Adventures in wool jersey – Butterick 3212

What with the sudden onset of late autumn/winter here in the UK, my mind turns to warmth. And wool. I love wool, it’s my favorite fabric to wear. I scored some Jean Muir black wool jersey online a while back. It was heavier and thicker than I had thought, but still very warm and very wearable. After a lot of inner debate over the best way to use it (matching fabric to pattern is a struggle for me at the best of times), I settled on Butterick 3212, a vintage dress pattern I’d been saving for winter:

Fabric recommendations include wool knits, wool jerseys, flannels and crepes. I used my beloved black wool jersey and omitted the back zip. Modern jerseys are not like vintage jerseys. I believe vintage jerseys are more like ponte – a double knit – but with less stretch. Correct me if I’m wrong, I’ve not actually sewn with ponte, but I have touched it up in fabric shops. With hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have used such a thick, stretchy fabric, it caused me a lot of grief and wasted a fair bit of fabric.

It’s a pretty simple design and has only six pattern pieces, but my lack of sense prevailed and I managed to make a mess of it to begin with. I wanted a chic, warm winter dress, similar to the lady in mustard in the pattern illustration. After sewing it up, I looked like a tiny waif, drowning in a giant block of a dress. Definitely a case of the dress wearing me rather than me wearing the dress.

Eventually I bit the bullet and took in an extra 3cm on each side seam and sleeve seam, and took 1.5cm from the back seam. I know it’s meant to be a shift dress, with relatively little shaping, but the thickness of the fabric didn’t seem to work with that. It was too heavy and sack-like. In a lighter weight wool, sure, I think it would have looked great, but not with this stuff. Hindsight tells me I should size down when using stretch fabric. I’ve heard of other people doing this, but I can’t find any information to back it up. The wool jersey was thick, but easy enough to sew. I couldn’t use my sewing machine’s overlock stitch, as it curled up the edges. Maybe it’s time to save up for an overlocker. Steph at 3 Hours Past has convinced me on speed alone. I hand-sewed the hems and the sleeve hems as I didn’t want a stitching line showing.

After all of the tentative fitting, I can safely say that I’m pretty happy with this dress, including the fit. It’s not the most figure-hugging or shift-y of dresses, it’s somewhere in between, but that’s okay. I’d like the pooling at the back to be less bulky, but I’ve had enough with taking this dress in. It’s warm, woolley and has a massive collar.

Can anyone confirm/deny going down a pattern size to accommodate for fabric stretch? Does it apply to all vintage patterns (I’m assuming most modern patterns for stretch fabric factor this into sizing…)

Thanks for reading!


  1. This is just wonderful. I made my husband come over and see. “THAT.” I said. “THAT.” :)

    When I’m switching a vintage pattern over to use with jersey, I certainly go down a size. I think I’ve mentioned that before on the blog…. ;) But yes, I think your instinct was correct on this one.

    Really really chic, it’s great. So quiet, so wearable. Just gorgeous. Do you go for bright accessories, or white, or blingy? I think any of those could work… ;)

    1. Thanks! I hope he approved. It’s my own little piece of vintage cake.

      I’ve learnt my lesson with jersey/vintage patterns. It’s a shame I didn’t know when I bought the pattern…

      And so you know, I go for bright accessories. I’m thinking brooches for this dress. I don’t have enough panache for bling.

  2. Looks great! Very wearable, which is a big thing for me. I would love to see this dress with a more substantial belt.

    I pretty much always have to go down a size and not just for stretch fabrics. I find that most patterns have way too much wearing ease if you just choose your size based on the measurements on the back of the envelope.

    Do you use the finished garment measurements on the pattern pieces? I often even measure the pattern itself before I start cutting to make sure it’s the size I want.

    And keep in mind that many stretch garments require negative ease, so that if the pattern was drafted for a fabric without much stretch, they may have drafted it with a ‘normal’ amount of wearing ease, so you would have to further reduce the pattern to make it fit properly.

  3. Thanks! I do usually consult the finished measurements, but a lot of vintage patterns I use don’t seem to have them. Usually they have less ease too than modern patterns. Really I should measure the pattern before cutting, but I am very, very lazy. Slowly learning not to wing it all the time.

  4. I really like this dress! It is gorgeous and I adore the collar!

  5. I love that dress!!! It looks so classy! Bravo on a job well done!!! :)

  6. […] Scout. I picked it up online, it’s ex-Jean Muir fabric, like the wool jersey I used for my 60s knit dress. It’s ever so slightly transparent but not enough to cause […]

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