Sew A Bright Summer Shift and Matching Espadrilles!
Updated: Jul 3
Summer seemed the perfect time to sew a simple shift with my Sea Kelp and Garibaldi print, one of my designer fashion fabrics, and when I read the Spoonflower blog on 4 Tips For Making Your Own Pair of Espadrilles with Spoonflower Fabric, I knew right away that a matching pair of espadrilles was in order!
For the shift I chose the Burda pattern 6628 because there is an opening in the back neckline that fastens with one button, so no zipper is required—clean and simple. Other easy shift patterns are McCalls M6102 and M7120, and Simplicity’s New Look 6500 (this one comes with pockets), all of which are available at JoAnn's Fabrics.
I have to interject here that I use a body form when sewing for myself. For me, this has been the best investment ever, because I can actually see the fit and tailor it on the form without having to constantly try on the garment with a hit-or-miss approach. I purchased a top quality basic form from The Shop Company—the Professional Female Dress Form w/ Collapsible Shoulders—and the dress form accessories—The Ultimate Dress Form Fitting Pad System by Fabulous Fit. Using the accessories, I “refitted” the form to mirror my actual body shape, and have been thoroughly pleased with the results ever since. What is nice about this form is that as one’s body changes, for any number of reasons, the form can also be refitted to match. Perfect!
I tend to usually revise commercial sewing patterns to suit my taste, so for this shift I made changes to the neckline, added some darts to make the front less billowy, and definitely added pockets! Also, with my wonderful Pfaff machine, I like to enhance my top stitching with a decorative stitch, especially when it adds to a simple garment and/or complements the fabric.
The fabric here is my Sea Kelp and Garibaldi on Speckled Blue printed on Spoonflower’s retired Kona Cotton. (I now suggest ordering this print on Spoonflower’s Cotton Poplin Ultra or Organic Cotton Sateen Ultra.) This shift would also look lovely in any of the two sister fabrics—the Sea Kelp and Garibaldi (on white) and Sea Kelp and Garibaldi on Aqua. Featured in this World Ocean series, one of my many designer fabric collections, is the California sea kelp community with one of its star players, the Garibaldi, the official State Marine Fish of California.
One thing to keep in mind is that this print, like many, is a one-directional repeat pattern. So you should place your front and back pattern pieces in the direction of the design, and, you need to make a decision as to which part of the design you prefer to have going down the center of your shift. Also, if you are adding pockets, decide how these will line up with the pattern direction on the shift front. Cannot tell you how many times I got in a hurry and cut out my garment pieces before thinking any of this through! Raise your hand if you have made this same mistake…see!
Because I wanted my espadrilles to match perfectly, and the Kona Cotton is a fairly strong fabric, I used this same material for making the shoes. I also made a trial pair of espadrilles with Spoonflower’s Linen Cotton Canvas Ultra, and this fabric worked very well. Both pairs were made with the same fabric type for the outer side and the inner lining. (The Spoonflower espadrille blog recommends using the Lightweight Cotton Twill for the outer side and the Organic Cotton Sateen Ultra for the lining.) For the soles, I bought the Dritz Espadrilles Adult Soles & Pattern kit and the Dritz Espadrilles Iron-On Stabilizer. The other recommended kit is PRYM from the UK, but the Dritz brand was available in my size on Amazon, and shipped pretty quickly.
Following the Dritz directions and sewing the espadrille pieces is fairly easy. You just have to place your pattern pieces carefully on the outside fabric if you want your design on each shoe to be consistent. Each right and left front toe pattern needs to be placed where you want the center, inside, and outside designs to fall, facing outward (so you see your print backwards when you wear your shoes). The front toe pattern has a different right and left side, so cut the right foot toe front with the pattern right side up, and the left foot toe front with the pattern wrong side up. Each right and left back heel pattern should be placed on the same center design, making sure that the inside and outside prints match as well. Cut each heel pattern separately, right side up. Once cut out, mark/pin your right foot pieces so you can always distinguish these from the left—very, very important!
The pieces cut for the inside lining don’t require the same attention for matching the designs and design directions, unless you wish to do so. I cut and ironed on the stabilizer, and ultimately, I feel this does help keep the shape of the shoe.
As regards sewing the fabric espadrilles to the soles—I learned a lot! First, the colors of the “official” espadrille thread appeared to be limited when I researched these, so I was brave and opted for a #4 cotton yarn (used for crocheting) for my trial pair, and then a #20 natural bamboo cord for my second pair. You also need an upholstery needle (curved or straight; I prefer the latter), thread wax, a thimble, and a needle puller. I found that working on a thin magazine on a flat table surface was best for holding an espadrille packed with pins while sewing a blanket stitch one stitch at a time. And, because I wanted to fasten the fabric very securely to the sole, I spaced my stitches about ¼ inch apart, and tightened each stitch separately as I went along. It took time, several pricks, and some sore fingers, but I love the end results.
After completing my trial pair, I was reminded, after I tried them on, that my right foot is smaller than my left. So when I cut the pieces for the second pair, I compensated for this. Also, I am an even size 8, and this pattern fits perfectly. If your shoe is a half size, using the Dritz kit, you would probably have to make adjustments by buying the larger size and simply sewing the espadrille fabric a quarter inch inside the sole rather than flush with the sole—easy enough! Additionally, the espadrilles will fit very tightly at first, but this is good as they will stretch with wear. I actually use a shoehorn to put them on—no problem. If your espadrilles are or become too loose, the Dritz kit provides directions on how to “retune” the fit to make it snug.
All in all, believe it or not, both of these pairs of espadrilles are some of the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn! I never expected that—ever! It made all the work very worth it. I just won’t be volunteering to sew lots of pairs as Christmas gifts! LOL!
If you really like the "matching look", go for sewing a fun oversized tote bag to match this ensemble. There are so many great bag patterns out there to choose from! For me, the dress and espadrilles were enough, and I am having so much fun wearing these and receiving compliments wherever I go! So, I hope you are inspired, and . . .