one-piece wardrobe

In The Folds – Collins Top Dress Hack

Pattern: Collins Top by In the Folds
Fabric: Possibly a rayon gifted to me from Pati Palmer, piping from Mill End in Portland
Size: A
Alterations: lengthened by 10”, removed the center back seam

The Collins Top by In the Folds, a pattern that clocks in at 8 different pieces, may officially be my most made pattern at this point. This is my third complete Collins top (you can read about my first two here), and I love it just as much as the original two. I’d been dreaming of a Collins Top Dress hack since the pattern came out, and I’d also been dreaming of working with contrast piping. I figured there could be nothing better than combining those two and highlighting all the interesting seamlines on the Collins with contrast piping throughout.

I started by lengthening all of the pattern pieces by 10” following a method similar to the one outlined on the In The Folds blog. Because I planned on fully binding the edges, I also removed the seam/hem allowance on the bottom, sleeves, and neckline. I removed the center back seam because the button back isn’t necessary to get the dress over my head, which is something I tested with my previous versions, and because then I wouldn’t have had to figure out what to do with the seam allowance and piping on the inside. Generally speaking, all piping must have a “direction”, and by that I mean that there must be a direction in which you press the piping’s seam allowance (including open) which will then dictate which direction the piping faces. Because I wanted to french all my seams, I would have had to choose a direction for that back seamline to face, and for the sake of symmetry and simplicity, I decided to omit it altogether.

I wanted to emulate an easy t-shirt style, so I bound all my openings in a wide self-made double-fold bias tape. Since the piping has an inherent stiffness and bulk, it couldn’t be folded over to hem, either, so that was really my only option.

I also went back and forth on whether or not to include in-seam pockets, but eventually landed on no; the fabric is much too drapey to put anything other than my hands in it. Plus, I’m sure it’s best for my psyche to exercise solutions to that eternal question of “what do I do with my anxiety if I can’t put my hands in my pockets?”

Speaking of the fabric, this one was very generously gifted to me by Pati Palmer of the Palmer/Pletsch school of sewing and tissue fitting method. I met Pati just about a month before I left Portland last time at a Sewing Friends meetup at Josephine’s Dry Goods, and we hit it off immediately. She had me over a couple weeks later to chat and gift me with what feels like a lifetime supply of her designer grade interfacing in various weights, and we ended up chatting for hours about Pati’s experience as a professional in the sewing industry. I’m only sad that I had met her just a month before moving away from Portland, because I’m sure there are a million more things I could learn from her. That, and she’s just a joy to be around. We hit it off so well that she invited me back a few days later to dig through her fabric stash and take freely what I know I’ll sew.

You. Guys. This was like any one-of-a-kind garment maker’s wet dream. Pati had separated out stacks of beautiful fabric by type and fiber content in her sewing studio, handed me a pen and paper, and told me that it might be a good idea to write down what I planned to use the fabric for, lest I forget and end up not using it. And then she left me alone for several hours as I petted each fabric individually, including beauties like 4 yards of rust-colored 4-ply silk and 5 yards of a midnight blue armani wool suiting. I walked away with a full-size shopper of wools, silks, knits, and even furs that Pati had collected over several decades.

The fabric for this dress is one that I wasn’t quite sure what I would end up making with it, but I knew I loved the color, so despite my indecision, Pati insisted I take it. Ironically, it was the first of her stash that has found a home as a real, wearable garment.

I had to pre-wash this fabric 3 times, which was mostly my fault – this was the first garment I started working on when I came back to Germany and I hadn’t cleaned the iron properly after it sat for 3 months, gathering rust. I was convinced it was only water spots messing with my fabric since none of my other fabrics had been reacting in that way, and I tried everything to turn the steam off entirely on my iron, but the fabric kept picking up spots. Turns out that steam was never the problem; it was mineral deposits from our hard water here in Germany, and I’m just lucky the spots washed out so easily.

I don’t know if I would call the fabric finicky since sewing it was surprisingly a breeze, but I would definitely say it’s pretty sensitive. It holds wrinkles like they were inflicted by a master origami artist, and any amount of improper steam makes the fabric wilt. It’s unfortunate because I know that the ripples in the piped seams would disappear with the use of a proper steamer (which I don’t have), but I’d be afraid of the fabric in-between the seams curling on itself.

I’m no fibers master, but the things I know about fibers baffles me on this one. Pati insisted it’s probably a rayon, though she doesn’t remember for certain, and she’s likely right. But call it wishful thinking — it feels like a silk! Granted, I don’t spend a lot of time fondling rayon; to me, rayon falls pretty borderline into the synthetics camp, so I tend to jump right past it in the shops – you can read more about rayon production on Time to Sew’s blog (I particularly love PsychicSewerKathleen’s comment as it is completely in line with my own opinion). But I’ve never met a rayon with this much body and bounce, a rayon that doesn’t wither away and pill in the wash (another mark against the general sustainability of viscose), or a rayon that collects wrinkles left and right. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t felt a high quality rayon before now.

Regardless, a burn test revealed that it is almost definitely a plant-based fiber, which combined with the drape likely means rayon. And the vibrancy of the color and lack of bleeding points to rayon too; fun fact, rayon gets its name because of how well it absorbs colors and dyes, holding a vibrancy like that of the sun, thus being called “ray-on.”

My only gripe is that I was really hoping to bring this dress on holiday in Sicily, and I pretty quickly realized how impractical that would actually be. The fabric creases with even a small amount of excess body heat, so this dress is best suited for low-impact activities like brunch with lady friends in an air conditioned room, shopping, or a garden-style cocktail party in the spring. In fact, it’s so sensitive I can’t hang it from a regular hanger, otherwise it adopts indents in the shoulders. It really is a shame because I love how this dress turned out. I guess it just means I’ll have to make another version again soon.

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead. As always, thanks for reading through!


7 Comment

  1. I love your dress! I think your next one should be in one of those gorgeous silks that Pati also so kindly gifted you 🙂 your “hack” is worthy! I have this pattern as well – I just haven’t made it up yet. From the time it was released I loved it however, I confess I’m PDF adverse but when it was one of the patterns included in the fund-me campaign to bring her patterns to print, I was all in 🙂 You’ve inspired me to put that up on my table for a fun summer sew!

  2. I’m working with rayon right now and have athe neckline left to do. The thought of cutting and attaching bias strips has my knees quivering. I see you did exactly that on this beautiful dress. Any tips?

    1. Hmm… well, I don’t make or apply bias tape in the “conventional” way, and I’m not sure if this is exactly fool proof, but it works for me. Traditionally when making bias tape, you’d cut the fabric and run it through a bias tape maker and press, but I found that drapey fabric cut on the bias ends up stretching out when pulled through a bias tape maker. So I leave the bias tape flat and unfolded when sewing it on. Basically, I cut my bias tape to whatever width I need for the project, sew along the edge with appropriate seam allowance, press seam towards the bias tape, then fold over and under the remaining bias tape so the bias tape edge meets the fold, pin, and press, then edge-stitch closed. I don’t know it that makes much sense or if I’m able to articulate that very well. If you’ve cut your tape accurately, the width of the tape should be consistent throughout (essentially, the width divided by 4, minus some allowance (1-2mm) for the bulk of the folds).
      There are also techniques in how to pin so you get less waves and ripples (I still have some here in this dress), such as pinning both the beginning and end of a seam, then halfway, and half of that again and so on, so your able to distribute any margin of error evenly throughout the seam.
      I hope these tips help! Good luck!

  3. I love this so much I bought the pattern before reading your entire post. Beautiful!
    And what a great story.

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