How Inspecting Store Bought Garments Can Improve Your Sewing Technique

I’ve been experimenting with some pattern mashing lately and so far most things have turned out pretty great! One example is this favorite garment and this dress I’m sharing today is another. I learned a few things from this project and I’m happy to share my light bulb moments with you!

I was really wanting a casual and easy summer dress. I’m set for church dresses, but more easy weekday dresses would fill a gap for me. I scored the rest of some beautiful brushed poly knit fabric at Hobby Lobby. It was being clearanced out so I got it super cheap and bought all that was left.

I thumbed through my pattern stash and couldn’t find any knit dress patterns that sung to me for this project, BUT, I did have a Burda knit top pattern I’d made before and like and thought I could hack it into a dress. Thankfully, it worked!

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I made a mash up a Burda top pattern and an Old Navy dress and learned some new techniques along the way! Come see how inspecting your rtw clothes can improve your sewing skills. || Pin, Cut, Sew Studio

A few notes on how I accomplished this mash-up. I have an Old Navy knit dress that I really like the fit of, so I measured the length of that bodice, using the measurement to fold my pattern pieces up to reflect that bodice length. I sewed the bodice as instructed, I only made a minor change in the neckline finish.

For the skirt, I used that Old Navy dress to draft the skirt by tracing it directly onto my fabric, pulling the waistline taught to get the correct measurement. (This is my favorite tracing tool of all time). I cut two, so the front and back skirt are the same. To my surprise, the skirt is more like a quarter circle skirt, not a gathered rectangle like I’d assumed and probably would have cut if I hadn’t bothered inspecting my Old Navy dress. I don’t think I would have been as happy with that result, so the lesson here is to inspect well-fitting RTW clothing more often!

The Old Navy dress also had an interesting technique for the waistline elastic that I copied and loved. Usually patterns for knits with elasticized waists will have you make a casing out of the seam allowance and draw the elastic through, but I always find that bulky and shifty. Other patterns will have you zig zag the elastic to the seam after it’s sewn, but I find the elastic stretches out too much and I often end up unpicking it to shorten the elastic and resewing. My Old Navy dress, however, had that elastic serged right into the seam. So once I’d pinned my skirt to my bodice, I cut elastic about 85% of the seam’s circumference (I used 1/4” braided). I marked it in quarters, pinned it to the waistline at those marks and serged the whole seam in one go. It worked awesome, I will always use that method from now on!

Burda 6428 meets Old Navy. Come see how I mashed a top pattern with an Old Navy dress and what I learned along the way! || PIn, Cut, Sew Studio

While we’re on the subject of serging, I cannot recommend my Juki serger enough. I’ve had it for over 6 years and it’s been a dream the entire time. I’ve never once needed to get it serviced! If you’re on the fence about getting a serger, take the leap, you will not regret it. And if they fancy ones are out of your budget, give Juki a try, it’s very budget friendly.

I’m sure I’m not the only sewist who takes a careful look at their own clothes or clothing at stores to see how they’re made. I scored an Athleta linen moto jacket at the thrift store a few weeks ago and I was wearing it at church and caught myself marveling over how they finished the cuff plackets on the sleeves, ha! (It had godets! So interesting!) Do you have stories of things you’ve learned from store bought items? Have you ever taken photos of clothes at the store to copy them at home? (guilty). Tell me about it in the comments :)

Cheers!

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