Do Knit Fabrics Have a Bias?

Tiramisu- a dress cut (mostly) on the bias

When this question comes up in classes, I used to reply “The short answer is, no.  Knit fabrics behave differently to wovens, only wovens have a true bias.”  That’s not inaccurate, as far as it goes. The long answer is a little more nuanced, and it’s taken me the better part of a year to satisfy myself about whether knit fabrics have a “bias” grain or not.  I think they do, even though the nature of the fabric is different than a regular woven.

I run a few regular searches on google, to find any new blog or forum posts on the topic.  I never found much information online or off about whether knits have a bias grain.  Opinion varies widely on the topic of knit bias, so I knew I would need to experiment on my own to find an answer that satisfied me.
Earlier this year, I made the Bow Tie Tee, a hack of the Blank Canvas Tee and also available as a pdf pattern.  The jersey I chose to use is a relatively beefy cotton t-shirting with moderate stretch.  It’s pretty stable, a good place to start playing with knit grainlines.  When I worked with the pattern, I didn’t approach it as a “woven” or a “knit” pattern, but as a kind of hybrid.  For most woven patterns, you want at least an inch or two of wearing ease to allow you to move and laugh and jump around.  Most knit patterns tend to have “negative” ease, which means the fabric is cut smaller than the body’s measurements so the fabric will stretch and cling to the body.  For the Bow Tie Tee, I worked with 0 ease- neither extra fabric like a woven, nor “negative” ease like a knit.

I did this because I wanted to play with stripes.  Why else?  The front yoke is cut with horizontal stripes, and the stretch runs the direction it should in a typical knit pattern- that is, the stretch lies around the body.  For the lower front piece, I turned the fabric on its side.  I wasn’t sure this would work, because it’s not usually the way knit fabric is used.  Turns out, it works just fine- probably because I only did this on one section of the garment, not the entire shirt.  This is one of my favorite tops, I’ve been wearing it for months now and I find no problem with the cut or the grain.  It doesn’t bind or ride up, in fact when I put on this shirt I cease to remember I’m wearing clothes.  That’s always my aim.

The back uses another kind of grain altogether- a “bias” grain.  I did this because I have an undying love of back interest and chevron stripes.  Again, I had no idea if this would work because it’s not usually done, but it turned out well.  I noticed that the back seems to have a different kind of “give” and “hug” than a regular knit top.  When I wear the shirt backwards for a plain v-neck front (this works well!), I notice the fabric molds and skims over my bust and waist in a pleasing way.

front, “Lamington,” a work in progress

I tried a similar back bias treatment when working up samples for another upcoming pattern.  (I make and wear samples extensively before working them into a full multi-sized pattern.) This time, the front is quite plain with the stretch running around the body as it would on a normal knit pattern.

I left this one unhemmed to see the effect of the CB downward “growth” more clearly.  You can see that the back has indeed grown longer than the front, and as it stretches downward it gently pulls the side seam to the back.  This is quite clear when I lay the garment out flat, but when I put it on my body fills the shirt and the seams lie where they should.  The back “bias” pieces behave almost exactly the way I would expect a woven bias cut to behave, but with the knit fabric the bias effect is somewhat more pronounced.  Interesting!

The stripes show you clearly that the side seam is cut on the “straight” of grain, and the CF is “bias.”

I took it to the next level with my samples of the Tiramisu dress.  The skirt is cut with the straight of grain at the side and a “bias” seam at the center front and back.  When I first started playing with this concept, I had no idea if it would work in a knit.  I know that “straight” sides and “bias” CF and CB seams works to make a very flattering silhouette in a woven, and I was keen to try on a knit.

thats some good rippling…  The jersey is one of those “modern” jerseys that stays wrinkled… Not sure I love the effect… But I do love this dress.

I’m happy to say it does work quite well on knit fabrics.  I’ve tested it on rather light weight (striped version), medium weight (several muslins), and even a double-layered jersey (red version) to see how the fabric behaves when treated in this manner.  I couldn’t be more pleased with the gentle rippling effect, though I have discovered that a knit bias dress should be hung unhemmed overnight so it can “settle” the same as a woven.

