“Hello, this is Joanie, I’m sorry, but I’m not home,
But if you leave me, your name and number,
I promise, soon as I get in I’ll phone”
Hello there, sewing friends, who remembers that little tune? It got to number 6 in the UK charts in 1978? It’s a catchy little song about a chap whose girlfriend (yes, Joanie) is killed in a car crash and he is so keen to hear her voice he calls her landline to hear her answer phone message. This may sound odd, but in 1978 having an answer machine was a big deal, trust me!
Anyway, as I sewed the first Joni dress I had that song going around my head, not just because it is catchy, but because I feared the dress would be a bit of a wreck too! The pattern is from the latest book Stretch by Tilly and the Buttons, it contains seven patterns all designed for stretch fabrics, starting with a simple tube skirt and ending with the trickiest pattern – Joni, a dress with a twist in the bodice. I sewed it in a beautiful Art Gallery Fabrics cotton jersey from TrixieLixie, it’s a lovely dark navy with a white feather pattern on it [Petal and Plume Panache Profundo – Jersey].
The patterns in the book come on thick white paper, so I traced it using greaseproof paper. Once my fabric was cut I started to add the clear elastic to stabilise the shoulders and waist of the bodice pieces, and this, dear readers, is where my troubles began.
My overlocker just chewed it all up (don’t worry, this was a test piece!) so I ended up having to use my regular sewing machine, with a jersey needle and zig-zag stitch. I found leaving a long tail of elastic helped to keep it in place when starting to sew.
Once the bodice is twisted, the neckband needs to be attached. This is where the tears (and swearing!) really started. Now, I usually find the instructions of Tilly patterns clear, well-illustrated and easy to follow. But I really struggled with this stage. I scoured the internet for reviews and tutorials and got lots of tips from friends on Instagram. I managed to get the neckband on, but it’s not perfect and it was a bit of a fudge! There was a gap between the end of the band and the top of the twist, on both sides, which I folded in and hand-stitched down. The rest of the dress came together easily – I love it when you seam the sleeves, bodice and skirt all in one go. My first Joni was finished, and I do like it, honestly I do, it’s a great shape on me, with a swishy skirt. But some of the seams felt bulky, and that neckband finish irked me, and it all felt less well-made than garments I have made from woven fabrics. So (and I am sure you will understand this, sewing friends) what did I do? I jumped straight back on the Joni horse and cut out another. This is another fabric from TrixieLixie, a lighter jersey with a spots and flowers pattern [Bromley Jersey]. I bought it during our recent #WalesSews meet-up, and I know it was really popular. (Those of you who were there, I am looking forward to seeing what you all make with it!)
This time I used regular white elastic instead of clear at the waist, and ribbon to stabilise the shoulders (much less bulky) and I added the neckband so it is visible, with a zig-zag topstitch. I lengthened it by about 2 cms, and joined it at the centre, which gave me a V above the twist, but I don’t mind. It’s still a neater finish than the first dress.
And here ends the story of my two Jonis, thankfully with a cheerier ending than that catchy song. Neither are perfect, but I will wear them happily because I like the shape on me and I like the swishy skirt. Now, if I could only get that song off repeat in my head…!
You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews
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