Paisley Back-Wrap

I made a dress, which almost did me in. Not the dress itself, of course, but because I had a foolish amount  of optimism about an untested idea, and worked myself up into such intense commitment — a dress implementing that idea, or no dress at all! — to it that I couldn’t let go.


See the dress itself is simple. I’d been considering a wrap dress for a while but mulling over how to deal with gaping in front. So I decided to make it a back wrap. That part was also straightforward:

(i) placed the half-front pattern on folded fabric to cut a single complete front
(ii) placed the half-back pattern on folder paper to cut full back, cut the full back pattern diagonally from shoulder to waist for a single wrap half-back pattern, used that to cut two back pieces from fabric.
(iii) Cut a waistband and ties.
(iv) Cut one front and two back pieces using my skirt pattern.

Then I made some minor fitting adjustments and then cut everything in lining as well. So far so good. Not exactly tube top simple, but nothing brain-breaking, right?

Ah but we haven’t yet come to the Idea: piped scallops around the neck and armscye!


I’ve never made scallops before. And never ever piped around the outline of a garment. But did that stop me? Did I have even a moment of sanity? No. I tried to find more info on the internet but there’s a sad paucity of information on piped scallops (On the other hand, the world seems to be obsessed with piping scalloped edges on cakes).

But please, kindly follow the progress of my obsession below, repress your shudders, and enjoy a good laugh:

1. Trace scallops around a template onto the RS of the fabric.


2. Cut piping into short lengths, about 1 inch longer than each scallop.


3. Cut out and discard 1/2 inch of piping cord from each end.


4. You should have a length of piping, empty of cord at both ends. Fold the ends over.


5. And place the piping piece on your traced line, on the RS, with raw edges of piping and dress pointing in the same direction.


7. Sew the scallop in place, right next to the cord.

Yes, this has to be done for each scallop.

Now do you comprehend the depths of my obsession?!! Not only is the procedure horrendously tedious, but creates so many layers of cloth as to make the simple act of sewing fiendish torture. And this process has to be done over and over and over and over…

… till, well, I just gave up after doing the front neck and armscyes. On the top back piece (which wraps over the lower back) I just traced a gentler, more undulating scallop and attached the piping in a single piece.

I also inserted piping at the top and bottom of the waistband, and made welted pockets. And lined the bodice.


Now that I look back, it seems to me that I could have omitted the piping cord to make the scallops easier to sew. But I wanted the piping to be stiff and hold the shape by itself. Oh well, lesson learnt.


Also, I am so grateful to all the bloggers who share their knowledge for free! Here are links to techniques used:

1. Lining and shaping scallops
2. Adjustments for sleeveless tops
3. Waist ties
4. Lining a bodice with Centre Back open
5. Welt pockets

Was it worth it? Hmmm, perhaps. If only to learn what is not possible with stiff piping! And yes, if anyone knows an easier way of doing it, please feel free to fill my heart with bitterness gratitude by telling me. Really, please do!

Pattern: bodice, waistband are self drafted (process here) and Sew U skirt
Materials: Japanese cotton print fabric, about 2m (the inner skirt piece has a seam up the middle, to save fabric in the layout), bit of green cotton for piping, lilac rayon for lining, piping cord


3 thoughts on “Paisley Back-Wrap

  1. what I like/ hate about sewing is that it’s never immediately obvious how much work (and tears) have gone into a single piece. Your dress is beautiful!

  2. An easier way to do the piped scallops is to clip into the seam allowance of the piping, every 1/2″ or so, maybe a bit closer together depending on the amount of curve, but not all the way to the piping… to allow the fabric in the seam allowance to spread out and lie flat against the seam allowance of the main fabric. Also, did you clip the seam allowances after you stitched the scallop seam, before turning right side out? That makes it a lot easier to get a smooth rounded edge too. Again, the spacing of the clips/Vs will depend on the degree of curve.

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