Hello VFT blog readers! Ashley here, long-time tester for Violette Field Threads, with a little hack to the Isobel dress pattern. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we all share a huge love for the Isobel pattern. It is so timeless and adorable that when I first saw it, it was definitely love at first sight. If your child is anything like mine, they are independent and like to get themselves dressed and a dress that buttons up the back cramps their style. Or maybe you just haven't quite got the whole button thing down yet. Either way, I have come up with a little hack to the Isobel pattern to put in an elastic panel at the back in place of the buttons. I've listed out below the step-by-step directions. You'll want to have your Isobel pattern pieces and tutorial handy, as you'll still be using both.

If you don't have Isobel, and weren't able to scoop it up over the $6 weekend, don't worry! Because of this blog hack, we've extended the sale on all Isobel products. {valid for 1 week}

Here we go! 

1. Print out the bodice pattern in your child's size.  Next take a straight edge ruler and line it up with the edge where the pattern starts to slope upwards. We are cutting off the entire part that overlaps for the buttons. Ensure your ruler is lined up straight with the bottom of the pattern so you're cutting straight and not at an angle. 

2. Trim it off and also round the corner where you see the red arrow. You can toss the rectangle piece. 

3. This is what your new back bodice piece will look like. 


4. Using the cut chart below, cut out two rectangles. You'll cut one rectangle in lining fabric and one rectangle in main fabric.  In addition to these two rectangles, you will also follow the pattern and cut the pieces it tells you to. Using our new back bodice piece, cut 4 (2 main, 2 lining). Now use the existing front bodice and side panel pieces and cut those as normal. You can cut the skirt at this point but be sure not to cut a slit in the back as the pattern instructs. You'll want two skirt pieces, only cut on the fold. If you are making the double skirt version, you will cut 4 skirts, but remember, no slit in the back. 


5. Your cut pile should look like this. Please note my side panels are lace, however yours may be fabric in which case you would have 4 side panels, instead of the two I have in my cut pile. 

6. Lay your back bodice pieces on top of your front bodice pieces, with the right sides touching. Repeat for the lining. Sew at the shoulder seams, then press the seam allowances open. 

7. Take the two rectangles you cut for the back elastic panel, lay them with the right sides touching and sew at the very top with 1/2" seam allowance. Open the back elastic panel back up, iron the seam up, and then flip so that the wrong sides are touching. 

8. Lay the panel on your sewing machine. I just line up mine with my presser foot. Most sewing machine feet will create a 3/8" seam when aligned with the right side of the foot with the needle position to the left (see photo below for clarification). You can measure & mark 3/8" casings if you'd like to, but I am just using my presser foot as a guide here. Start at one edge and start sewing straight lines across the back of the panel. Note your first line will be 3/8" down from the very top. Keep going until you have made casings across the entire panel. The number of casings will vary depending on the size you make. Stop when you are around 1" from the bottom raw edge. This doesn't need to be exact.

9. The finished panel should look like this.

10. To determine how many pieces of elastic you need to cut, count your casings starting from the very top and skip every other casing. Again this will vary on the size you chose to make. As you can see, my size 5 will require 5 pieces of elastic. Where the red dots are on the image below, nothing goes in there. Use the elastic cut chart below to know how long to cut each piece. I use 1/4" elastic for this. 



11. Thread the elastic through the casings. Use a pin to secure each end and then run a stitch down each side (where the red dots are) to secure all the elastic. 

12. Lay the side panels on the main back bodice. If you are also adding ties, you will lay the ties down first, and then place the side panels on top. Sew the side panels down with 1/4" seam allowance to secure. If you are adding ties, baste the other two to the front bodice at this point. 

13. Pull the side panel (and ties if you did them) away from the main bodice so it's no longer laying on top. Now lay the elastic panel you have created onto the back bodice with the right sides together. Line up the bottom of the panel with the bottom of the back bodice. Pin and then sew with 1/4" seam allowance to secure into place. 

14. Lay the lining piece on top. Pin and sew with 1/2" seam allowance all the way around. However, leave one side open, as the photo below shows. Clip the corners on the neckline so it will lay flat.

15. Open up the bodice. The elastic panel will be secured to the left side, and the right side will be open, as shown below. Pull the back bodice lining up as shown in the photo below. 


16.  Lay the elastic panel on your cutting board, and then place the right side of the back bodice main on top of the elastic panel. The right sides of both pieces should be touching. Once that's pinned together, bring the lining underneath and pin so you are sandwiching the elastic panel in between the back bodice main and the back bodice lining. Pin all 3 pieces together and sew to secure. Ensure you're keeping the side panel and ties out of the way.  Make sure to start sewing where we left off in step #14, to completely close that seam and enclose the elastic panel. 


17. Open everything up and it should start to look like the picture below. Iron flat and top stitch if desired. Clip any corners that aren't laying flat.

18. To close the arm holes, we will burrito method the bodice. If you've never done this before, please refer to this video, as a video is much more helpful than photos are when learning how to do this.  CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Separate one armhole, main from lining. 


On the opposite side, start rolling the fabric in a "burrito" fashion until you reach the other side. Then bring the lining over the top and pin to the main to secure. 

19. Sew up the arm hole, leave a space open on the front bodice where we will be placing the side panel in a future step. Measure your side panel height to know how much you need to leave open. Also take special care not to catch the rolled up bodice inside. Reach up inside and push it over if you feel it creeping towards the seam. 

20. Once you have sewn your beautiful burrito, reach inside, and pull the bodice out! 

21. Repeat with the other side to close up the remaining arm hole, being sure to leave two slits at the bottom of the front bodice. 


22. Flip the bodice over so the right sides are touching. Separate the main bodice from the lining and pin the side panel to the main in the part we left open and didn't sew. 

23. Once the main and side panel are pinned together, bring the lining over to create another main/side panel/lining sandwich. Sew, making sure to start where we left off to completely close the seam. 


24. Repeat the same steps for the remaining side. Now iron everything so that it lays nice and flat. Step back and admire that beautiful bodice you just made! 

25. To add the skirt, you will sew up both side seams, but unlike the original pattern states, we will NOT be cutting a slit down the back. Our skirt will be one big loop. Hem the fabric at this point. (I don't have photos of that step of course because my fabric doesn't need a hem. Refer to the pattern for this info.) 


26. Gather the skirt to fit the bodice as shown in the pattern. Lay it over the bodice and pin the bodice to the skirt. To pin the skirt to the elastic panel, you may need to stretch the panel as you pin. And when sewing to secure, I also stretch the panel as I go.

27. Remove any basting stitches. You can serge the skirt/bodice seam inside if you like. You can also top stitch the bodice at this point if you like, by ironing the seam up towards the bodice. When I make dresses with elastic panels, I like to start my top stitching at one edge of the panel, go all the way around the bodice, then stop where the panel starts again so that I'm not top stitching the skirt to the elastic panel. Of course this is my personal preference, but I've found that the skirt tends to lay nicer and not bunch up when it's not top stitched. 

And voila! You are done! One thing I will note, I have not tried this hack with adding flutters. And honestly, I'm not sure how it would work since the burrito method doesn't leave a whole lot of room for extra fabric in there. But perhaps if you're working with a thin fabric such as rayon or lawn, you might be able to pull it off. But on thicker fabrics, I wouldn't recommend adding flutters to this hack.

I hope to see many of you post your photos of this new hack in the VFT Facebook sewing group




April 01, 2019 by Ashley Brostrom