There was a time when I never wanted to work with knits. Stretchy fabrics just weren’t my thing. I thought things like t-shirts and lounge pants and cardigans were boring and dull, and I went for a long stretch of time (years, folks) where not a single stretchy fabric inspired me. Eventually, things changed. I went from never really thinking about knit garments (I was too busy with fluffy tulle skirts and cotton and linen everything) to a newfound appreciation for all things stretchy. Plus, I fell for ponte.
Ponte is a double-knit interlock fabric. It has a more full-bodied drape to it, and it’s much more substantial and thick than a typical jersey or ITY knit. (ITY stands for Interlock Twist Yarn, which just means there’s a twist in the yarn that gives the fabric a more elastic feel. ITY’s are very, very drapey and soft.) Unless I need something more lightweight like a jersey, I always go for ponte. It has the same characteristics that other stretchy fabrics have as far as comfort goes, but because it’s more stable and firm, it’s easier to work with and it is incredibly flattering. It stretches but recovers much better than other knits, meaning it maintains it’s original shape well. Whereas you might have stretched out knees at the end of the day in other knits, that’s not the case with ponte. It’s pretty much the best thing ever.
When I chose the fabrics for this collection with TÉLIO, I knew I wanted a variety of fabrics, and including ponte was a no-brainer for all the reasons I just mentioned and because it’s a great fabric for fall and winter. This particular ponte – and my preference, always – is a rayon/nylon blend ponte. Polyester ponte knits are fine, but the rayon/nylon versions are softer and hold up much better over time. Polyester also has a tendency to pill, so as a general rule I try to avoid it. I will say, though, that polyester has come a long, long way and modern poly doesn’t always have the issues that it once did. Still, can’t beat the rayon/nylon blends.
This spruce green ponte (65% Rayon/30% Nylon/5% Spandex) is the softest, best quality ponte I’ve ever worked with. It’s stretchy without being rigid, and the drape is elegant and lofty. You can buy this fabric at Sew Much Fabric.
I wanted two pieces in this yummy ponte: a fitted dress and a cardigan. I liked the versatility of both pieces. They can be worn together or separately, and each can be styled in a number of different ways. Let’s talk about this dress first though, because this dress could be a blog post all on its own. It’s one of those pieces that has haunted me for years, and that’s no exaggeration. I adore this silhouette, adore it. However, I happen to have a curvier body type that is more of a challenge to fit in this type of dress. I’ve spent the past couple of years admiring from afar all the lovely ladies who made this dress for themselves and applauded how killer they all looked in it. The pattern is McCall’s 6886, easily one of their all-time best-sellers. It’s everything everyone says about it and more, I promise. I will, without a doubt, be making a few more versions.
I’ve spent a good amount of time over the years trying on dresses like this in stores, only to be frustrated with the fit and really, really disappointed that I don’t have the type of body that can slip on a dress like this and look good in it. I should have known better and not wasted so much time trying to force something mass-produced to work for me. All it took was the right pattern and a couple of tweaks to the fit to give me a dress that looks better, is better quality, and fits better than anything I could ever buy.
I cut my regular size, and graded down a size at the waist, and back out at the hips. I added seam allowance to the center back to save fabric (the pattern has you cut both front and back on the fold, which unnecessarily uses a lot of fabric). Plus, that gives me a back seam to make fitting adjustments if I need to. I went with a custom length of 27″ from the waist and cut the long sleeves from view B. I had a lazy moment and did not make a swayback adjustment, so there’s a little fabric excess at my lower back. I’ll make that adjustment before cutting version #2.
I used a size 90 stretch needle and the “stretch medium” setting on my sewing machine. I serged all the seams, and hemmed the sleeves and skirt hem with a blind hem. I do this whenever possible on knits, because I think it’s a cleaner finish that a double row of stitching. The neck is finished with a narrow hem. You simply press it under, press under again, and sew it.
I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to have finally tackled this project. Like most everything else, I was making it a bigger challenge than it really was. I was worried this dress would be too tight around the waist, but it’s not. I have a tummy that needs to be kept in check, but I don’t even need support garments under this dress. If it were smaller and in a lighter color I might want to slip on a shaping garment, but there’s no need with this dress. It’s comfortable, easy to sew, and flattering. I’ll be making this in navy (of course) and red soon, but I’m also planning a sequin version of it. Really excited about that one.
Cardigans are another favorite of mine, and I especially like them for traveling. Skinny jeans, flats, a simple tee, and a cardigan is my go-to look for chilly autumn days, running errands, and long travel days. It’s just so easy and comfortable. I don’t, however, always like how shapeless cardigans are. I am way too curvy to be walking around in anything too baggy or that doesn’t cinch my waist – I end up looking like a sloppy, lazy mess. It does nothing for my style, and I don’t feel good in it at all. Comfy clothes can still be all the things I like my style to be, and it’s usually as easy as adding a belt.
I don’t hate this cardigan without a belt, actually. As long as I keep the other pieces fitted, I can get away with no belt.
I wanted a simple cardigan, but something with a little more length and swing to it. I used McCall’s 6084, and added a belt to it. I keep a few pocket patterns and one or two belt patterns at the ready for projects like this, so I just used a pattern from my pattern stash to make the belt.
I cut view D, and I didn’t make a single change to the pattern. I don’t love the pivot/clip/press method for attaching the collar, so I didn’t follow the instructions for finishing those seams as the pattern suggests. Instead of clipping the back seam down to nothing and pressing the shoulder seams open, I just ran the whole thing through the serger. It cleans it up the best way possible. And because this ponte knit is a little thicker than the lightweight knits listed on the pattern, I did not do a narrow hem (too bulky). I simply turned the seam under once and stitched close to the raw edge. I went with a blind hem on the sleeves. Otherwise, everything else is great and comes together really well. This one is easy to sew.
These projects were exceptionally refreshing to make. It feels great to mix things up and add a little variety to the things I usually make. There will definitely be multiple versions made of both of these pieces in the coming weeks. And don’t forget that @teliofashion will be giving away a three yard piece of this gorgeous ponte knit – watch for the post on Instagram!
See y’all next week!