Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Distorted fabric. Unsatisfactory seams and lie. Helen's red silk dress part 2.

I was quite flat tonight,  I'm afraid. Not because it is Blue Monday. (I'm not going to use the word ‘depressed’ as my background in mental health doesn't allow me to demote the meaning of that word to something simple and every day like being a bit fed up because something hasn't gone well.) I ran into problems with the dress I'm making for Helen.

I went to my sewing bee, complete with green crepe dress to move it on a bit and ensure that my ideas for attaching the pockets to the dress were okay.

I finished pulling through all the edge stitch thread ends at the corners of the pockets (after making sure I didn't have to redo them because of a bit of raw edge which I hadn't thought to overlock early enough. I didn't as that raw edge is enclosed in the seam at the top,  though I made it longer on one side than it should have been.  Sortable.

I haven't pressed the edgestitching yet in this photo

Anyway,  the dress was at the stage where I had sewn up the main seams, the hem was pinned up, the bias binding around the neck and armholes was attached but not yet topstitched. I hadn't earlier marked the placement for the pockets as I first needed to check with Helen whether she wanted them lowered along with the lowered waistline or kept at the same level. The answer was at the same level. I also have to top stitch and attach the pocket flaps - oh and buy some poppets and attach. Maybe a little more than I thought!

Rory examined the original red dress and realised the maker had attached the pocket flat to the front before the side seams were sewn and then the part that crossed the seam was sewn afterwards. She said this would be easier for me when I come to do the silk dress. Noted. This also applied to the back band.

I laid the dress out ready to mark where the pockets were going to go. I was feeling quite positive. I had earlier redone the back band the way that had been recommended in class and felt I was nearing the end of the process. Just pockets, back band and bias binding top stitching to do.

BUT I noticed that the hem was wonky. By that I mean the dress length was shortest at the side seams and curved markedly down to the front but less so to the back. This wasn't satisfactory. I took out the hem. I put the dress on a dress form in class and measured from the floor to get an even hem. I was worried that I'd  lose all the extra length I'd  added but,  fortunately, I'd had a 3 cm hem and I can reduce that to around 1 cm by just overlocking and turning over and top stitching. I don't think this really shows up on the photos.

So I spent a while pinning the hem length and then marking it with thread. Quite a bit would need to get cut off the front, graduating to zero at the sides. Less needs removed from the back, also graduating to zero at the sides.

Then I noticed that the side seams on the dress as worn by the model were not lying straight and vertical. Size wasn't too crucial an issue as this is a loose fitting dress, so I wasn't too concerned about differences in size between this model and Helen.

One seam moved forward, the other back. Certainly not vertical.
Left side seam, not as bad as right

Do not adjust your set! This is a vertical photo and you can see how far back this right side seam angles
On the original dress they were not perfect,  either, but clearly distortion from wear could be responsible for that.  My dress was supposed to be symmetrical. On the original dress,  the waistline (back of dress) clearly dropped at the sides. On the green dress, the sides did not match. One side curved up and the other was straight. The relationship changed if the dress was shifted. Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo in class where this was clearer than it was later.

It seems that my fabric has distorted either before or after cutting.

Rory suggested taking out the waistline seam (it's rather up and down ie wiggly) and adjusting the lie on the model. It was the end of the sewing bee by this time so I decided I'd take out the seam at home ready for next time.

I discussed it with David at home.  He reminded me that this was,  in effect,  a toile,  a practice for the real thing,  the silk dress, and I shouldn't get too distracted by trying to achieve perfection in this one. He agreed that if it didn't take too long I should do what I could, though, when I said that I thought Helen was quite interested in this one, too.

We tried the dress on Missy.  Really,  it didn't look so bad!  However, there was a definite problem with one of the seams, more noticeable when the dress was laid flat outside in. This seam was rather puckered and there was excess fabric in the skirt part attached to that seam. The photos here are all on Missy as I didn't take any in class.

So this is what I decided to do :

Completely remove the back skirt section.
Measure it on the flat
Re-cut this section. I fully expect this to be required as I do remember that the shape didn't seem absolutely correct but I didn't realise the significance at the time. I had thought it was okay. Also,  I cut this in class,  on the fold which clearly can lead to slippage.

I have enough fabric.
It won't take long to cut out the piece, probably as fast as trying to rehang the other.
I'll take the opportunity to  put the pockets on the front, at least semi-flat. ditto back band.
I will not change the front or the back bodice and will not take further apart than I've described.

Wish me luck.

I hope to know by Wednesday whether this is salvageable or not

Okay, it's Tuesday now.

I unpinned the side seams from hem to waist and was quite surprised at the difference in lie. It didn't take long.
I hope this shows up in these quickly taken photos. I feel that the front is lying reasonably vertically at the sides. Maybe not perfect but this I'm not going to change.

Left side unpinned - not too bad

Back view after side seam released - there is quite a bulge on the right side, though left lies reasonably well

Left side at waistline

Detail of waistline on right side

Right side unpinned. Quite a problem!

I then unpinned the actual waist seam. Now my waistline curved slightly down, as intended.

I then laid out my fabric from the unpinned skirt. Look at the distortion in this back skirt piece!! No wonder I had problems!
Hem marked at the bottom. Rather distorted. This is as it lies, not due to the photo.

I assume this is due to the fabric being off grain when cut on the fold. You can see that I can place the edges together, but there is excess fabric on the side which isn't showing. It looks reasonably okay from this side, which is presumably what I saw. I can't see the fabric distorting by this amount afterwards.

I don't have time today to go any further - well, I might get the skirt pattern piece redrawn if I'm lucky but I won't be cutting out today. I go to bridge on a Tuesday evening.

Lessons learned -
  • If not absolutely happy with a piece, check again. It's easier to redo when it's still flat than after it's sewn up!
  • Listen to that inner voice
  • Cut on a single layer. In my defence I had been told it would be okay to cut double. I cut in class. However, as I'll be doing the real dress single layer I should do this one too. I hadn't realised that crepe could be so badly behaved.
Do you think it is salvageable?


  1. Congrats on working through each of these issues and steps. If you have the additional fabric I think you can indeed salvage this dress. And you are learning dome really valuable skills yo apply to the red dress, as well as everything else you attempt in the future. I am trying to apply some of these same lessons- cut more as well single layer, don't move forward when not happy with this current step. I s started this hobby looking for quick gratification...it's only now that I know better! I am still finding it gratifying, just takes me a lot longer than some of the bloggers I eavesdrop on. Keep up your great work!

    1. Thank you. I agree with you. I certainly recognise that feeling of looking around at other bloggers who go so much faster. Not all better, though! Recutting is on the agenda for today.Sorry just realised this didn't appear as a reply.

  2. Thank you. I agree with you. I certainly recognise that feeling of looking around at other bloggers who go so much faster. Not all better, though! Recutting is on the agenda for today.

  3. Crepe is very slippery, I learnt that the hard way too. I had to smooth out all the wrinkles and creeping on the underneath piece and recut it! I do admire how you keep going with some of your projects - something like this would send me quite potty. I agree with you about the common use of the word depressed for general unhappiness, sadness, or discontent with one's lot in life.

    1. Thank you. I'm happy to continue with a project if it's likely that I'll get something out of it - learning lessons, honing new techniques, a wearable garment. There are plenty of projects that I have abandoned as the cost in time and hassle was much greater than any benefit. This dress is currently going okay so not abandoned. I hope to finish it this coming week.

  4. You will very diligent in figuring out the issues -- this means that the final product will be gorgeous.

    1. Thank you - I hope so. I've finished the toile and feel that I have a much better idea how to approach the final dress. I've just put up a blog post.


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