Leopard-Print Ponte Party (or, the Lola Dress)

Since joining the Mood Sewing Network, I’ve really enjoyed sewing with new-to-me types of fabrics. It’s really pushed me to develop my skills and do more research before I cut into a new fabric instead of just grabbing the shears and going crazy. Today, however, I’m revisiting a fabric type that I used once before to make a garment that was an irreconcilable failure… ponte!

I’ve never purchased or really seen garments made out of ponte, but once I started reading rave reviews of it, I was curious! So about a year ago, I picked out a gorgeous black ponte from Mood and admired its heft and drape before stitching up Megan Nielsen’s ruched maternity skirt for my sister. What I didn’t realize is that ponte and stretchy jerseys aren’t necessarily interchangeable. If I’d slowed down and actually read the pattern envelope I would’ve noticed that Megan recommended jerseys with 40% stretch or more, so when I tried the skirt on myself for comparison, I could barely wiggle into it, and I wasn’t pregnant! I couldn’t figure out a way to refashion it into something wearable (it was seriously TIGHT on me), so the whole thing is still buried somewhere in my scrap pile.

When I found this awesome gray leopard-print ponte, I knew it was time to try again! I looked in my copy of Claire Schaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide, but couldn’t find a reference to ponte. So I went to the best reference, the Encyclopaedia Ponteanica, otherwise known as Carolyn! She’s the patron saint of ponte, and makes incredible, cool garments with it alllllll the time. I asked her to share her secrets for working with ponte, and I’m so glad she did– my instincts were all wrong! She pretreats the fabric by machine washing, tumble drying, and pressing it. Then she sews with a straight stitch and a universal needle, size 80 for medium-weights and 90 for heavier pontes. Easy peasy!

Once I settled on a pattern, though, I realized that I could construct this entire dress on my serger. Score! It came together in a flash, and the fabric was so easy to serge and press. The recommended fabrics for this pattern are French terry, fleece knit, or other medium-weight fabrics with a slight stretch, and I found ponte to be a great choice. It’s stable and drapey, and has about the same amount of stretch as sweatshirt fleece, but it’s a little less casual. The pattern suggests using ribbing for the bands (to finish the sleeves, hem, and neckline), so if you want to use ponte or another less-stretchy self-fabric, just be prepared to cut them longer than the provided pattern pieces.

I used the Victory Patterns Lola Dress pattern, which I highly recommend. It’s cute, sporty, and crazy easy to construct.  I’m rapidly becoming a Victory Patterns superfan– Kristiann’s designs are just so modern and fun!  Check them out if you haven’t already (and you now have the option to purchase her designs as paper patterns, if you’re someone who hates PDFs… Rachel, I’m looking at you!  LOL!)  I made a straight size 4 with no changes (unless you count skipping the little triangle at the neckline… my serger kept eating it… whoops).

The whole time I was sewing this, I looked forward to pairing it with my awesome fuchsia tights.  It would look SO AMAZING with fuchsia, right?  So when I finished up, I ran to my closet and started digging.  Turns out that not only could I not find my awesome fuchsia tights, but once I started thinking about it… I don’t actually own any.  And never have.  I IMAGINED THEM.  IMAGINARY FUCHSIA TIGHTS.  Anyway.  I need to A) make some fuchsia tights and B) get my head checked.  Moving on…

Super big pockets for the pocket enthusiasts out there!

I really, really love this dress! It’s beyond easy to wear and I don’t have to worry about carefully hand-washing it and lying it flat to dry. I’ve never worn or been a fan of knit dresses before– I feel you can see every last lump, bump, and panty line– but this stable ponte provides plenty of coverage. This dress passed the ultimate wearability test, too– I wore it to WORK. Folks, I’ve worn a dress to work exactly once in the last five years (and I had a pair of shorts on underneath!). Granted, I’m in an office now, but still, this is a huge deal.

