Today I'm sharing with you a super easy but incredibly dramatic Kew hack! It was the perfect way to show off this fabulous new crepe from Fabric Godmother's own original fabric collection which was kindly gifted to me to use with one of my patterns (Josie is one of my long-time stockists so I was thrilled to get the chance to show off her fabric!).
There are two aspects to this maxi-hack of the Kew dress. The first is that I have done away with the centre-front opening and added a zip into the centre-back. The second is of course the tiered maxi skirt. These are both deceptively simple.
To move the dress opening from the front to the back, I first created the bodice. I still wanted to retain the button-down front on the bodice so I left the front pieces untouched and adjusted the back piece. Instead of cutting this on the fold as per the original instructions I cut it in two halves with an added 1.5cm seam allowance down the centre-back to accommodate the zip. I then did exactly the same with the Back Facing. When it came to sewing the bodice, I did everything as normal but left the back open, and, instead of doing button holes in the right-hand front, sewed the buttons through both overlapping fronts to secure them together. (Lots of brilliant sewists have already done a similar hack to Kew but removing the button-front. See The Gingerthread Girl for a brilliant example!)
Next I tackled the skirt. I knew I wanted the top layer of skirt to be smooth, not gathered, so I stuck to the original pattern but shortened it considerably. I wanted to cut the Skirt Front on the fold as I wasn't continuing the buttons below the waist, so I folded the pattern piece down the centre-front, using the centre of the buttons as a guide, and then cut this on the fold. The Skirt Back needed the same treatment as the Bodice Back – i.e. adding in 1.5cm seam allowance at the centre-back and cutting into two parts instead of one on the fold. To shorten each piece I assessed the length I wanted this first tier (in my case 30cm) and used a tape measure to mark down 33cm (30cm length + 2 x 1.5cm seam allowance) at various points along the waist. This meant the shortened length still had the curved hem of the original. I then stitched the skirt darts and side seams, leaving the CB open, and finally attached this to the bodice along the waistline. I inserted a concealed zip down the centre back and stitched the section below it closed. At this point it actually looked like quite a cute little peplum top! (One other thing to note – I strengthened the straps where they join the bodice with a few extra lines of stitching because they are carrying the weight of quite a lot of skirt.)
The gathered tiers that followed were simply rectangles. I measured the hem of the first skirt tier and calculated a rectangle 1.5 x that length, with a depth of 33cm again. I cut this in two pieces, one for the front and one for the back and stitched them together down their short ends to make a band.
The third and bottom tier took the full width of the tier above and again multiplied this by 1.5, with a slightly longer depth of 40cm. I couldn't fit the bottom tier onto the fabric in two halves so I divided the measurement by 3 and cut three panels, stitching these together down their short ends – this made a huge band, approximately 3.6m!
I am not the world's biggest fan of gathering (making the tulle petticoats for my wedding dress scarred me...), so I was overjoyed to realise I could use shirring to do the job for me! I've recently completed a couple of shirred garments and had bought a 1000m roll of shirring elastic from William Gee so I could practise to my heart's content, so to gather these tiers I simply ran two lines of shirring along the upper edge of each one. It worked like a dream! They were then very easy to pin to the other tiers and stitch – no fears of uneven gathers or gathering stitches coming undone. I stitched in between the two lines of shirring and then unpicked the visible line (this was, I admit, pretty time-consuming and finicky) and overlocked the raw edges on the inside.
All that remained was to hem the skirt, which I did with a simple press over of 0.5cm and then again of 1.5cm, top-stitched in place. Honestly, the whole process was so straightforward I can't quite believe I hadn't tried it before! And the fabric itself was a dream to work with – a beautiful drape yet not shifty, pressed well, and with a gorgeously vivid print. It is lightweight to wear but fully opaque. There's a few fabrics in this latest collection – search the #fabricgodmother hashtag on Instagram and you'll be able to see some of the other amazing garments made using them!