Tiramisu front bodice piece

The bodice for Tiramisu was also interesting.  I liked the stripe placement on a similar woven dress (1950’s pattern I made for Mother’s Day) and hoped it would work for a knit.  It does.  However, I discovered that due to the way the stretch lies on the body (nearly vertical) and the weight of the skirt, the top bodice section tends to stretch.

Made of a heavy weight double layered jersey, works quite well.

Further, I discovered that it’s more or less a standard amount of stretching regardless of the weight of the fabric used.  Lighter fabrics usually stretch more than heavy ones, but the lighter dresses don’t weigh as much as the heavier ones, so it seems to come out even.  In this case, we’re working with the nature of the fabric (stretch), the weight of the fabric, and gravity.

This means that for the underbust seam to lie under the bust, the pattern itself must be quite a bit shorter that the shoulder-to-underbust raw measurement.  If I hold the upper bodice pattern piece up to my own body, it doesn’t seem like it will work.  However, comprehensive testing and understanding how the fabric will behave has shown me how to produce a consistent result.

I also use a carefully-calibrated piece of neck binding to help “snug up” the neck opening to prevent tumbling out of the dress.  I hate having to think about my clothes after I put them on, especially having to worry about that particular issue.  The short binding works well for keeping the neckline in shape without using another kind of stabilizer.  The binding itself is cut on the cross-grain (without much stretch) and about 3/4″ shorter than my neckline opening.  I eased it in, and the result is solid and light.

I have satisfied myself that knit does have a “bias.”  While the nature and structure of a knit fabric is quite different than a woven, I can not deny that knit fabrics behave differently on the body (and with a pattern) when cut on the bias than when cut “straight.”  Furthermore, I think that when a knit is cut on the “bias,” it behaves in much the same way as a woven bias, but more so.

What do you think? Have you ever experimented with knit bias?  Do you know of a great blog post, article, or book on the subject?  I haven’t really found much that was helpful, just a handful of forum postings and a few pages that rambled about knit fabrics.  I’d be quite happy to hear any and all thoughts on this!

(Also… I have some fun sewing for Stephen coming up… I made him some long-sleeved linen work shirts years ago, he gets compliments from the other ecologists whenever he wears them and has requested a few more!  Cool.  I’m planning to use Negroni, I’ve been dying to make it up!  And Lila could use a few new pieces, I’m designing some girlie versions of my ladies’ stuff to try on her.  Should be fun!)

Tux Dress Details- Facings, Mitering Lace and Dickeying Around

Lila likes to “sew” with me, assembling her tools and requesting fabric scraps.  She’s quite orderly for a four-year-old.  The other day, she listed off her tools in a chirpy voice before diving into her “work”: “Pins, yes, fabric, yes, clapper, yes, OH!”  She jumped down and ran into her room.  She ran back, perched on her chair and set her last piece of equipment on the table-

“Camera, yes!”

Then she used her pink kid’s camera to take photos of everything she did with the pins, fabric and clapper.  (She pretends the clapper is an actual iron.)  I wonder if she thinks everyone sews with a camera…

5226 by Celia Kritharioti Tuxedo front dress

That’s what I did today!  I’m enjoying The Tux Dress construction and thought I’d share some of the detail work- little things that are easily overlooked and not often shared.

Making Facings:

I changed the front neckline to a deep, steep V-neck.  I measured down from the CF neck to the same depth I used in the muslin.  I marked it with a dot, and drew the new neckline and seam allowance.

Then I traced off a front “facing” piece following the new neckline.

This is the original front facing piece, layered on top of the “side front” piece.  The facing doesn’t have a seam in the same place the outer garment has a seam, it would be too bulky for no reason.  I marked the “side front” seamlines on the facing piece.

Then I merged the two pieces by aligning them along the seamline.

I traced the new front facing piece and smoothed off the interior corner where the two pieces join for a nice smooth line.

Mitering Lace:

Once I cut and assembled the facings, I overlocked/serged the outer edges to prevent fraying.  That’s the minimum I do to a facing, sometimes I use bias-binding on the outer edges, and sometimes I trim the edges.  The overlocking looked too ugly for a dress like this, even though it’s on the inside.  With a nod to the French Maid outfit I’m trying to avoid making, I trimmed the edges with lace.

