I love knit dress patterns that I can use to build my wardrobe with a million variations. The Muse Natalie dress and my Plaintain dress hack are great examples of patterns that can be made and remade, and they always come out cute and comfortable. Now that I have worked with these patterns a few times, I know exactly how to get the perfect fit, which fabrics work best, and how to sew them quickly and efficiently.
The Sinclair Valley Skater Dress fits this category perfectly. Its fit-and-flare shape is feminine without being too girlish, and it looks good on all shapes and sizes. It comes with a bunch of options, it is easy to modify and sew, and it works with a variety of fabric types and weights—making it a pattern perfect for all seasons. I would have totally missed the release of this pattern were it not for Minnsthings and her awesome monthly pattern roundups.
The Sinclair Valley Skater Dress is a FREE knit dress pattern with fitted shoulders and bust, semi-fitted waist, and a fit-and-flare skirt. The bodice is finished with a lined waistband at the natural waistline. There are three options of neckline—boat, crew, or scoop neck—and five options of sleeve—sleeveless, short, 3/4, long, or lantern elbow length. The skirt has two pleats in the front and in the back and optional side seam pockets. Not interested in a dress? Try the half-circle peplum variation.
The PDF pattern is very inclusive; it comes in regular, petite, and tall, with sizes from 0 (XS) to 30 (4XL). Based on my bust size, I fall between a size 16 and a size 18. I decided to use a size 18 because I wanted a little extra room for the changes I was planning to make. I could have definitely gone with a size 16, but since I modified a lot during construction, the 18 worked well.
I got this rayon and spandex knit fabric from Joann. I was convinced the fabric was black with red and white dots. You can imagine my surprise when it arrived, and I discovered it is dark blue. After the initial disappointment, I realized that this color combination is quite lovely. The fabric is drapey and feels great against the skin, but the white from the wrong side comes through when the fabric overstretches.
If you are planning on getting this printed at a print shop, you may consider splurging and getting it printed in color. I didn’t, and oh boy, all those lines caused a major headache. It was quite hard for me to follow the lines corresponding to each size. All variations are also included in the pattern, so finding the options that I wanted in the size I needed was quite difficult. I ended up using my home printer to print the bodice pieces for a size 18.
I made quite a few modifications to the original pattern, starting with the neckline. The crew was too high, and the scoop was to low, so I created a variation between one and the other. Because I modified the neckline, I had to add one inch to the neckband. This being a very stretchy fabric, I think I could have used the original measurement, but I would have ended up with the whitish cast from the wrong side.
To stabilize shoulder seams, I always use twill tape. I tried clear elastic, but I can never get it right. The seams come out lumpy and wonky. I have read that a strip of interfacing or woven fabric cut on the bias can also be used, but I have never tried. It might be a good way to use up all those random scraps of interfacing or leftover fabric.
Even though the pattern offers five sleeve options, I decided to go for a simple short sleeve. I used the original sleeve pattern to draw a shorter one. For my next Valley dress, I will use my tutorial to create flirty flutter sleeves.
I moved the waistband to sit right below my boobs—yeah, another empire-waist dress—by taking 1.5 inches from the bottom of the bodice. I shaved an inch from the length of the band because I wanted it to be snug, almost like an elastic band. Even though I ignored most of the instructions, here is where I paid close attention. The skirt is sewed sandwiched between the two pieces of the band; then, the two pieces are sewn like one to the bodice. This construction method creates a nicely finished waistband.
This dress offers the option of pockets. I was so excited about them! I added pockets to the original version of the dress. I decided that I could serge the skirt side seams after the pockets had been sewn. I had this notion that I could serge each side in one continuous move—not crazy, right? The seams got distorted and looked awful when I tried the dress. I could have left things like that, but why if I could undo the whole thing, remove the pockets, and basically sew a second dress? That’s what I did.
I had to sacrifice the pleats and a bit of length to make up for the pocket disaster. The extra fabric from the pleats allowed me to save the integrity of the sides when I had to create a new seam. Pity since the pleats give the dress its swishy quality.
I had a much easier time hemming the sleeves and dress with the coverstitch this time. I lowered the tension on all knobs from 3 to 2, and the hems look much better. I am still getting the hang of having the lines of stitching align perfectly when overlapping at the end. As of now, I need some unpicking and a couple of tries to have everything line up nicely.
The Valley dress is a great—and have I already mentioned FREE?!—pattern that offers enough options to fill a whole wardrobe. It was really easy to adapt it to my taste, and I know that I will be making many, many more. I am already looking for the perfect cat fabric for my second version, and something Halloweenish for my third. This will definitely become of my TNT patterns.