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Gwen Spencer's 2 Dresses

Gwen Spencer: 'I love repetition.'

I want to sew more like Gwen Spencer. Her projects never cease to inspire me, each with a distinct sewing and personal style. You may know Gwen from our booth at the Puyallup Sewing Expo or from the Design Outside the Lines retreats where she will be a teacher.

Gwen makes the 4+ hour drive to my studio from her home in Corvallis, Oregon to work/play/collaborate with me when it is time to sew the prototypes for my Vogue patterns. She brought these 2 dresses with her last month and I was inspired to share them. In the photo below, we are on our way to dinner with friends at The Farm, and Gwen is wearing her version of the Cirque dress, Vogue 9112.

Starting point:

  • Gwen has a large roll of white cotton tailor/twill tape that she has been using in both garments featured below.
  • She did NOT pre-shink the tape, likes the puckered effect that happens when the garment is washed.
  • Gwen incorporates hand stitching in many garments too, has a 'passion for a needle and thread', and usually has a hand sewing project for early morning coffee chats and evenings sitting around watching a movie or sipping a cool drink on the deck.
  • On a visit last spring, Gwen told me that she wanted to invent some new clothes.

This blog is designed to inspire, is not a tutorial, no instructions other than what I've included here from my conversations with Gwen.


Up Close Look

Fabric is a cotton puckered seersucker check that gets softer and better with washing and wearing.


'I had a lot of fabric!'

  • Gwen combined two of the lower hem edge pieces into one and cut them on the bias.
  • The bias hem is left raw. ...one of the 'rules' of textiles (right up there with the law of gravity), is that true bias does not ravel.
  • Bias will fray a bit on the edge, but no ravelling.
  • The twill tape extends a bit beyond the hem edge, adding a bit more texture.


The Collar

  • Gwen narrowed the depth of the collar and cut it single thickness, also on the bias.
  • Note that the short overlapping front edges are turned and finished, but the outer edge is left raw.


Line drawing shows the seam details...


Gwen's rendition of Katherine Tilton pattern: Butterick 5881

  • The pattern calls for 2 separate tunics/layers to be joined together.
  • Gwen separated the two, wears them together, but also wears the white under layer separately.
  • The collaged fabric started with playing around with a small piece of fabric when she was at the Design Outside the Lines retreat. That small section lead to the final combination of fabrics and stitching.
  • The narrow yellow green strips are cotton cut on the bias
  • The glass buttons are vintage
  • She added a bit of black machine stitching on the bias neck bands to tie things together
  • Gwen left spaces in the stitching on the twill tape, then threaded the yellow-green cotton bias strips over and under.


White Linen Under Layer

  • Is cut on the straight of grain, but could be cut on the bias.
  • Has an asymmetrical hem.
  • Could easily be lengthened to make a longer dress.
  • Our ArtBarn team have been making this as a little summer linen shift.


Line Drawing Shows the Details

You can see the under layer peeking out the bottom.


As shown on the pattern envelope...


Happy Sewing from my studio to yours!

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