This royal blue gaberdine and matching lining were the founding members of my ‘stash’ and were purchased because royal blue is my favourite colour ever in the world. I think the fabric survived my year long stash diet because I couldn’t decide what to use it for. The gabardine is quite heavy and stiff. At one point I did consider sailor trousers but decided that the only bright colour you can/should make wide legged trousers in is red.
It seems odd that after hoarding the fabric for nearly three years, I had no hesitations about sewing up a new pattern (Simplicity 1609) without a toile first. Consequently, I have a lot to say about this make which can be broadly divided into ‘finish’ and ‘fit':
For a long time I’ve admired Marrie’s beautifully finished dresss. I particularly like how she has fashion fabric facings and lining at the same time – here’s a fine example.
I think, but I don’t know for sure (because I was too miserly to pay to download the ebook that Marrie kindly linked me to when I asked how to do such a neat finish) that I have figured out how to do it. But I didn’t stop there… no, I wanted it all! A fully machined, lined dress with the lining attached to the zip and arms holes without any hand sewing until I got to the hem. At which point I used a neat trick to get evenly spaced stitches and had that as my first instagram (gotta try to catch up with the times!).
Wanting it all turned a seemingly easy pattern into somewhat of a logistical sewing challenge. Sewing a few seams here and there then pausing to consider my next move broke a complex puzzle down into easier to solve pieces. Slowly I built an order of construction that didn’t at any stage end up in an unsolvable pickle that can only be undone with an unpicker! So this dress has been a couple of months in the making while I ruminated over what part to attach to where and in what order.
This isn’t an original idea, more an amalgamation of many online tutorials and believing that that puzzle was indeed solvable. The tricky bit was taking just the right amount of information from each tutorial and blending them together in a sensible order. Which went something like this (with links to useful resources):
- Cut facings out of fashion fabric turn raw edge under and top stitch to right side of lining (I also basted to the other parts of the facings to the lining inside the seam allowances for good measure).
- Sew all darts and shoulder seams on the dress fabric and lining.
- Attach zip to dress.
- Attach lining to zip and to dress at the neckline.
- Burrito roll and pull through to sew lining to dress at arm holes.
- Sew the side seams of the dress and lining as two very long seams (Sixth and seventh steps only from this tutorial).
Critically, I worked out early on that I shouldn’t get sucked into the method of pulling the dress through the shoulder seams. While it’s a nice enough technique, the zip would have to be inserted last which as far as I can fathom means hand sewing the lining to the zip.
My final flourish was to go off piste for the bow too. I just didn’t like the dangilies and since I’d rejected all the other pattern instructions I was confident in this rebellion too.
Typically my bust is a size larger than my waist and my hips two sizes larger than my waist. With the French darts and looser fit at the hips I figured a size 12 all over would be a good enough starting point from the finished garment measurements.
As soon as I could try it on, I did. I could see that the darts weren’t pointing towards the apex of my bust. I marked the place the darts should be pointing towards with chalk to help me make the necessary alteration (explaining where and why darts should point there made for an interesting talking point at a dinner party with non-sewers on the dress’ first outing!). Understandably I had a lot of excess fabric below my bust because of the errant darts. First I unpicked the side seams a little, then unpicked the bust darts completely. I kept the dart leg position at the side seam the same but angled them towards my bust point ending about 2 cm from the chalk dot.
I like to try on garments between each fit tweak so that I can see what’s going on. Sometimes one change influences subsequent fitting steps more than you imagine it would. When I tried the dress on again, the excess fabric was still a problem but the next course of action was obvious; extending the French darts upwards to end somewhere on the magic circle of 2-3cm radius of the bust point.
For a final fit I took in the side seam about 1.5cm from the under arm, down past the bust line then started to blend back to the original seam allowance finishing about 5 cm above the waistline. Then pressed as best I could to remove the former dart creases.
Another change was to chop a mighty 3 inches from the bottom and then turn up a whopping 1 3/4 inch hem. I felt safe to just chop off 3 1/2 inches from the pattern pieces in readiness for my next make – that’s a lot of fabric to be saved.
In addition to transferring the new bust dart, French dart and grading the side seams at bust level to what equates to a size 8, I also got rid of the centre front seam. Sure the original pattern piece has some really subtle shaping (plus 1/8 inch at the bust, minus 1/8 inch at the waist – I can afford to ditch both from a fit point of view) but the lure of fabric with fancy prints is so strong, I don’t want to be pattern matching a centre front seam.
I still need to fix some gaping at the back neckline. It doesn’t bother me too much for this make – probably with the neckline well trimmed and clipped to the seam, I’d make more of a mess unpicking to get access to attempt this alteration retrospectively. I haven’t decided how to make this alteration yet. Possibilities I am considering are:
- Adding an extra neck/shoulder dart (the original has one and I quite like this detail).
- The ‘fold and smoosh’ method on the paper pattern piece – fold a dart shape the same as the pinched gape then hand flatten the tissue paper to return it’s 2D qualities.
- Try to absorb the gape at the centre back by trimming off some excess where the zip is inserted.
- Try to absorb some gape into the shoulder seam by angling the back pattern piece shoulder.
Or perhaps there’s another option I haven’t thought of yet – leave me a comment if you have an idea or can recommend/discourage me from one of the options listed above.
I think this dress fills gaps in both my wardrobe and sewing pattern stash. I really like the shape on me and can see plenty of scope in the neckline options and using different fabrics. Plus, after so much work on the fit and on working out a fully lined construction process, this pattern is well on the way to becoming a TnT.