Monday, November 10, 2014

Pattern Hacking Part One: Piece of Cake Pillowcase Dress

I've said before just how much I love a good basic pattern.  I like the challenge that comes with pattern hacking, and being able to put my own spin on these great designs, so I thought I'd do a little blog series and see just how many variations I can get out of one pattern.  One pattern I've found myself turning to frequently is the Piece of Cake peasant dress by Anna Maria Horner.  In fact, it's probably my most favorite thing I've sewn for Bunny, and it's no surprise I keep returning to make it again and again.  So for this series it seems only natural to use it.  Although I'll be focusing on altering this specific pattern, I hope to give you some tips and techniques for pattern hacking that can be applied to any pattern.  We're going to start with the most basic hack I've done from this pattern.  You can download the pattern for free from the link above if you'd like to follow along.  Lets get started!

This hack is probably the easiest kind of alteration to make.  In essence, all you have to do is leave off the sleeves! Simple, right?  But this wouldn't be much a tutorial if I didn't give you the details, so here we go.

 For this tutorial I'm going to be using the 12 month size.  You will only need the front/back body piece, so don't worry about the sleeve options.  Whenever you're doing a pattern hack it's a good idea to trace off a new pattern piece.  I always trace my patterns onto freezer paper rather than cutting them out from the printer paper.  It saves ink and paper, and you can iron the freezer paper straight to your fabric for easy cutting.  I was able to squeak by with a half yard of fabric by cutting about an inch off the length of the dress.  This worked out okay because I did a smaller hem rather than the blind hem called for by the original pattern.  For anything larger you'll need at least 3/4 of a yard of fabric.  I'm also using 7/8 inch double face satin ribbon, 1 1/2 inch wide bias tape, and some pretty lace trim.  The color of your bias tape doesn't matter, since it won't show.

I really need to recover my ironing board.
 Cut out two body pieces.  To fit both body pieces onto a single half yard, I folded the fabric in half (selvedge to selvedge, the way it comes on the bolt) and then in half again.  If your fabric is a little slippery you can fold it in half, iron the centerline, unfold it and fold the selvedges in to the center.  (Think of it like folding a really big piece of bias tape.)

 Cut a piece of bias tape a little bit longer then your neckline and iron it open.
With right sides together, line up the top of the bias tape with the neckline and stitch along the top fold line.  You'll need to stretch the tape a bit around the curves.  Do this for both front and back pieces.

 Press the seam allowance up, and trim the end of the bias tape so it's flush with the arm seam.

 Press all four arm seams in by 1/4 inch, and over another 1/4 inch.  Include the edge of your bias tape in this seam.

If the edge of your bias tape sticks out a bit you can trim the corner off like this. 

Stitch the arm seam. 
Seriously.  Ick.  Sorry!
Fold the bias tape over to the inside and pin in place.  You'll need to stretch it out as you sew a bit to get a smooth curve.

 Stitch the bias tape down to finish your neckline on both front and back pieces.

 Next we need to do the side seams.  Since this fabric is on the thin side I opted for french seams.  You can do yours however you like.

 Hem! I folded my hem up by 1/4 inch and another 1/2 inch.  (One of my bad sewing habits is that I generally just eyeball my hem.  Don't be like me.  Measure your hems; they'll be much nicer!)  I also topstitched lace over the hemline to add some interest.

If you did french seams, it's a good idea to trim a little bit out of the hemline where the seams are, so it'll lay nicely.  Otherwise you end up with those lumps and uneven stitches at the side seams.

 Now all that's left is to add the tie!  I'm using ribbon, but you could also make a fabric sash.  To measure my ribbon I looked up the elastic cutting guide for the original pattern, and then added 14 inches.  This makes my bow a little on the small side, but Bunny loves to chew on ribbon so I wanted it to be out of the way.  For a bigger bow I'd add at least another 10 inches.  Be sure to heat seal the ends of your ribbon with a lighter or candle, so they don't fray!

 Put a safety pin on the end of your ribbon or sash, and thread it through the casings made by the bias tape.  Since Bunny is so little and ribbons can be a choking hazard, I topstitched the ribbon into the casing at just one edge once I'd gotten it situated how I wanted.

 And that's it! Super cute and super fast!  I especially love the one I made here with some AMH voile I've been hoarding.  This is probably the fastest thing I've ever sewn, including playing around with new trims.  You could probably make one in under 30 minutes if you skip the fancy stuff. 

I love that I can throw one of these over a ready to wear outfit for an instant handmade upgrade.  So what do you think?  I'd love to see how creative you can get with this pattern hack!  Share your pictures with me on my FaceBook page or on Instagram (@thepumpkinandbunny), or just leave a comment!

P.S. Here's a sneak peek at the fabrics I'll be using for the next hack!

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