Thursday, 30 July 2015

Butterick 5951 finished

I posted the other day asking for some advice on moving forward with this dress, but everyone it seems was too reticent to advise! So I had to decide myself, with the help of DH and after trying on. Overall, it was fine.
I decided to go ahead to the next stage with the dress and cut out the bodice lining. I didn’t use the fine cotton lining I had previously chosen - rather I decided on a rather classy silky lining which I thought would make the dress easier to care for and less likely to crush. This fabric was part of my haul from a fabric sale last year; a pretty high class garment manufacturer shut down a few years ago and the employees took over the stock, selling it off gradually until they had to get rid of it all as the storage space they used was needed for something else. So I don't know what this lining material is - it could even be silk, for all I know. It feels really lovely, much nicer than the lining material available to me in local fabric stores.
I had a decision to make about what  pattern version to use for the lining as I had modified the fabric after it was cut out (this was the biggest issue - in retrospect,  I'd have been better redoing). I cut out the lining and made up to the same stage as the bodice. I finished off the darts as instructed on both bodice and lining. The lining sewed together perfectly,  unlike the bodice fabric.
The dress, inside out, showing the lining from the front
The next stage was sewing lining to bodice, right sides together, at armholes and neck and understitching. Then turning through the shoulders (the sides are open at this stage). Then I pressed and felt everything was looking rather nice - at least as far as the workmanship is concerned. There's no doubt that a lined armhole looks better than one finished with bias tape, which I had briefly considered.
Then I sewed up the side seams, lining and bodice separately, and pressed. When I turned it back to the right side, it looked very nice.
However, on trying on, the side seams under the arm were still too floppy and large. I took the side seams out and re-did with a larger seam allowance tapering from under the arm to midway down the seam back to the normal seam allowance.
Then I had to sew the bodice to the skirt. Here I ran into my problem again. Because I altered the dress after it was cut out rather than altering the pattern properly and then cutting out,  I created a problem. There was excess fabric between the front dart and the side seam - it came together nicely elsewhere.  This excess meant that the folds running from the dart sloped down rather than lying horizontal. I couldn't take the dart out again as it had already been trimmed very close to the stitching.
Rather late in the day,  I also decided to add a skirt lining. I see from PR reviews of this pattern that many have.  The advantages are that waist seam is easier to cover and the skirt will hang better. It wasn't difficult to add.
I went to a summer sewing bee yesterday with my college tutors, who work together in a studio closer to my home than the college. R had helped me modify the pattern previously. She remembered it - a simple spread,  as she put it. It would have been simple if I had redone - the bodice and skirt linings came together beautifully - but it wasn't and I hadn't.
R got me to try the dress on. She thought it looked rather nice.  She recommended an increased gather into the dart but as mentioned earlier,  I couldn't do that. I spent most of the class trying to alter.  I took out the side seams and waist seams again and pulled the front across to the side seams and beyond and down to the waist seam and beyond. Eventually I cut off the excess fabric and sewed up the seams again. This makes the dress a little tighter at the waist. It could be taken in even more, as it is still rather loose. This sounds easy but it took me a few attempts. I did succeed in the end,  though.  The lining looks better - it was too late to wish I had recut the pattern.  
I then inserted an invisible zipper, without too much difficulty. The biggest issue was that I couldn't get a 24" invisible zip or a 22" ordinary zip from the shop I went to,  adjacent to the sewing bee.  I ended up salvaging the lovely 24" invisible zip I used on an earlier sheath dress that doesn't fit now (it shrunk and I didn't). The zip was a touch wavy and R advised me to steam it, which worked beautifully. 
At this stage,  I just had hand stitching left to do.  I pinned the lining over the zip ready to stitch and tacked up the hem ready to hand sew. I put it aside as it was late,  ready to pick up today.
My husband asked me to try it on to let him see it. This I did,  despite all the pins present from the pinning of lining to zip tape. Like me,  he doesn't like the fabric for me (it's too green,  not my colour and too  Liberty,  not surprising since it is Liberty,  but I've never been attracted to these prints,  though the feel of the fabric is lovely) and realised that I was continuing because of the techniques I was practising. I was attracted to this dress in the first place by the gathered darts. He thought it looked better on me than he had expected (I agreed)  but picked up that my waist seam wasn't level across the zip. I had noticed that after I had tacked the lining - despite pinning,  hand tacking then machine tacking, it had still slipped slightly - fortunately not obvious because of the pattern in the fabric! I make DH sound very critical - he isn't. He's very supportive of my sewing and will happily measure me,  pin me into things and take photos - and I have asked him to be brutally honest about what he sees.
I had no intentions of redoing the zip. So I decided I would try to sew the lining to the zipper tape by machine,  making sure I was far enough away from the teeth to allow free movement of the zip. I managed this with less difficulty than I expected and it was definitely faster than hand sewing and arguably stronger. I hadn't finished the edges of my fabrics, so hopefully this will also make frayed ends less likely to poke out. I think I could be a touch closer to the teeth - I sewed it at an offset from centre of '4' rather than the maximum possible '5' which would have brought it closer. It's fine,  though.
showing properly finished zip top
showing distance of folded lining, machine stitched to tape, from teeth
I then decided to topstitch the hem rather than hand sew. By now,  I just wanted the dress finished and it would have taken a while to do all that hand hemming. I had decided to continue with the dress but only give it a limited time,  then stop.
A few minor elements sorted and the dress was finished! A quick press, removal of missed threads and,  more seriously,  taking out part of the waist stitching and redoing as I had caught the seam allowance the wrong way,  twisting it so it wouldn't have been able to lie completely flat.
DH had also noticed that the lining was showing at the armhole on both sides. I previously thought my understitching was good,  now I'm not so sure!  I think part of the problem was that I had taken in that area further and resewn and the two sides were no longer in perfect alignment. I pressed again and put in a few hand stitches in the hope that will sort things out.
The dress isn't the most flattering I've tried -.the colour is wrong and the style not ideal. However,  it is wearable and I will wear it if we get any summer!
I learned a few new techniques:
  • Gathered darts (not sure what to call them)
  • Machine sewing lining to zipper in lined dress
  • Properly finishing the top of the zip
Practised some I've done before:
  • Insert invisible zip
  • Understitch
  • Attach lining to bodice
  • Insert a lining
  • And learned that I wasn't quite as proficient at them as I'd thought
Developed my pattern cutting techniques:
  • Learned how to alter gathered dart - a pity the fabric was cut and I couldn't apply what I'd learned to the bodice
Learned a few miscellaneous things:
  • It's important to perfect the toile before moving on - otherwise a lot of time will be wasted and the garment may still not be a good as it could be
  • I sewed and unpicked so many times here and learned that fabric is just fabric.
  • I learned I can give up before I reach 'perfection' and that things can be good enough.
  • I should sew with fabrics I like. This fabric was beautiful to sew with but as I just don't like the small floral too green pattern, I know I won't wear the dress as much as I might have in a different fabric.
  • Although I was advised not to finish the fabric edges as that adds bulk, and everything is concealed by the lining,  I wish I had, especially for the lining which frays quite a lot.

