Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Wearing the Wonky Dress

 Or, How She Put a Brave Face On and Wore the Dress that Would have Auffed Her from Any Sewing Reality Show.

Unfortunately, I basically have no pictures.  I didn't carry my phone with me...we were, after all, paying a photographer to take GOOD pictures...but none of the pics snapped by friends and family really showed the dress.  The professional shots will be available in something like a month, lol.  All I have at the moment is this (snort) not so flattering shot, but it does prove I wore it...


First, the fabric...I probably should have ditched the project when I realized that I was going to have to cut it cross grain due to the direction of the print.  But I was foolishly brave...or bravely foolish...and thought by extra careful one-layer cutting I could Make It Work.  Ha ha and ha.  I am pretty sure it slid off grain as I was extra carefully moving it around...but even the center front, which was the first piece I cut on a fold that had been meticulously measured to be even, hung skewed.  The whole freaking dress twisted substantially...I kinda think it may not have been a square weave to begin with.  I mean, rayon crepe is notoriously unstable in all its ways anyway, but the consistency of the twist has me thinking that at least some of it was in the weave...because all the pieces had to be cut going the same direction (again, due to the directional print).  The bottom of the zipper...which was entirely superfluous, I could pull the dress over my head without touching it...was a good 3" to the right of my spine.   And...while the colors in the print were dead perfect for the day, they were also very superficial. The least little abrasion resulted in white pull lines  I used some brand-spanking-new tailor's chalk to try to mark the hem after My Sweet Babboo had pin-marked the level, and just marking along the wrong side with the chalk caused pulls in the fabric.  Whoa.  I ended up using an ink pen...I was cutting the line off anyway...but sheesh!

Fortunately it is a very busy print, with white twiggy things all over it anyway.

Then...the fit... I did do a muslin, but just from the waist up. And, being a bouncy cotton, it didn't reflect the drag that would happen with the full weight of the rayon pulling down.  I should have done a petite adjustment in the armsceye and upper chest.  The upper bit was just simply too big.  I looked in the mirror and was immediately reminded of the farm-wife dresses that my great-great-aunt Lena wore when I was a preschooler.  Not exactly the vintage-y look I was going for.

So, between the twisty skewed fabric and the oversized upper chest, I kinda looked like a cross between Aunt Lena and Quasimodo.  Again, not the look I was going for.

A bit before the rehearsal on the day before, the Flute Player wanted to make a quick run to the mall to seek out a dress for the rehearsal/ going away outfit, so with about 45 minutes to shop, we headed out.  I just wanted to see if I could find SOMETHING that would work better than the Wonky Dress.  We had time to hit exactly one department store and I wandered through the offerings in Better Dresses with increasing dismay.  It was a SEA OF POLYESTER.  Scuba knits, even (so the scuba dress in the finals of The Great British Sewing Bee wasn't as much of a ...stretch...for formal wear as I thought).    I found exactly TWO dresses in my size that were not polyester...a seersucker gingham and a rayon/linen sheath dress with ruffles going over the shoulders.  The seersucker had, as it turned out, oddly puffed sleeves that looked ridiculous once I put it on...nope.  The sheath dress didn't fit too badly, but the neckline plunged WAY farther than I was comfortable with.  I did have a scarf at home that I thought I could possibly use to fill in the gap, though, and since I was out of time I bought that dress...just in case I decided I just couldn't brave the Wonky Dress. If I did wear the Wonky Dress...I could return it.

We were nearly  half an hour late to the rehearsal...because, well, we had to stop by the newlywed's apartment to try and find a foundation garment for the bride amongst the stuff that had already been moved...that turned out to still be at the house.

After the dinner, we sat up visiting with the kids who were in town for the wedding and I hemmed the Wonky Dress.  Put it on one last time before I went to bed to see if it was still Wonky...it was...and then laid in bed trying to figure out what to do.  The scarf was a near dead-match for the sheath dress...

Pros of the sheath dress:  it was the right blue, it matched the scarf, it was a much slimmer silhouette.

