Here Comes the Rain Again

1 na piaci

1 Rain again silk from Simply FabricsI didn’t think this print of figures under umbrellas in heavy rain was going to be of much interest to anyone but myself and maybe a few who sew.  But there I was, in Split, Croatia, feeling pretty cool in this light silk (from Simply Fabrics at £8 a1 selfie metre) during a month-long spell of high temperatures that threatened to break 100-year records, and both the long-suffering locals and exhausted-looking tourists would occasionally give it wistful or WTF glances.

It’s very Londony!  In fact, when I got back to London I was treated to two entire days of dingy skies and the exact same rain as in the print, including a total drenching a long way from home during blackberry-picking!

I shouldn’t have had any issues with sewing Dahlia.  It’s my third.  I knew how much to trim off the neckline so the bra straps are in line with the dress straps (Summer Dahlia  sorted that).  I knew to lower the armholes and interface the waist yoke but to omit the yoke lining which adds too much bulk for the zip to glide.  And the silk, which behaved perfectly between needle and plate, promised to give the drape with which to achieve the sultriness promised on the envelope art.  So, in expectation of perfect results, I started with the skirt, patiently sewing French seams at all the vertical joins.  1t blind hem stitchingI used scraps to practice the blind hem on my machine (Notice my stitches look rather like the lashings of rain…)  But having sewed the skirt, just as I was a mouse-click away from buying a nice cashmere cardigan to match – oh sweet hubris! – I got round to the bodice and found the waist yokes simply didn’t match the bodice in width.  ‘Hang on‘, thought I as I tried to cobble new pieces together from scraps, ‘didn’t this happen before?’  When making my Winter Dahlia, I assumed the same kind of shortfall was my fault because I didn’t cut the lining yoke on the bias, or something.  So I did some belated research.

‘My yoke isn’t wide enough for bodice back!’ said a similarly-challenged seamstress commenting on the Dahlia Sew Along, Part 6.

‘Maybe you’ve forgotten to sew the back darts on the bodice,’ the Sewalong replied.

(You know, I think I’d notice that!)

Maybe I’ve cut them upside down‘.

Sadly, in describing a myriad other problems with the pattern, many bloggers blamed themselves, as I did too, initially.  But I’m getting the big picture.  It’s not us.  It’s Dahlia. Do you have a pattern that’s just toxic? One that keeps tempting you back like a glamorous friend that turns up asking to sleep on your sofa and you think ‘Great!’ forgetting how last time she invited all her dodgy mates back for a party and trashed the place while you were at work…

But it’s not all gloom!  Despite the crude upper half (both the back and front bodice just seem to sag), I enjoy wearing this dress.  It’s soft yet cool against the skin (and not at all sheer).  With an old cardie from the collection, it’s warm enough for the cold summer days that inevitably await. And I discovered upon returning from the holiday that the dress is perfect for my almost-forgotten Lapis Lazuli necklace.  1 Laurel with Lapis Lazuli

Link: an almost-forgotten, brooding, perfect rain song by the Eurythmics

Summer Dahlia

Colette Dahlia Version 21 Colette D1 Colette Dahlia Pattern EnvelopeI was worried that Version 2 of the Dahlia would be too inappropriately revealing for my advancing years but the black dress on the Colette website must have been made of something slinky for it to drape so attractively.  My cotton lawn recreation had bit after bit trimmed off the bodice and still it looks kind of … frumpy.

1 Uh Oh, back of Dahlia V2 in the mirrorThe first sign of this not being the quick project I’d imagined came after the neckline bias was partially applied when I checked the back view in the mirror.  1 Trim 7cm off the neckline backThe bra straps and the dress straps were so far from each other!  Ugh, racer back!  In a previous project – my much worn Frida dress – I saved the situation with bra keepers but that was clearly not going to work here where the fabric and the straps were thin.  Instead, I measured the disparity and trimmed the neckline down by 7cm which seemed to do just the trick. Colette Dahlia Back ViewFront neckline trimThe front presented a similar problem so I cut 3.5cm from each side (grading to the middle of which I only lost 1cm) to bring the dress straps in line with those of the bra.  This gave me the chance to fix something else I noticed looked wrong with the bodice front: the instructions specify gathering fabric only at the centre of the neckline but this just makes the boobies look too far apart from each other 😯  I re-sewed the gathering stitches and distributed the fullness across the entire front neckline.  Much better.

1 Armscye acheFinally, the armscye was too high and really cut in.  I trimmed it down by 1cm and the dress was no more comfortable so I did it again, this time cutting another 2cm.  That’s some change!  If you ever have to do this alteration, don’t begrudge the time this takes as it’s quick and makes all the difference between the outfit getting worn or sitting in your wardrobe.

