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  1. #1

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    Making dresses? Pattern recommendations?

    Earlier this year, I made a special trip to Sydney and bought a dress for competition. It's a nice dress and very pretty and I love it very much, but it was so hard finding a dress to fit. (I'm 5'9" and...well...not skinny. Not huge, but definitely not skinny. Plus I'm not sure any pre-made dress companies realised female figure skaters actually grew to be five nine.)

    Late last year, my grandma made a pair of boot covers for me - I accidentally bought WAY too much lycra and joked at the time that I could make a matching dress with the leftovers - and now the idea won't leave my head. That way I could save money AND the dress would most likely fit, and I could make it the way I wanted exactly.

    Has anyone here got experience with making figure skating dresses? Which patterns do you use? I'm liking the look of the Jalie patterns and people in other places say they're easy to work with...

    Any other advice would be greatly appreciated






    (I better put this as a disclaimer: I am a notorious procrastinator and will probably go back and forth with my mindset on this subject for MONTHS.)

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    The Jalie patterns are fantastic! I've used 3 of them, and they all came out great. I did widen the panty on them for a bit more coverage. But they were very easy to use, easy to alter (we made dresses for the entire synchro team- including some very tall, very large girls- and also very skinny girls!), and have a full range of sizes. I made them all before I got my serger, so you can do them with just a regular sewing machine.

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    I make all of my dresses with a regular sewing machine. As mentioned already, Jalie patterns are great. Kwik-sew patterns are also good.

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    I've made six skating dresses using Kwik Sew patterns. I add an inch to the upper torso to allow for my more "mature" figure. I also add 5" to the skirt length to make them dance length as I am OLD and feel silly with a really short skirt. They have all fit great with no other alterations.

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    I use Kwik-Sew as a base pattern, but I think you could start with any multi-sized pattern. In general, I don't recommend "regular" patterns where you have to cut them out. Get a multi-sized pattern where you trace it, then cut out your pattern pieces. That way it's much easier to combine sizes for a custom fit.

    For myself, I do the top of the dress a size smaller than the bottom. I add a little to the back of the trunks to "wedgie-proof" them. I find the long sleeves on the Kwik-Sew pattern (I use their active wear book, not an individual pattern) don't fit as tightly as I would like, so I trace the armhole openings from the next smaller size and use the smaller size sleeves.

    I recommend making a "test dress" out of inexpensive fabric first, to check the fit. Based on that, you can make alterations in your pattern. Once you have the pattern tweaked the way you like it, trace it onto interfacing so it will last longer.

    You can definitely use a regular sewing machine, but it needs to have a good stretch stitch. Regular straight stitch won't work at all. Zig-zag will to an extent, but I'd go over the seams more than once if that's your only option.

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    You can definitely use a regular sewing machine, but it needs to have a good stretch stitch. Regular straight stitch won't work at all. Zig-zag will to an extent, but I'd go over the seams more than once if that's your only option.
    My machine's stretch stitch uses SO much thread I feel like it attacks the fabric.

    Jalie recommends sewing a straight stitch while stretching the fabric, and then going over the seam with a zig zag stitch while not stretching the fabric. I like that technique.

    The only issue I've had with homemade dresses is I feel like there is bulk where the skirt and panty join the bodice together. I can pick out what other skaters have homemade dress by this same join, so I know it's not just me. (Even when the dresses are amazing.)

    How do you get rid of this?

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    I don't inset the skirt, I hang it. I make a leotard, and then pin the skirt in place on top of it while wearing it (this works better with two people). This has the advantage of allowing me to place the skirt seam at exactly the most flattering place for me. When I have the skirt where I want it, I zig-zag it in place over the edge. This isn't the most elegant finish, admittedly, but you can't see it out on the ice and it really doesn't look that bad up close, either.

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    Interesting- i'll have to try that.

    To solve the problem with our synchro dresses a few seasons ago, we made leotards and essentially hung tunics at the seams... but then the backs were too tight, so we had to slit them, and it was a very in elegant solution. Looked fine on the ice, but terrible up close.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Clarice View Post
    I don't inset the skirt, I hang it. I make a leotard, and then pin the skirt in place on top of it while wearing it (this works better with two people). This has the advantage of allowing me to place the skirt seam at exactly the most flattering place for me. When I have the skirt where I want it, I zig-zag it in place over the edge. This isn't the most elegant finish, admittedly, but you can't see it out on the ice and it really doesn't look that bad up close, either.

    Actually, I'm glad I'm not the only one who was thinking of this. I was thinking about making dresses earlier (when I was supposed to be doing other things) and I wondered if that would work, especially if you had a band of contrasting-colour (or even same-colour) fabric to cover the seam?

  10. #10
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    I second the idea of making a test dress first, particularly as the pattern will almost certainly require some adjustment. I found the Jalie pattern I made ridiculously short waisted, even after I'd allowed for my 'extra girth' (I ended up turning it into a skating skirt as a result). I know others haven't had the same problem. The Kwik Sew ones seem better in this regard, but none are really designed for adult skaters.

    With regard to stitching stretch fabrics on a regular sewing machine, I was taught long ago at school to use a very slight zig zag stitch whilst very slightly stretching the fabric. Also use ball point needles to avoid breaking the knit of the fabric (which might cause a run). This has worked perfectly well for me.
    The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats as gods, and the cats have never forgotten.

