Sewing Vloggers

Sunday, January 30, 2022

The Memphis Dress, a la Petite

This was a really fun make. It had it's challenges but all were pretty much of my own making. I made creative decisions not recommended in the pattern which required a muslin and a bit of prayer but they worked out with less stress than I thought. It was a great project for a bitter cold couple of weeks in January and jump started my lagging sewjo. It's plan was to be part of a few garments for our vacation next June, far more enticing than winter clothing  right now!

Here were my challenges:

*The patterns specifies 2 or 4 way stretch knits. I wanted to use wovens.  What size do I begin with?

* I was inspired by seeing the pattern on a 5'10" beautiful young woman.  I am five feet tall definitely not young.  The designer is five foot six inches tall. It would need accommodating. How?

* I had limited yardage of two vintage linens. How to make them work and in what complimentary fashion? Would I have enough?

* Would I look like a clown when done?

I think I met the first three pretty well. I will let you be the judge of the last challenge. I will say hubs loved it. His words, " ...very nice colors. That's really pretty on you. What's that big thing on the side? A pocket?" 

Here is how I went about meeting those challenges. 


This is the Memphis Dress from the Sewing Workshop. I was smitten from the first time I saw it on one of their employees on their weekly youtube video. I still long to make a version like her's, a variety of textured white knits, gorgeous! But this was a good start to work out the fit. 

You can see my muslin here and read the blogpost about it as well. I did numerous adjustments I'll address in a moment some of which came post muslin. The muslin was to find my fitting issues and was made straight from the envelope. It was too long, too wide in the shoulders and just a LOT. It's easy for us petites to get overcome by style and this needed to be tamed down a bit. I do think the various fabrics broke up the volume in a good way and helped. 

The pattern itself was quite easy to put together. Instructions are clear. It's pretty much all straight lines.  Every notch and dot fit to perfection as they always seem to do on all Sewing Workshop patterns I have used. There is a lot of bias to watch out for but if being made in a knit fabric, as designed, you probably would have no issue. 

I was concerned about size. The inspiring model said that when she used a woven she went two sizes larger.  The finished measurements are on the pattern and website. The smallest size, XS, had a bust measurement of 40 3/4 inches finished, more than enough for me. I went directly for the XS. with fingers crossed. Below the apex there really was no other horizontal fitting, another plus for this pattern. 


I like to keep all my fabrics out in the open on shelving, not that I have a huge amount. I keep like types together. I had two vintage plaid linens right next to each other and not long ago they told me they needed to be put into the same garment. The each were plaids and each had  a bit of aqua connecting them. The picture above looks more blue but is is greenish IRL. Both plaid fabrics in the Memphis dress  are linens, vintage, and gleaned from thrift shop visits. The one above is an Evan Picone garment and a really nice quality. Both are yarn dyed. This skirt had 3 plus yards of length. I took it apart for yardage. It was a size 18 and is clamped around my form in the picture. Here is an Evan Picone pattern, early 80s my guess, showing his penchant for plaid skirts.  I have no recollection at all of the history of the purple check/plaid. I see linen, I buy it. 

Design 101 - do things in odd numbers. It's far more interesting. I needed that third fabric. I brought my first two with me to my local quilt shop to see what they had in their ever increasing group of garment fabrics. I found a nice Kaufman linen/cotton blend in the right aqua color to be the third fabric.  Now I just had to sit down with my pencil and sketch pad and figure out the color blocking. 

Color blocking figured out. All three fabrics picked out and ready. Let's cut! 

This presented a challenge or two. I had no idea if all the pattern pieces would fit on what I had to work with. I thought they would. They didn't. What is called the "drape", that large piece my husband called the "pocket", has bias edges and I wanted to specifically plan those big black bars. I was about two inches short of making the piece  fit. Ackkkk.... Two options: piece in a little matching piece perfectly OR put a seam in where the drape would naturally fold and match that, hopefully perfectly. I went for option #2 and you would never ever know there was an issue. It falls beautifully and you just don't notice a  thing. If anything, I think it enables the drape to fall better.  Can't see it, can you? If you click on the pic below  there are arrows pointing to the seam. 

What looks like a mismatch in the hem band at left is simply a fold in the fabric. 

I love how once you move a bit in the dress it makes this wonderful curve at the side with the drape. 

Other than that section I had plenty of fabric to lay out and cut as needed in all the colors. 


Here are the specific changes I did to change this to a PETITE pattern. I am five feet tall, very narrow of shoulder, C cup and evenly proportioned vertically. 

* Shoulders were decreased 5/8ths of an inch. This was tapered to nothing at 1/3 of the way from the bottom of the armscye. 

