First up was Granota’s blue dress which I managed to crank out nearly all in one day. I constructed the entire thing and then let it hang overnight so the bias could stretch. Hemmed it and put in the zipper the next morning! The whole thing went together like a dream. Seriously, it was like an out of body experience where my spirit just watched my body sew that thing up without so much as one grab for the seam ripper. It was beautiful. It would stand to reason that, having made the pattern once, the second one would go together equally well.
Well, the second time was also like an out of body experience, only this time my spirit was helplessly shouting, “No! No! What are you doing?! Oh heck, you completely forgot a step! Good gravy, woman, haven’t you ever heard of a seam allowance? Ah man, not the seam ripper again!” while my body fumbled and muddled through the entire construction process. Instead of the streamlined one+ day to make the dress, it took me four days (three for sewing and one where I completely ignored it in hopes that my brain would come home to roost before I touched the dress again). It really was weird. The whole time I was screwing things up, I knew I was screwing things up. And yet, I was powerless to stop it. I may have a little more compassion when I’m watching Project Runway and the “good” designers turn out a total hack job. My explanation is that their body, like mine, was temporarily host to some kind of sewing-impaired Quasimodo. What else could it be?
These dresses gave me the opportunity to try some things out for the first time.
1) Sewing with brocade. I had never sewn with any kind of slippery fabric before, but this pattern was just calling out to be made in a brocade. (At some point I’ll eventually have to get up and go find the pattern to see what it is since the online catalogs are not listing it. But right now I’m comfy in my chair and don’t want to move.) This brocade is a rayon-poly blend, so it’s not the real deal silk stuff, which is completely ok with me. Knowing my girls and Easter Dresses Past, they are going to wear these things into the ground. No sense in shelling out the big bucks. I read up on important things to know about sewing with brocade and then decided I had better stop wimping out and just get to it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not nearly as finicky to work with as I had anticipated. I didn’t notice any extra slipping as I sewed. I was very careful about where I pinned so as not to leave marks. And, all my trials and tribulations with the pink dress proved that you can remove seams without damaging the fabric. You just have to be careful. Of course, it’s better if you were careful in the first place. Despite the mess-ups, which were no fault of the fabric, I really loved working with it. It’s so slinky and shiny and the colors are beautiful. I want to make everything out of brocade now.
2) Using piping. I had never made a pattern that required the use of piping until this one, and even then, it was listed as “optional.” I opted in because I think it really completes the look. It was actually not hard to use at all. Just use a zipper foot when applying it. I loved the outcome so much that now I want to put piping on everything, too. It was actually cheaper than I thought it would be (under $2), so there may very well be more piping in my future.
3) Mandarin collar. I wasn’t scared of doing this, but I was interested to see how it would come together. I really liked the process. Pretty simple and straightforward. The collar on the pink dress does not stand up in front as it should; I think I sewed it in too far. Even the blue one is a little turned out. But we’ll see how they look once there’s a neck inside them. It was fun to do, and adds another technique to my arsenal, but I don’t feel the need to put a Mandarin collar on everything.
Earlier, I mentioned hanging the blue dress overnight before I hemmed it. When a skirt is cut on the bias like this one is, letting it hang is a good practice, even if the pattern doesn’t outright tell you to do so. Fabric stretches most on the bias. If you hem it and then hang it, you’ll very likely end up with weird puckers as the fabric tried to stretch, but was prevented by the stitching. Better to just let it get that out of its system before you hem. And if you ever doubted the necessity of it, check out this picture where you can see how far past the pattern paper the skirt stretched.
Convinced now? I promise, you’ll be happier in the long run if you curb your impatience to finish.
One change I made to this pattern was eliminating the facings. I hate facings. They never lie down right once they’re done, making weird lines and lumps on the outside of the garment. So I lined the bodice with lightweight cotton instead (besides, it’s nice to have breathable fabric against your skin). To make the lining for the front bodice, I traced the outline of the two bodice pieces; I just used the back pattern piece as-is to make the back lining. I think the interior finish turns out much nicer with the lining. It encases the zipper edge and covers the waist seamline as well. Everything is nice and neat!
So there you have it, folks — completed Easter dresses. Not your typical Easter dress what with the Asian flair and all, but I thought it was a nice change of pace; we’ve been down the Puff Sleeve-Gathered Skirt road before. Next up, a little linen suit for my tiny man! I’m really hoping for another one of those sewing zen days like I had with the blue dress. Stay tuned!