I really liked the idea of making a cute factory girl dress after seeing the Merchant and Mills factory dress.


I usually like their gritty, industrial revolution aesthetic, but I Just can’t rock anything with that loose and untailored of a fit… I’m going to need AT LEAST a French dart in there or it’s going to be a sack-dress with exactly zero of their rustic charm shining through.

I DID really like this version of their factory dress,


and I realized it has some real 1940’s appeal with the lovely bakelite green that hits me right in the vintage-y without being costume-y brain processing center. I just needed to avoid accidentally making a 50’s diner waitress costume… basically avoid white cuffs and collars, I’d be home free.   So, I got to googling…. And I stumbled upon the instagram post that made me order my fabric that very day.


Bakelite green COTTON AND STEEL HAND PATTERN?! Yes, please!!

I already owned the sew over it vintage shirt dress pattern, and I haven’t made the dress I cut out of it yet (at the time I needed a multi-year embroidery project to haunt my craft room, apparently…. But that will be a future post) so I decided to modify it to fit my needs


I think it has a tendency to look 1960s, and not as clean-fitted as I really want like the sleek 1940’s silhouette.


so I decided to turn the single pleat into double, reduce the hemline circumference by cutting off some of the flair, and to turn the back pleat into a regular old dart.  And even though I had ALREADY traced the sleeve pattern, I am also SO pleased I had the wherewithal to measure the arm pattern piece and realize that I needed to make a fat arm adjustment… otherwise known as a full bicep adjustment.

Once I had the pattern all worked out I looked into details and features. The feel of the fabric said I should inter line/flat line it, because a nice, thick fabric dress feels like an expensive hug.  I wanted to have a perfect top-stitching detail, so I ran a basting stitch 1/4inch from the stitch line (or a precise 7/8inch from the edge of fabric) and used the stitch length to guide my perfect hand top stitching.


Here’s a little illustration.

dashed line copyThe black stitching represents my basting stitch in a color that will blend into the fabric, the red represents my top stitching thread (I used embroidery thread)

This was the first notch collar I’ve ever made.  I learned some excellent collar construction techniques while taking Pam Howard’s classic tailored shirt Craftsy course a few months back.  I still had to rip out stitches and make an adjustment to get everything perfect, but starting with very neat collar pieces certainly helped demystify the final product. As the saying goes (I actually learned the saying in Pam Howard’s course) The difference between a good seamstress and a great seamstress is their ability to correct mistakes.

Trying to install an inseam pocket with a hidden side-seam zipper was a mix of rocket science and black magic fuckery… I seriously regret not looking up a tutorial.. But hey, baste, rip, re-baste, and repeat until you achieve the desired results, right?  I finished out the project by adding bra strap lassos, very carefully whip stitching the facings to the interlining layer,


and ACTUALLY taking the time to blind hem instead of just basting in place until I get the motivation to do a blind hem.

And finally, I would like to talk about the tools that I picked up recently for this project.

I was sent some ginger shears for Christmas and they are AMAZING. I had some Mundial scissors that I thought were pretty nice.  The fancy Gingher shears are far superior.

I got an Olfa quick change rotary cutter for my birthday.  I always liked the function of my Fiskars rotary cutter, and I even picked up a second one because it was on sale, but I find that they are downright dangerous to try to get the blade off, and it’s so difficult that I avoid switching to a fresh blade when I need it. Olfa for life, y’all.

Pentel Frixion markers. I got them for my birthday. I always thought the pens were great, but OMG the markers! They make my life so easy.  They erase with the heat of the iron, so they don’t entirely replace chalk, but they HAVE replaced the stupid, expensive blue and purple marker I used to have in my box.


Pins. GOOD pins.  Spend a couple extra bucks and get the best.  I COULD NOT BELIEVE the difference between Dritz and Iris. I usually trust Dritz to have decent products.  I made my family feel the difference. It’s like the Iris pins are smoother.  They go in with much less resistance…. And the tin is really neat, too.  Besides that, glass head pins. They’re easier for my stupid hand to manipulate, but they have smaller heads than the plastic head pins that like to work themselves out of the fabric.


Pressing tools. I have a ham, a seamroll, a point press, a silk organza all-temperature pressing cloth, and a clapper.  You 100% absolutely need a clapper. A smooth piece of 2×4 will do you just fine if you want to try-before-you-buy.  You can whack the steam out of your seam right after you press it and MY GOD is it crisp.  Just BE CAREFUL because you literally whack the life and soul out of the fabric, so you want to use the clapper-whack-death-strike with prudence. Besides obtaining a clapper, it depends on what you sew.  The ham is useful for darts and curves… anything not flat. Its filled with sawdust and cotton on one side, wool on the other.. the sawdust does interesting things with the steam. The seamroll can be imitated with a rolled up towel, but its $5 from wawak, or you could just whip up your own, so why not?  And the point press clapper combo of the Dritz variety isn’t too pricey. It’s absolutely essential for making a tailored shirt because the difference it makes in the sharp collar pressing.

GOOD ZIPPERS…. I am all about a good zipper. I could make a whole post about zippers. DO NOT buy coats and clark zippers from joann. They are garbage and they need to die in a fire. Now, I don’t necessarily think YKK or GTFO because there are some very good lesser-known zipper producers out there as well as some ultra luxury brands like RiRi, but YKK is a known quantity. You can get a #3 weight YKK invisible zipper for CHEAPER than a #2 coats and clark. Mine were on sale 22” #3 invisible zipper for $0.89 each…. So, better, stronger, AND cheaper if you’re willing to order online and wait…. It’s a pretty beefy zipper, so I wouldn’t necessarily use it in a rayon challis blouse, but in place of a pain-in-the-ass lapped zipper installation? Absolutely! Its super strong. I really prefer them because my pinch strength leaves something to be desired, so I want a dependable and smooth zipper.

I bought most of this through Wawak because it’s generally cheaper than Amazon, Etsy, or zipperstop.  Using a 40% off coupon might be cheaper at Joann’s, but I don’t know the last time I went to Joann and managed to walk out with ONE thing.

I’m extremely proud and pleased with this dress.  I’m going to make my sister one out of voile because she puts up with my endless monologue about sewing, sewing notions, sewing techniques, fabric, and fashion while we’re swimming. what a saint.


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