Bell Sleeves (Hey June Charleston Dress)

Thank you to Indiesew for providing this pattern.

I am not known for a prolific production of knits, in fact I think the knit garments on this blog number in the single digits, but my mom sews tons of knit garments and occasionally I get jealous and decide I want to wear something stretchy and comfortable too. That was the impulse behind this simple top--I've had this pattern for ages but was never inspired to make it until I saw my mom's adorable versions that she packed for our vacation a few weeks ago! She made 3 or 4 Charleston dresses with different sleeve lengths and prints and had a whole wardrobe of Charlestons to wear! That's the beauty of this pattern, that it has so many different options to mix and match: two different skirt views (slim and a-line) and seven different sleeve options (elbow, 3/4, and long lengths, a gathered cap sleeve, and two little shoulder details I'm not sure how to explain, as well as plain sleeveless). A small detail of this pattern I can't neglect to mention is that the bodice comes with two slightly different drafts, one designed for sleeves and one for sleeveless. I really appreciate this of attention to detail--thanks Hey June! It does mean that there are lots of pattern pieces to print and tape, but I think this pattern is so versatile that all the taping and tracing is worth it--you can really use it again and again for all different looks. Of course, I decided that even given the multitude of versions available, I would go off-piste and make up a new one, because that is what I do.

In honor of #yearofthesleeve I went with some pretty bell sleeves, made using the elbow-length sleeve pattern and simply gathering a rectangle to the end instead of hemming. Looking back, I should have actually based the length of the rectangle on the length of the long sleeve, because my sleeves ended up a little bit more bracelet-length than I intended! The peplum is made in the same way--I love how the peplum and the bell sleeves look together, and since the rayon knit I used is pretty drapey, it doesn't add too much bulk. I totally feel like I'm channeling Lara, queen of dressy-casual knit tops, white jeans, and lots of navy!

If you look closely, however, you'll notice this shirt isn't perfect; in addition to the sleeves being slightly short, my gathering is pretty uneven and there are a few puckers here and there. It's not too noticeable when worn, but I had a lot of trouble with my serger during this project, and actually finished it on my regular sewing machine instead. The guts of this top remind me of the insides of my first woven sewing projects, with uneven, unfinished seam allowances and some pretty awkward sewing. I did try something new though--I used fusible tape to stabilize my hemming on peplum and sleeves! Several of you suggested I try this and it really does make a huge difference--it was so, so much easier to hem the taped up hems. Now I just need tips on how to make all the other steps as easy!

Do you prefer sewing knits or wovens? I find knits to be endlessly frustrating to me, but then again it's sort of nice to be back as a "beginner" and be learning a bunch of new skills at once instead of obsessing over perfection in bound buttonholes or whatever.


ps: Lara has also made a really cute charleston dress as part of her goal to sew the whole Indiesew S/S 2017 collection! i think this is such a cute idea--after all, Allie designs the collections to work together so it's like a little mini capsule wardrobe!

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  1. Your outfit looks great! I really do like all of my Charleston dresses! I have a hunter green long sleeve and a black 3/4 sleeve one on the sewing table now. I really think the dress can be dressed up or down and all the options make it one of my favorite patterns. XO, Mom

  2. I just switched back to knits after an almost whole year dedicated to wovens. In fact I had just gotten my fit sorted out in wovens and suddenly decided to switch to knits :) yes we sewists can't resist a challenge. I forgot how much that whole negative ease thing matters! I made up a practice run in a 2 way stretch which fit really well then made it up in a VERY stretchy bamboo and yikes I was swimming in it! It was a bit of a nightmare and I ended up tossing the whole works - pattern and fabric - into the bin! I'm now making myself a couple of pairs of panties with the bamboo I had left over :)

  3. Love this so much -- I have been thinking about how cute this would be since you mentioned it on your Instagram stories. I now must make one to look just like this -- then we can match! Thanks for the love on this post!

  4. This looks super cute and comfy! I've been really into knits lately. The serger isn't always my best friend, though... I still haven't found a setting that I like for sewing seams so I just use it to finish them after sewing them on my sewing machine. Talk about inefficient. I tend to gravitate toward the knit garments after they're in my wardrobe though.

  5. This is a cute top and no-one sees the insides except us! I must admit I'm a bit like you and feel most comfortable and confident sewing wovens, but I've been trying to get to grips with knits more this year. The trouble is I've made some huge successes and some pretty dismal failures. I'm back making a pair of trousers in a woven, it feels good to be on solid ground again!

  6. Love this outfit! I usually use some fusible to hem knits, too. I don't use a serger and I hate gathering knits (or anything). I had some wonky gathers on my waterfall raglan, but I can live with it!



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