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…

Little White Dress- Understitching and Keyhole Buttonholes

I confess, I’ve been procrastinating finishing the little white dress because of the belt conundrum.  I don’t particularly feel like making a belt at the moment.  I’m dying to start working with some Japanese flocked cotton I found.  I may find one cheap (fingers crossed) and the dress will be complete!

I’m out of practice, so today I took my time under-stitching, making buttonholes, and taking pictures.

Under-stitching means sewing the facing or lining through the seam allowance.  It prevents the facing or lining of a garment from rolling to the outside.  A tailor friend of mine once suggested under stitching before pressing.  “He’s mad!” I thought- then tried it.  If you ever find you have issues pressing then understitching, try it the other way around.   Understitching first makes pressing much easier.

He also taught me to keep a little lateral tension on the seam (tug the fabric gently sideways in both directions, I use my first and second fingers) to create a crisper edge.

I’m using keyhole buttonholes for this dress.  I could just as easily sew buttons over my shoulder seam and avoid the bother of buttonholes, but I prefer “functional” details.  I’m always slightly disappointed by design details that don’t “work,” even when it’s pretty.

Keyhole buttonholes are most commonly used on jackets, coats, and waistbands.  The shape of the buttonhole begs for a shanked button to settle into the rounded “key” end.  I’m using shanked buttons and I would expect the “top” end of my buttonhole to hang on the button shank.  Therefore, it makes sense to use a keyhole buttonhole.

Now I’m off to settle into a movie while I hand-sew the buttons.  I might catch-stitch the outer edge of the facing while I’m at it…

More on buttonholes coming soon!

Sewing a Dress without Instructions

One of the biggest hurdles to sewing and drafting your own patterns is the lack of instructions, cutting layouts, fabric yardages (meterages), and notions lists one relies on when working with commercial patterns.  Many sewists I know have their own sewing “styles” and don’t bother much with pattern instructions.

I like to start with stabilizing- necklines, shoulders, arm curves, etc.  This time I used a wide, sturdy fusible knit.  It is light enough to allow the fabric to drape, but will provide a stable support for the shoulder buttons and buttonholes.

Darts next.  14 of them.

I inserted a narrow kick pleat in the CB seam.  When cutting, I laid the CB edge of the pattern piece about 1″ from the folded edge and marked the line.

To keep the line of stitching straight, I aligned the folded edge of the pleat with a mark on my throat plate and stitched rather than relying on my shaky chalk line.  Once I reached the “pleat” area, I broke the thread and basted the pleat closed.

I laid the pleat wrong side up on my ironing board.

I pressed it flat, carefully manipulating the fabric with my fingers so it would press evenly.  This fabric presses beautifully.

Then I stitched the inside folded edge of the pleat on each side to keep the pleat sharp while wearing.  I top-stitched the back seam above the pleat to keep the fabric where I pressed it.  Check out my post on perfectionism for a similar approach to a back pleat on a jacket.

I sewed the sideseams of the skirt, skirt lining, and dress and finished them.  The facing is cut in two continuous pieces of densely woven cotton and went on easily.  No sweat.

Trim the corners and notch the curves.  I always use pinking shears on curves- faster and neater.

Turn and press, no more time to sew today!

Do you usually put garments together in a certain way, regardless of the pattern instructions?  Do you carefully read each pattern thrice before starting a project?  Somewhere in between?

Many, many thanks to Amy for helping me revive my blogspot blog and set up a re-direct.  I do apologize for any trouble that caused!  If you’re looking for a particular post, the search is located in the top right corner.  I haven’t gotten rid of anything.

Tomorrow, I’ll announce the winners of the giveaway!

Little White Dress Progress

I’m knocking off this dress– today I had a chance to cut!

And I found buttons!  They measure about 1″ in diameter and pick up the cream tones in the fabric.  I’ll keep an eye out for a creamy colored silk for a belt to complete the tonal effect.  In fact, I may find some creamy silk in the course of my sewing room overhaul..

I washed the rayon-cotton slub on a medium warm wash with my white sheets, then line dried.   The fabric came to life- it fluffed up beautifully in the wash.  I can see now that the weave is like a crepe, with some boucle yarns running through it.  It drapes very nicely.

Front bodice view.  The shoulders have 3 buttonholes- the back looks to me like it buttons under the front.

I used a fine, wide strip of interfacing to stabilize the front and back necklines and shoulders.  The sleeve, shoulder and neck facings are cut as one for the front and the back.  I hope this would help distribute the stress on the shoulder-we’ll see.

