!

When our customers come in to look at our pattern books, they find all manner of styles and designers for all levels of sewing experience. Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics has one of the largest inventories of independent pattern designers and we often choose these innovative designs for my wardrobe (many are listed in our on-line store).

But I also love to try designs from our larger brand patters such as Burda, Vogue, and NewLook. Although most of the Vogue designs (Stonemountain discounts all Vogue patterns 50% everyday!) tend to be a little more intricate with the seaming and design details, I do love the simple designs featured in the other pattern company books as well.

For example, take this NewLook 6347 maxi-dress.  Right there on the front of the pattern it says "Easy 1 hour". So what does a 1 hour dress pattern look like?

This maxi has three pattern pieces: a front that is placed on the fold, a back, and an armhole facing.  The neck edge is supposed to be finished with single fold bias tape and the hem is finished with hem tape, both of which are purchased separately. Evidently, it slips over your head, as there's no zipper.

 I thought it might be fun to put Laurel to the test! Perhaps we can learn some aspects of garment sewing that might make a difference in the construction of the dress. For starters, when you see the pattern envelop up close, there is a tiny little asterisk beside the "1 hour" label. Scanning to the bottom of the pattern - oh snap!- that doesn't include any of the time that it takes to trim all the pattern pieces in the envelope, or the time it takes to lay it on the fabric and cut it out. One hour equals sewing time only.

Second, the pattern calls for woven fabrics such as cotton, linen, crepe up to and including silk fabrics. However, we picked out a cotton knit for my dress just because I prefer the wearability of a knit. Before trying out a new pattern, sometimes it's fun to check out the Internet, just to see what others say about your pattern.  When we looked up this one, we noted that one person who had made the dress said that the neckline didn't look anything like the photo. After cutting out the dress in our knit, we sort of agreed - that neck did look a little wide.  In fact, the whole dress looked a little "wide", even though we stepped down a size.

We can say from experience that knits generally take more time to layout than a woven fabric. And if you factor in a bold pattern, you can add some more time to your layout process to make sure you've matched your prints in the best way. Laurel reports that it took her 25 minutes to cut the pattern pieces on the knit. To begin the sewing process, there's some prep time that we're wondering if the designer factored into the 1 hour, i.e. bobbin winding, stitch selection, marking darts - all that pesky preparation work that also takes time - add 7 to 10 minutes.

Several aspects of this 1-hour dress ended up adding time to Laurel's construction, primarily because of the knit fabric. Sewing bias strips around the curved armholes and neckline without puckers requires a little patience and care - not the sort of the thing we think about when we're doing "slash and dash" sewing - there's a lot of trimming, pressing, pinning involved. More time needed!

Knits often add there own set of nuances and surprises.  Remember that the pattern called for a woven fabric? Not sure how this happened but check out the side seam at the hemline. No, it wasn't stretched or pulled...but whatever happened, we'll have to fix it, so Laurel is wrapping this dress up until I try it on - we'll trim the hem at fitting.

She is pretty sure that the neckline is going to fall off my shoulders, but our "time test" did not call for ripping out seams and altering. All total without even hemming this 1 hour dress, we've got almost 90 minutes into it.  We do love the fabric and agree that it's totally salvageable, just because it's so soft and flowing, but probably not without some minor adjustments.

So did this dress measure up to it's claims? We can't really say for sure, since we didn't use the simpler to sew woven fabric it suggested.  But we can say that even the simplest of patterns require more time than you might think. Laurel has been sewing since she was ten and she says that she used to start making a garment in the morning to be able to wear it that night. But even then, she can't remember ever making anything that only took an hour.  (Those darn facings will kill you every time!)

So, we say take your time and factor in the surprises and challenges that you may encounter.  Every garment has at least one or two, even for the expert sewists! Anything worth wearing is worth taking your time and enjoying the process.

Creatively Yours,
Owner, Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics
2518 Shattuck Ave @ Dwight Way in Berkeley
email: fabriclady3@gmail.com


  1. I agree with the way these patterns are labeled. I am not sure who is sewing these dresses or the encouragement behind it but it really discourages new / beginning sewers. Rarely have I made something in an hour unless I self-drafted it myself.


    1. So true CurvyGirl! We just have to use our own knowing and work at our own pace. I love finding designs that are appealing and worth all the challenges!

  2. I've bought some expensive batiq fabric to make this now I'm really worried!😥