*Take that, SEO spammers. Wonder what search terms will bring readers to this page! Ha!
There are many cut projects in my sewing corner, but a picnic invitation sent me to making a summer dress first. A long time ago, when I was in university, I had this lovely navy with elephants on it shift dress. I threw it on when it was hot, which it was rather often in Brisbane. Eventually, I grew out of it, in both the figurative and the literal sense: it got a bit tight and suddenly seemed too short. I wore it around the house and to sleep in, but rarely out.
While meandering around my favourite op shop in Melbourne, I spotted the exact fabric of my shift dress. I was with a cousin, visiting from Sydney, and she remembered the dress, which was a bit of a surprise. We’d had fun reminiscing together about our childhood; she is almost a decade younger than me and I was the leader of our group of cousins in game-making. Shamefully, my clearest memories involving her as a child was how often our games involved leaving her out in some way; e.g. everyone’s secret goal was to run away from her. I was horrid. Thankfully, she remembered the games I made up with pleasure. I was quite the storyteller as a kid, weaving a world around our group of cousins. I hoped that her memories were more accurate than mine, that I made up games and worlds that also included her, and that the games that excluded her were fewer in proportion. I swear, I’ve grown up nice. Honest.
The op shop fabric happened to be a sarong. A nice large bit of fabric. I snaffled it up with the intention of making a grown up version of that university dress. All I needed was the right pattern.
The right pattern was Pattern 3A from Simple Modern Sewing. A simple, shapeless A-line shift, with no fastenings of any kind and merely some overlapping fabric at the shoulders, as a design detail and to assist getting into and out of the dress.
There are only two pieces to this pattern if one chooses (as Oanh did) to leave out the facings. It’s a summer dress! I’m not doing facings for a summer dress! Tchah! Cutting the pattern took no time at all. What took a whole lot longer was fiddling with the pattern pieces itself.
Looking at the traced pattern, I knew that the XS would be much too large. So I did some flat pattern fitting. I don’t know if this is kosher, and I’m yet to do any proper fittings and alterations and muslins. Basically, what I do involves measuring myself and measuring the pattern and doing some maths. The hip section of the pattern would have ended up being 4 inches too large either side of MY hips; and the waist would have been 2 inches too wide all around. (My figure is, in effect, a stick with shoulders. Maybe a bit of narrowing at the waist. But only a bit.) I was a bit too nervous to slice into the pattern too much (you know, measure three times and cut once and all that) but I also did not want to make a muslin. Partially because I am lazy and impatient, and partially because about 1.5 metres of elephant fabric cost me $4.
My astute Partner had said, “You buy all your fabric cheap, just cut into it!” It is good advice. I cannot save up all my lovely fabric. Although sometimes I do just open my wardrobe, where I stash my fabric, and just gaze at all with pleasure.
In the end, I cut the XS, without seam allowances, and basted the dress. It was unflatteringly much too large. I suspect this will happen of all patterns in the book, but that’s okay. I can work with that. I pinned it in and re-basted until I was happy with the fit. But here’s the awesome part: I then modified my pattern. Yes, everybody, sewing accolades should rain down upon my head. Triumphant wind instruments blasted inspiring notes all around as I modified the pattern in a haze of self congratulation.
I added some elastic at the waist too.
For the first time, I used bias binding as facing. For those not in the know, this is where a thin strip of fabric (bias binding) is used to finish things like necklines, armholes, waistbands and hems, where facing otherwise is. Facings are those extra bits of fabric used to stabilise those just abovementioned places on garments. I know. I didn’t know this either.
Anyway, here are a whole bunch of tutorials on how to do it. And in case you are wondering, yes, I read them all and needed to read them all in order to understand what to do. Conceptually, I really struggled with it. But then, I really struggled with the concept of using bias binding as a “design feature” until I did it the first time as well. (Also involved a lot of reading. What can I say? I like research.)
This dress has been so successful, I will be making two more as per Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow‘s #sewing dares. I’ve already started – post to come when they’re done. Hopefully, in time to be worn for summer!