Tag Archives: dress

My finest sewing moment of 2013: a 1920’s dress in a week.

From themed invitation to finished dress: story of a sewing project I totally should have blogged at the time but totally didn’t.

The theme for my work’s 2013 Christmas party was 1920’s/Speakeasy/Great Gatsby. Do I need an excuse for Making A Thing? Hell no. But a themed party is an even better way to exercise my Making Things Skillz. The invitations went out quite early, but somehow (somehow, I can’t imagine how) I wound up a week before the event with no dress, and not even a backup. I had to start thinking, and quickly.

Now, of course, the 1920’s silhouette is slim, straight, and somewhat severe. I am none of these things (barring my librarianface), so any dress would have to be balanced very carefully so as to fit the theme, but also make me look good. I spent a long time trawling image searches and pattern sites to try to get inspiration. What really sparked things off was a Great Gatsby-themed dress by Cation Designs. I thought the layered approach was very pretty, authentic, and would give me a good opportunity to say ‘hey, I do have a figure under here’.

I wandered the fabric shops in search of a suitably frou-frou fabric, but the answer was under my nose (and in my stash) all the time.

Blue chiffon

I’d bought this crinkle chiffon online as a reward for getting a job interview (possibly the job interview for this job? That would be a nice coincidence), intending to make a top, but the pattern turned out far larger than I’d expected. Oh, internet fabric shops, how often you betray me. But for a dress, for a themed party? Distinctive, frou-frou, perfect.

For the lulz, this is my original sketch of the dress.

Suddenly, it was there. In my head. The whole thing. I knew exactly what I wanted from it. I would draft it from an easy-fitting bodice block, and extend it down to hip level. I’d also give it some very gentle bust and waist shaping. For the skirt section, I’d make a very gentle arc to give some movement around the knees and break up the tube effect. Underneath would be a white slip, perfectly cut to conceal my underpinnings, and with a more tailored fit to maintain the whole ‘I do have a waist, I promise’ effect.

The sewing process took about a week of after-work sessions. I don’t really know how to describe it, other than a manic episode. I was a woman possessed. It just slammed into my head and my hands did the work and then it existed, on my tailor’s dummy, exactly as I’d imagined it.

1920s dress

I was sort of terrified. I’d never worked with fabric this delicate, so I did a lot of basting and tailor’s tacks. To deal with fraying ends and a delicate, sheer fabric I learned how to do French seams, which turned out to be about my favourite sewing technique ever.

for someone who pinks her edges and pretends not to notice the frayed threads floating behind her, this is witchcraft.

Every time I settled down to cut a piece of fabric or perform some arduous task like finishing my neck and arms with bias tape, I announced to nobody in particular ‘well, if I do this wrong, the whole thing’s screwed’. I needn’t have worried.

*assumes heroic pose indicating success*

I’m glad I didn’t do self-facing. For a start, I would have had to buy a bias tape maker gadget thing. And I wouldn’t have had enough fabric. As it was, I barely squeaked a sash out of the remnants. There is literally nothing usable left of the 2 metres of fabric I bought. I think that is pretty cool, in and of itself.

I teamed the dress with the obligatory string of pearls, some silver feather hair grips, and a ton of hairspray. Oh, and these, in a rather spiffy return to my internet roots.

back to my internet roots.

I was so, so, super-stoked by all of this. I was probably the most obnoxious person in the room as I tottered around all HI HI I AM MINGLING ISN’T THIS FUN DID I TELL YOU I MADE MY DRESS LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT. HEY LOOK FREE BAR. There was a roulette wheel. I lost my chips in three spins and laughed. Someone said I looked like a movie star. At one point a colleague came in from the smoking area outside (aka, outside), shaking the rain from his fedora, shrugging the trench coat from his shoulders, and augh it was like a TNG private detective holodeck episode.

I’ll leave you now, as my boasting is possibly going too far. But I’ll just say one more thing: this back view, the cutesy bow-tied opening that goes down far enough to allow a risqué glimpse of slip, is exactly, exactly, as I saw it in my head. This is probably my proudest sewing moment ever. I hope I have a lot more of these moments. 🙂

This is genuinely, literally, exactly as I imagined it.

New project.

Notice how I totally didn’t post yesterday? Yeah. Didn’t wanna. I liked my Sunday post so much I wanted to leave it up a bit.

Back in the game.

I started a new project last weekend, at precisely the wrong time. Mid-afternoon on Sunday, while working through the washing, and with an achey hip from an earlier run. Just in time for the evening, for the week of work, and then DG being away for the nwxt weekend which is my cue to crack open a box of wine and eat potato 24/7. Too greasy for sewing.

