A Sweater Knit Style Arc Cleo

I wish I had more photos of this dress, but unfortunately the battery on my camera died before I got all the shots I wanted.

During my Christmas break from work last December I traced off a new copy of my heavily altered Style Arc Cleo pattern, altering the skirt to be A-line instead of straight. I then cut into a thick wool blend sweater knit purchased last October from Fabric Mart.

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This dress ended up taking much longer than I thought it would.

I first decided to use the gray quilted side as my right side. After putting it together and trying it on…I hated it! Due to the fabric’s quilted effect it looked stiff and frumpy. The open neckline also felt COLD. Out of curiosity I turned it inside out and put it back on. I was much happier with the effect. I decided to take apart the entire dress and start over again, using the almost-black diamond pattern face as the right side.

To fix the too-open neckline I cut a new neck band. I made the finished width 1.5″ instead of 1/2″, and used the diamond pattern as a design feature. This made the neckline feel significantly warmer.

The sleeves were also a little too short, so I finished them with a 1.5″ cuff instead of a regular hem. The hemline also ended up shorter than I wanted. In order to squeeze out the maximum length possible I made a hem facing from some black stretch lace that was laying around in my sewing area. I sewed the stretch lace facing in place using the blind hem on my machine.

After finishing the dress I took it in the darts an additional 3″ at the back waist. (I found this knit grew a little during wear.) I also let out my 5/8″ seams at the bust and sleeves.

I’ve worn this dress to work a few times. Styling it with wool tights, boots, and a silk scarf makes it a nice cozy dress for brisk winter days.

I was going to make a second Cleo, but the wool knit I had planned for it gave me quite a surprise after pre washing:

Yes. It went from 2 yards, 72″ wide, with squared-off ends, to 1.5 yards, 58″ wide, with very misshapen ends. I washed it in the machine on cold delicate and air dried (as I do for all wool knits). This is why I prewash all of my fabrics before sewing them up. Better to know before rather than after you sew.

I tried to save this knit by trying to shape it back on grain, but the problem was that the two bonded fabrics weren’t perfectly on grain when they were bonded together. For this reason it wasn’t suitable for a sewing project. Rather than throw it out, I folded it up and made it into a bed for Miss Bonnie. She loves it! Not what I had hoped for this knit, but it ended up being a solution that worked for everyone.

17 thoughts on “A Sweater Knit Style Arc Cleo

  1. Did you prewash the Italian knit even though the description says “dry clean”? Do you prewash stable woolens? I have bought quite a lot of beautiful wool yardage from thrift stores, and I’m afraid to use it. I’m thinking I’ll need to dry clean each piece before sewing, but there’s a part of me that secretly wants to carefully wash them. Some of them might be blends, and able to handle getting wet. Maybe I should chance it. Besides, Sparrow would love another spot to nap on;)

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    1. I don’t dry clean so I pre-wash everything. Even wool crepe and silk and all of the other fabrics they tell you to dry clean. If it can’t handle getting wet it doesn’t belong in my wardrobe. There may be a change in hand or texture but I consider it a worthwhile trade off for not having to depend on a dry cleaner. Once in a great while I will have a disappointment like this one, but overall I have a very good success rate. (Dry cleaners aren’t perfect either). I usually pre wash using the delicate cycle of the washing machine and Eucalan wool wash. If it is silk I soak it in a bucket with some Dharma Trading dye fixative before putting it in the machine. I have a standalone little spin dryer that’s safer for more delicate fabrics, so I will often bypass the washing machine spin cycle in favor of that. I then air dry using a clothesline (warm months) or drying rack by the fire (wintertime). I may only wash the completed garment by hand after that, but I like to do an initial pre wash in the machine to maximize fabric shrinkage.

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      1. Thanks so much for answering! I have wanted to wash all this fabric, but so many people say not to, and have convoluted and time consuming or expensive methods of dealing with wool. I’m going to wash it. I just need to pick up some Eucalan.

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      2. My method is not without risks, and for some people that possible changes (like more fuzziness) are unacceptable. But my personal philosophy is that if it can’t survive one dunk in cold water, I’m not going to be happy with using it for a finished garment. I may only hand wash after that initial wash in the machine, but I still like to give it one initial wash using the machine.

        Gabardine, sateens, and other tightly woven wools typically do well. So does wool jersey. Flannel does pretty well, though like cotton flannel it might thicken up a little. Wool crepe will have a little felting, but I find the worst of it disappears after being ironed. (It is like flat ironing your hair). Wool knits, especially rib knits and the other more loosely knitted ones, can have a LOT of shrinkage. I’ve started avoiding them because then they tend to grow during wear.

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      3. I don’t think I’ll mind some texture changes. I like the idea of seeing how things turn out. That’s one of the reasons I love thrifting for fabric, I never know what I’m going to find. When I shop online or in person at fabric stores, I know exactly what I’m getting. These thrifted wools or wool blends are a mystery. I’ll carefully wash them and see what I get. I live in Colorado, so there’s always room in my wardrobe for a thick wool pencil skirt if one of them really shrinks and thickens. I’m excited to try this! I’m going to pick out a piece of yardage to wash this weekend. I’ll LYK how it goes;)

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      4. As long as you’re aware of the possible consequence…I don’t want to read a scathing blog post somewhere along the lines of “Clothing Engineer said it was ok to wash my wool fabrics, and now they’re ruined!”

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  2. Such a pretty dress which you have fitted to suit beautifully. Thanks for sharing your story of remaking the dress by reversing the fabric and working through solutions to the problems of a neckline you didn’t like or sleeve hem that was too short. Inspiration for us lesser mortals who have been known to hide disappointing sewing projects in the depths of our cupboards instead of persevering and exploring design options to fix the issues as you have done.
    I have only just discoverd StyleArc patterns and really like the ones I have made up so far.

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    1. I was lucky I used a long stitch length! Sometimes you have to look at it from the “what do I have to lose?” point of view. Part of the reason why I always buy generous cuts of fabric is because in addition to allowing for shrinkage, it gives you a little bit more wiggle room if something goes wrong.

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  3. Great save on the dress, I’m not sure I would have had the heart or patience to unpick the whole thing, but it must now be the cosiest dress ever. Bonnie looks pretty happy that you weren’t able to save the other fabric!

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