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Knock it Off - Frances Suzanne

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
I have such admiration for my guests today who blog over at Frances Suzanne.  Ashley and Emily's skills with embroidery, piping, smocking, etc., and their overall design aesthetic, leaves me totally impressed every time I see one of their creations.  Thank you so much for sharing yet another beautiful dress!  Your adorable niece is pretty in pink, indeed!

Hello, Elegance and Elephants readers, we are thrilled to be here today! We couldn't think of a better idea for a series, and appreciate Heidi giving us the opportunity to share a knock off with you. We first met Heidi in the Project Run and Play Flickr Sew-Along Group during season 4, and have been enamored by her mad sewing skills ever since... Unlike previous guest bloggers, we are "sewing aunts," rather than "sewing mommas." We are two sisters, Ashley {frances} and Emily {suzanne} who love creating and sewing children's clothing for our two nieces {our 'baby' sister's children}.
Looking back on our short blogging 'career,' it is amazing how dependent we are on the many ideas 'snagged' from others in an effort to knock off outfits for our nieces. Now, for this series, our major problem was choosing what to knock off. So, we decided to visit a pinterest board, created for our sister {the nieces' momma} to pin favorite things for our sewing inspiration. So, why not go with the picture she has on the board cover: the Daisy Dress, by Kayce Hughes?
While pink isn't our "go to" color, our niece is indeed "pretty in pink." On the original dress, the piping contrast was red, but we weren't brave enough for such a bold color and opted to use a remnant of brown fabric instead {left over from our Twiggy Dress}.
Much to our chagrin, we just can't draft a pattern. And, to complicate matters, we lack daily access our niece's wardrobe as a starting point, without an hour commute. So, it all began with a vintage pattern - Simplicity 6324.
There were four things that needed modifying on this pattern: 1) changing the zipper in the back to an extended button placket, 2) narrowing, shortening, and adding a piped cuff to the sleeves, 3) adding a peter pan collar, and 4) adding a belt around the waist. Let's just say, some of these modifications went better than others...but more on that later. We followed the pattern in creating the front pleats. 
Modification #1: Before cutting the back pieces, we adjusted for the placket, which wasn't like anything we had attempted before. In our sewing searches, we'd seen plackets that overlapped and met in the center back, but hadn't seen a placket in which one side overlapped entirely over the other partially down the back. In order to make the placket, we extended the back right side an additional 1 1/4" in width down the entire center back.
On the back left side, we made an extension off the main part of the dress that was 2 1/4" wide and 8" long (accounting for 5/8" seams on the neck and end of placket), from the neck.
After cutting both back pieces, we sewed the darts as indicated on the original pattern pieces. Next, we began working on the left back extension area. We folded under 1/4", then 1", right sides together, to form the placket. Then, we stitched the very bottom of the placket together, so that when it was turned right side out it was neatly finished.
Then we trimmed excess seam underneath stitched line {to help the placket lay flat once turned}.
Next, still on the back left side, we marked the 5/8" seam allowance down the entire length of the dress (underneath the placket). Then, on the righthand side, we marked a 1 7/8" seam allowance (5/8" seam + 1/4" folded finish + 1" placket area). We lined up the two lines that we drew (right sides together) and stitched from the base of the dress up to the placket extension.
And, voila...first modification SUCCESS! The finished inside of the placket was....
And, the right side of the dress looked like this...
And, a little peek of the left extension....
Buttons were the priciest part of this knock-off. We bought them at Joann's, but even with a coupon, they were $8! Four buttons (5/8") were spaced evenly on the back right placket, and buttonholes were added to the left extension. Two additional buttons (13/16") were purchased for the belt closure. Modification #2: Our goal on this modification was to narrow, shorten, and add a piped cuff to the sleeves. To cut the sleeves, we determined the completed length needed to be 8". We shortened the sleeve pattern piece 4" from it's original length to make 3/4 length sleeves. This measurement accounted for the 1" finished cuff we added to the sleeve length on a later step.  
The vintage sleeve pattern called for sleeves to be gathered at the wrist, but we wanted a more tapered/straight sleeve. To adjust for a narrower finished width, we needed the cuff to be 9" long, so we narrowed the sleeve to this width.
The cuffs were made by cutting each 9" cuff, 3.25" wide (5/8" seam allowances per side + 2" for doubled cuff) for a 1" finished cuff. To recreate "the piped look," we attached piping to the long edge of the cuff, right sides together, and stitched with 5/8" seams.
We pressed 5/8" toward the wrong side of the fabric.
Then, we attached the piped cuffs to the main part of the sleeve, right sides together, and stitched in place.
Finally, we folded the placket in half, covering the stitching line, and whipstitched in place. The finished cuff should be 1" in width. Then, we trimmed the excess cuff to match the trajectory of the sleeve, and stitched seam in place. Modification 2.... SUCCESS!
Modification #3: Our downfall and the nemesis of this knock off: a drafted, peter pan collar! Okay, it was bad, horrid, and awful - all wrapped into two non-symmetrical {due to the back placket extension} crescent shaped collars!!!
The positives about our experience:
1. We matched the notches and shoulder seam placement well.
2. The outer edge of the collar was drafted correctly, based on sleeve seams to come.
3. The piping was added without a hitch.
4. The trajectory of the collar seemed to match the original dress.
So what was the bad??? While we thought we were allowing for seam allowances in all places....we obviously weren't. It was disastrous! TRULY!  In fact, it was so bad on the first round, we did a second collar to 'help the situation.' Yes, it helped....but still was a pitiful attempt.  The front had a gaping space, and the back left a much larger gap than the placket area of 1" that we were aiming for. We tried to adjust for the mistake in seam allowances, but couldn't fix it entirely {a picture is worth a thousand words...see photo below}.
Lesson learned: We NEED peter pan collar drafting classes before tackling another collar! Any takers for a blog series on peter pan collar drafting!?!? We'd be your most avid followers....
So, that said, we'd prefer not to 'guide you' through our collar making experience....for fear it would only lead to frustration and anger. Instead, know that an attempt was made; we weren't pleased; and you might be better off googling peter pan collar tutorials rather than following our lead. Modification 3.....FAIL!
Modification #4: Finally, it was time to finish the dress with a piped waistband...tacked flat in the front of the dress, and held in place by two 13/16" buttons on the back of the dress. After wrapping a tape measure around our niece and overlapping the edges as we deemed appropriate {in addition to taking her waist measurement and dress measurement}, we cut two 2.5" wide bands...31" in length, and curved each around the edges. 
Piping was added to the right side of one of the bands and attached with 1/2" seams. 
In order to make the piping continuous, we first took the seam ripper and opened up the end of the piping and cut it so it butted up to the beginning of the piping. Secondly, we folded over the end of the bias strip in order to "finish it". Next, we wrapped the folded over edge around the piping. Finally, we stitched it in place to form continuous piping.
We sandwiched the piping between right sides of band fabric. Then, we sewed {leaving a sizeable hole}, flipped the band right side out, and topstitched the entire band in place.
The front of the dress measured 13". We tacked the center section (13") of the band on the front of the dress - keeping it flush against the dress. This left 17" of band on the back to pull together and hold in place with two 13/16" buttons. Modification 4....SUCCESS!
So, as we wrapped up the Knock Off garment {and post}, we counted our costs: Vintage pattern = $6.50 $2 / yard pink corduroy (~1.5 - 2 yards used) = $3 - 4 Buttons (4 5/8", and 2 13/16") = $8 Leftover piping fabric = $0 A total savings of $71.50 {and multiple lessons learned} from the original dress....not too shabby! Now, how about that peter pan collar drafting blog series?? Could we have a second to this motion?? Anyone??
13 comments on "Knock it Off - Frances Suzanne"
  1. So well done and your niece is adorable! For everything there is a learning curve and as long as you come out more knowledgeable, it's worth it! I thought of you guys a lot as I was doing the piping on my coat. You do it so well!

