Pattern In Action: Washi Dress

It must have been a message from the heavens that I needed to make this dress!  I kept seeing great Instagrams from Sew L.A.’s Washi Dress class and there’s been a lot of buzz on other sewing blogs.  On my vacation I decided that I needed to stock up on a handful of quick and easy dresses to boost my summer wardrobe while I work on some more complicated garments with lots of custom fitting and tailoring.  This was just the ticket!

This is the Washi Dress from Made By Rae.

Washi Dress, Made by Rae


This dress is billed as an intermediate pattern and I think it’s on the easier side of intermediate skill level… until you get to the elastic shirring in the back.  On the one hand, it’s totally awesome that there are no zippers or buttons on this dress!  On the other hand, it takes some patience to learn how to make the shirring “happen.”  I won’t lie to you, Moxie Peeps!  It took me about two hours to nail the shirring on some scrap fabric and I definitely acquired a new skill by making this dress.  Rae gives some great resources in her pattern instructions and from there I was able to further investigate other online testimonials.  After quite a lot of trial and error, I found the combination of thread tension and stitch length that made my shirring become what it was meant to be.  It also takes a lot of steam!  More than you think, but when it works, it’s like magic!!  Now that I know how to create the shirring, making this dress is a super fast snap!

marking shirring lines for Washi dress

Marking the stitch lines for shirring on the back of the Washi Dress.

Finished shirring for the Washi Dress

Shirring on the finished Washi Dress back.

Here are some more images of  how the dress looked in progress.  After comparing measurements, I needed to shorten the skirt by three inches, so I started by slashing the pattern at the tunic line and adjusted the length accordingly.

preparing the Washi Dress pattern

shortening the Washing Dress pattern

shortening the Washing Dress pattern

shortening the Washing Dress pattern

Then, I transferred the pattern outline using my waxy carbon paper and made my shirring, darts, and pleat line marks with tailors chalk as I normally do.

transfering pattern markings for Washi dress

making pleats for Washi dress

There is minimal interfacing, used only on the neckline facings.  Super easy!

making the Washi Dress

I also started making my own bias tape for this dress because I had enough left over fabric to make some.  I’ll do a post about that next week because it was a whole new thing for me, too!  I love the matching effect for this dress because the bias tape is used only to finish the armhole seam lines, so it blends in much more nicely instead of using the standard plain colors of packaged bias tape sold at the store.

handmade bias tape

bias tape finishing on Washi Dress

bias tape finishing on Washi Dress arm hole

Washi Dress armholes finished with handmade bias tape

I finished the inside seams with simple zig zag stitches.  I also did this for the bust darts because the pattern uses a cutout method for the darts instead of folding in a bulky triangle.  I kind of like this!  It made the bust line very clean without the added bulk I normally find in other patterns.

finished seams for Washi Dress

For my first two Washi dresses, I made the sleeveless version with the U-shaped cutout.  Instead of under stitching the facings, I decided to top stitch about 1/8′ from the seam line and I love the final effect!

U shape Washi Dress neckline

U shape Washi Dress neckline

Things I like about the Washi Dress pattern:

  • It’s a very simple pattern that is easy to make, even when adding in new skills like shirring and handmade bias tape.
  • The dress design is super comfortable and really flattering!
  • It has pockets.  My wish has been granted.
  • Everything about this dress involves clean lines and subtle shaping in all the right places.
  • The empire waistline means this dress is ideal for bloated PMS days, large buffet meals, and all other occasions when you just don’t feel like sucking it in.  With the exception of buffets, all of those apply to me.
  • You will quickly learn how many variations can come out of this dress, which makes is really versatile.  It can be casual or dressy, for warm weather or cold weather.

Things I don’t like about the Washi Dress pattern:

  • Even though there are some physical stores that sell the physical pattern now, it’s still easier to download and print it out.  I’m still on the fence about printable patterns but this pattern helped convert me a little more.
  • The sizing is a little of an ego blow.  Because my boobs are so big I had to cut an XL.  Ouch.  (And I’ve lost weight recently!  I must be the only person who loses weight but gains inches in her chest.)  After wearing my dresses a few times now, when I make this again I will probably grade the pattern from the bust (XL) to the skirt (L) so that I don’t have quite so much skirt, although it really doesn’t bother me that much as-is.
  • Learning shirring takes time to figure out if you’ve never done it before with elastic thread.  I can tell you that I finally cranked my thread tension all the way over to 9 (the highest it will go) and lengthened my straight stitch to 5.0.  I have a drop-in bobbin and other drop-in bobbin users seemed to gravitate toward these settings, so maybe I’ve just helped save someone out there an hour of testing with scrap fabric.

Here are pictures of the finished dress in two of the cotton prints I picked up from Candy’s Quiltworks.  I’ve been getting so many compliments on these!  It’s always a huge moment of pride when I get to say, “I didn’t buy this in a store… I made it, actually.”

Washi Dress

Washi Dress

Washi Dress

Washi Dress

Washi Dress

Washi Dress

Washi Dress

I learned that I can purchase a license to sell these dresses and it made me think about adding them to my Etsy store that I’ll (finally) launch by year’s end.  The sizing is really easy and people love it so much!  I can’t wait to experiment with all of the sleeve variations.  I’ve added the cap sleeves to my other two dresses (I’ll post some pictures of those soon) and there is a tutorial for a long sleeve and maxi skirt variations which I will definitely want to try for fall and winter in some heavier fabrics.  I’d also like to experiment with lining the whole dress so that I can use an eyelet fabric with a contrasting underlining.  So many variations!  I definitely recommend this pattern!  Happy sewing…


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  • Madelyn - When I end my self-imposed pattern buying boycott, I believe this might be the next pattern I purchase. Or else I’ll lose willpower, buy it next week, and try to bang out a few before the cruise in August, lol. We’ll see how much discipline I have. I love these dresses Maw, and they looked faboosh on you in the photos you texted me 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Laurie Johnson - Excellent blog edition. Having seen the dragonfly print dress in the flesh, I can attest to how good it looks. Good, clear instructions and I loved the scrutching in the back. Very professional. xoReplyCancel

  • Sarah Allyn Bauer - love the peacock fabric!!ReplyCancel

  • Totally Biased : School of Moxie - […] bias tape.  I confess, I didn’t press my seams open on a few batches while making my Washi Dresses (I’ve made five of these now… a video post will be coming soon!).  If the fabric had […]ReplyCancel

  • Cosmo Bag Sew Along: Step #1 : School of Moxie - […] these bags, actually, so I may trace these onto my oak tag manila paper — I did this with my Washi Dress pattern and it enables me to just lay down the pattern pieces (weighted with some heavy metal […]ReplyCancel

  • The Primary Rule : School of Moxie - […] you really fall in love with an indie pattern, you may want to pay full price.  I did this with my Washi Dress from Made By Rae and I never regretted […]ReplyCancel

  • Maw & Mo Sew Along: Facings, Edge Stitching, & Under Stitching : School of Moxie - […] The final step of edge finishing is to stitch the narrow edge of fabric.  Most of the time I use a straight stitch for this, but sometimes I have used a zig zag, which I did for my Washi dresses. […]ReplyCancel

  • Parting Is Bittersweet : School of Moxie - […] have a REALLY nice ladies room!  This was the best change location of the day and I wore my white Washi Dress again to match the crisp white environment of this little gem of a restaurant in the heart of […]ReplyCancel

  • Until We Meet Again : School of Moxie - […] wore my white Washi Dress for this evening excursion and felt gloriously fresh and original in a sea of Forever 21.  My […]ReplyCancel

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