* Shoulder seam was decreased a healthy 1/8th of an inch, front and back, starting at neckline side, decreasing to nothing at armscye side. This removed gaping from neckline, before trimming back front neckline. 

* Front neckline was cut lower 1/2 inch all across. At shoulder seam it starting tapering. Within and inch it was back at the normal back neckline. 

* No bust adjustments were made at all and you can see fits fine. 

* Sleeves were cut 9 inches long from top of cap to raw hem edge and had 3/4 inch hem. Sleeve was reduced 1/4 inch at hem fold tapering to nothing right up at armscye. Beautiful fit on sleeves which rarely happens for me. This took approximately a half inch out of the sleeve width. 

*Hem band was folded in half.  This added weight to the hem which I felt was good for my lightweight linens. The skirt edge above was reduced by  1 inch as well. The two layers of the hem band and the skirt edge were all stitched and serged together and ironed toward the skirt. That reduced total length by 6 inches which I thought was perfect. The short side of the dress grazed my knee and the left side was about 8 inches above the floor. The proportions seemed similar to the inspiration. I am glad I did the folded in half hem band, nice additional weight. 

All seams in this garment were stitched on the machine. serged together and pressed to the side as per the instructions, fast and clean!

Next time:

The next time I make this I will double the yoke and do the burrito method for finishing. I just like my burrito yokes, their  finish, weight and strength to carry all this fabric which more than likely would be heavier fabric in the next effort. 

Next time might be another woven version as that presented no issues for me other than the additional challenge of doing a  different sort of neckline finish which in this case was a French fold bias binding cut at 85%.  I left the two ends of the bias strip long and met them, kiss style, at the end. Then I stitched the short seam to close the binding and pressed it open. Now I could finish the last couple of inches of the binding at just the right size. I do this a lot on non stretch bindings. 

I would do the band folded in half again as well as I like how the extra weight pulls my lightweight fabric down a bit. Helps that big curl on the drape happen, too. 

Some props here: 

My beautiful necklace is made by jewelry artist, Becky Sawyer of Weare, New Hampshire. She is my daughter's dear lifelong friend, all the way back to grammar school. She has been talented enough and lucky enough to have been a practicing artist her entire adult life and I am a huge fan of her work. She is a juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. My daughter gifted me last year with this necklace of Becky's for my birthday .  It is a perfect compliment for this dress, isn't?

In Conclusion:

This is my first official garment I have made for our trip to the Azores. In researching the climate I have found it will be perfect. Now I am on to tops and pants which will include another Sewing Workshop pattern as well. This pattern, like all other SW patterns I have tried, went together beautifully, and that was with my not following suggested pattern requirements which changed a few techniques. This is not a difficult pattern to sew at all  and must be even easier in the proper knit fabrics. There are no closures to deal with , no pockets or other fussy details. This is a lot of style for a beginner and I highly recommend for all sewists. If you are petite it is definitely do-able with a muslin being just the help to get you on the right track. Changing the proportions of the hem band help give it the smaller proportion petite designs demand. Great pattern for petites, great pattern for all. Happy Sewing..............Bunny


  1. Wow! I just love this dress, you did a wonderful job on it and the fabric choice is beautiful. The Azores are beautiful island (enjoy!) and this dress will be perfect.

  2. So stinkin' cute! And a great dress for a warm place! You look cool...and kewl... ;-)

  3. Your fun and stylish dress will be perfect for the Azores. We've been there twice and thoroughly enjoyed the people. Karen

  4. Absolutely stunning! Combining fabrics and colors can be tricky but this dress just shouts, "it works!" You make the most comforatble clothes so chic! The necklace looks like it was made for the dress. Thank you for sharing all the steps and tips and tricks with this pattern, Bunny!

  5. I love what you have done here-creative thinking and pattern mixing at its best. Your version shows off the wonderful lines of this design so much better than the original pattern shows. Sophistication with a cutting edge to boot! Are you on Pattern Review? Take care, fellow sewist, Terri

  6. What makes this dress work for me is your balanced layout of the patterns, your design, your contributions. Personally, I run the other way from styles like this, they look like feed sacks, to be honest. It is strictly your artistic handling that makes it a stunning garment.

  7. Well, Ms. Bunny, there is no clowning around in this adorable dress. All of your changes seem to have worked out for the better. I love the colors and stripes in your linens. They go together very well. And the weighted hem is a great idea too. It does help with the drape of the dress. All around a great looking dress. I would take it on vacation too. ;-)

    Ms. Becky is a gem. That necklace is beautiful. What a great birthday gift from your daughter.

    Great review on this dress.


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