achievement unlocked: Lady Skater/Jenna shirtdress


I finished this dress almost a month ago! Like I said, I have been sewing a lot more than I have been blogging lately, but I’m starting to feel anxious about my backlog of unblogged projects, so I’m going to try to catch up.

I specifically made this dress for the “hack it” challenge over at the Monthly Stitch, & spoiler alert: I love love love it. I married the Jenna cardigan from Muse Patterns to the skirt from the Kitschy Coo Lady Skater dress & created a knit shirtdress! I think this is the seventh shirtdress I have made so far this year. So in the first half of 2016, I went from having zero shirtdresses because it’s a style that just doesn’t work for me in traditional RTW sizes (narrow shoulders, large bust) to having a different shirtdress for every day of the week!


I’ve made the Lady Skater four times, & obviously a full knit skirt doesn’t pose a lot of fit challenges. But I had never made the Jenna, even though I bought the pattern over the winter, fully intending to make myself a snuggly cardigan when the weather was still cold. I just never got around to it, mainly because I was intimidated by the thought of making buttonholes on knit fabric. My shirtdress obsession has forced me to overcome any fear I may have had of buttonholes in general, but when you consider the challenges inherent to sewing knits on a regular sewing machine (small stitches sometimes result in chewed up fabric), I was really nervous about doing buttonholes.

I decided that I needed to muslin the Jenna before I dove into making my dress. If you make a button-up cardigan & there’s a bit of gaping between the buttons, it’s a shame, but not the end of the world because it’s a layering piece anyway. But if I wanted to use the pattern as a dress bodice, it needed to fit properly. No sense making an easy breezy knit shirtdress & then having to wear a layer underneath it for modesty!

Muse generally drafts for a B-cup, which is NOT me. I did a 2″ FBA. Doing an FBA on a dartless knit is pretty much the same principle as doing it on a woven with darts, except you’re guesstimating the bust apex & your slash lines instead of using the darts as a guide. Really, it’s pretty easy. Especially for me, because I usually keep the FBA width I add through the waist.

I did have to decide whether or not to also keep the length an FBA adds. I decided not to because Muse drafts for tall women, & I am on the short-ish side (5’5″). This wound up being a mistake. I needed a little extra length to get over the bust. I made a wearable muslin out of sweater fabric (to be blogged soon) & the hem isn’t even front to back. It’s wearable, but I definitely wanted something more balanced for my shirtdress.

In the end, I cut a 42 in the shoulders, grading to a 44 at the waist, & back to a 42 at the hips. I did a 2″ FBA, a 1/2″ narrow shoulder adjustment, & added 1″ of length to the front bodice grading to nothing at the side seams. I shortened the long sleeves by 3″ (!!!) & the three-quarter sleeves I used on the shirtdress by 2″.


I cut the waist-length cardigan for the bodice of my shirtdress, & made sure to include the length of the hemband, which is cut as a separate piece for the cardigan. I had to add some width to the Lady Skater skirt to make the side seams match, & I had to add some extra to my front skirt pieces to create a seam allowance for attaching the button placket. I measured from the waistline of the skirt (minus seam allowance where it attaches to the bodice) to the finished hem & lengthened the Jenna button placket by that amount. I also added side-slant pockets to the skirt, because duh. Why even make your own clothes if you’re not going to add pockets?


This is the first project I sewed up on my new Pfaff. I had a whole nightmare situation where the thread on the underside wasn’t catching the bobbin thread properly & was making these little loops. I didn’t several hundred dollars on a new (to me) sewing machine so I could have a worse stitching quality than I was getting with my cheapie Brother! It took me HOURS to figure out the problem. Apparently the last owner broke a needle on the needleplate, & it caused a tiny little metal burr to form on the underside of the plate. Once I figured out the problem, I just took the needleplate off, filed off the burr with a tiny metal file, & reattached the needleplate. But I was really concerned here for a while. & I spent an entire morning while Jared was out with Ramona & I could have been sewing threading & re-threading the machine, trying different bobbins, trying different needles, doing everything I could think of to fix the problem.


I think the jersey I chose, which is a different colorway but the same print I chose for a Lady Skater I made last summer, showcases the shoulder gathering on the Jenna pattern really nicely. I used gray thread for my topstitching to connect the colors of the flowers.


I also used gray buttons (& one tiny sew-on snap right at the waistline, where the dress takes a bit of extra strain when I sit down). Even with all the buttons done, I can pull the dress on over my head, but I read somewhere when I first started sewing that you should never include a button without a functioning buttonhole. Obviously it was written by someone who is a bit prissy & pedantic, & I haven’t always adhered to that rule. But since this entire dress was an experiment to see if a fully-functional knit shirtdress was possible (I worried that the weight of the button placket & skirt would weigh down the skirt & make it uneven, or that the whole thing would gape & be uesless), I chose to make fully-functional buttonholes. My machine protested a bit, but now that I’ve made a few more projects that include buttonholes on it, I have learned that my Pfaff just has a contentious relationship with buttonholes. It doesn’t stall out & make massive bird’s nest like my Brother sometimes did, but it does sometimes make half a buttonhole & then clock out. I fixed those buttonholes with tiny, tiny zigzag stitches or bartacks, & it worked just fine.


I would definitely do this hack again! The dress doesn’t have a ton of hanger appeal, but it’s so comfortable & reasonably flattering on my body. I think the finalists for the “hack it” contest are due to be announced tomorrow, & if I am among them, I will let you know!


Come to me, finalist position! Actually, I was just trying to coax Biscuit out from under the porch.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

9 thoughts on “achievement unlocked: Lady Skater/Jenna shirtdress

  1. Looks fab! I am wondering if the previous owner couldn’t figure out the looping issue and decided “eff it” and sold her machine. If so, that’s a pretty shitty thing to do. I’m glad you got it squared away. I spent more than I should have on mine, so it makes me all stressed out if it isn’t working 100%. Crazy tension and looping issues would make me go all mental. :p

    1. Maybe. Though it wasn’t looping when I was doing my tester stitches, fresh out of the box. & she was upfront about having done some damage to the needleplate, which is why she was selling the machine at such a tremendous discount (several hundred less than every other used machine of the same brand on Ebay). She said she was just upgrading to an industrial machne because she was starting a home business, but eh. People say things.

      1. Nice job on the tremendous discount! I’ve noticed that a lot of sewers don’t seem quite so… Mechanically minded? Some of the stuff I read online makes me think that most people wouldn’t know how to file off a burr. Nice that you were able to fix it yourself and get a discount for it. 😊

        There are some crappy reviews out there of my machine, but it also seems like the people writing them don’t really understand the mechanics of what they’re trying to do.

        1. Yeah, I take all reviews, good & bad, with a grain of salt. So many people don’t know what they’re talking about either way.

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