a diamond jersey Bettine

Hey there! So, here is the first of two Bettine’s I’ve made – the second one I will post about as soon as I take the pictures, which will happen sometime in daylight when it’s not raining. That is a bigger feat than it might sound like in Rain capital here!

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Fabric: 1,3 m polyester and viscose jacquard sweater-weight jersey from Stoff og Stil.
Pattern: Bettine dress from Tilly and the Buttons.
Techniques: Jersey fabric, neck and pocket binding, serged seams, single-layer pockets.

First off, this is like socially acceptable pajamas. Made up in jersey, it is one comfortable dress! With pockets. I mean, pockets rule. Here is a close-up shot of the pocket:

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Ok, I’m going to back up here for a second. I taught a youth sewing class this fall (like I’ve done several times before), and I had the brilliant idea of combining all the demos I usually do into an actual garment.  Very smart. I had a laundry list of techniques I wanted to demo for the kids, and I found the Bettine dress to be the pattern that had most all of those techniques. So in between helping the participants with their jackets and skirts or whatever project they had chosen to work on, I would take 10 minutes to show them something different each class; elastic waistbands, or pocket constructions, or bias binding, or hemming. It worked quite well, and at the end I had a dress! Ahead of time I made this jersey dress as a test-run, so I’d be familiar with the construction steps and what-not.

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Now, some words on the pattern and the fit. Going in I was worried about the fit – I’d read several reviews that highlighted problematic aspects about the pattern (this one I found particularly helpful, with the side view), and Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow pointed out that the skirt front and back is cut from the same pattern piece. From the pictures I’ve seen around the interwebs this has a tendency to make the back hem rise up, since the back skirt piece hasn’t been made longer to compensate for the extra travelling distance over the butt. At the same time I noticed in pictures more excess in the back bodice pooling over the elastic waist than in the front, probably for the same reason – the front bodice is not made longer than the back despite the added volume of the bust.

After printing out the pattern and assembling I could see why these issues were happening. The skirt piece and the two bodice pieces all have straight waist seams. Being a beginners pattern I assume the same skirt piece is used front and back to make things easier on novice sewers, but I’m having a hard time justifying the non-curved waist seam. To my pattern-maker-trained eye it just looks wrong, and results in uneven amounts of pooling around the bodice (front to back, center to sides). Also, it makes the skirt hang unevenly. Frankly, I was disappointed to see this in the pattern. I also don’t understand why the sizing has to be unconventional and run as sizes 1-8 rather than the European or American sizing convention, but that is a mere annoyance that doesn’t really affect the outcome of the garment. Uncurved waistbands do, however.

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So, I made changes! I did a small FBA of 1″ total which also gave a little extra length in the front (shown in progress above – I finished by drawing a straight line from the center waist hem to the center neckline and cut away the excess). I’ve never done an FBA on a kimono-sleeve, so this was the educated-guess type of slash-and-spread. I think it worked out! I also shortened the back by 7/8″ from the waist up to reduce the amount of pooling going on in the back.  I used the pocket version skirt pattern as the front, and lowered both back and front pieces at the center by 1/2″ to get my beloved waist curve. On the back skirt pattern piece I added a 3/4″ horizontal wedge from center back to the hip mark at the side seam. This added some length back in, but also meant a center back seam (for the next version in cotton sateen at least, for the knit I decided I could just cut on the fold). Finally I reduced the exaggerated side hip curve by 1/2″ – I know this is a stylized design feature, but I have fairly narrow hips so I just don’t need all that much wiggle room.

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I drew inspiration from Meg of Cookin’ and Craftin’s fun and summery Bettine, and made single layer pockets. The jersey probably would struggle a bit with the weight of the pockets, so single layer it was! I’m pleased with how they turned out. I had the brilliant idea of using a thinner viscose jersey in a matching color (yey stash!) for binding the neckline and pocket edges rather than self-fabric, and mid pocket-construction, before turning the binding over to the wrong side to stitch down, I realized I really liked the bit of detail and variation of a contrastic fabric. So I left it. That means the binding on the inside of the pocket is exposed and unfinished, but it seems to be holding up just fine after several washes and lots of wear. I mean, as comfy as pajamas and ok to wear in public? Weekly usage. I’ve had one issue moving into the colder weather of late though, which is that I don’t find it an easy dress to layer. I guess I could layer underneath? The cuffs and slightly wider sleeves tends to look quite lumpy under my cardigans. So non-layering-situations-dress it is.

Yes, the pattern put me in a grumpy mood, and my ideal dresses can be layered, and I turned the elastic casing into the bodice instead of the skirt so the pooling isn’t as elegant as it’s supposed to be (oops! My bad, I went rogue on the instructions), and I only realized after struggling to get pictures taken during post-sunset low lighting that the cuffs were all askew after taking my cardigan off (and I really could not be bothered to re-shoot). It might not be the biggest hit, but I’m still pleased with the dress.

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11 thoughts on “a diamond jersey Bettine”

  1. My non-sewist brain says: You look lovely in this dress! it’s cute and comfy and stylish. My sewist brain says: WTF is with the identical front and back in this pattern? I’ve already gotten rid of one of my versions, and I’ll very likely never wear the other one. Glad you took the time to make changes!

    1. Yeah, the pattern pieces really ended up irritating me. I can’t imagine it’s from lack of knowledge on the patternmakers part, so I assume it’s an intentional choice – it’s just one I don’t understand the justification of, since I think it affects the fit negatively. I’m sorry your dresses ended up not working out… :-/ I too am glad I took the time to alter – I think it really makes a difference in the cotton sateen version (coming soon, to a blog near you!).

  2. I can’t say I understand what exactly you did to the pattern, but the result looks great! Congratulations on making it work for you. And I’m so glad the side view of my dress helped :-)
    That’s why I like it when people blog not only successful makes, but also less successful ones. Even if something hasn’t work for you, your experience can help someone else.

    1. Haha! I don’t blame you – I’m a visual learner, so those descriptions on someone elses blog would be a little… opaque (it will function very well as a record of changes for future me though!). I’m thinking of taking some pictures of the altered pattern for the post on my next Bettine, which I think would make a lot more sense. I agree, it is very helpful to see what was difficult for others, so I’m very grateful that you blogged about that particular less successful make!

      P.S. It’s fun to see your journey in learning to sew – I think you’re making really beautiful things for being so new to sewing!

  3. Looks like a great dress! You’re always so well-styled. :-) I really like the contrast pocket edge. Also, thanks for giving a peek into your fitting process! I think for the colder days the dress would layer well over a longsleeved tee.

    1. Aw, thank you Alessa! I was very pleased with the accidental contrast edge – it breaks up the pattern a bit. I love talking about fit and pattern changes, so if someone finds it interested and helpful I’m very glad!

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