Sunday, 12 December 2010

Simplicity 2591: a dressmaking learning curve

Hello, I hope you are having a lovely Sunday. I'm hoping to crack open some mulled wine and have a mince pie in a bit. Have to wait until after my pilates class though, I rather think a tummy full of wine and pie would be frowned upon by the tiny Japanese lady that takes the class (not to mention making me feel even more like a heifer than I usually do in her company). I have finally finished this dress which I started in the summer, inspired by Karen at Did You Make That. Six months later, here it is!

Excuse the photo, Matt is in bed with suspected flu, so I've had to learn how to use the timer on my camera and this was the best of a bad bunch. So, here are the points I will take away from this experience:

Well, the first thing I learned from making this dress is DON'T leave it lying untouched for 5 months, after which time you realise you've lost the second page of pattern instructions. This wasn't going to deter me though! Thankfully I'd made the pockets already as there was no way I would have been able to figure those out on my own. However I had to make up the rest of the pattern myself. The only thing I think really suffered from this was the armholes - I sewed in the interfacing, however I forgot to fold in the raw edges before topstitching, so they look pretty awful on the inside. There may also be some shaping details I missed out such as cuts around the curved seam. Oh well - no one will ever see the inside apart from me.

As in, I should learn how to sew them properly. I chickened out of attempting to use the zipper foot on this occasion because of the expensive fabric and lack of instructions. Instead I machine sewed the zip into place then topstitched it by hand. It looks fine but I need to gain more confidence in this area.

If you are a sewing novice, it's probably advisable not to shell out on an expensive Liberty print fabric for one of your first projects, no matter how pretty it is. That is all.

Karen had said that the pattern was on the roomy side and that she'd gone down two sizes with it. I erred on the side of caution and cut it just one size smaller. Nevertheless the finished product was roomy. I fitted the bodice as I went along, so it fits reasonably well. It's perhaps a little blocky around the armholes (although this might have more to do with my putting together than the pattern - see above). The pattern includes a little gathering at the back waistband, however once the dress was sewn up I felt there was far too much material in the region of the derrière, making for an extremely unflattering fit. I ended up unpicking the back seam, zip and part of the waistline and removing most of the gathering, bringing the back skirt seam in by about 2 inches at the waist and probably nearer 4 towards the hem. Thank goodness for seam rippers!

And the good...
I realise I've dominated this post with all the bad things about this project - but there are good things too. I love, love LOVE the fabric (a little 'busy' for some tastes but it's very me). Here's a close up as you can't see it that well in the above photo:

I am also a big fan of the pockets, I actually hadn't realised the pattern involved pockets - the picture doesn't show them at all, but I love them.

In the end, the dress is wearable, just. Result! I'm a bit scared about wearing it out though - does anyone else have visions of their self-stitched clothes splitting at an inopportune moment? Or people looking at the ever so slightly wonky seams and thinking you're a weirdo for making your own rubbish clothes?

I learnt a lot making up this pattern and am looking forward to using my newfound skills on the Colette Rooibos pattern which is next on my stitching list. I promise I won't lose half the pattern and bodge it together myself this time!


  1. It's gorgeous! Looks like you've done the gathering at the waist really well and the pockets add an oh-so-practical touch to a very pretty dress. Good work!

  2. Oh wow, that is a GORGEOUS make. I love it. That fabric is truly lovely. Don't worry, zips still put the fear of god into me. They're pesky little fellows. Yes, for a long time I felt really awkward going out in my handmades. Then you just forget to feel self-conscious. Nothing's ever fallen apart on me (oh wait, there was that issue with the skirt hem) but seams have never burst. And people usually only comment to give compliments. This is a truly great make. So cute!

  3. It's lovely, very well done!
    I was worried about my homemades falling apart but nothing has yet! And actually, the more I make, the more I notice the cheap clothes I own have all the same mistakes in them - wonky hems, puckered seams, etc. If you look at Primark etc. clothes they're really not all that well made and usually they hold together ok!
    My main worry now is putting them through the washing machine...I've been handwashing everything for some time now!

  4. Hideehi - don't think I've commented on your blog before but I just had to say that your dress is gorgeous! The fabric is lovely, I bet it feels really silky soft. Well done for finishing the dress - I'm glad I'm not the only one who takes half a year to finish a project!!!

  5. Looks great. I'm a huge fan of dresses with pockets!

  6. Phwoar, your fabric is lovely and the dress looks fantastic! You can't even tell you had to wing half of it haha. You should definitely give sewing zippers properly on the machine a crack though. It's pretty intimidating at first, but after a little practice on some calico or something it's easy peasy :) The zipper foot is the least scary part!

  7. Aw thanks everyone! I've been laid up with flu for the last few days so have only just seen these comments and they've cheered me up lots. I'm definitely going to practice the zipper foot on some old fabric, I need to learn. Lauren, I hadn't even thought about washing it, but yep, now I think about it I'm scared of that too!


  8. Carly this dress is A-MAZING! I'm super inspired by your creativity and persistence - I've got a sewing project lined up for next week so this was just the boost I needed! Thanks!
    PS with regard to wearing your own clothes out, I think any fear of hems splitting etc is mitigated by the smug satisfaction of responding to compliments on what you're wearing with "Oh this old thing? I just knocked it up myself"... :)

  9. This is frikkin' gorgeous! It looks like it fits amazingly, you've done a great job. Oh, and NO-ONE will EVER be able to tell you made this yourself, and if they did, would that be such a bad thing? I think they would be super jealous of such a pretty dress and very impressed that you make your own stuff. How many people have you met that when you tell them you sewed something, they look all misty eyed and murmer 'I wish I could sew....' into the middle distance? Loads probably, or if not let, then soon you will have wracked up loads! xxx

  10. I agree with Zoe - I don't think anyone would be able to tell this was handmade. But when you've made it yourself you're hypersensitive to the things that you feel went wrong, so I can totally understand that. However, I think this looks fabulous and you should be proud to wear it! I made one in the summer, and I also love the pockets :)

  11. wow its lovely!!!! well done! :o)