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    Also a great collection of patterns:
    http://www.specialtysportswear.com/1...skatewear.html

  12. #12

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    Update!

    Well, I caved completely when I found that my local sewing shop sold Kwik Sew patterns. My Grandma and I spent an hour and a half cutting pattern pieces and pinning them to the fabric and then cutting them out last night.

    Grandma gave me a crash course in the sewing machine today and I'll start sewing it together when I go back to her house next week.

    I'm very excited!

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    [QUOTE=Clarice;3145446
    You can definitely use a regular sewing machine, but it needs to have a good stretch stitch. Regular straight stitch won't work at all. Zig-zag will to an extent, but I'd go over the seams more than once if that's your only option.[/QUOTE]

    I've made many skating dresses with a straight-stitch only machine because that's all I had. Most of the McCalls, Simplicity and Vogue patterns from the 1970's and 1980's came with instructions for those types of machines or a zig-zag. (Sergers were newfangled. )

    The trick to using a straight-stich is to gently stretch the fabric as you sew the seam, so the stitches have some slack to them when you release the fabric. It builds in ease to the seams when you wear it. You can also loosen the thread tension a bit, but that's tricky because if it gets too loose, the threads can get caught in the bobbin and jam the machine. Better to use the fabric-stretch-and-stitch technique.

    I do double-stitch the seams and I always use ball-point pins and needles, even for hand-sewing. It's just easier and doesn't damage the fabric.

    For set-in skirts, it helps to trim the seam allowances and to use the "stitch in the ditch" technique of sewing in the seam to tack the seam allowances into place.
    Last edited by FigureSpins; 05-10-2011 at 02:18 PM.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by misskarne View Post
    Update!

    Well, I caved completely when I found that my local sewing shop sold Kwik Sew patterns. My Grandma and I spent an hour and a half cutting pattern pieces and pinning them to the fabric and then cutting them out last night.

    Grandma gave me a crash course in the sewing machine today and I'll start sewing it together when I go back to her house next week.

    I'm very excited!
    Good luck with the sewing - let us know how you get on! I've made skating dresses in the past using straight stitch on stretched fabric then zigzag over the edges for extra security - that's how the Jalie patterns instruct you to sew the seams. I then invested in a basic overlocker which is brilliant.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by skatefan View Post
    Good luck with the sewing - let us know how you get on! I've made skating dresses in the past using straight stitch on stretched fabric then zigzag over the edges for extra security - that's how the Jalie patterns instruct you to sew the seams. I then invested in a basic overlocker which is brilliant.
    I'll own up - I'm absolutely terrified! Some practice runs on scraps on the sewing machine suggested small zigzag stitch, but I might try the trick with the straight and zigzag. We'll see.

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    You did buy two- or four-way stretch fabric, right? I've never been able to make a decent dress or skirt with one-way stretch. It always gets runs along the seams on the non-stretch direction because there's no "give" or 'ease."

    Simplicity makes a number of soft-cover specialty sewing reference books that most libraries carry. There are a few that cover sewing with stretch fabrics, with illustrations to explain the terms and concepts.

    Make sure to read the pattern directions carefully because there are some terms you might need to look up.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunny Hop View Post
    none are really designed for adult skaters
    Design your own! I've made leotards for my daughter as well as swimsuits and one skating dress (which went fine) based on the information at http://www.patternschool.com/

    If you start with the one-piece block, and work from there, you can "design" almost anything you want... box skirts and circle skirts are also quite simple to draft by hand.

    Let your imagination be the limit

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by FigureSpins View Post
    You did buy two- or four-way stretch fabric, right? I've never been able to make a decent dress or skirt with one-way stretch. It always gets runs along the seams on the non-stretch direction because there's no "give" or 'ease."

    Simplicity makes a number of soft-cover specialty sewing reference books that most libraries carry. There are a few that cover sewing with stretch fabrics, with illustrations to explain the terms and concepts.

    Make sure to read the pattern directions carefully because there are some terms you might need to look up.
    Yup, two way stretch - I'm rather taken by the colour, but I knew I needed two way stretch minimum

    I asked rather a lot of questions of the lady in the shop, because quite a bit of the pattern was all Greek to me. She was really lovely although she must have been sick of this crazy girl that kept asking really dumb questions

  19. #19
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    Nah, the ladies in the fabric stores like to help because newbies will keep them employed if they get hooked on sewing.

  20. #20

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    Update again!


    Well, home from Grandma's again, and in exchange for building her a flat-pack cupboard yesterday (harder than it sounds when said flat-pack comes with next to no instructions), I did a LOT of sewing today.

    The dress now has sleeves, a collar, and a zipper. I'm never sewing a dress with a collar ever again. I'll take the cold of the scoop-neck next time over the "ARGH OMG DIE DIE DIE" of trying to sew a turtleneck collar. Luckily my mess-up with the collar turned out to look rather nice.

    Left to go:

    -stitching up one side and sleeve (the other side is already done) and hemming the wrists
    -stitching the panty and putting elastic in the legholes
    -stitching the skirt
    -hemming the skirt and basting it to the panty
    -sewing the skirt and panty to the bodice
    -FINISHED!

    Grandma keeps trying to get me to take her sewing machine home. I keep refusing because I'd rather have Grandma with me while I'm sewing!

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