Sometimes you just have to suck it up, accept your losses and make the best of a less than ideal situation.

For each fabric success there has been, at the least, three failures. Today, I share a failure turned into a success.

After a few photography classes I purchased a decent camera, umbrella lights and a black velvet backdrop to do my own shots. Unfortunately the black velvet made the lighting funky. I was stuck with $40 worth of fabric and unsure what to do with it.

Inspired by the television series The Handmaid’s Tale and Serena Joy’s green cloak I decided to take a stab at making a coat dress.

I drew up a sketch and then searched my patterns. I found a pattern I could alter and although my thick black velvet had zero stretch I decided to do it anyways.

I don’t even know why I used a pattern because I made so many alterations that you would never think my dress came from one. It did though! I pretended like it was free fabric and just cut away!

I used pattern pieces for the sleeves, bodice back and bodice front. I took the empire waist out by pinning the two front pieces together and making a new pattern. I used the french darts in the front of the bodice, omitted the shoulder darts and drafted a new collar.

How was I going to get in and out this garment? Always a good second thought, right… I decided to take the seam out of the back and move it to the front. I added 1 1/2″ to the front to have an over lap for buttons that would go all the way down the front of the coat dress.

Once I had the bodice how I wanted it I tried it on to make sure it fit. Then I started cutting up quarter circles for the skirt of the dress.

I knew I wanted pockets. This meant making sure I had all of my measurements correct for the skirt to fit the waistline of the shirt of the dress. I would also have to make side seams to put pockets in. The last pocket obstacle was do I have enough material do all this with no pattern.

I cut four large gores (quarter circles) and just went with it like I didn’t have a care in the world. Remember, I was pretending it was free fabric.

When winging it with designs there are always problems. My skirt was a little too big to fit to my top. I solved this problem by slightly gathering the waist of the skirt. Worked like a charm.

I also put the pockets in a bit low for how short I am. I will think about that next time because I wasn’t about to rip those out since they were not visible.

It was starting to come together. I finished the sleeves and hemline with my serger and topstitching. I added the collar and then I made a long facing that I interfaced to give it a crisp look with the buttons for the two front openings.

Picking out buttons is so much fun. I got all of my gold 1/2″ ish buttons out and played.

The last problem I had was that some of the button holes were too big and I kept getting peek-a-boo spots. I tried fixing them all by making smaller bar tacks on each one and I am hoping that solves the issue.

I’m excited to say this dress even doubles as a halloween costume.

Behind the scenes~

I’ve been studying eco scarves for a few months and have started making them out of dress scraps from the hemlines of Dayton’s brides, bridesmaids and mother’s of brides.  I’m overjoyed to announce this year I will be selling my wares at the Rosewood Holiday Arts Festival. Come see me.

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!






Tracy McElfresh
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