Dress No 2: Harry’s Dress

Oh dear, my blog post titles aren’t exactly poetic are they?  Plus I’ve named this dress ‘Harry’s Dress’ going against my whole can’t call a dress a male name in my last post.  Never mind, I’m allowed to change my mind, right?

But back to the dress.  It’s called Harry’s dress as many of you know because it was made for Harry’s christening.  I haven’t got any photos of the day though as I don’t like to publish photos of other people on the inter webs without talking to them about it first, so I took these photos at the same time as I photographed Mary’s dress.  Which is how I learnt how to get myself in and out of back zippers (hurrah!).

This dress nearly wasn’t made on time.  I had to reattach the lace appliqué on the front the morning of the christening as I’d sewn it on the night before whilst watching source code and it was seriously wonky.  Like the point at the bottom pointing at my right bust apex kinda wonky.  And the seam allowances on the armholes are STILL unfinished  and I’ll have to do them before washing it as it is filthy – wrangling several toddlers at a BBQ based party after the church service made that bit inevitable.

I also made the belt but didn’t wear it on the day.  I like the dress with and without, but I was feeling bloated on the day so went without.  The button at the back is a gorgeous turquoise glass with gold highlights.  I attached it to a plain button and fasten the belt through two button holes using the smaller button.  That way I can wash the belt and the glass button is safe.

Here’s the information:

The dress is a mash up of Colette’s Peony (the bodice) and Burda’s Jenny Pencil skirt.  I added a godet to the back of the skirt as the slit was a little too high for my taste and comfort level.

The fabric is a blue cotton sateen which I suspect is upholstery weight as it has some heft to it.  It was a score from eBay.  So including the cost of two patterns this dress came in at around £30, which is less than £15 for the materials.  The lace appliqué came from Mary not Martha, an Etsy seller and her shop is full of gorgeous appliqués.

I cut a 14 through the shoulders, grading to an 18 at the bust and grading the Jenny skirt to fit the bodice waist line.  I also added the godet and reinforced the godet and side seams using Liz’s tutorial.  Absolute gold if you want your pencil skirt with wiggle to be tough enough to go the distance!

As seems to be common I had to make a massive sway back adjustment out of the lower back.  (heh, just typing that has made me sit up straight!).  There was a fair amount of spare fabric there, but it seems to be a common issue and not something I generally have to deal with.  I also had to take some spare fabric out of the bust area by increasing the depth of the bust darts.  I should have really traced the 12 and done an FBA but I was time crunched and feeling a tad lazy.  I also lowered the neckline by about an inch as it felt too high to be comfortable for me.

For future incarnations I also need to shorten the bodice by about 1/2″ but this only became apparent after wearing the dress for a whole day.

Once again, Colette’s patterns were crystal clear and the Jenny skirt pattern pieces are so simple that I didn’t even refer the instructions.  It all came together quickly and easily.

So, the positives and negatives:  For some reason (possibly my redrafting of the neckline or the thickness of the fabric) I can’t get the shoulder seam/neck facing area to sit nicely.  It keeps creasing up and that’s after loads of grading, clipping and notching.  I also should have taken all your advice and made the short sleeves but I was worried with our nutty british weather that I’d be cold.  The sleeves are a bit too big and baggy really and need a bit more shape for me to really like them.

Part of me wishes that I’d stuck with my original plan of using the darker colour (and lighter weight) fabric as I’m not sold on this colour on me.  But the 3m of blue cost less than 1m of the teal, so the finances won out.  Either way, cotton sateen is a brilliant fabric for this dress – thank you for the advice Karen!

It’s not going to go into heavy rotation as it’s a bit too fancy for everyday wear, but it’s nice to have a ‘posh’ dress to turn to.  I don’t feel as good in this dress as I do in Mary’s dress and I think that shows.  Loosing a few more lbs may well help with feeling better in it.

On the positive it’s a gorgeous bodice and I like the Jenny skirt pattern.  I can see Peony’s being made for my professional wardrobe both with my Jenny variation and with the drafted full skirt by Colette.  I did miss having pockets!

So I shall echo the others who have made Peony before me – it’s a simple to make and versatile dress that can be easily dressed up or down with fabric choice and / or styling.  I also echo the call to make a toile before you cut into your fashion fabric due to the fabric pooling at the lower back.  Basically this dress combines some of my favourite details: bateau neckline, fitted bodice and pencil skirt.

A bit of saucy belt waving!

After all that, I really fancied some simple sewing, so I’ve made a border print dirndl skirt  that needs photographing.  From idea to finished in an evening – perfect low pressure sewing!

Next up, I’m joining Sunni’s 2in1 Simplicity 1880 sew along!  Plus a few more wardrobe basics as well.

Of Godets and Set in Sleeves

Time is starting to crunch when it comes to The Christening Dress.  I’ve got until Sunday to get this finished and I have actually made a lot of progress.  From cutting the muslin for the toile to completion of the final dress will be less than a week.  That’s fast for me!