I took a few shots to show how to miter a trim or lace around the corner.  This works best with lightweight trims.  When you are very close to the corner, place a pin.  See the pin above the flower pin?  Then carefully fold the trim diagonally so the trim is precisely opposite of the edge you want to trim.  The photo says more than words can.

Hold down the folded corner with your finger, and then without rotating or twisting, lay the trim in the direction you want it to go.

Pin that folded corner carefully and move on.

I stitched the lace in place with two rows of straight stitching along each edge of the lace.

Dickeying Around:

This dickey is a completely superfluous piece of flim-flammery that serves no structural purpose for this dress except to please our whims for a Tux Dress.  I’m treating it as an embellishment, which is semi-detachable.  I’ll hand-sew it on so I can remove it at will.

I traced the upper section of the CF dress piece.  I’d like to say I was scientific and used golden ratios to figure out the length, but I just traced the front section to the “lengthen/shorten” line.  I’m making the longer dickey from yesterday’s muslin post. 

To create the wing collar, I traced a line on the CF piece to show where I wanted the wing collar- more or less.

I folded the tracing medium along the CF line, and then traced the shape of the little collar.  It’s so silly, I love it.

I added a CF seamline and drew a few lines where I want tucks.  It doesn’t matter where I draw them, as long as they’re straight and I think evenly spaced works well for this dickey.  I would also draw lines like this on any pattern piece if I wanted to add lace insertion, tucks, or any other “heirloom” type stitching.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted 1/2″ (1.2mm) tucks or smaller- so I made a few 1/2″ tucks on a piece of drafting medium.  Sometimes I simply tuck the fabric before cutting, that works too.  I was feeling chicken, so I tested it before cutting my fabric.

I cut another dickey shape from the pleated polytrace.  I could see the width worked for my tucks.

When I released the tucks, I had a perfectly calibrated pattern piece.  Isn’t it weird looking?

I used it to cut the dickey piece.  Again, you can also just pre-pleat the fabric and skip making a funny pattern piece, or make a funny pattern piece.  But it works for just about anywhere you’d like to add pleats.

I faced the dickey with some interfaced white cotton cut from the “no pleats” dickey pattern piece.

Just a little preview!  I added a little band of white at the neck for the suggestion of a collar, and I’ll take a little time trimming and turning the edges again, some places need help.

My camera is very irritating at the moment.  I don’t want to talk about it, but I do want to apologize because I can see the photos aren’t gorgeously crisp and it drives me insane.  Soon, soon, soon I will be asking you all for camera referrals.

Do you consider your camera a vital sewing tool?

If you haven’t already, do check out the Frock Out Giveaway– you could win a 50’s dress and pretty fabric rose pin, just tell me about your favorite dress.  And Brisbane crafters- aren’t you excited?  Frock Out is so soon- this Saturday!  If you haven’t yet registered but you’re planning to attend, do let me know so I bring enough silk!

The Tux Dress: Muslin

All this week, I’m focusing on The Tux Dress, from concept through finishing.  I remember when a dress of any sort felt like a big undertaking- eventually I learned to break the big job into smaller pieces.

Before I cut into the crisp black and white cotton sateen, I made a muslin.  I used a simliar weight fabric, though it’s slightly more drapey.  It’s from a friend’s destash and is 100% napped suede cotton.  It also has some sun damage, and the color brown and I don’t speak to each other very often.  And as usual for my construction shots, they’re quick computer photos.  One day I’ll have it together enough to take progress shots with a decent camera and tripod, but that day is not today.

I don’t make many muslins these days.  Usually, I draft from blocks I know work for me.  I made a muslin (with basted, not sewn seams) because I haven’t worked with this pattern before.

This is the pattern right out of the envelope, no alterations.  Not bad, I’m surprised.  The funny business on the side seam comes from me pinning it closed.  Also, the dress is a lot narrower through the skirt than I expected, and longer than I wanted.

This is the back.  It’s not amazing, but I’m not too upset by it.  My upper back-high-hip “fluff” is what made those wrinkles.  I can either alter the back high hip area to create more room on the pattern or girdle up.  (Altering the pattern won out.)