What about you guys?  How do you dress for work, if you work outside the home?  Knit dresses– yea or nay?  Have you sewn with ponte?  Have you sewn any Victory Patterns designs?

141 responses

  1. That’s a gorgeous little dress it really suits you. You made me laugh when you said you imagined your fuchsia tights hehe. Funny girl. There’s no stopping you now 🙂 Ponte ponte ponte. I made a Pattern Magic Dress from a good quality black ponte, she turned out fab it’s such a great fabric and drapes wonderfully. LOVE Victory patterns I’ve made a couple of hers- big fan of Anouk and Simone. Very modern and tres chic.

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  2. Aaahhh I have fuschia tights!! Unfortunately, I don’t have a fantastic leopard print dress to wear it with. I went over and checked out the Lola dress pattern, and I must say a huge sweatshirt that looks presentable sounds awfully tempting…

    I must get my hands on some ponte! I keep hearing about how amazing it is but I never come across it.

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    • Yes! That’s totally what this is– an oversized sweatshirt disguised as a dress! I have a RTW “sweater” and a “blazer” that are both made out of sweatshirt fleece, but look fancier! I love looking presentable but feeling like I’m in my jammies. 🙂

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  3. You have definitely made me want to use Victory Patterns! I love this, looks amazing on you, great job! I have never used Ponte, but maybe now I will consider it…

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  4. I haven’t sewn with ponte yet, but I would like to. Actually, I haven’t sewn any knits yet – maybe this would be a good place to start, since it seems like you work with in a similar fashion to wovens!

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    • Thicker knits are easier to work with than thin, super drapey ones, in my opinion. Once you get the hang of working with knits, you’ll love them– they’re easy to fit and quick to sew!

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  5. Ah it’s ponte-perfection!! I love it! I’m a fan of all knits, all the time, really! To work, yes, and also to play. But I’ve never made anything with ponte… YET! I think I’ve avoided it because of my warmer climate and I always assumed ponte was a heavier knit… yes? Anyway – this dress is awesome, you’re awesome, ponte seems pretty effing awesome, and Lola dress is, clearly, awesome.

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  6. Oh, girl, the Dress is terrific! Ponte is one of my favorite fabrics because of it’s comfort and versatility. I love that it’s available in so many awesome prints these days. Oh, and the boots? THE BEST!

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    • Thanks, Lynne! I love ponte prints, too! They’re way more fun to wear than basic colors. And thanks– I love these boots, too! I splurged on a fancy pair after last year’s cheap boots feel apart too much for my shoe guy to fix! I’m hoping these last for YEARS! 🙂

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  7. Your fuschia tights reminds of a burnt orange blouse I bought once from my alma mater. It was on sale and fit me perfectly and everything. Except, I’ve never worn it… because after I bought it and brought it home, I never found it again. To this day I wonder if I actually did buy that blouse or if I imagined myself buying that blouse. but to get back on topic, your dress looks great!

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    • How does that happen?! I don’t get it! Maybe it’s just a serious case of wishful thinking… although I’m really forgetful, too, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if I owned something at one time, but left it somewhere and forgot all about it!

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  8. This is so cute! I think knit dresses are must! (In fact, as soon as my missing serger pedal turns up, I think I’ll add some to the queue.) I’ve been curious about ponte but, all I ever find are cheap quality poly ones :/

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  9. You look amazing! I love those pockets. I have imagined tights in my wardrobe before as well. Haha! You should definitely make some, ASAP. They’ll look so good with that dress. 🙂

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  10. Ponte is a dream to work with. Just like a plain ole cotton, it does what you want.

    I hear you on VPL, lumps, and bumps – knits can be so unflattering sometimes. Not so with ponte.

    I cracked up when I read you didn’t and never have owned fuschia tights!

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  11. LOVE the leopard print! Thanks for sharing about your experiences with ponte – it’s good to know that it isn’t the same as working with knits! Love the Lola dress on you – you’ve styled it perfectly 🙂

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