Inside Job

1 the dress

Here’s the dress, inside out and almost finished.  It’s hanging for a day or so before getting hemmed.  One of the front seams is machine-basted to the mid-thigh as I wanted the option of having a split.  I asked my daughter if I should be daring and go for it, or keep it sewn up.  Somewhat to my surprise she said the former!

1 silk butterfliesBut the other option – to attach a cascade of six or seven silk origami butterflies from one side of the upper bust down to the split on the other side, I decided against.  I think the dress itself looks like a butterfly.

I didn’t know how to line it while maintaining the characteristics of the fabric.  A fully self-lined option would have been very expensive as I’d have needed about 10m of fabric.  Other options would have compromised the construction of the split – which will inevitably fall open when I sit and flap about in the breeze exposing seams and under or partial lining.  So I self-lined to just below the zip (which is on the side) and made 6 metres of bias binding – litres of water going into the steam-pressing during this production! – with which I bound the lower sections of the princess seams, ‘Hong Kong finish’ style.  1 bbThe lucky by-product of this is that all that fabric that went into making the binding has made the dress heavier and given it more of a drape: something I was genuinely relieved about as the fabric, while being a perfect choice of colour, didn’t have the gravitas of the thicker silk crepes.

1 hong kong seam finish

I’m tempting fate by leaving it to almost the last minute to finish it.  Maybe I need that slightly panicky rush of adrenaline I felt when I first cut into the fabric some 10 days ago.  But you, reader, are not to be so silly!  That important wedding you’re sewing for in August?  Don’t wait till the end of July.  Give any potential iron brandings time to heal, and those scratches down the arms from fitting the dress while it’s pinned! 🙂

Also the machine could stop working…   Or… or…  I could give the whole thing a final painstaking press then whip it off the ironing board in a celebratory manner only to discover I’d been standing on the end of it…  and it’s ripped. I’ve been sewing barefoot just to prevent this; I was surprised by how many times I’d sit down at the machine and find the ends of the dress under my feet or the chair wheels.

Miss Julie’s Jubilee

The brief: to design an elegant and delicate summer dress for my friend Julie.

The design: a sleeveless bodice with Princess Seams going from the waist to the armscye. 5cm-wide shoulder straps.  Waist seam.  Back zip.  The skirt has inverted pleats in place of darts. The inverted pleats meet the princess seams.  The design is  based on the Peggy Georgia dress that I made for my part in the Mad Men Dress Challenge, only with less pleats and with a natural rather than lowered waist.

The fabric: 2 metres of Liberty Tana Lawn “Pauly Parrot”.  The birds are lined up in columns and rows, with every third little guy on the right-hand side sporting a Mohican-like crest.  I think of him as Pauly!

The colours are champagne, pink, red and violet.  In these Julie noticed a subtle parallel to the Union Jack colours which are around a lot at the moment, hence the title “Miss Julie’s Jubilee”.  The fabric is light and therefore underlined throughout with a white cotton lawn which makes the design of the parrots stand out more crisply.  The bodice is also lined in white lawn: the three layers which make up the bodice mean that this is quite a warm dress, perfect for Summer 2012.  Both fabrics came from Classic Textiles, 44 Goldhawk Road.

The fabric sewed beautifully and smelt delicious when pressed!  Having said that, it took some planning at the cutting stage as the pattern of the parrots had to line up vertically and horizontally.

Sewing a Sleeveless Dress with a Bodice Lining

Here’s the order in which I put the dress together which might help you if you’re drafting a similar design.

Step 1

Construct the bodice (please note that I’m using the Pauly fabric and the white underlining as one).  First sew the princess seams on front and back, then side seams.  Finish side seams. Do not sew the shoulder straps – this will come much later!

Step 2

Sew the skirt: tack pleats in place then sew the side seams.

Edge finish the skirt side seams.  There’re many ways of doing this.  You can copy the method below if, like me, you don’t have an overlocker but want to keep things as tidy as possible without the extra fabric of Hong Kong binding.

Edge finishing

Press garment and one seam allowance to one side.  Aligning the presser foot edge with the seam, sew a straight stitch down the seam allowance.  Repeat on the other side.

The stitches will guide you as you press under.

  Press under along the stitch lines (left seam allowance).

Zigzag the folded edge (right seam allowance).

Step 3

Stitch bodice to skirt.  I start by sewing from the centre front to the side, then flipping over and doing the same from the centre front to the other side: I think this stops the top fabric from walking too far (I don’t have a walking foot, yet!).  Fit the zip.  Pin the straps and carry out a fitting.

Step 4

Sew lining the same as the bodice: princess seams followed by the side seams.  Edge finish the bottom of the lining.

Pin lining to bodice, matching all seams.  Fold lining back 0.5cm before the zip and pin (as above).

Fold zip back over lining and pin.

Stitch the front neck, armhole and back neck seams.  Carefully mark the stitch lines in the straps to ensure that you stitch 1.5cm from the top of the strap and 1.5cm from the side of the strap: being as pedantic as possible at this point will make things easier when you sew the straps in the next stage. Trim seam allowances and turn to the right side.

Step 5

The straps, at last:

On the outside, fold and pin back the fashion fabric.  Stitch the lining along seam line, making sure you don’t catch the fashion fabric.

  Tuck the lining seam allowances inside.

Slipstitch the folded edges.  A slipstitch (not to be confused with a slipknot, banish the thought!) is meant to be an invisible join of two folded edges.  Pick up a single thread under one folded edge, pass needle 0.5cm inside and in between the folded edges and repeat on the opposite side.

Step 6

Hand sew the lining to the zip.   Here’s what the garment looks like on the inside.  As a final step, secure the lining to the waist seam by handstitching at the side seams and on the inner pleat folds.