Close-up of the front seaming.  I like it.  It’s a flat fell seam on the pattern, I just basted it together.  I’ll make a proper flat fell seam on the actual dress, and probably use a contrast thread to highlight the seaming.  I used a pin to mark the “point of no return” so I could carve out a steep v-neck:

The V is only between the front flat fell seams, and when I layer the dickey on top I can create a deep, sexy placket.  The dickey will detach if I want to wear a plainer dress, I could probably layer it underneath, too.  I also hiked up the hem a few inches.

Shorter dickey- mocked up in tracing medium and pinned over the top of the dress.

Longer dickey.

Longer dickey with “cummerbund.”  (Actually the tie from my dressing gown.)  I can not decide about the dickey.  That’s ok, I’m making it as a separate piece and will whipstitch it into place on the finished dress. 

I think the shorter dickey places more emphasis on the bust, while the longer dickey with cummerbund looks pretty “tux” to me.   What do you think?  I’m still deciding… Remember, this dress will have elbow sleeves.

Also, what if I “rounded out” the bottom of the dickey?

Side view is pretty ok.  I mean, I don’t have anywhere to hide but I’m ok with it.  I’m still stumped as to why this is a tapered dress in an A-line pattern envelope… It fits my measurements.

I thought I should mention I dyed my hair, in case you see it later in photos.  Naturally, my hair is a red-brown color.  I like to dye my hair because it makes my hair feel nice, and I like it darker than my natural color.  Most of my coloring is cool, and the red in my hair muddies the waters a little.  Besides, I get bored; it’s fun to dye my hair.  And I like the “Snow White” flavor.

This black is actually a kind of purple.  It’s not nearly as purple as the box (even the “dark hair” sample) but I’m ok with it.  It’s better for me than flat black, and might provide a segue into brighter purple if I decide to try it out.   I dream of long, beautifully maintained purple hair:

click for source

Maybe it will happen one day, maybe not.

Long or short dickey?

Do you muslin?

Tomorrow: Dickey-ing around with pattern pieces…

Be sure to enter the Frock Out Giveaway if you haven’t already!

Finished Object: Megan’s Vendetta

Episode 10, Season 4

I finished my Megan dress for the Mad Men Challenge- the second zipper stayed put!  I’m calling this dress Megan’s Vendetta because she fought me every step of the way, I never knew such a malicious dress.  First I couldn’t find my regular bodice block  so settled for making the bodice from another bodice.    Then, characteristically, I over-complicated the pattern by drafting a separate midriff section.  I don’t want to sound whiny, but I unpicked and unpicked the bodice-to-midriff seam to make it sit smoothly under my bust more times than I can count.  The seam area began to look shabby so I left it alone, but my fingers are still itching to get in there and pull it apart just one more time.

This is what I should have done.  Much simpler, but of course it didn’t occur to me until halfway through construction.  I’d fold the darts out on the pattern pieces to create a shaped band and sew them together.  Then I’d sew two strips to the bottom to make the very nice Megan midriff section.

After all the careful sewing, we’ve had rain almost every day this week which means no outdoor photos.  Eventually, we settled for indoors shots, which we find much trickier than standing around in the yard.  I felt more like I was on the set of Psycho than Mad Men.

That said, I’m still very fond of this dress.  I used a knee-length half-circle skirt, shorter than my usual skirt length but I like it.  The fabric is a very lightweight but firmly woven cotton poplin with a whiff of lycra.  I’m sure the lycra contributed to my midriff seam angst.

I like this style, too.  It’s comfortable and feminine and while the insets lend it some visual interest and a whiff of vintage flair, it’s not fussy or over the top.  The dress itself is quite comfortable, too.  I want to take a second crack at this dress using a simplified process and shades of blue.  Or greens.  I feel like I’m really, really close to an awesome pattern.

If you haven’t already, check out the Mad Men inspired dresses on Sew Weekly.  Because of my snafu, I missed the deadline to show my dress.  I feel terrible- I keep missing it.  Oh well, there’s always next week, right?

Julia Bobbin is also running a Mad Men dress challenge, and if you haven’t seen her “Easiest Button to Button” dress, I suggest you go take a look.  It’s incredible.