So that's it. What do you think?  


  1. I have to admit the dress looks lovely in your setting - perhaps wearing a necklace in a pink tone from the dress would help this dress work - it is certainly nice for a house dress. Yes, always perfect at the toile stage - that is what it is for. Minor alterations for the main garment. I always finish edges of lining and fashion fabric in situations if the two are not sewn together - like a skirt. I don't if the lining is stitched down. I do serge lining and fashion fabric if they fray a tremendous amount, even if they are going to be bagged, because this makes the fabric easier to work with and it won't fray away during fittings.

    1. Thank you, good suggestions. I usually try to perfect at the toile stage - I'm not going to make excuses here. The lining here needed to be overlocked. I don't feel this will go beyond being a house dress. Next version, different neckline, sleeved, finished lining, different fabric, all fully worked out. I think I may start from my block.

  2. What do I think? I think you worked hard and it is not bad. But I do have two thoughts, if you really want honest feedback.

    First though is that the colour is insipid on you. Although close up the fabric is rather pretty with red, green and cream, from a distance all the colours strobe into a light muted green. I am pretty sure you best suit cool and clear/bright colours, probably at the deeper end of the spectrum. As you are tall (and definitely not outsize) you can wear strong shades and I think quite high contrasts.

    In terms of shape this dress (from the 1940s, I think) will look best on someone with a shaped (hourglass) type figure, whereas your body shape is semi-straight. I think a straighter outline would be much more flattering than something with gathering, fullish sleeves and a fairly floaty skirt. I would try a more structured dress in a firmer fabric - working on the fitting of a sheath dress would be a good challenge and I am sure well within your abilities.

    On the plus side you really learnt some new techniques. I find even when I have done something before I need to do it dozens of times before I reach a good standard. I just mucked up a lace skirt (my first).

    1. Thank you. I really do want honest feedback! I agree with your comments. I did have a sheath dress which I liked and which fitted but problems with a persistent crease led to loads of washing and other treatments and the fabric shrank more (it had been prewashed). I also replaced the front panel. It became much too short and rather neat, perhaps in part because I'd gained weight. Details in a couple of earlier post (I entered it for PR's Little White Dress comp). In fact it was from that dress that I salvaged the zip for this one, before finally abandoning the white dress to the scrap bin. Also before that, I tried the dress on and my tutor marked the areas I needed to change and I have traced out a new pattern (slightly bigger to take into account weight gain). I've tried this in a toile and am ready to make it up in cobalt crepe.

    2. well that sounds perfect. Can't wait to see it!

    3. Thanks. You might have quite a wait, though!

  3. Weeeelllll........glad you finished it so it is not wasted - you know it isn't what you would like but it is perfectly fine for zipping around home when a dress is cooler than trousers etc.
    As Fabrikated says you've learned a lot and she's also right about the one will be 100% you!!!

    1. Thanks, Joyce. Fingers crossed for the next one! The weather hasn't warmed up enough to make me want to wear a dress like this, anyway!


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