Anyway. Back in the mists of ancient time, the USD:GBP exchange rate was great, so I bought a number of patterns direct from the US. I’ve used most of them, but this one has been sat in my pattern file forever.

I decided that this set was a great deal as it could provide an entire wardrobe. If, that is, I wanted an entire wardrobe made out of cotton jersey. One never knows.

I’m making the dress, but with the short sleeves. I have a grotty old wrap dress in a very similar style that I wear around the house on weekends, so it’ll be nice to have something similar that I can actually wear outside. 😀

My only concern was that I’ve not worked with knit fabric before. I spent about ten minutes researching before I began, and came across this guide to conquering knits. After reading that, I threw caution to the wind and began.

Being good and transferring my markings. #sewing

I’m going to have to knuckle down and get this done pretty sharpish. I have another Super Awesome Potential Project to be thinking about, so this can’t be hanging around, harshing my creative mellow.

FO Friday: Empty Binbags Swirling in the Breeze

As promised, here is a nice finished object post.

Last year, I set about making myself a dress for my birthday, a Butterick B5210. It came together really quickly, but I somehow managed to get the size – of a loose, easy-fitting dress – completely wrong. I could barely get it over my backside, and if I had managed to squeeze it on, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to sit down in it.

So in the grand tradition of my crafting, it got stuffed in a ‘WIP’ bag and ignored for the best part of a year.

Last week, I felt brave, and launched the rescue mission.

swirly dress - front

I had just enough of the fabric left to cut new body pieces, but no more than the tiniest scraps of the contrast colour. I painstakingly unpicked it all, ironed it flat, and took heart in the knowledge that I would be able to fix some of the mistakes I made first time around.

swirly dress - back

For a start, the zip is a bit better; I’d overlapped the edges and placed it too high so there was a lumpy bit at the top where I’d had to fold the top over. Now, it’s just a bit wonkily sewn… and I placed it too low. But one quick hook and eye at the neckline and it’s fine.

swirly dress - a fine, crisp corner

I’d also done a pretty bad job of the corners of the neckline; but look at that now. Look how crisp that corner is. Turns out that a single stitch in the wrong place is enough to stop that corner turning under nicely, and make it lumpy and crap. Attention to detail. I appear to have some now.

swirly dress - pleat detail

My pleats are also much better. I’d never done pleats before, and I guess I was a bit slapdash in transferring the pattern markings. This time I got out an orange pencil and drew the things on in pedantic detail. They are now the same length and pointing in the correct direction, which I consider to be a win.

swirly dress - on

I did have to do a bit of a hack job to fix the lower contrast trim; I’d cut it when the skirt was two inches slimmer, so of course, there was a big old gap in the side and no more material to cut a new one. So I cut a 2-inch strip from the scraps, and sewed that in, reasoning that if anyone got close enough to my hemline to comment on it, they’d be right in position for a knee to the face.

swirly dress - belted

Another problem is that the fabric appears to be woven from the purest solidified static electricity. I’m going to need some sort of lining, or a separate slip. Or to fit myself with an earth wire. Shuffling my feet could be fatal.

But; it goes on, it looks pretty cute with a belt, and it was actually a really quick sew when I wasn’t botching bits all over the place. Maybe I can wear it for my birthday this year.

Craft Retrospective: Flowery Tunic Dress of Awesome

Here’s a retrospective on an old, old hand-made item. I claimed in my Me Made May: Week 1 recap that I’d never done an FO post about this dress, but I just found it. Turns out, this just reached its fourth birthday. Awww. Happy birthday, flowery tunic dress of awesome.

Since that post contains almost no useful details, I’ll get some in here.

flowery tunic dress

It’s a McCall’s M5621, main view. The pattern itself is not terribly difficult, but a couple of bits are rather fiddly. The neckline has gathers, curves, and interfacing all fighting with each other for dominance… hence the rather crumpled appearance. The armscye was also a pain in the arse. I doubt that’s a fault of the pattern, however, as I was extremely n00by at the time.

The fabric was super-cheap market-stall fodder; likely a factory reject because the orange print doesn’t quite match up with the spaces made for it.

flowery fabric

I kinda like the effect, though. The fabric itself is quite light, a little bit floaty, but not so much as to make it difficult to work with. The neckline is black polycotton that I had to cut at an odd angle since it was a tiny remnant extracted from my stash in a panic. I hadn’t twigged that the contrast neckline would require contrast material. Derp.