Pros of the Wonky Dress:  it was still a light, floaty rayon fabric that would be about the coolest thing I could wear.  It had pockets.  It matched the accessories I planned.

Cons of the Wonky Dress:  Aunt Lena-Quasimodo

Cons of the sheath dress:   It really wasn't very dressy; I would have to fiddle with the silk scarf to get it to look right and that silk scarf, wrapped around my neck, would be HOT.  And...NO POCKETS.

Ultimately, comfort won out.  I wanted pockets for my lip gloss and a couple of tissues, just in case.  Maybe no one would notice the wonkiness if I just kept moving.

Y'all, I got compliments on that Wonky Dress.  I laughed every time someone commented on it looking nice; I couldn't help myself.  I knew that dress was A. Hot. Mess.  Of course, I didn't point out the issues, and I thanked the very nice people for complimenting the dress, but I still laughed.  I guess I moved enough.

Who knows what it will look like when we get the Official Wedding Pictures...but I was about as cool and comfy as I could've been.  

And the Flute Player was so gorgeous that I had to keep reminding myself it really was my jeans-and-tshirt-and-pigtails wearing youngest offspring...

Photo creds to my BIL David...
It all went well; the Wonky Dress didn't hurt a thing.  The sheath dress will be going back to the department store on Friday.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Another day of finger - crossing...

 So, last night I undertook to trace off the skirt bits of the dress pattern and attach them to the bodice pieces that I'd traced for fitting purposes.

And I discovered some thing...interesting.  I've seen articles over and over about skirt gores...that, for the prettiest drape, the grainline should run down the center of the gore.  Well, on this dress the grainline ran more or less parallel to one edge on each of the pieces.  The fullness wasn't balanced.  I thought about trying to correct it by just re-drawing the grainline, but that threw the grainline on the bodice pieces off so I decided to just let it go.  I wondered if there was some purpose to the skirt gores being drafted off center of the grainline, but frankly couldn't think of one.

Then I measured my fabric and discovered that it's 6" narrower than I thought, and I lost a fuzz over a quarter yard in length when I pre-washed it.  Given that it has a pronounced directional print that meant I had to cut everything oriented the same on the cross grain, I did a little trial laying-out on my cutting table mat and discovered that I was around 20" short of having enough fabric.

Gnashing of teeth ensued; I considered making another dress altogether; a sheath dress out of some pretty dogwood-floral-print cotton sateen but, when I pulled the fabric out, realized the black background wouldn't work.  I pulled my Loes Hinse City Dress...a stick straight pattern that should fit on the fabric I have...and then had a thought.  What if I just reduced the amount of flare on the gores?  AND...that would allow me to balance the flare on the grainline.

So, after another round of pattern alterations I did another layout and, if the math works...I have 3" to spare.  And then it was time to take a break and do the hand work on the altered bridesmaid's dress, so I can tackle cutting out my dress after I've had a bit of a sit-down.

I will be cutting that  puppy out single layer, to move every piece as close as possible together, and crossing my fingers, because. there's no going back if it's wrong...although I may end up piecing a bit if I have to.

I think I can...I think I can... I think I can...

Such a mess...

Thursday, June 17, 2021

We have a dress...

 Finally met up with the bridesmaid today and got the cobbled up dress on her...it's not a beautiful fit, but the zipper zips  without threat of malfunctioning so we're calling it good, lol.  All I have to do now is whip down the lining to the waistband and we are DONE....with that one.  That will likely be my busy hands task whilst I watch my kid the video streamer (yeah, that's what the Actor is up to these days) on Saturday.

Meantime, I'm working on my dress.  I finally decided to go with Butterick 6660 , a Connie Crawford pattern, as it looked floaty and swishy and wouldn't need much in the way of alterations.  The listed finished pattern measurements (you have to look on the actual pattern for those) put me in a Large, but I didn't want to charge into uncharted waters with my good fabric. So I pulled the last dress muslin I made out of a box and recut it into a muslin of the waist-up portion of the B 6660.  I knew from my measurements that I needed to drop the bust point a generous inch, so I did that on the tracing.  I wasn't fond of the sleeve on the picture;  it looked more fitted and kinda casual, so I found a sleeve with some funky pleating to try from a different Butterick pattern and traced the armsceye from that pattern onto this one.  I also rounded off the point of the V neck, raising that nearly 2".  But, in terms of alterations, that was it.

