There is a blog out there called "A Dress a Day". While this is a fabulous goal it seems somewhat unrealistic, so one of my resolutions for 2011 was a dress a month. Every month I will make AT LEAST one dress - and post it up to the blogosphere.
January's project was the Liberty silk, which I mentioned in a previous post. At £5 metre, rather than the usual £29.99, something of a snip (no pun intended!).
As I've never sewn in silk before I decided to pick an easy pattern - check it out! Easy peasy, right? The sleeves and the arms are all one piece!
What I wasn't really prepared for was just how much of a slippery bugger silk actually is.
Straight away it became evident that this is no ordinary fabric, I had to weigh it down with tins of soup while I crawled around on the floor cutting out the pattern pieces. My husband was on Skype to his parents at the time, who must have been wondering about the sight of their Nutter-in-law crawling around in the background on a piece of brightly coloured fabric, surrounded by tin cans (and a small black cat laying on one end - Kato Cat decided that silk makes an excellent bed).
The next nightmare was darts, I hate darts at the best of times, this wasn't the best of times. They came out OK in the end though.
Nightmare number 3 - the zip. I was a bit nervous about tacking the bit where the zip was to go, I thought it might ruin the delicate fabric when I ripped the tacking stitches out. I foolishly sewed the zip in by just pinning it into place, it looked dreadful. So then I had to rip loads of stitches out anyway removing the terrible zip. At this point the lazy bugger in me decided that actually the neckhole was quite generous and that I could get the dress on over my head. So I just sewed the back up. If I had known I was going to do that I'd have just cut the whole back piece on the fold and saved myself A LOT of heartache.
Next up - facing on the ends of the sleeves, bit peculiar I thought, but I went with it. I'd also put interfacing on the facing, with the benefit of hindsight the interfacing was too thick for silk and I should have used a lighter-weight one. Once sewn onto the end of the sleeve it made the end of the sleeve look so reinforced that I might as well have just sewn a hoop in the end of the sleeve like an old fashioned hoop-skirt. So I took the facing off and decided to just hem the sleeves.
At this point I may have had my ONLY bright idea - BIAS BINDING. I had to refresh my memory about bias binding having only ever used it once in the past, but I found THIS marvellous tutorial - thanks Angry Chicken! (I liked the idea of a 'No Swearing' tutorial, but it could be interpreted two ways - as either a tutorial in how to apply bias binding without swearing yourself, or as a tutorial in which the tutor swears a lot - in a punky kind of way) Bias binding saved my life, it provided a neat way of hemming both the sleeves and the bottom of the dress and actually looked kind of nice too.
(I also found THIS marvellous post-punk song by accident. It has nothing to do with sewing).
So to the actual fitting of the dress. I made a HUGE mistake here - I forgot the AAA (Added Arse Allowance). Whilst most parts of a 1960s 34" bust dress fit me just fine I have to admit that I am more well-equipped in the bottom department than those ladies must have been. It should be ingrained in me by now that even if I can't be bothered to measure myself and the pattern and make the relevant adjustments - I should at least 'go large' in the hip area when cutting out my pattern pieces. Maybe "Will measure self against pattern" should have been my New Year's sewing resolution, but it's one of those things like doing a 48-hour patch test before dyeing my hair - life just seems too short! My mistake - the dress only JUST fits over the hips and consequently seems a bit loose everywhere else. It may fit me on that magical day in the future when I drop a stone, or I may just use it as a nightdress as the silk does at least feel lovely even if it doesn't look it.
So I think I'll have to chalk this one up to experience. I've learned a lot from my mistakes, but I'm bloody glad that I didn't pay £30 a metre for the fabric!
Offcuts of silk also make fine silk scarves for dandy felines!