I first heard of the DIBY Club (Do It Better Yourself) under unfortunate circumstances. The site had been hacked, and the owner decided to shut down the store. Because I had downloaded the (FREE!) Anything But Basic Leggings when I did my round up of goth-them-yourself patterns (Part 2), I received an email announcing the closing of the store. There was a discount code, and with such nice patterns, I figured that buying some would be mutually beneficial.
This is how I came across the Sojourner, a beautiful dress pattern that would fit perfectly in my collection of spring goth dresses. Its empire waist and loose skirt makes me dream of picnics at the cemetery! Gathers are not my favorite design feature, but with some adjustments, I knew I could turn the Sojourner into one of my favorite dresses.
The Sojouner Bias Dress by DIBY Club is a pattern for lightweight woven fabrics. It has a split bodice with two neckline options, scoop and plunge V-neck, flutter short sleeves, and two skirt options, high-low and straight hems. Pockets and a side zipper are optional.
I chose a size 18 Misses and blended it to a size 20 at the waist. I had to add some width to the back bodice and a ½” to each side seam at the waist.
The first Sojourner—a wearable muslin—was made with back rayon from Fabric Warehouse Direct. This is the same fabric I used on my Wilder Gown. It is a strange kind of rayon, heavier and shinier than what I am accustomed to, but I am warming up to it.
For the second one, I used a black and white rayon with the Zodiac signs and their respective names in Portuguese. I bought it in Brazil a couple of years ago and have been hoarding it for a project worth its sentimental value.
I sewed a muslin first because 1. I always do it and 2. Precious fabric is never meant for a first try. I learned that this pattern would require a long list of changes.
- Cut the pattern on the length grain instead of the bias grain
- Raised the neckline by one inch, blending it to the original neckline half way.
- 1” added to the width of the back bodice—half inch added to pattern piece at center back (cut on fold)
- Added ½” to side seam at the waist on both front and back bodices
- Raised armscye by ½” at the underarm point
- Added 1” to the length of the front bodice, blending to the original design curve halfway
- Turned gathers into pleats, starting 1.5 inches from center front and leaving 3” from center back (black version)
- Removed all excess from skirt to match bodice (horoscope version)
- Added two inches to the low curve of the front skirt (black version)
- Removed cascade effect from front skirt (horoscope version)
If you are going the way of the pleats, make sure that your bodice pieces match your skirt pieces. Also, make sure not to put a pleat too close to the side seam.
The Lined Version
The black version has a fully lined bodice. I sewed both bodices and slipped the lining into the dress bodice, right sides facing, and sewed them together at the neckline. I graded the neckline seams with pinking shears and understitched the lining to the dress bodice.
I basted the armhole to make it easier to finish the raw edge with a serger. I had to set the sleeves in—not my favorite method, but because I chose to finish both bodice and lining before sewing them together (instead of attaching both sections at the neck and then basting the two at the armhole, side seam, and waist, serging all raw edges, and working with two pieces as one), there was no other way.
There was an excess of fabric on the front bodice, where the armscye curve is at its deepest. I had a suspicion it had to do with the bodice and the lining not resting on each other perfectly flat when I sewed the sleeve—hence the bubbling.
I initially considered removing some of the fabric in the area, but since the next version would not have a lining, I decided to wait and see.
If I believed in curses, I would for sure say that this skirt was cursed. Almost every single possible thing that could go wrong went wrong. First, I sewed the skirt backwards. I unpicked the skirt and sewed again, but this time, I sewed it inside out. At that point, I figured it was time to put the dress aside and regroup.
All the unpicking must have stretched the skirt because when I sewed it for the third time, the front skirt was too big. The same bodice and skirt that fit the day before now had a front skirt that was too big. Did I cry? No. Did I throw a fit? No. I cursed a bit, petted the cat for some extra support, and just cut the excess on the sides. Not my best work, but it worked.
The last cruel twist of fate came when as I was sewing the side seams of the skirts, my bobbin ran out of thread. Why can’t machines beep when this happens? Or is it mine that does not? This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. But I persevered, and the dress was almost done.
I love a dramatic sleeve. The pattern already has flutter sleeves, but I wanted them flutterer. I added volume using the spread-and-slash method. They are soooooooo pretty. They get a bit squished when I wear a fitted coat, but we’ll all live.
What a long hem! It took forever to get all of the hem done. I used the my favorite method to hem lightweight fabrics: I serged the raw edged and folded twice. The serged edge servers as a guide when I am folding the hem. Then, it is
The Unlined Version
I really did not love the lined bodice, and since I wear most of my dresses with slips, I eliminated the lining. I created a front and back facing by simply tracing over the front and back neckline and adding 2 ½” to the depth of the facings. I ran out of knit interfacing, so I used Pelon S101 to stabilize the facing. I used this method to sew the facing so that it does not peak out.
I did not experience any fabric pooling under the arms with the unlined version. From now on, any other versions of the Sojourner will have no lining (and no, I did not go back and fixed the lined version. I looks okay, and I don’t like messing with garments that are finished).
For this one, I decided that I did not want gathers nor pleats. Based on the lined version, I knew that I could get the dress in and out without a problem if I kept the same bodice measurements. I took the excess fabric from the gathers/pleats and made the skirt waist simply match the bodice waist. It worked like a charm!
The Sojourner Dress
This is a gorgeous make, no mater how much you deviate from the pattern. My next versions will be unlined, but I really liked the volume the pleats gave me, so pleats may definitely make a comeback. This is a great option for a goth swirly dress that you can wear to all of your social functions—even if they do not include cemetery picnics 🙂