Winning at Sewing: Butterfly print dress

I finished sewing my butterfly print dress, and I pretty much never want to take it off.

The details

Pattern: Simplicity 9905 (vintage)
Fabric: Anna Maria Horner "Savage Swarm" (from the "Field Study" collection) (thrifted)
Notions: Vintage buttons (rummage sale); purple thread (yard sale); some wholly inappropriate interfacing from my stash
Total cost: About $6
Started: Aug. 16 / Completed: +/-Sept. 27

What went right

This fabric. Oh, this fabric. It's an absolute dream. The colors, the texture of the material (it's a super lightweight, soft rayon). When I saw it hanging at my local Salvation Army, I was just gobsmacked by it. It was kind of expensive, so I walked away from it, but I couldn't get it out of my mind and I went back to buy it the next day. No regrets!

This pattern. It's a really simple little dress, but I love the way the darts help shape the standing collar, and the collar wraps into the button placket. Plus, kimono sleeves are a) flattering and b) easy to sew. Win-win.

Pairing of pattern and dress. I have a lot of fabric and several patterns and I dither a lot about how to pair them up. I had initially thought about using this fabric to sew a 70s maxi dress, and while that probably would have been amazing in its own way, I'm really, really happy with how the print works on this silhouette.

Piping! I made my own piping to run along the edge of the collar and the front flap of the bodice. It was really easy and fun to make, even for someone relatively incompetent such as myself. I can definitely see myself making more piping in the future. I used this eggplant purple faux suede, and was disappointed that the texture didn't provide more of a visual contrast, but the colors do look nice together.

Fit and alterations. This pattern calls for a kind of loose bodice that is gathered into an elastic waistband, but when I was trying on the bodice, I wrapped it further around for a more fitted shape, and I really loved the way it looked. I didn't know until I actually had it all sewed together if I would actually be able to get it on, though! It is a bit of a tight squeeze, but it works, and I am really happy with the fit, overall. I also added cuffs to the sleeves to make them a bit longer, and I was pleased with how they turned out. In a thicker fabric, it might have made them stick out in a weird way, but in this soft, drapey rayon, they still fall nicely.

What went wrong

The collar. So much is wrong with this collar! For one thing, I either misunderstood the directions for how to join the collar pieces, or there is a mistake in the pattern, because I was left with these raw edges that never got seamed onto another piece.

Secondly, as I mentioned above, I used super, super thick interfacing to line it, which was ridiculous for such a lightweight, drapey fabric. The result is a collar that literally feels like cardboard and stands really stiff.

The skirt gathers. This skirt was originally supposed to just be gathered by an elastic waistband, but that didn't happen, so I had to improvise. I had the bright idea of building some gathers/pleats in at the front and back of the waist, which I thought would make for a pretty line.

Um. Yeah. They are TOTALLY not centered. The only thing that is centered is that nice jog in my seam that hitches the whole thing up a quarter-inch.

The hem. In my excitement to finish the dress, I threw caution to the winds and decided to machine-stitch the hem of the skirt. And then I proceeded to sew into the wrong side of the hem, meaning that the exposed stitches are the backside of the seam, in non-matching, wonky bobbin thread. You can see it here on top:

And then down here is the nice, flat, well-behaved, matching seam ... on the inside of the dress where no one will ever see it.

Overall verdict

I LOVE this dress. It's comfortable, it's pretty, it fits me well, the skirt length is exactly right and I even feel reasonably confident that it's not going to fall apart. I forgive it its imperfections (although I may yet re-do that hem) because, I mean, it's pretty glorious. And I am already thinking about other fabrics I'd love to use with this pattern, and other tweaks I might make to it. Here is me smiling like a goon to show you just how much I love it:

I haven't started my next project yet, and my head is swimming with possibilities. I'm torn between knocking out another Clemence skirt, this time in a nice sturdy red cotton, or diving into another dress (I am tempted to cut out the pieces for this pattern before I sell it, even though it isn't my size, because it's just so adorable). And I keep thinking about trying out a quilting technique — maybe for an embellished placket? Anyway, I've got a fun post coming up Thursday featuring an outfit styled by another blogger, and if all goes well I'll be back with a thrift audit Saturday too. Hope your week is off to a good start!


  1. Wow! That fabric is fab indeed, and sewing a whole dress is so impressive. And yes, I bet you'll wear this more than you would a maxi! Very special xxx

    1. Thanks! I am glad too that I didn't go the maxi route, although with this soft fabric, it would have felt AMAZING. I may yet attempt it, I have several more yards of this stuff!!

  2. That's a beautiful dress and the print goes with the pattern perfectly! I find all my sewing projects have a little weirdness throughout them but, they only ever seem to bother me!

    1. Thank you! Pairing fabric and pattern is so tricky, but also so rewarding. It's so much fun to dream about this dress in that fabric, on and on and on. But settling on one is hard - I always cringe when I put scissors to fabric to start cutting out pattern pieces!

      It's true that no one else cares about the little "imperfections," right? But I like to take stock of them, if only as a way to sort of track my own progress and for things to keep in mind for future progress.

  3. I love how it turned out! I'm so intimidated by sewing dresses; the sleeves and bodice always scare me. But I really want to try, because I have some gorgeous fabric (that might actually be better for spring) that I want to make Evie and myself matching dresses out of -- I got nine yards at the thrift store for 77 cents a yard. It was amazing.

    1. Pick a simple dress pattern and dive in! I was super intimidated by sewing with patterns until I actually tried it and then I was like, Oh, this isn't so bad!

  4. It looks great! I love the standing collar and piping. You can adjust your bobbin tension (and you should, if your stitches are uneven. It is a good idea to have smooth bobbin stitches for all your construction seams, too!) but I'm useless at telling you how to do that adjustment unless you have a 40 year old Bernina 830 Record.
    Thank you for linking up at Sew It Chic. I'm glad I found your blog!

    1. Thanks! I have been messing with the bobbin tension a bit, but then I read this doom-and-gloom article saying DON'T EVER TOUCH YOUR BOBBIN TENSION OR YOU WILL RUIN THE UNIVERSE and now I'm kind of scared to touch it again.

      I love your blog (which I just discovered) and am looking forward to finding more sewing inspiration in your next linkup!

  5. Adding piping is such a great idea!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts