Monday, 12 June 2017

Making a dress for Alison from a RTW favourite

Alison asked me to make a dress for her from a much loved dress she already had but which was too short for work. She needed to wear leggings or tights with it, but then found it too warm in summer when that's when she wanted to wear it.
The two dresses together

The dress is a princess seamed skater dress with a filled in sweetheart bodice - I don't know if that's a reasonable description! In the front and back skirt princess seams, there are long godets, nearly the full skirt length

The original dress
I considered simply adding a piece of matching georgette (assuming georgette was the fabric used for the bodice and sleeves) to the hem as a band. This plan was scuppered when I couldn’t find suitable fabric. I had some leeway as the pieces would be separated by the fabric of the rest of the dress but even so, I didn't get close enough.

I therefore decided that I did need to duplicate the dress then make it longer. Alison said that otherwise the dress fitted well. I did ask if it needed a little extra ease as some of the seams were stretched but she said no.

The first part of pricking the pattern out was fairly straightforward.

What I had was:
  • A skirt, joined at a waist seam. The skirt had a front and a back, each with two godets inserted into a princess seam. I traced out the lines.
  • A bodice consisting of several pieces
    • Upper bodice front - round neck and sweetheart shaped bottom
    • Upper bodice back
    • Lower front  bodice central with sweetheart shape at top
    • Lower front bodice sides
    • Lower central back bodice
    • Lower back bodice sides
  • Sleeves
  • A side invisible zip, extending from under the left arm through the waist seam and the skirt.

I traced out all of these pieces and found, of course, that the sides didn’t match. My next step was therefore to true up the pattern. I also had to decide how to lengthen the skirt. The options were really to increase at the hem which would widen the skirt a bit or to cut across and lengthen part way down. This would impact on all pieces and the godets so I elected to go with the former method.

Dan checked my trueing of the pattern

I did have particular difficulty drawing out the sleeves, due to their method of insertion. I hope I have a photo that will show this as I'm not sure how to describe it. If not, I'll try to draw it.

Sleeve underside on hacked dress
I then cut out the toile. The fabric is much thicker, a nice soft almost brushed cotton floral for the patterned elements and a single crepe for the black components (Upper back and front bodices and sleeves)

Front view of hacked dress

Back view of hacked dress
Back view of dresses together; the original has more of a curve I see now 
I constructed the skirt including the godets with no issue. I had a bit more difficulty joining upper and lower front bodices at the sweetheart shape and Dan helped me. Otherwise, the bodice came together okay and attached nicely to the skirt. The invisible zipper went in beautifully.

Out of focus beautiful zip insertion! 
I did have problems with the sleeves, though. Firstly, the sleeve cap is very gathered and I had found that a little difficult to recreate in the pattern and more difficult to sew. I basically set the sleeves in but add I mentioned previously, I found the bottom of the sleeve very difficult and asked Dan to sew rather than just demonstrate! Thankfully, she did that but confirmed that she'd help me modify the pattern to make the process easier.

Original sleeve cap
Then I overlocked the outside edges and created simple turnover hems and edges, which were simply topstitched

None of my inside edges were finished - this is a toile.

When I was taking the photos shown here I noticed that there are marked lines at the armhole, where I was having all the problems. I see they also exist in the original.


I posted the toile and the original dress to Alison (she has  received them) and now I'm waiting to see how it fitted.  I'm not going to make any changes to the pattern until I have clear feedback.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Merry May MAGAM top

I put my finished Merry May top for MAGAM (only a couple of weeks late!) on Instagram earlier and said I wouldn't be wearing it outside. Why?


I said earlier in the month that I was having massive problems with the darts. They just wouldn't lie nicely. I had them in and out and Lyn helped me fix them as best they could be fixed. There were a couple of problems with them, relating to fabric choice and to pattern. This was the same self drafted pattern I made for my last top, the checked one with the tartan trim. However, this fabric was very slippery and wiggly and I struggled with it (sorry, Rory - I've let you down!). It didn't like the darts, which kept twisting, even in Lyn's hands. This was made worse by the fact that these darts were French darts so very much on the bias. The original darts were folded upwards and this just didn't work in this fabric - they wanted to lie downwards, follow gravity I suppose! When I then let them fall, there was insufficient at the sides to catch in the seam and these were large darts so, on Lyn's recommendation, the dart was trimmed to about 1cm using the overlocker. Lyn did the trimming as I was scared!

I took the top to where I could and sewed up the sides again and overlocked the edges.
In my last top, I didn't manage to apply self fabric bias but in fact the commercial tartan tape was a much better option. In this top, I did manage to make and apply my own bias tape. So that's one positive thing!

The fabric frayed tremendously and this proved to be big problem with all the sewing and ripping out. I ended up having to deepen the front of the neck and the armholes too. There was no seam allowance. In future, I think I would have a seam allowance even if I then cut off, as that would give me a bit of leeway.

But why won't I wear it outside? It's comfortable, doesn't fit too badly BUT see this photo - a pull has occurred from top to the bottom of the fabric on the right side, presumably as the darts were being manipulated. I can't do anything about it, I'm afraid.

Lessons learned
  • ·        My pattern needs some tweaks, as my figure changes a bit
  • ·        Fabric choice is crucial - well I knew that but still haven't put it into practice!! During making, the darts were uneven from side to side despite cutting on one thickness of fabric from a double width pattern.
  • ·        Overworking and mishandling fabric is a disaster - and leads to stretching, excess fraying and to fabric pulls and ultimately an unsatisfactory garment. The bias tape is not lying nicely, either, which is very sad as my last top did lie nicely.



I knew about the pull but decided to finish the top, anyway. I could wear it under a jacket or cardigan provided I didn't take them off! I am making another top (commercial pattern) with the same fabric and I've already had fit issues but my experience here will help, I hope. This second top has bias tape on the inside so I've bought some silky commercial bias tape. I bought navy and red but the navy isn't dark enough so I'll probably use the red. I don't have enough fabric left, I don't think, anyway, to make my own self fabric bias tape.

Over the next few weeks/months (however long it takes) I will be posting about my search for the 'perfect' top (not couture, though). You know this will take a while as I am not one to churn out lots of garments.


Comments are invited, please! Including, please, what fabric do you think would be best for this pattern? TIA.  Hope the rest of your weekend goes well. I'm planning to do a bit of sewing.

MAGAM is the Make a Garment a Month Challenge hosted by Sarah Liz on Facebook and now on Instagram. Thank you for your hard work, Sarah Liz

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