July MAGAM: Sew Bookish

The theme for July in the Make a Garment a Month group was “Sew Bookish,” meaning to sew something out of a book or magazine. Since I own exactly two clothes-sewing books and two Burda Style magazines, this was a true challenge!

My first idea was to have another go at the Shirtwaist dress from Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing. But with temperatures in the 40s, the idea of making a collared, fitted dress lost appeal. I wanted something light and airy and summery, and the airiest thing I could find was a dress with an actual hole in it:

This is the “Dress with Gathered Hole” from the first Pattern Magic book. I don’t actually own this book, but drafting the pattern is pretty simple: take a dress or top that fits you, cut your hole, slash-and-spread to make the gathers, and done. I decided to put the hole at the center back and do a muslin of the top part, the bottom of the dress being just an extension of the top.

dress with gathered hole

dress with gathered hole

dress with gathered hole

dress with gathered hole

And the finished version looks like this:

dress with gathered hole

I’ve worn it exactly zero times so far and honestly I can’t imagine where I ever would wear it… it’s not really work-appropriate; the open back makes sitting around in it uncomfy and it leaves weird marks on your back, not to mention the unpleasant sunburn possibilities. Still, it was fun to draft and make.


In the second half of the month normal temperatures came back and I decided to make the shirtwaist dress after all. After my disasterous learning-curve first version, I made a few changes:

1. pockets go at the waist seams, not where marked on the pattern (too low)

2. cut the skirt as per the pattern, but refolded the pleats to have them match the dart

3. shortened all the darts

4. instead of shirring going across the whole back, I used elastic to gather part of the back

gray Gertie shirtwaist dress

5. left off the poofy sleeves and went with a sleeveless version again

6. used a single piece for the button placket facing, instead of seaming it

7. the biggest change: I redrafted the entire shoulder / collar area. I moved the shoulder seam forward half an inch, because it was too bulky right where the tightest curve of the neck was. Then I moved the lapel down an inch and made the collar an inch longer. You can barely see the difference; I should have moved it two inches.

gray Gertie shirtwaist dress

For this version I made the bound buttonholes as she suggests (although I finished them by machine instead of by hand), and I even handmade the buttons.

gray Gertie shirtwaist dress

Not too bad, I think!

gray Gertie shirtwaist dress

The August theme will be about wardrobe basics, which is perfect for me: I’ll be travelling for three weeks at the end of August and September, and have the way-overly-ambitious plan to create a me-made capsule wardrobe for the trip. I know it won’t be 100% me-made, but if I can make some staples in August I might get close!

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4 Responses to July MAGAM: Sew Bookish

  1. Wendy says:

    Looks good. I’ve wondered about Gertie’s pattern drafting. Thanks for the heads up. As for the Pattern Magic dress, great work – you should definitely find a place to wear it.

  2. lovenicky says:

    Thanks for documenting your journey for these garments. For the ‘hole in the back dress’ – I wonder if you would want to make it again in a dark ponte knit so that you can wear it out to dinner? I think that could be very fun! 😉

  3. Wow! Looks quite complicated to me. Nice job!

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