What else can I say. Er… here’s the back. I actually quite like the back, because the centre-back seam is really crisp and straight.

flowery tunic dress

I do love it, and it does get a lot of wear; mainly over jeans, teamed with a cardigan. Good for barbecues and dinner parties – lots of room for expansion iykwim. It’s not terribly well made – the armscyes are particularly horrible – but it holds together and the really ugly bits are on the inside, which is probably the best way to be. 😀

Project Diary: Ball Dress, 13th June.

Plan for 13th June: make up body lining, and get it mostly attached to the outer fabric.

ball dress 130608

So the lining is all attached around the top, although I’ve not done much undersewing. My hand stitching is terrible, and it’s a bit bulky to try to do it by machine, so around the arms and neck I’ve just pressed it into place. That’s not very good, and I’ll know it’s wrong, but it’ll have to do. I’m just not dextrous enough to do it right, and I don’t want to risk it on this.

Still, it’s attached – all I need to do now is sew the bodice and midriff seams together, and it’ll be time to get onto the skirt. So soon, so soon. But yay. Longer to consider accessories. There is a possibility of a crocheted mask… watch this space.

Project Diary: Ball Dress, 12th June.

Plan for 12th June: do outer bodice.

ball dress 120608

Oooh, shiny.

Started late but still managed to do all I planned for this evening. We have bodice attached to midriff with bust gathering (risked it on the sewing machine – a good decision, I feel) and some straps tacked on up the top there.

As a side note, I have much more control over the machine now. I grew up using my mother’s beautiful hand-powered Singer, so using my beautiful electricity-powered Singer is weird, to say the least. I’m still basting everything by hand though – partly because I don’t want to risk running out of thread, and can’t be bothered to change the thread over every time I want to baste anything, but mostly because it just feels better to really handle the fabric when sewing it into place.

Next step is the bodice lining – reckon I can at least get that stitched together, if not sewn to the main fabric, in the next evening’s work.

Project Diary: Ball Dress, 11th June.

Plan for 11th June: Cut out all pieces, and fuse interfacing to midriff front and back. 

ball dress 110608

Ba-baaa! Haven’t I done well. Took less time than I thought, but I have some fairly impressive carpet burns on my knees. Will need to find a longer skirt for work tomorrow, or there may be some questions asked.

So. I decided to cut the fabric as though I were making the longer skirt on the basis that if I change my mind about the length, it’ll be far easier to shorten it. Cunning, no? I’ve held the front skirt piece up in front of me and my considered opinion is that it does drape, and shouldn’t end up sticking out like a tutu. I don’t know what effect the lining will have, but I can wait to find out. I have patience.

I was going to forge on ahead with the next step, but having taken a break for a duck egg and bacon omelette, and rewarded my supreme couturier skillz with a nice glass of wine, I think I will stop for the evening so I don’t burn out. Maybe some knitting… I really fancy some crochet but since I am still waiting for my pretty hooks to turn up from Angel Yarns *grumble grumble out of stock being ordered from suppliers but no estimated delivery time given so I’m sitting here feeling like an idiot cos I could just cancel my order and order some from somewhere else but I want the pretty red one grumble grumble* I shall happily continue with my tree jacket.

Project Diary: Ball dress, 10th-22nd June. Intro.

So. There is a works do in a few weeks. Black tie, masquerade, the whole shebang. I’ve decided I’m going to make a dress for it, as I have a handy pattern – this is she: 

ball dress 100608

I’m thinking of a halterneck with knee-length skirt. Now I know it’s black tie, which indicates a full-length skirt, but I don’t care. I’ve seen girls wear trousers to black tie events before, so they can kiss my arse and look at my ankles while they’re doing it.

With all this in mind, I went to the Fancy Silk Store and wandered aimlessly until this beauteous fabric caught my eye:

ball dress 100608

And thought it would be nice to pair it with some golden lining. Et voilà:

ball dress 100608

Does that look awesome or what?

Obviously, this is not quite the correct fabric for the pattern. Duh. This is me we’re talking about. So, in order to leave me enough time to buy myself a ready-made emergency dress, I’m aiming to have it done (at least to a point where only finishing needs to be done) by the Sunday before. That’s less than a fortnight. Shit.

Anyway, this evening I tried out my probably unsuitable interfacing and after a couple of false starts I’ve discovered that it fuses on my iron’s cotton setting with full steam, on two counts to 15. And doesn’t melt the real fabric. Hurrah!

ball dress 100608

It does peel off if you try, but I’d expect that because the fabric is pretty and shiny. It should hold its position at least until it’s sewn in. Should.

I’ve also been a good girl and done some sewing tests. Turns out my threads are exactly the right colour, my sewing machine grips both the fabrics like a demon, and we are therefore good to go.