Just because it does up doesn’t mean it fits- my first attempt at alterations

a very pretty dress

Over the summer during a visit to Manchester I found a lovely dress in a vintage shop (sadly I can’t remember the name of the shop).  While I could get it on and (with a bit of breathing in) do the zip up there was no denying that it was on the small side. I’d be okay if I stood up all of the time and didn’t eat anything and stayed on the alert for the sound of the seams ripping….. My normal shopping mantra of ‘ just because it does up doesn’t mean it fits’ went out of my head and I found myself at the till. It was so pretty I couldn’t leave it in the shop.

Once I got it home I proceeded to try it on at regular intervals on the off chance that either a) I had somehow shrunk or b) the dress had magically grown. You won’t be surprised to hear that neither of these things happened.  On one of the occasions when I was double checking that I hadn’t shrunk to a size 9 (a random size on the label of the dress and also a size I am unlikely ever to be unless I ever get the urge to give up wine, cheese and cake which is frankly unlikely to ever happen) I managed to break the zip. As you can imagine I was  very annoyed with myself.

I’ve recently left my old job to work for myself and while I’m waiting for things to get settled and first invoices to be paid I need to keep a close eye on my finances. One of my biggest areas of unnecessary spending is clothing so I’m trying really hard not to buy any clothes for the next few months. As I have a little bit more time on my hands now it seems like an ideal opportunity to look at the stuff I have already that is either needs fixing or altering so expand my wardrobe a bit without a trip to Topshop.

So, I got myself a new zip and some thread and set about trying to fix it.

the collar and the colours are my favourite parts of this dress

I am far from being a brilliant seamstress but I won’t get good without practice so I put my nerves about ruining a pretty dress to one side and got my unpicker out. Luckily for me the dress is handmade with quite a nice seam allowance.  I unpicked the old zip and the back seam. To kill two birds with one stone and take the dress out a little at the same time as I was putting in the zip I decided to reduce the seam allowance down the back to get myself about an extra inch.

My first attempt did not go well. I tacked down the seam with my new reduced seam allowance and tacked in the zip at the back of the dress.I was feeling very pleased with myself indeed. At that point it started to go wrong……This was the first time using the zip foot on my lovely 70s Singer and it was noticeably more difficult that sewing in a zip on a more modern machine. Firstly the machine goes really fast which is good for seams but a nightmare for anything fiddly. To make matters worse when I’d made it half the way around I realised the zip foot was broken doesn’t let you sew to the right…. I swore a little but persevered. When I finally unpicked the tacking down the centre it was time for more swearing as I’d done some thing wrong which made the fabric at the side of the zip hang over too much and get caught in the zip. I was very annoyed!

A cup of tea and lots of unpicking later I was ready to start again. This time I decided to put in the zip on the right side of the fabric. Personally I really like a visible zip and it’s much easier to sew. I’m not entirely sure that it’s in keeping with the style of the dress but I am going to think of it as putting my own spin on it.

here it is with a new working zip

This time I was much more successful. I tacked and sewed again and discovered that the button hole foot was much easier to use for zips than the actual zip foot. I’m very pleased with the finished dress. It’s far from a professional finish and there’s lots of hand stitching to finish it off but it’s not too questionable to wear in public, it fits and the zip does up!

It’s a strange experience to make alterations to a dress that someone else has handmade. I couldn’t help but wonder who they were, what they were making the dress for and why it got given away. I also wondered if they  would be cross with the slightly slap dash work I was doing on their dress if they knew. I am hopeful that they wouldn’t mind the less than pro sewing- I’m taking the pinked edges as a sign that the original seamstress cut corners now and again herself!

Overall I’m really pleased, I now have a new dress and a little more sewing experience and it’s only cost me a zip and some thread ( and a lot of swearing of course).



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