When I used to buy my clothes, ponte dresses were my biggest weakness (I’m looking at you, Boden). The perfect ‘smart yet comfy’ work uniform that worked well with so many accessories - I had one in almost every colour. Sadly, some of these dresses have now seen better days and have had to be retired to the big wardrobe in the sky, but we all know what that means - new sewing project!
I’ve had my eye on the Emma dress by Sew Over It for a long time – the striped sample that Lisa Comfort has modelled is absolutely gorgeous and the pleats and princess seams are things of beauty. The pattern was previously only available as part of the ‘introduction to knits’ class, but Sew Over It released it as a PDF pattern in October and I bought it within seconds.
Whenever I’m planning a new sewing project my first port of call is always Sew Me Sunshine. Ponte can vary in quality enormously and it’s so hard to tell what you’re getting when buying online, but I know that Harriet only stocks the good stuff and any ponte listed on her website would be the crème de la crème. My biggest dilemma was which colour to choose! Should I shamelessly copy Lisa with the navy stripe? Or pick teal, rust or mustard for major autumnal vibes? The flock leopard was calling out to me too… decisions, decisions! After much deliberation I went for the mustard, as it’s one of my all time favourite colours to wear at this time of year and goes with so much in my wardrobe.
Sew Over It instructions are not my favourite, in all honesty, but I was pleased to see that rather than photos of each step, this pattern actually had small diagrams to illustrate each stage. I find these much easier to understand and visualise and for me, they make instructions easier to follow. Although this is a very straightforward dress to make, I would describe the instructions as ‘minimal’ and sewists who have not made a garment like this before or maybe haven’t worked with knits a huge amount may not find them overly helpful.
I’d never inserted a zip into ponte before and that was probably the most fiddly stage of construction. I struggled with the thickness of the neck facing and waist seams under the concealed zip foot and wasn’t happy with the fact these didn’t perfectly match when the zip was pulled up. Imagine my delight when I realised I was able to take the dress on and off without undoing it! Out came the zip (which didn’t quite match the colour of the fabric anyway) and I overlocked the centre back seam instead – much better! The rest of the project was plain sailing and I completed it over the course of a few evenings, sewing for a couple of hours each night.
I made the dress in the size 8. Based on Sew Over It patterns I have previously made, I know that as long as the garment isn’t fitted around my hips this size will suit me best. However, I think if I made it again, I would make a couple of adjustments. Firstly I would cut the back bodice, back neckline facing and back skirt pieces on the fold (after removing the seam allowances) to eliminate the need for a centre back seam. I would also make the cuffs wider as they are seriously tight - the rest of the sleeve fits fine, but I have to keep checking the blood supply to my hands! I would also slightly change the way I sewed the pleats, as I found that by matching the notches as explained in the pattern, the folds of fabric only met at the very top of the skirt piece, meaning that once you’ve sewn with a 5/8” seam allowance there is a gap in the middle of the pleat where it meets the bodice. Perhaps this is my error, as the pleats all seem to match up on the samples I have seen, but it’s something to think and improve next time.
I’m really pleased with my dress and I have had lots of fun styling it with different belts, scarves, earrings and coloured tights to get loads of new outfit ideas. As anticipated, the fabric is beautiful quality and it has worn and washed really well with absolutely no bobbling. The colour really is stunning and it adds some much needed sunshine to these dreary winter days. I definitely want to make another Emma dress and that flock leopard is still calling my name… I better add it to my Christmas list!
I was provided with this fabric free of charge by Sew Me Sunshine in exchange for this blog post and all thoughts and opinions are my own. You can see more of my sewing through my Instagram account @stitch_make_bake.