all my own work by ann

Sewing and textiles with Ann

To buy or to make? That is the question.

Dressing gowns.

A friend gave me an old duvet cover, thinking i might like to make a summer dress from the fabric. Well, i was due to go on holiday with some male friends, and i decided that a light weight dressing gown that provided a high degree of cover, would be better use of the fabric. Hence, i bought K3644 during the summer.

It was quite good fun placing the pattern pieces onto the various prints on the fabric, and ending up with exactly matching pockets and sleeve cuffs. It was only part way through making, that i noticed that the back duvet fabric, out of which the bulk of the dressing gown is made, is a slightly different design and a slightly different quality, to the front of the cover.

It took a while to make, as there are some long seams, which need to be carefully aligned, but using light weight fabric, all of the instructions worked and i had a suitable dressing gown for the holiday – which ended up, at quite short notice, not happening. Anyway, when i am allowed, i see the boys quite frequently, and the holiday is re-booked for next year. It will have it’s use eventually.

Then it occurred to me that my old winter dressing gown was getting quite thin and worn in places, and could probably do with replacing. This was a much more challenging project.

First up, might it actually be cheaper to buy one? What a question to ask! You have to be very careful that you are comparing like with like. I have used good quality towelling, sourced from Minervacrafts, and my gown is a longer length. If you add in a bit for the pattern, thread, quite a bit of interfacing, piping and piping cord, it has cost me round about £50 to make this, including the fact that you have to buy by the full metre online. It is quite possible to get dressing gowns made from other fabrics, for less than £50. But a John Lewis long towelling dressing gown costs £60, and i have seen similar for more than that. Argument won! It is slightly cheaper to make. The argument about having a unique garment doesn’t hold much water in the case of a dressing gown, as very few people will see it to form any comparison.

This garment is for life! A friend was a bit shocked when i said that this might be the last time that i need to get a new winter dressing gown, as they tend to last for decades…..

It’s very warm, but the fabric bulk presented some problems during the making process….

Hand tacking piping to front

Some notes:

  • Whilst the ‘duvet cover’ version is slightly shorter than full length view A, the towelling version is 10cm longer than the pattern length of view B. This is quite long enough.
  • I still don’t understand this, but the back section came out a good 14cm longer than the front, and the facing, after very carefully lining up the notches, is slightly shorter than the front. Needless to say, the facing determines the finished length.
  • I examined the seam finish on my current dressing gown, and concluded that they had been overlocked. So any seam that could be overlocked, was. Most can be overlocked.
  • The suggested method for stitching the piping is not the way that i would have done it – but it is what i did. I hand tacked the piping to the right side of the fabric, and then followed the instructions to fold the piped edge over the seam, and stitch down with a zip foot, on the right side. With bulky fabric is was quite difficult to get the final stitching always in the right place. Thank goodness for the unpicker. I would have sandwiched the piping between the seam, and then probably hand stitched the folded cuff and pocket on the rear side of the garment. The fluffy fabric is very forgiving of hand stitching.
  • The piping round the collar was again, hand tacked, but was easier to stitch, as it is sandwiched between the facing and front seam.
  • I could have spent ages levelling the hem at the front, and it would never have been perfect! First, i had to do it on the dress maker’s dummy, and not on me, and it would fold and hang differently every time it is tied. I noticed that even the John Lewis website doesn’t depict a level front hem. A close approximation suffices.
  • I added a ribbon hanger at the back of the neck. This is not in the pattern, but surely, all dressing gowns are hung up somewhere, aren’t they? It’s still ‘under test’. to make sure it can hold the weight of the fabric.
  • And finally, probably the most challenging aspect of using bulky fabric, was that i could not find a way to turn the belt loops. After much trying and failing, i eventually just overlocked them on 3 sides, and hand stitched them in place, according to my own waist, and not any pattern markings. Time will tell how robust the hand stitching is, but it can easily be mended if necessary, and to my great pleasure, with the stitching buried on the fluffy towelling, its not possible to tell how i have attached the loops. Success.
Slightly better image of piping details

The floor and work space was covered in white fluff during the making process. I am pleased to report that the ‘fluff shedding’ does seem to have stopped now that the gown is finished. The dust pan, brush and vacuum cleaner were needed at the end of every day. But surprisingly, it didn’t fluff up the overlocker very badly.

As it got nearer to completion, some of the bulky seams made it quite difficult to manoeuvre the garment under the sewing machine foot. It would have been almost impossible to machine stitch the belt loops over the side seams. I am quite fussy about trying to always stitch in the same direction; normally down the garment, and whilst i succeeded, this was quite challenging, for example, when stitching the facing to the front.

Anyway, the sewing space is now clean and tidy, and i am sure that there will be (too) many evening this winter, curled up on the sofa, wearing this dressing gown. And next winter, and the winter after that… Good value for £50, although of course, that figure does not include any cost against the trials and tribulations of making this, as described above!

One comment on “To buy or to make? That is the question.

  1. Helen
    October 25, 2020

    Your comment about the dressing gown possibly outlasting you made me smile. I often wonder if I have fabric stash beyond life expectancy.

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This entry was posted on October 22, 2020 by in Dressing gown, Fashion, Handmade, Kwik Sew, Sewing and tagged , , , , , , .
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