Made up the muslin to the sleeves...with a trick; I sewed up the back seam, where the zipper will go, and added a seam allowance to the front fold line and cut the front as two pieces so I could pin that up...which is a heckin' lot easier if you don't have a sewing buddy to close up the back for you.  Anyway,  I made up the sleeves first and decided I didn't like them much but thought I'd go ahead and see what they looked like. However, sewing up the sideseams showed that the front armsceye was a good half to three-quarters inch higher than the back armsceye at the side seam.  Plus the shoulders were way wider than my narrow frame.  I stopped there, went upstairs and unpicked everything, decided to go with a different sleeve...one I thought would be a looser sleeve than the one that came on 6660, and had an extremely frustrating time trying to figure out why, when everything lined up, the moment I pivoted the front and back armsceye to remove that excess in the shoulder the front ended up hiked up above the back again.  I finally decided to kind of average the top of that seam and take the change out of the sleeve ease.  I cut the new sleeves out of the old sleeves and sewed everything back up.

The shoulder was still too wide.  And the sleeves were not as generous and ease-y as I thought they were.  I pulled out the original B6660 sleeves and found that, despite the snug look on the envelope, they were actually going to be a looser fit than the ones I had substituted.  So I put all the other-pattern-sleeves up, whacked back the shoulder seam at the armsceye with the help of a french curve, then checked to make sure I still had some ease in the sleeve cap and called it good.

Tomorrow I'll trace the rest of the pattern and maybe even get my dress cut out.

Whilst I do laundry.

I may have one other dress to hem...if it comes in time.  We have a backup if it doesn't, but of course we want the actual dress that was ordered.

Dunno if I will get any housecleaning done before the out of town folks arrive, but hopefully we will all be dressed for the wedding...

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Crossing my fingers...

 So.  Here is one of the panels I  added to the side of the dress.  I only had to increase the bodice; the knit lining is stretchy enough that once I released the dart in the back it worked.  I clipped some of the gathering stitches in the chiffony overskirt to release some of the gathers and that worked.

That side panel is pieced up from the 3 1/2" I cut off the bottom, lol.  I did my best to cut it into on-grain rectangles, from both the lining/underskirt and the chiffony overskirt remnants, and then I pieced the rectangles to get the length I needed.  I used the satin from JoAnn's as the lining for it.  My pillowcase is still intact, lol.

At first, I just gathered the overlayer on the side panels and thought I was good, but when I compared it to the dress I realized it needed to be pleated.  So, off it came...and I had to cut a couple more pieces from the hem remnant because it needed more fabric.  I think I ended up with about  8 rectangles of the chiffon.  You *can* see the seams in it...if you look really close...but from any distance it looks like part of the pleating.

I haven't tacked the lining back down to the waist yet; I'm going to do one more try-on to make sure it fits.  I did add a pinch more width than the pinned-up ribbon indicated, because that would have been really tight and I don't want to strain the zipper.  If it looks too baggy it will be easy to take up a bit in the seams.

I will say it again...I am so glad this is not what I do for a living, lol.

Now...on to my dress....

Saturday, June 05, 2021

The hem is done...

 On the Bridesmaid's dress.  I had to pull out the backup machines because 1) my serger still is not cutting well and it was straight up chewing the poly knit lining.  The backup machine sliced through it like butter.  And, I discovered the back up machine makes a nicer rolled hem...I think that's just 20 years of improvement since I bought the first serger.  It actually rolls the edge of the fabric under and puts the stitching on a fold, instead of putting the stitching right on the edge of the fabric.  2) My 2014-purchased main machine does NOT have an adjustable-pressure for the foot, which meant the hem would get stretched and distorted.    The 28 year old machine allowed me to soften up the pressure foot, so the drag was greatly reduced.  