BLAST this dress to Hades!

…That’s not *exactly* what I said when this happened, but the exasperation is the same.  I put her together, realized that stretch poplin fits differently than a regular woven, adjusted, tweaked, trimmed, pressed, and unpicked tiny seams to to re-sew them 1/16″ smaller/wider so every band of raspberry matches at each seam.  I like twiddly, fiddly, pretty projects.  Unpicking doesn’t usually get me down because I look at it as taking a baby step closer to “perfection.”  I unpicked one side of the zipper several times to be sure the bands matched up.  Just as I said to myself “Stephanie, this is a good day’s work,” zip, zip split happened.

I’m not one to let a dress push me over the edge, and besides I like this dress.  She’s crumpled because after the split I kicked her into a pile in the corner of my sewing room, where she stayed until I rescued her this morning for photos.  I know that means I have to replace the zipper and press her carefully everywhere, but she would have needed a final press anyway.

She fits really well and I’m glad I went with a knee-length half-circle skirt.  I think the bands are wider than Megan’s dress but I’m not too bothered because I like this dress and actually think I’ll get some good wear from her.  The dress has very little ease but because the fabric has some give it’s quite comfortable- like a second skin.  I might have to experiment more with making dresses from this kind of fabric.  It’s very pleasant to work with and wear.   Two layers of this lightweight stretch cotton poplin is a perfect dress weight.

Yesterday, Puu asked me how approaching the inset bands as a quilter rather than a dressmaker makes the difference.  Part of it is the seam allowance.  Part of it is the expectations involved.  That is, I have yet to meet a quilter (someone with a few quilts under her belt) who is *not* a perfectionist in her sewing.  In quilting more than in dressmaking, mistakes multiply.

Seams must match up, points are sharp, seams pressed crisply and carefully and no easing.  The “no easing” is a key difference- quilts are flat, dresses are shaped.  It’s just as tricky to convince little pieces of fabric to sew together flat as it is to coax a piece of flat fabric into the shape of a woman, but the sewing is quite different.

So each of these contrast insets are flat.  I think it would be asking for trouble to make shaped insets, though I did consider it (more seams, more fitting opportunities!).  I also figured out how to sew the pieces together in what seemed to me a logical way- the way a quilter would put them together.

Sigh.  Today I’ll pick up a zipper while I’m out anyway.  Once it’s replaced we’re in business!

Wearable Work In Progress: Bladvass Dress

My friend Em, her son and I went op-shopping today.  We were already in The Gabba for Voodoo Rabbit’s opening (more on that tomorrow), so took the chance to play dress-ups in the enormous vintage storehouse in the area.

I wore my Bladvass Dress.  Em spotted a beautiful Sampan hat perched atop a pile of suitcases on a top shelf- I’ve been looking for a nice solid one for longer than I care to admit.  This dress was only just wearable this morning, so I left off the pockets and tied it around my neck.  I like to “test drive” a garment before I finish it completely.

I came home and pottered around the back garden with my husband.  He planted these sunflowers for me, a perpetual summer bouquet.

The bodice on this dress feels great.  It’s solid but not hot.  It hugs my body but doesn’t cut into my flesh.  In the middle of sewing, I rather feared I was once again over-engineering a casual garment- it was weighty.  Once I put it on, it felt like a second skin and I forgot about it.

This feels like “early 50’s casual in the garden” wear to me.  While Dior unleashed his New Look in 1947, I find most early 50’s fashions and photos have fuller skirts without petticoats, which results in a gentler silhouette. “High Fashion” at the time may have had the petticoats and padding, but the post-war trickle down of fashion took a while to gather steam.

I’m not so sure about the pocket.

After I saw these photos, I knew I should do something with the back.

Ah yes. Much better.  Securing the ties this way also helps the front lie closer to my body.

I feel like I’ve seen some picture very similar to this- I can’t find it and it’s driving me nuts.  Maybe I was already there.  Does it ring any bells?

I nearly fell over trying to get a “swirl” shot on my ridiculously steep driveway when I realized we hadn’t taken any and the sun was disappearing.  We had a laugh.

