Yay! I made a dress that I could wear in public!

Sorry about the slightly dark photo and the rubbish around my mirror and in the back ground , oh, and also my slippers…..

Because I haven’t been able to knit much lately I’ve spent a bit more time on my sewing than normal (well a lot more- I am rather slack with my sewing) as a result I have almost finished my Peony dress!

I am so pleased! This is the first dress I’ve made with a bodice that needs attaching to the skirt (and I made a smaller size for the top than the bottom) plus it’s only my second ever invisible zip so it could have gone horribly wrong but it’s totally wearable. I went for a longer length as I have lots of short dresses and I’d like a few longer ones for when I’m feeling more demure (or indeed hairier).

Here’s a view from the back

 

Of course it isn’t perfect. In a few places you can see where I need to improve my technique; the hem isn’t quite straight, the zip isn’t quite as invisible as I’d like and it could be lye flatter, the gathers could be more even and it could have done with a little bit of adjustment for my shape.

Here’s what  I’d change:

  • I’d make the waist area a little smaller. I thought that it was going to be too small but actually the waist is pretty big on me. Obviously this is better than being too small but as it’s a little big it a tad unflattering on the tummy area.
  • I’d use less stretchy fabric. This one is only a little bit stretchy but that means it can sit a little oddly if it stretches over.
  • I’d work out why the neckline sticks out a bit at the back and fix it.
  • I’d move the pockets forward and up. At the moment the pockets are a slightly towards the back and I’m not sure why.
  • I’d take some length out of the bodice at the waist. I’m pretty short and I think it sits a little low.
  • I’d narrow the neckline. It’s a little too wide for me. I suspect I may have narrow shoulders.

I still need to make the belt so we’ll see what it looks like with that but for the moment I’m thrilled!

 

Dusting off my sewing machine

My awesome 70s Singer sewing book. I would have used a nice portrait photo but WordPress didn’t like it for some reason

After a rather long hiatus I have once again started work on the Colette Peony dress I have been making for what seems like one hundred years. I am rather monogamous with my knitting and my sewing so once I’ve started I tend to carry on until the end rather than having lots and lots of things on the go. So, my main motivation in starting this up again was to get it finished, so that I can start something else. Something much easier which will task my brain in no way! My other motivation was the sight of my lovely sewing machine starting to look a little dusty and unloved and the table it sits on fast getting so cluttered with other random items that it might disappear!

So, I dusted off the machine, cleaned up the table, ironed the pattern pieces (which were looking rather creased after some weeks in the sewing box) and made a start. I’d come to a stop because I was having problems with setting in the sleeves. I just couldn’t get them to look right. I’d sewn the gathering stitches and tacked up 2 or 3 times and it still looked rubbish.

This time around I decided to take the same approach to sewing as I usually do with knitting; just have a go in a slightly slap-dash manner and hope for the best (substituting the mantra ‘it’ll block out’ with ‘it’ll press out’). I think I’ve been too precious with my sewing in the past; really wanting it to be perfect and so giving up every time I hit something hard because I don’t want to mess it up. This time I am just going to get on with it and have faith that it will turn out okay.

I hand sewed the gathers to make sure that they were good and close to the edge and then tacked the sleeves. I took advice from my awesome 70s Singer sewing book and ironed the sleeves after tacking and before machine stitching. This seemed to help and I took the plunge and machine stitched. They are not the best looking sleeves that the world has ever seen, and I still prefer setting in knitted sleeves because you can easily bodge it and make it work by pulling it a bit, but they look okay and I am rather proud!

Buoyed by my success I made a start on the skirt. That was much easier and involved no worrying at all. I’ve gone for nice purple pockets to contrast with the light purple of the dress and I’m planning on a purple zip to match (well as much as it is possible to match things when ordering on the internet). I had to go for the pocket option as I love pockets and it’s one of the things I look for in a skirt or dress.

The wrong side of the skirt and purple pockets

The next step is going to be the fear inducing task of attaching the bodice to the skirt, I have never done that before. However I am going to take the precaution of tacking it up first and then sew it right up! Wish me luck!

 

Dress from Prima pattern

My dress (and a bunny in the background)

About a year and a half ago I started making this dress. My mum had given me a free pattern from Prima and I had some pretty fabric lying around so I thought I’d give it a go.

I started off quite enthusiastically but before I could even cut out the pattern pieces I noticed a problem. The full pattern wasn’t included and the body of the dress needed additional length. After quite a bit of faffing around trying to get the line right I gave in and called in the help of a more experienced sewer who showed me how to use newspaper to complete the pattern. I cut out the pattern pieces and did the tucks quite quickly but then I came to the darts….for some reason I was really scared of darts and despite getting instructions and reassurance from various people I just couldn’t bring myself to get started. I should point out that at this point my sewing machine hadn’t been fixed and was temperamental to say the least. It took forever to get the tension right and even then it was pretty hit and miss with actually working. The bobbin winder also wasn’t very happy….. To get the sewing machine to actually stitch was such a pain in the arse that I had to really really want to sew other wise it just wasn’t worth the hassle!

The dress sat about in my sewing box for months and months. Occasionally I’d spot it and feel a bit guilty about not doing anything about it but then I hid it under some clutter and forget about it again. Finally, when I had my sewing machine fixed and got my sewing mojo back, I got around to digging out the pieces, giving them a good iron, and getting started again.

Embarrassingly, after all the fuss I made the darts, they were really simple and only took me one try! I did have to consult my massive 70s sewing book but it was all pretty self explanatory. After I’d got those sorted out the rest of the dress came together quickly. It was just like making a very long top.

the black tights I'm wearing here really don't go......

Now that I’ve finished the dress I’m really not sure about it. I like the pattern of the fabric and the colour but there’s something about the fit and the way it hangs that I’m not quite sure about. I’m not sure that cotton was the best fabric to use. I think it would have been better in something with more movement.  When you wear it without a belt it looks a little bit sack like. However when you put a belt with it the cotton drapes in a weird way and looks a bit unflattering.

it looks very odd with a belt

The other thing I’m not sure about are the sleeves. These were my first effort at gathering a sleeve and I don’t think I’ve gathered them quite enough. They are still a bit big and make me think of kimonos.  On the plus side they are both the same size which is what most worried me when I was making them.

I’m not quite ready to wear this out in public yet so it’s going to go into the wardrobe and hopefully in a few weeks time I’ll be a bit more keen on it.