Oh yeah, and the zipper…  Because the waistband has a facing, there’s rather a lot of fabric going on in the seams at either side of the zip and I struggle to get it pulled up and down in the waistband region – a problem I also have with my winter Dahlia.  I thoroughly suggest you avoid this by handstitching the waistband facing to the zip fabric, which would also enable you to interface it for more structure.

1 MitraljezAfter Nicky recommended a trip to Shoreham-by-Sea to see the houseboats, I pushed the kids into the car for a mini adventure mid-half term and that’s where these photos were taken.  My son soon spotted his dream home!1 Ideal home exhibition

The day was warm and sunny with a gentle breeze that, alas, seemed to fill up my skirt from below and make it rise around me like a lifebelt!  Not that I want to put you off Dahlia, but be prepared to make some adjustments if this is going to be something better than a casual summer dress you can buy in a shop for a song.  I’m so making this again out of some slinky black fabric so I can swing my way through summer 😉

1 mumm

Shoreham Houseboat Grand Entrance

1 cat botherer1 summer dahlia plus cardie

Achtung, Dahlia!

1 Colette Dahlia by Sew2pro1 Colette Dahlia Pattern EnvelopeI bought this pattern almost immediately upon its release and tested it with a muslin.  However, just as I was about to finish the real thing, the machine and I got turfed out of my sewing space to make space for a Christmas tree and associated clutter.

The photos on the Colette Patterns website show a Version 1 of the Dahlia in a rich green modelled by a dark-haired beauty bearing a resemblance to Nigella Lawson in her Italianate edition.  One day, if the occasion demands it, I will make a jewel-coloured Dahlia just like that and try to claim some of that La Dolce Vita glamour but it’s winter now and I want warmth – to compensate for a neckline so wide, it’s guaranteed to make the baps freeze!1 La Dolce Vita

Materials

1 Inside out Lined DahliaThis mock-wool (ok, polyester) at £8 a metre comes from A Crafty Needle in West Wickham.  The lining is black acetate.  I think lining is essential and makes the dress look more substantial than the rather droopy one on the pattern envelope.  This adds hours of sewing time and renders it more of an intermediate than a beginner project, particularly as I lined the kick-back pleat (using my tutorial).  For the black binding, I used leather (phwoar!) by cutting 4cm strips from a soft black offcut in my Wested Leather bundle.  It has a matt texture that goes perfectly with the grey and black in the fabric.  I wanted to keep as much length as I could so instead of hemming, I used home-made cotton bias tape which, though not visible from the outside, complements the neck and sleeve binding.

Pattern Matching

1 Zip side seamColette has produced a free how-to-match-plaid tutorial which you may find of use but with a more complicated plaid where there is a horizontal and vertical repeat and not necessarily a symmetry along the lines, you must proceed with caution before cutting (or else...!!).  I found it impossible to facilitate a match in the bodice and yoke seam  on the zip side, but I don’t think it shows (what do you think?  See right).  The match is almost spot on in all the more visible seams, i.e. in the skirt seams and the sleeves to bodice.

Yoke Bias

My only major dislike of this dress comes from the decision to cut the yoke on the bias, as suggested by Colette, with the yoke lining (same pattern piece as the yoke) cut on the straight grain.  In theory, on the outside, this adds interest to the layout of the plaid whereas the straight inner layer makes the waist sturdy without the thickness that may have come from interfacing.  In practice, when putting the yoke and the yoke lining together, I found they were no longer the same size!  I had to sew on an extra piece to the yoke lining  or it would have literally fallen short.  If you examine the photo, you may spot that the waist is bit bleurgh – it could be tighter.  If you’re after the interesting diagonals, I recommend applying some light interfacing before the yoke is cut.

 

Raglan Sleeves1 Another Dahlia

These were 2cm too wide at the neckline, the excess jutting up from the shoulders, but as this was discovered before the neckline binding was applied, the fix was very simple.  Sew 3 rows of gathering stitches onto and within the seam allowance then pull to fit.  This results in a nicely cupped shoulder line with no puckers or gathers visible.  If you’re square of shoulder, gather evenly across the shoulder piece.  If your shoulders are more rounded, concentrate the gathers onto the sleeve front.

Sizing

Instinct and research told me to sew down a size so I made a 4 (this being the U.S. size).  It fits perfectly so if it helps you to know, I’m 36-28-38.  Add an inch to the last two if it’s Christmas!1 Po Faced Dahlia

 Yeah, I know, I should cheer up!