Pocket or no pocket?  They’re useful, yes, but I don’t know if I like it.  Besides, I wear light sun jackets with pockets.

Uneven hems nearly always look better in my mind’s eye than in reality.  Should I trim this or leave it?  As for Terra Incognita, I used my serger to make a tidy rolled hem.  It’s so light and tough!

All in all, I’m very happy with this dress and think it will make a useful addition to my summer casual clothes.  I used a few arcane “engineering” tricks that I’ve been itching to try out.  I’ll write more about that when I know how well (or not) they work.

If you’re interested, check out Leimomi’s post on revealing clothes, modesty and personality.  Her post is intriguing, and the discussion is lively..

Time Out to Sew a Summer Dress

I go whiny this time of year, whining about the heat, the sun, the insomnia…  It is hot, though I see a perk- summer dresses.  This past month, I notice I reach for Cleopatra, Blueberry Parfait, and Terra Incognita more than anything else.  They’re far and away most comfortable of anything I own.  Maybe it’s all dresses all the time for me this summer- light, inexpensive and above all comfortable.

I picked up a blue and white cotton duvet cover, “Bladvass,” from Ikea’s clearance bin the other day.  It’s open-weave, which will feel great to wear.  The yellow is a thin cotton voile, in a color I adore but can’t usually wear.  I’ll line the skirt and the upper bodice with yellow.

I hate wearing bras in this weather.  I do, of course, but as soon as I’m at home that’s it.  (TMI?)  That doesn’t mean I don’t want support, so I sometimes build bras into casual dresses.   The subject came up when I made a halter-back dress recently, so this will be a great opportunity to document how I do it.

The Bladvass (“Reeds”) dress will be backless for comfort with a full skirt and a midriff section.   I also see a ruched upper bodice section, ridiculously oversized 1950’s pockets, and a half-circle skirt attached to a yellow midriff.  Too much?  Carolyn suggested using an asymmetric hem with off-set lining to allow a contrast to show.  What if a half-octagon peeked out a few inches below the smooth half-circle Bladvass skirt?  Mmmmm…..

A whiff of this dress...

I know my posts have been all over the place lately, but this week I’m digging in for solid sewing. I’ve been dying to make another dress for rotation so I’m focusing on this dress only.   (And a post on what to do with big, fat darts from an FBA.)

Finished Object: Terra Incognita Dress

I wore her to a dinner just the other evening.  I was aiming for casual, dramatic, and feminine- all at once.  The initial inspiration came from 1950’s full-skirted halter dresses, but I think the final dress has the tang of a vampy flapper.

As a rule, I don’t often show my knees. Or my shoulders.  Or my décolletage.

Or my back.  This dress is “terra incognita” for me.

Yet I’m in love.  This may be my favorite dress ever, after Wholesome.

For the dinner I wore my hair in my beloved reverse Victory Roll but we were too rushed that night for photos.  Last week I got a loose perm because my hair won’t hold pincurls- ever- and something had to be done in the hair department.  Since then, I’ve been experimenting with relaxed fingerwaves and reveling in the Return of the Reverse Victory Roll.

Close-up of the front pleat detail.  I had thoughts of creating a separate midriff section and building a bra into the bodice.  Instead, I kept it simple and I’m happy with the result.

I used my overlocker/serger to make a rolled hem on the skirt.  It’s clean and strong and light and quick.  The skirt is cut from the same octagonal-circle pattern I used for the Hemp Snowflake skirt.  I was chatting with a friend as I cut the skirt, and cut the waist waaaay too big.

The simplest way to fix my careless mistake was to gather the skirt into the bodice.  The combination of gentle gathering and circle-skirt fullness creates an incredibly swirly skirt.

I want to make several of these over the summer.  I left a little ease through the waist so it won’t stick in hot weather, it’s as cool as a cucumber to wear.

Check out the drafting notes for the bodice, if that’s what you’re into.

Tomorrow: Waists and How to Measure Them

Note: I’m sorry the T-Shirt pattern is taking a little while to put up.  I have the drafts and I’m happy with them, but learning to use Gimp is a little tricky.  I hope I spent enough time with it these past few days, maybe if I give it a short break and come back to the problem I’ll see the solution immediately.  I’m still interested in fitting issues and proportions, feel free to add your voice to the thread.

