I know it’s been ages and ages. That’s what happens when you take a month off to have wedding brain.
This one’s for the people who like to look at garment guts and other details.
I’m not usually great at showing all my
stellar adequate alleged finishing techniques. Generally, they’re nothing to brag about (except maybe for my French seamed set-in sleeves. I was pretty pleased with those!), but I began to wonder if perhaps I was setting my own bar too low. So I’ve decided that I’m going to try to be better about showing the parts that are hidden from the civilians. You see–and this is leading into a whole other post–I’m no longer okay with just okay.
Unfortunately, my Sew for Victory dress still falls into the “okay” category.
So, why, after all that work, did it not even breach the perimeter of “awesome”?
Fabric choice. And fit.
Don’t get me wrong–I love the fabric. It’s a cotton voile, a lightweight fabric perfect for southern summers. I love the colors and the print; they are just exactly what I wanted. But voile was not a great choice for this particular dress because it doesn’t drape, it floats. This is particularly problematic with the pleating on the skirt. The pleats are a little too crisp–not quite the look I imagined. A much better fabric choice would have been a challis or a crepe de chine.
There are two major fitting issues to mention. I think that the bodice-midriff seam is sitting about 3/4-1″ too high. This is due to my fuller-than-average bust. It’s causing the tip of the midriff piece to not lie flat, which would be far more attractive than what’s currently happening:
What I should have done is lengthen the bodice below the bust point tapering to nothing at the side seams and then shorten the midriff pieces accordingly.
There is a minor issue I should mention–I’m not even sure what’s causing it or how to fix it. I’m afraid it may be a continuation of my battle with sleeves and armholes. What’s happening is some pulling at the front of the armhole. I scooped the armhole a little to help with the gaping issue I always get (this is where I usually put in a dart, but praise be to Maddie for pointing out that I could just rotate the fullness elsewhere!) and I added some fullness to the front of the sleeve cap to compensate. Perhaps I didn’t add quite enough?
The other major issue is the collar. It gapes at the back or the sides (it depends on how the dress is sitting) which is obviously due to a too-large neckline on the back bodice and around the shoulders and probably the back being too broad as well.
Maybe these all seem like minor issues. But when I wear the dress, I feel like I have to constantly fiddle with it, adjusting the neckline or pulling on the sleeves or smoothing the pleats, in order for it to look right. It’s the sort of thing that I always had to do with RTW: necklines were never smooth, waists were too low, shoulders were too tight, buttons gaped–you probably know a little bit what I mean, right? And that’s one reason I started making my own clothes, so I wouldn’t have to fiddle anymore!
Right now, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. It would be absolutely heart-breaking to get rid of the dress. Even dismantling it gives me the chills. But, I’m not sure I can wear it comfortably. . . We’ll see. Maybe after some time has passed, I’ll gain some clarity.
Update: Time has passed since I first wrote this. I gained clarity. Stay tuned.
But, let’s switch gears and celebrate some accomplishments for a bit!
I am very pleased with my pattern matching attempts, though they are far from perfect. On the front, I decided to match the front bodice seam independently of the front midriff seam. If I’d thought ahead, I may have matched all four points. But, once I’d cut the bodice pieces, I realized that was putting the midriff pieces in an awkward point in the pattern on the fabric (does that make sense?).
The back turned out somewhat better. I matched the back bodice with both midriff pieces. It’s not just right, but from a distance, you really can’t tell!
And there is no pattern matching at any of the side seams because I am not a magician. It would have been impossible and you have to choose your battles.
My CF, CB, and side seams all match from bodice to skirt, hurray! I came up with a new (to me) technique to help accomplish this.
I very rarely baste. Most pattern instructions (at least most of the patterns I’ve worked with) will tell you to baste your skirt to your bodice and then sew. I’ve always felt that was rather a waste of time, but as a result, I very rarely have been able to get my seams to match. So, instead of basting all the way round, I machine basted just over those seams. After basting each seam, I would check it. If it was off, I pulled out the basting and tried again. Then, once all my seams were aligned, I sewed the seam. I basted just shy of 5/8″ so that when I sewed the seam, I could sew just outside my basting and no stitches would show on the right side. Why I haven’t thought of this before, I don’t know, but it’s saved me lots of time and frustration! (Although, I feel like out there among my small readership, a collective “duh” may have just been uttered. I know, guys. Sometimes I miss the obvious things. 🙂 )
This bodice was particularly tricky to sew because there are several pivot points that need to be sewn just so in order for things to look right: the shawl collar at the shoulder seams, where the back bodice meets the back midriff, and the CF seam (there are two ways to do this, but they both involve tricky pivoting). I think I may do a whole separate post about those when I share what I learned about drafting shawl collars.
The bodice is self-lined (necessary because of the collar and the sheerness of the fabric). All the bodice seams are pinked rather than done with an overcasting stitch (which is my go-to seam finish) and pressed open to reduce bulk. I found it was helpful during construction to keep the lining pieces labeled until I had the bodice all sewn together. The pieces were almost identical and I didn’t want to get them mixed up–not after all the time I spent matching that pattern!
I stitched the lining to the armholes and waist by hand with a ladder stitch.
The skirt is lined with cotton voile which I dyed to match. It was my first dyeing attempt, so you can see there’s some spotting. But, I’m okay with it.
I whipstitched the lining to the zipper because I find it helps keep the lining from getting stuck in the zipper. Also, I really enjoy the whipstitch! I just need to practice to make it more even.
The lining hem is done by machine, but the skirt and sleeve hems are done by hand with a slip stitch. I hemmed the sleeves before inserting them into the bodice, which made it much easier.
Oh, and can we just ignore the zipper? The first zipper I tried was supposed to be invisible.
(This is what prompted me to finally buy an invisible zipper foot. That and the fact that the bridesmaid dresses needed invisible zippers.)
Instead, I decided, rather in a panic, to do a centered zipper.
And the little hole I ripped into the fabric with my seam ripper and had to douse in tears and Fray-check? I promise I’m going to redo it now that I’m no longer scrambling to finish to take pictures. Let’s just say it was not my finest hour. . .
But let’s take a moment to enjoy the fact that I was able to keep the look of a box pleat even though those are just two knife pleats facing each other!
So, a quick recap. Here’s what I learned:
- I really enjoy hand stitching. I know it’s not terribly “professional” looking, but imitating RTW has never been my goal. My clothes are handmade, and I like it that way 🙂
- Fabric choice is crucial. The wrong fabric can ruin a good design (though I’m aware that my design also needed work. . . ).
- Interface your zipper. Especially if working with lightweight fabric.
- I actually don’t like having wide midriff pieces or waist bands. I don’t think they really work on my short waist. Now I know something to avoid or amend in future makes!
- Even when a project doesn’t quite turn out, you still need to find and celebrate those little accomplishments that did. This is what I love about the sewing community! There’s always someone happy to ignore my mistakes and point out the small victories that I, in all my doom and gloom, tend to ignore 🙂
- My favorite sewing snack is grapefruit. Not kidding. And it’s not terribly practical for sewing–but it’s sooo good!