  2. You guys did great - and it is a good feeling not to be the only one who had to struggle along the way ;op Your piping work is always stellar. Now about this peter pan collar thing - I'll second... I admit there are some patterned PP collars out there that I think look worse than how yours turned out, but I think I am just super picky about how they look.

  3. Wow, that that 'baby' sister and her children are lucky to have two such talented sisters/aunts. Beautiful dress!
    I LOVE Peter Pan collars and I must say I don't see the problem with the collar in the final result - looks great. Was it the shape that was the problem or the fact that it was too small for the neck opening? But now that you request it I will consider a Peter Pan collar drafting tutorial. Or you can contact me on if you have any questions!

    1. We didn't account for the seam allowances around the neck as much as needed, making extremely large gaps between the 2 collar pieces. We could take smaller seam allowances somewhat in these areas, but it then affected the curve of the collar. We may be contacting you on our next collar attempt - watch out!!

  4. I think this diagram lays out drafting Peter Pan collars pretty nicely - but yours is not at all bad. And the overall dress is adorable!

    1. Thanks for the link!!! We'll DEFINTELY check it out ....

  5. I am not a huge fan of sewing peter pan collars (and I've only sewn them with a pattern, don't get me wrong I love the look of them, just hate sewing them), so I'm totally impressed that you drafted your own! Bravo to you for pushing yourselves and trying something new.
    That niece is so fortunate to have 2 very talented aunts!

  6. Love the piping and other details -as always! How frustrating to have to keep reworking your collar.

  7. simply in awe. your piping skills alone have me swooning in envy. what an amazing dress!

  8. Thanks all for the sweet comments AND informative advice!!! Peter Pan collars are making their way to our 2013 New Year Resolutions ..... We're going to conquer them. EVENTUALLY :)!

  9. Great job altering the pattern, and as for the collar, I've never tried one myself..not even from a pattern. So, sorry no help here :) But, the dress is adorable. I think I may need to do this for my three year old..I love it!

  10. I think the dress is adorable. I love it.

  11. Love this! And I have the same ruler from fifth grade. . . . ;)


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