Finished Object: Jasmine (Revolutionary Road) Dress

It’s springtime in Queensland, which means jasmine everywhere.  I miss the scent of honeysuckle summers.   I enjoy the jasmine season, it feel deliciously exotic to walk outside on a warm jasmine-scented evening.

I stalled for a few days on the dress construction while I tried to find a belt.  Ivory belts are indecently hard to find in Brisbane at the moment.  I eventually settled for a skinny belt, only to look at it in sunlight and realize it is too gray to go with the dress.

Today, I decided to finish the dress and try it without a belt.

In my next iteration of this dress, I won’t “slope” the neckline so much.  I’ll just drop the jewel neckline straight down 4.5″ for an extremely elongated oval.  I believe my sloper/block needs a little tweaking in the bust area.  Other than that, I’m happy with the draft.

This dress hits my criteria for casual summer dresses:

  • Simple, with a little design interest
  • Machine Washable
  • “Ease-y”- not closely fitted (especially under the arms), to allow optimal air circulation
  • Breathable fabric- the breeze passes straight through this cotton/rayon slub-crepe
  • Comfortable
  • Lined skirt for opacity

I couldn’t pinpoint the texture of this fabric when I first started working with it, but now I know- lightweight terry or toweling, almost like a spa wrap.  It’s not obnoxious (especially for free fabric), but firmly casual.  In keeping with the casual vibe, I’ll wear it with pretty, bright colored flats.  I don’t think a belt is necessary.

What’s that stuck to my hem?

My iron died.  Its last act was to belch rusty water all over the kickpleat during my final press.  BLAST.  Then the iron overheated and ruined my teflon shoe. (Or so I thought.  I took it outside to rid the house of electrical fire stink and once it cooled, the shoe looked fine.  Weird.)  Way to take the wind out of my sails, Iron.

I’m not sure what to do about this.  A cursory google search leads me to believe I probably won’t get the rust out.  I hate to give up on this dress, it’s insanely comfortable and I know I’ll reach for it constantly this summer if I can fix it.  Ideas??

At least I used some pretty guipure lace on the lining.  I think the heavy lace helps shape the skirt.

Now I can focus on knocking out a few of the simpler pieces from the Summer 2012 Wardrobe, (I could use some simple woven shells) or perhaps work through a stack of Husband t-shirts.  I can’t work on my Robin Suit or red linen pants or playing with summer tailoring ideas until they deliver my roll of silk organza…

Dreaming of Chanel Exhibition at QUT- Photos!

"Inheriting a priceless vintage clothing collection from my American godmother Doris Darnell was unexpected, exciting and downright scary... But the day I pulled back the packing tape on the first box and gingerly lifted out this first dress...gossamer silk, covered in glittering silver and white glass beads...I was enchanted, as Doris knew I would be."

I was privileged to visit the Dreaming of Chanel Exhibition at QUT with two of my friends, Theresa and Janet.  They have had a great deal of input into my sewing and design education, and today we had a great time geeking out over couture.

It’s a small exhibition, but well chosen.  Make sure to go before it closes on the 16th- I’m so glad we went today.

The show was free and they let me take photos.  The point of the show and the book is to share the beauty of these garments- both the technical and the emotional aspects.  Real women lived inside these clothes- every garment has a story.  I like that they haven’t been restored where damaged.

The program includes extracts from the book Dreaming of Chanel by Charlotte Smith.  I copied those extracts I found interesting (in quotation marks), and added some of our own observations.  I miss sharing experiences like this with my mom and girlfriends, so I thought I’d make a gallery.  I do apologize that some of the descriptions overrun the slideshow borders, but they’re still readable, right?

Charlotte, if you’re reading this and you want me to take it down, let me know.  I’m not making money off of this, I just want to share your inspiring dresses and their stories.  If I promise to put on white gloves and be careful, can I please please please inspect more of Doris’ clothes?

By the way, you may see the gold brocade dress with the mink trimming crop up sometime in the next few months.   I have the perfect fabric for it and an old piece of fur I want to play with…


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