I’ll use this deflated seersucker as the skirt lining (after a press, of course).  It’s to hand, and I can’t think of another way to use this fabric so a skirt lining it shall be.

Today was my last “official” day of work, though my real last day was Wednesday.  I’m so excited to be able to focus more fully on my designing, sewing, and writing.  From now on, I can post more pretties (and tutorials), more often.

Revolutionary Road: The Little White Dress

A co-worker destashed and gave me some lovely pieces of vintage fabric.  She’s so generous, thank you Noela!  Some of the pieces come from her mother’s stash. As soon as I felt the fabric, I knew I would make it into a Revolutionary Road dress.  I am still working on the suit, waiting for silk organza, so it will wait while I make a little white dress.

A burn test revealed cotton/rayon.  It has a gentle drape and a slubbed texture, but it’s firmer and lighter than a boucle.  Does anyone have a name for this fabric?  I love the bamboo-nettle I mentioned in the last post, but I want to make this dress sooner than sometime in 2012 when that fabric comes back in stock.  I haven’t given up on the bamboo-nettle.

This textured fabric will make an eminently wearable muslin and it is the same weight as the nettle.  This dress allow me to fine-tune the draft.  I can experiment with the sleeve length, neck curve, and dart placement.

I drafted the bodice tonight (I can’t manage the gallery tonight, but I will document it.)  When I cut the dress tomorrow I can use an existing pencil skirt pattern.  I plan to line the skirt with cotton voile.  Maybe a lace trim.

How should I wash this fabric?  If I serge the ends, should it survive the gentle cycle?  It’s vintage, but in good nick…  Would contrast buttons look odd?  I want to use cocanut shell, wood, something with a gentle texture…Should I make a matching clutch bag like the photo?

I do apologize if the deletion of my blogspot account caused any problems, I can’t figure out how to re-direct…

Dress Obsession: Revolutionary Road and Kate Winslet

I watched the movie for the clothes.  I spent so much time analyzing the wardrobe and its wearability that I honestly can’t tell you what I think about the plot.  No idea.  The point is I *must* make this dress.

White works for me, I have an idea it’s the Tropical Answer to black.

 I like these pictures, if you click you can see beautifully human details on Kate like fine lines and freckles.  Maybe I’m nuts, but I tend to associate these “flaws” with beauty.  I also like the honesty of her physical proportions as revealed by this dress.  That’s what I like- the honesty.   She’s beautiful, yes, yet she bears resemblance to many other beautiful women I know.  Check out the link, it’s a series of paparazzi photos.  As someone who takes volumes of photos to come up with one fit to show on this blog, I can appreciate how she looks nice in every picture in the stream.

I see cut-on sleeves, big buttons (making them functional would be fun), a narrow scoop neck, and a fitted skirt.  I would probably peg it, though I’d leave the length.

Glammed up.  I love her un-made-up photos better”

(from The Reader, which made a bigger impact on me than Revolutionary Road)

I’m debating about fabric.  Medium weight linen springs to mind- it’s easy to sew, plentiful (here), and incredibly comfortable over a humid summer.  This dress is so distinctive, I feel it deserves a special fabric.  To me, simplicity of cut = complexity of fabric.  What about this bamboo/nettle?

I swatched this recently from bamboofabrics store.  Be still my beating heart.  It’s absolutely, 100% stunning, whiter than the picture and the stripes of nettle are about 3/8″ apart.  The ethics of production are exceptional and bamboo is insanely comfy. This fabric is the perfect weight and body for this dress.  The problem?  They’re out of stock until 2012.


That’s not so far away, but I would have to wait a few months.

I could use ordinary cotton sateen, but…. why?  Blah.

The same shop carries this bamboo, but compared to the nettle it’s rather meh.

I’ve been eyeing this hemp from NearSeaNaturals for the better part of a year, but the color holds me back. I swatched it and except for the oatmeal color, it’s great.  Off white makes me look ill.

I want to use an “ethical” fabric with a beautiful texture.  I find hemp, bamboo and silk work well in our climate, so prefer to use them for garments I want to wear for a decade.

How would you approach this dress?  Any ideas for gorgeously textured natural fibres?  I’m sure there’s plenty I haven’t seen.  Should I wait for the bamboo/nettle, or hurry up and make it already?  Don’t you love Kate’s pretty crinkly eyes?  Such a shame there’s not more photography of “beautiful people” that show those physical attributes.

And I have yet to begin obsessing over the buttons…..  I’d appreciate leads!