Phantom of the School Ball

1 phantom of the school dance

Yes, it’s meant to be scary…

If I was a contestant on the Great British Sewing Bee, my filmable speciality would be a tendency towards snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by sewing a seam the wrong way around, or cutting into the garment while trimming the final seam, or some such last-minute act of stupidity.

1 the dressBut I learnt a valuable lesson when I met Lesley last year, when in the course of conversation she said she doesn’t generally use small stitches!  I received this heresy with a pretence of calm, afterwards beginning to ask myself why I insist on using the 2.2 straight stitch length which is there by default whenever I switch on the machine. Do I really imagine my garment would fall apart if I stray towards slightly longer?  Ever since, I’ve been gradually forcing myself to go up to 2.6 or even 2.8 (wey hey!!) with no obvious compromise in quality.

This way, unpicking mistakes is much, much quicker!

There were several instances of unpicking in the making of daughter’s speed dress! It’s hard to concentrate in a busy home. Mum popped over on Saturday afternoon so there was chat – not to mention distracting, horrific cries coming from the TV as the ladies Wimbledon final was broadcast!

1 conichiBut I’m dead pleased with how this turned out. I had to think on my feet in designing it, adding to a basic idea of a bodice and a long, rectangle skirt. Daughter was away at a sleepover on Friday night so in her absence I made the bodice and lining based on a pattern made from the cling-film wrap but decided to put some gathering stitches at the neckline, just below the chin, so I had the option of gathering them to make the centre front fit better if it was gaping (it was). I ended up liking this as a feature.

The other feature – the sash – I copied from a dress with a pleated yoke I made for her three years ago which was dug out for reference.  The new yoke is 1.5cm taller to be more in proportion with her now longer torso. I had no time to make pleats and no time for sleeves.  1 Waistband

And I had a bit of serendipity!  Mid-week I was asked to alter a dress for a very lovely client who came half a year ago to be measured for a bridesmaid’s dress which she ordered online (from China) for a now imminent wedding. Instead of having a skirt that’s fully gathered (too girlish?), the client’s dress has gathering around the middle part only. This I decided to copy for daughter’s dress. It has a nice elegance to it and mimics the gathering at the neckline. It was extremely quick to fit: I cut the rectangle twice the width of the bodice and just gathered tightly in the centre, leaving the half sides even.

1 bodice front

The finish isn’t too bad: I pressed the bodice seams open but didn’t do anything else except hide them inside lining. The skirt (i.e. the rectangle) has French seams, even at CB below the zip, because I wanted the inside to look nice as she kicks around!

The hardest bit was getting the back yoke seams to level up across the zip. I spent ages fiddling and unpicking and sewing again then remembered to look at the clock.  I also remembered the sash will largely cover this part!   🙄

1 maskaDaughter was due at the Masquerade Ball at 6:30pm. I finished the dress at 4 o’clock then gave it a long soak to get rid of the gelatine with which I’d stabilised the fabric. I washed it and it dried in the breeze in only 20 minutes – that’s polyester for you!

1 kosa

But see this cascade of hair? Alas, she is going to have almost all of it cut off and sent to the Little Princess Trust to be used in making a wig for a child who has lost theirs. She’s also fundraising to help the Trust pay the wig weavers (in China) who make the wigs.  If you can, please help her by making a small donation via her “fundraising page”; any amount would be most welcome (but is not, of course, expected.)

This is quite a bold move, I think, as her friends all have long hair.  I would advise her against the short cut but I love that she’s been moved to support the charity … and quietly admire her desire to differentiate.

1 fantom i maca-horz


26 thoughts on “Phantom of the School Ball

  1. Wow! Beautiful girl inside and out. Great job, M. Really really lovely. I especially love the mirrored gathers – a stroke of genius.

    So funny you mention the stitches. I usually use 2.5 except at stress points such as in trouser seams.

    PS Her hair will grow back in a blink of the eye. Will donate later at home as I don’t think my firewall will allow it at work.

    • Thank you so very much Stephanie, it’s very kind 🙂

      And the hair will grow back; for most of us lucky ones, it can.

      • Your daughter’s generosity picked up my low spirits today. Brava! Apologies as I meant to leave a message for her.

  2. Lovely – I was interested in the Liberty print dress with the orange sash you have in the centre as this is the “Hall Drive” pattern which is named after the road I live in ( as does the head designer at Liberty!) If you look at the pattern carefully you can see my house. I have some of this fabric in a lovely grey/pink, my granddaughters have a dress on this fabric and I have used it for lots of accessories.

  3. An overwhelming post. Your gorgeous daughter. Her amazing generosity (and scariness). The awesome dresses – and mask. The lovely gathering detail and the waist ties. Your friend whose house is on a Liberty print.

    My oh my – what a happy post.

  4. What a terrific masquerade dress Marijana, well done. I remember reading that we all use stitches that are too small in an edition of Threads mag. But in all honesty, try as I might, I do tend to 2.5 also! Recently I have bumped that up to 3 – 3.5 if I’m a little unsure, JIC unsewing is required!
    Hair schmair – as Steph says it will grow back. I want to congratulate your baby on her incredible generosity. My Father-in-law has alopecia, as does his son, brows and lashes are the deal breaker – stuff is always flying into their eyes. My F-I-L was at an event and happened to be staring at a gorgeous girl who seemed to be staring back at him… she sidled over and whispered in his ear “we have something in common”, I can imagine he was quite flattered by this stage… she lifted off her wig, she had alopecia also! I’ll pop over to the site and make a donation to this very worthwhile cause. Kisses to your lovely daughter from Oz!

    • Thank you so much Lesley. Connie will be even happier about what she’s doing when she reads your comment after school.

  5. The dress is lovely, but your daughter is absolutely beautiful. To be prepared to donate her hair at an age when appearance and fitting in with the crowd is so important to many I applaud her.

  6. I forget why I switched my steady stitch rate (like a resting heart rate?) to 3, but it helps.
    Here in the US, a similar program is called Locks of Love, and my hair has never qualified, but my niece’s has. She’s done it three times .

  7. Lovely dress and an even more amazing daughter. You must have done a wonderful job raising her to be so selfless and caring for others. Her hair will grow back but she will always have the joy that comes from helping those less fortunate.

  8. You have a beautiful daughter, she looks fabulous in the dress and I am sure she will look equally lovely once she has short hair. I really admire her determination to make her donation to charity, particularly if all her friends have long hair. Choosing to do something different is difficult at that age.

    • Thank you so much Jane, for your support on the page and kind words. I hope this will be one of those experiences that will shape her.

  9. Pressed send before commenting about your stitch length!

    I rarely stitch anything at less than 3.5 (maybe when I am getting to the end of a dart or going round a corner). My eyesight is so bad that I find it almost impossible to unpick anything less than this. I find it annoying that there doesn’t seem to be a way to change the default stitch length on my Janome, 2.2 seems ridiculously small to me.

    • I can’t believe we’ve not had this discussion before: we’re talking about what happens when you first switch on a machine and start to sew!

      My Elna is a relative of your Janome. Perhaps there is a way of changing the default, like the font on Word. It would save so much time in the lifetime of a machine. Definitely something that future models should incorporate.

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