I'm still a klutz with a rolled edge foot, though.  The end product is ...passable.  But I think I probably sewed all of it at least twice and I have a pile of pulled-out thread from unstitching it when the rolled edged got wonky.

Then I took the rolled hem out of the chiffon bit that I cut off and unstitched the seams so that's available now for the filler panels.  The lining knit was not so cooperative.  I can NOT get the rolled edge on that unpicked.  I don't have much; the lining is not very flared, and I hate to cut off the rolled edge but I don't have a week to unpick it one stitch at a time.  If I can squeak the inserts out of that bit of excess, maybe I won't have to cut up a pillowcase, lol.

I drew a little schematic of the pieces I'll need to used on the sides; I will use those measurements to cut actual pattern pieces.  But I still have to unpick about 50% of the (lined) bodice from the skirt and open the side seams  so I can attach the insert panels, once I make them.  There are darts in the lining and gathering on the overskirt.  I can release/ redistribute the gathering so the overskirt will be fine, but  I don't think I can release the darts enough; I may have to put a godet in the top sideseam of the skirt lining to get it to match the expanded bodice.  We'll see.

Tomorrow's a full day so it'll be Monday before I can hit it again.  

I will be super relieved once this is finished.  I can't imagine doing formalwear alterations on a regular basis...

Friday, June 04, 2021

In which she may actually have bitten off more than she can chew in the time allotted...

FINALLY...something in the 'Done' column.  This is the LONGEST I have gone without sewing a garment in years and years and years, I do believe, but it's done.  This is a replacement for a gray cardigan that I think I left hanging in the closet of the bed and breakfast where we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary last August.  I didn't realize it really and truly was missing for about a month;  I just assumed it was in the laundry or something but...nope.  Its funny; the sleeves feel looser and longer than I remember them being on the top that went missing, and it's definitely a wee bit lighter in color (I had a scrap to compare it to).  But I really, really missed having that gray top layer in the wardrobe, so I actually bumped it up in priority above stuff that actually was probably more pressing.  But, then, I didn't realize I was going to have to hand baste all the hems down to keep them from shifting under my no-pressure-adjustment-available presser foot.  So, yeah, it took a minute or two longer than I had anticipated.

The next most urgent item is this dress:

 It is a bridesmaids' dress from Brides R Us  (did I mention that the wedding is three weeks from today?).  I am not sure what happened and honestly, at this point it doesn't matter.  The dress the maid was to have ordered somehow didn't get ordered and then was unavailable.  Some shuffling of dresses occurred and now she has a dress but as the pinned -in red ribbon attests, this one doesn't zip.  I thought of doing a corset back, but as the neckline is high the lacing would end up diamond shaped, which I didn't think would look good.  Next thought was side panels, but with the dress lined and all fabric cheap poly knit, I wasn't sure I could do it.  Then I thought about detaching the shoulder straps, shortening the back to the bottom-of-the-armsceye level and using some of the 3" of fabric I have to take from the hem to make longer straps.  But even that wouldn't get the corset back to not be slightly wider below the top and I don't think a diamond shaped corset will look at all good.  So now we are back to side panels.

I bought some light blue satin (to use matte side out) from JA's today (oh, how I wish we had a legit fabric shop in town) that looks aqua next to the dress but it won't show much on the sides and I will take excess hem to make the drapey side panels to cover some so, we make do, right?  I took it upstairs to put with the laundry to give it a wash to get the wrinkles out of it and laid it down on my light blue satin pillowcase, purchased because satin pillowcases are supposed to be good for curly hair.  I looked at the colors and ran back downstairs with  the pillow and...the pillowcase is almost a dead on match.  

So I will be sacrificing one of my pillowcases for the cause.

But first I've got to hem it.  That gives me a little more time to puzzle over the addition to make sure I have a good plan.

Because I still want to make my dress in the three weeks left...