The last year has been a challenge for me, and getting any project started, let alone finished, was difficult. I spent countless hours spent studying patterns, fabrics, and blogs for ideas and inspiration, AKA procrastinating. I wanted to make a polka dot dress, or top, as a bit of homage to my mother, and hopefully that project would give my slow, slow sewing a needed kick in the shorts.
My friend Del, https://curlsnskirls.wordpress.com/author/celtib47/, had gifted me a marvelous, soft and drapey polka dot rayon challis from her stash to sew this dress, and I began the pattern hunt. It had to be simple and flowy, with sleeves and no waistband. New Look 6340 was my chosen pattern, using View D with V-neck, short sleeves, and in-seam pockets, but opting for the longer length from View A.
Having never made this pattern, a muslin was in order. I had just enough muslin fabric to complete the bodice, which was enough for fitting, as this is a swing dress and based on measurements, clearly large enough through the waist and hips. The bodice muslin almost fit, but was just a bit snug so I decided to go up one size (without making a revised muslin), even though the low neckline worried me. I cut it out and began to sew. This truly was an easy sew, folks, even for me.
For example, can I just pat myself on the back for this beautiful, perfectly sewn V-neck?
Nope, not so fast speed racer, the try-on after basting up sides and sleeves was, shall we say, revealing. Whoa. The deep V neckline? This was more like a plunging neckline! I don’t own a bra cut low enough to tuck out of sight. And let’s face it, the bosoms are not where they used to be, and the whole thing looked a bit saggy. No pun intended. Or maybe it was intended.
How in the world did this happen? How could there be so much difference from the muslin? I’m going to blame it on the fog of impending migraine. I couldn’t possibly have been thinking clearly when I ignored the only (and so, so easy) opportunity to raise the V-neck. Was this repairable? I could wear a cami, but that seemed so unimaginative. I thought of inserting a neckband, but there was not enough fabric left to make one. Could I use ready made bias tape? Of course, at this point I’d already trimmed and clipped all the neckline seams, making it even more difficult to take apart and reassemble.
So as soon as my brain was less addled, I remembered there is a Plan B, which was to baste it all together and try it on again. This confirmed that I could definitely bring up the neckline at the shoulder seams, add two neckline darts, and perhaps could insert a little bias tape piping along the sides of neckline. I carefully unpicked the neckline again, took a bit from each shoulder, added a dart on each side, stitched it all back together, omitted the piping, and it’s just fine. Go figure.
The dress was finally ready to be sewn together. The sleeves were easy, but the in-seam pockets were a first for me. Though the instructions were clear enough, I was sure a quick tutorial would be helpful, and I found this one right away: https://byhandlondon.com/blogs/sew-alongs/11628661-nerdy-sewing-tips-how-to-add-side-seam-pockets These pockets were constructed just as the pattern described, but the visual example was so helpful.The process was simple and uncomplicated, not the pivoting hither and yon that I had imagined. Perfection.
The pockets may have been perfect, but a new issue emerged.
So much fiddling with the neckline, plus bias areas from the wide skirt resulted in a very uneven hemline. The dress had to hang for a few days, partly to fall into place, and partly because I was miffed at it for causing yet another delay. After sufficient “hang time”, I tried it on again. The whole thing was still quite loose and the hem was a good 2″ longer in the back. Too long, but not long enough to be a definite high-low style. There must be something that could bring in the excess fabric at the waist as well as bringing up the back hem. My only solution was MORE DARN DARTS! Fish eye darts in the back would bring in the waist a bit, plus raise the hem. So I just eyeballed it, and pinned out 2 long darts in the back. Dare I show you? No! It’s so embarrassing. Never! Okay, yes. Pretty impressive, eh?
It looked as if there had been bike races up my back. Funny though, how both darts took off in the same (mis)direction! Not one to be outsmarted by a dart, I knew there must be a tutorial on making real fish eye darts. And of course there was. The one I selected was Craftsy https://www.craftsy.com/sewing/article/how-to-sew-a-dart/ which gave instructions to properly measure and place the darts. The new darts were spot on.
At last it was on to the final try-on. Curses. The darts had brought up the back, but the sides were still much longer than the front and back; certainly not the intended result. I hemmed and hawed (sorry, couldn’t resist) and wondered how to fix it. Should I try to measure from the ground up by myself? That seemed impossible. From the top to bottom? That didn’t make sense. Just start pinning and see how it went? HA! We know how well that went the first time. The hem would still be wonky, just a bit shorter. And then I had a brilliant idea – let’s line it up with the pattern pieces. That should show me where the original cutting line was and how the hem should look. Right? So, you must know what’s coming next don’t you. Another tutorial! Megan Nielsen had one that seemed just right: http://blog.megannielsen.com/2015/06/a-simple-trick-for-evening-out-the-hem-of-a-circle-skirt/ What was her advice? TO LINE IT UP WITH THE PATTERN PIECE!! I am a genius after all. Now the hemline was (nearly) straight, but the front was too short to turn under twice, so a cute little narrow hem was out of the picture. After another conversation with Del, I decided that lace hem facing and handstitching was the way to go. This must be the easiest way of all to make a hem!
I just cut off the excess hem fabric, added a package of lace, and voila! We have a hem that is even and pretty.
At last, my long-suffering dress is finished!
It’s taken so long to get this made that I think I should name her. Her name shall be Dotty and she is my new favorite thing.
What’s next in the queue? Vacation sewing! Considering how long it took to complete one simple dress, I won’t even pretend to be creating a me-made vacation wardrobe. But if the stars align, I hope to finish my blue and white birds top and maybe make a cocoon dress or a pair of pants or a kimono or a cardigan in the next few weeks before sailing away. Where would you begin?
Thanks for reading, and until next time, Stitch on Everyone!