Anyway, there are some particular details I wanted to share with you because I am that darn proud of them.  I don’t know whether the results are because I’m continually improving when it comes to this sewing malarkey, because the fabric is so good to work with, the excellent tutorials that have been shared online. or a combination of the above.  I suspect its a combination!

So, the colour of the dress has changed from the original plans (an eBay win landed me this fabric for £4!) as its now ice blue rather than teal, but hey!

Anyway, proud as punch moment number one.  Look at this set in sleeve!  For me, sleeves are by far and away the most scary bit of any garment.  Buttonholes used to worry me but the Beignette skirt cured me of that.  Set in sleeves though have always been a struggle.  I’ve never been able to get them set in as beautifully and neatly as this!

Not a pucker, pleat or bulge to be seen.  I have to admit that I did take my time putting this in:

I ran two rows of gathering stitches using my usual stitch length but a really loose upper tension (an Adele Margolis tip I think, or maybe it was Peter of Male Pattern Boldness who mentioned this technique?).  One row was at 4/8″ and the other at 6/8″.  These were put in before sewing the underarm seam and hemming the sleeve.

I pinned the sleeve in at the under arm seam, matched the notch to the shoulder seam, matched the front and back notches and then smoothed the fabric out and pinned at the beginning and end of the gathering stitches.

I then gathered to make the sleeve fit.  Having been researching a lapped side zipper (I’ll explain later but its for a different project) I’d been reading some of Casey’s Swing Dress Sew Along posts.  In one of the posts she shows how she inserts her sleeves.  I didn’t follow all her suggestions, but I did follow the recommendation to pin every 1/2″ in the gathered section.  It’s a really clear and comprehensive post on setting in sleeves and gave me some confidence which always helps!

Next up was basting it in using a long stitch length on my machine.  I used the hand wheel though for the gathered section so that I could really make sure there were no tucks, pleats or pinched bits.  I still had to redo a tiny section though!  I removed the pins as I went.

Finally it was time to stitch it in for keeps.  I went back to my usual stitch length (2 on my machine which is quite short) and carefully stitched.  I had to manipulate the dress underneath to make sure there werent any inadvertent puckers, gathers or pleats at this stage and that it was feeding through nice and flat.

After that it was a case of running a second row of stitching just inside the first in the seam allowance, finishing the raw edge, removing the basting and gathering stitches and then pressing.

The pressing is what has taken this from good to great (in my eyes at least!).  It looked good to me without it, but the final press/steam is what’s got rid of the little pin pricks and smoothed everything out.

As I say, very very pleased with this!  I hope sleeve number 2 goes in as well…

And for my second piece of sewing pride I give you the godet inserted into the back seam of the dress’ skirt!

This I fully credit to Liz of Zilredloh (and I’ve only just realised that her blog title is her name spelt backwards!  Face-palm!).  Back in October 2011 Liz posted a tutorial about how she reinforces her pencil skirt seams and how she inserted the godet in her Burda skirt.  It was this tutorial that introduced me to her blog (I can’t remember why I wound up there, I suspect from Burda) and I’m so glad that it did and that I’ve now been able to apply the information she shared!

I’m not going to rewrite Liz’s very clear and comprehensive instructions.  My only variation was to put a narrow hem on the godet and hand stitch the lace on before I inserted it.  I then lined up the bottom of the godet with the hem fold line of the skirt.  There was no markings to line up the godet as the Jenny Skirt doesn’t have one, hence the slightly ‘winging it’ approach of lining up the hem points!

By following her tutorial I wound up with this:

Isn’t it gorgeous?  The hem on the back of the skirt pannels is just pressed up at the moment, but once the skirt is completed this is how it’ll look!

I’m starting to feel that the pale blue and lace combo is a bit too ‘wedding’ ish and maybe even a bit Mother of the Bride!  So I’ll finish up the dress and then make a decision about the lace at the neckline.  I can always add a vintage pin / brooch instead?  The teal would have probably avoided that particular style issue…

The centre back seam is only basted at the moment as the Peony dress has an invisble back zipper.  As you need the seam beneath the zipper to be open to insert an invisible zip, this seemed like the best compromise to me.  The godet is inserted and the seam is securely in place up to a few inches of where the zipper end will be.  I can put the final stitching in once the zipper is inserted using the basting stitches as a guide if necessary.

So, all I need to do now is attach the skirt front to the back, attach the skirt to the bodice, insert the zip, sew the back seam of the skirt and install the facings at the neck.  Oh, and insert that second sleeve!  I hope to get ALL that done tonight…

Teal, Lace and Peony

What do you think of my plans for Colette Patterns’ Peony?

After your feedback when I asked what I should wear as a God Mother in June, a short sleeved Peony was the overwhelming winner.  I love the dark teal cotton sateen that I found at my local fabric store but have yet to buy.  I plan on changing the skirt to a pencil silhouette with a godet at the back edged with venice / guipure ivory lace.  I also want to put an ivory lace appliqué at the neckline.

What I can’t decide on is what to do about the belt.  Do I leave it completely?  Or do I make one in the same colour as the dress, or purple, or aqua or ivory like the lace?  I’m drawn to the purple or aqua at the moment – what do you think?