You know that feeling: you’ve been out for a cold and wintery walk, staying in a bothy or working out of doors. You come home and you shower or wash, put on your comfiest leggings and reach for the biggest, cuddliest jumper you own. Then, hand-knitted socks are pulled onto your tired feet, and you sink into the couch to relax of an evening.
For quite a while, one of my several pairs of avery leggings have been my go-to tired-evening comfy-clothing, and when my boyfriend moved in, he brought with him a deliciously big snowboarding jumper which I seek out whenever the above mood is detected. But I could never quite shift the idea of having something along these lines that was wearable in public, not just when that bone-aching tiredness was out in force, but rather any time that I wanted that easy relaxed item to throw on and go.
I’ve looked at patterns casually for several years, never quite finding the right one, or having trust that the fabric was going to be quite right. But after a difficult November, when I was travelling a lot with work and bothy living did become a bit of a norm, suddenly I couldn’t get the idea of a jersey dress out of my head. And I finally settled on a pattern.
The Zircon Dress by Paprika Patterns has been on my radar for a good few years and is one of the jersey dresses that I would keep coming back to during my pattern searches. Now suddenly, the timing was just right: it has that beautifully interesting yoke, easy silhouette and looks very effective. I purchased the pattern and popped onto Minerva to choose a jersey colour that would suit and instantly became boggled by my choice even though their new website is fantastic for seeing finished items made up in that fabric: the range of colours was stupefying. But I had an idea: using Microsoft Paint (no sophistication here!), I drew mini-Zircons, and using the Minerva jersey colours as inspiration I used the fill tool to colour them in. I settled on Anthracite for the main body, and the contrasts to be Ochre. When it arrived I was in heaven. I have rarely felt a softer, more delectable jersey fabric and one that’s so thick and warm too. I could hardly wait to get started.
Then life got in the way, and I got a new job, we moved house and my sewing machines were packed up and temporarily put into storage. Now, we’ve settled into our rented house in Strathcarron and with my sewing station set up again it was time to get going.
Sizing-wise I chose the size 5, although I only fell into it once. I was a 5 at the bust, 6 at the waist and 4 for the hips! So, I thought size 5 was a good bet as I couldn’t be bothered to grade. This pattern goes up to a 49″ / 124cm bust and a 50.5″ / 128cm hip, which just brings it over into the 50″ sewing pattern club. It is a fab pattern otherwise, and a nice challenge to put together: the pattern pieces look fantastically odd, which is always fun. Before starting, I decided to lengthen the dress by 2″ and added 1″ to the sleeve length. In almost all the modelled photos on the website, she has her sleeves pulled up, meaning it is slightly tricky to make a good judgement as to the length of the sleeves. If any pattern designers are reading this, please take note that it is so important to show the unmodified pattern clearly in photos. There’s one photo on the website where the sleeves are worn down and they just looked that wee bit too short to my liking. In fact my one inch wasn’t enough and I added a cuff as well to finish off the look.
The dress came together pretty well. The corners were tough! And it was interestingly challenging to get them to square up (with some I have called it okay and left it at that). The neckline came together beautifully, and really I am very pleased with it. It is overlocked and then topstitched around the outside, which just finishes it off nicely.
Most of the seams around the yoke are left unfinished, and this jersey is so scrumptiously bouncy that I am unsure whether the pressed seams around this area will stay in place. I may end up having to come back and top stitch them down although it would be easy to make a pigs ear out of that one, which is why I haven’t risked it already, and I do like the simplicity of the lines without topstitching. Another alternative would be to tack them down invisibly, if such a thing is possible with jersey.
And then, because I was making good progress, I decided to make it slightly more complicated and add pockets just before sewing up the side seams. When putting these together, I made sure that the front pocket piece had the fleece to the inside to make for extra scrunchable hand warmers. I also used a pretty top stitch to stabilise and highlight the pocket edge, and love how that peeks out against the pale fleece. Adding pockets means that the dress is heavier around the middle than the pattern really wanted and the gentle cocoon shape is really emphasised, but the addition of pockets helps the whole ensemble really fit the bill for the cosy, comfy dress I was aiming for so I am counting it as a win. I am also not complaining about not having graded to the sizes recommended by the pattern. If I had done that, it would be bigger around the waist and tighter at the hips – definitely not something that I want.
Adding the hem detail was interesting. The pattern pieces call for you to cut the insert out early on, but I wanted to try the hem length before I did that, and I ended up chopping off 3″ so I would have lost quite a bit of the insert if I’d added it in earlier. So, once I’d worked out what length I wanted the dress to be, and added 1″ of hem onto that length, I worked out the cut out should be 1cm (which is the seam allowance) smaller all around than the actual insert. Does this make sense? It certainly had me scratching my head. Especially because the instructions for this part are slight, to put it mildly. No pivot points were marked on the pattern pieces, as a contrast to the yoke pieces, so I was sewing blind. And actually the whole thing came together about 1000 times better than those first ones.
I followed the methodology that I have always followed for pivot points in the past (sew up to your point, then snip the inside corner, turn, line up and sew to the next pivot) and it is SO much easier than having clipped your corners before starting. A wee reminder again for us all to trust our previous experience and not take the instructions for gospel – this probably stands for all walks of life to be honest.
I was left pondering whether to put a cuff on the sleeves or not. I felt they were ever so slightly too short, but couldn’t decide between the three options: add yellow cuff, add grey cuff, or do a wee turnover on the grey. There is very little stretch in this jersey, and I didn’t want to end up with cuffs that were too tight to roll up, but short arms are no fun, especially on a cosy, scrunchy jumper dress!
Clearly the grey cuffs won out, and I can roll my sleeves up, just. And with that I was almost done – I finished the hem using the overlocker, turned up an inch and then topstitched with the twin needle. And took the time to do yellow thread on the ochre part and grey on the anthracite. A wee detail that I am so glad I didn’t rush on. It is very effective and very cute.
Now, the length. As already mentioned, I added 2″ at the beginning. When trying the dress on, it felt really frumpy at that length, so my boyfriend and I worked together to shorten it. We may have gone too far. I am 5’11”, and when trying the dress on, I really did think I had reached a good length. These photos imply otherwise however, and I could do with another couple of inches in actual fact. Sigh… never mind. The comfort hasn’t changed at this length, although the wearability in public places may be reduced.
Saying that, I love this dress. Honestly, love it. It brings me such joy to put it on, and get that lovely cosy feeling. Every time I put my hands in my pockets, my entire body just goes ‘ahhhh‘ in relaxation. I love the colour, love the neckline, love the hem detailing, and utterly love the fabric. As you can see from the creased photos, I have worn this a lot since making it. It is precisely what I wanted from this dress, which is always a nice feeling.
Now, please excuse me as I think it is time for me to go and relax in front of the fire with my Zircon. And knit a new pair of woolly socks to accompany it.
PS. I sewed up a new pair of Avery leggings which are my best fitting yet. I took 1.5″ off the height of the waistband of Option A and it perfectly hits my waist now. But the best thing about these are definitely this incredible fabric!! These succulents (out of stock, sorry) are from Poppy Bear Fabrics and are gorgeous!!