Although I grew up in a family that sewed — my grandmother made the most beautiful clothing for her children and grandchildren — I was never confident enough to get started myself.
I’ve sewed a pair of pajamas here and there, but only once did I sew something I’d wear out of the house (a skirt). Apparently it was traumatizing because that was at least five years ago, and I haven’t tried again since!
The fear stops here!
I was talking to my partner, Don, about taking a dressmaking course at my local indie sewing shop, The Stitch Lab, (they are pretty awesome). But after much deliberation he asked me “Why don’t you just buy some cheap fabric and a pattern and try to make something yourself? If you have problems, then you can take it to Stitch Lab and they can help you work out the kinks.”
He is a smart man, that Don.
So we did, and I did, and the result is above. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! It took me about 2 days of working on it off and on, and I made some mistakes, learned how to fix them, and I think the final product looks pretty darn good.
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The Pattern: Simplicity 3506 (blouse, skirt, and sash patterns used), cut for size 24. Minor pattern alterations — just shortened the skirt.
The Fabric: Quilter’s cotton print in black with tiny white polka dots, which I pre-washed in warm water. I only ever launder in cold water, but I figured it *might* happen one day, and I didn’t want any surprises! I’m still wondering if this counts as the “laundered cotton” listed as an appropriate fabric on the back of the envelope.
The Notions: Fusible interfacing (overkill?), 20″ zipper (definitely overkill!)
The Costs: $20 total. Here’s where I’m going to have a big learning curve… I don’t know how much things should cost, or what’s appropriate for what kind of project. For this, I bought 5 yards of the cotton (too much, since I wound up shortening the skirt to knee length), originally priced at $6/yd, but I had a 40% off coupon. Still pretty pricey, considering I made a rookie mistake and bought the pattern at nearly full price ($15… ouch!). I’ll have to make that pattern a lot to make it pay off!
The Cutting: I used my rotary cutter and mat for the first time on this project — it went so smoothly! I still haven’t figured out a good way to mark darts etc on the fabric. This time, I tried a blue water soluble pencil (worked okay, but how do you mark darts after drawing the dots??) and a tool with a sharp edge that you press on top of the pattern to transfer a crease through for the dart. I forget what it was called. It worked pretty well, but next time I’m going to pin the bejeezus out of the pattern next to it because it moved all over the fabric!
The Piecing: This was a really simple dress – that’s kinda why I picked it! There was only 1 pattern piece to cut out on the skirt (4 fold fabric), and 8 pieces for the blouse. I decided to take baby steps, and made the skirt & blouse separates, rather than going full hog into dressmaking (I’m still a little spooked!). But really, it was more complicated to make the skirt separate… I’m glad I did though, because this length of shirt is really flattering to my less-than-perfect tummy area.
The Fitting: No fitting at all… just crossed my fingers this time. Probably not the smartest move 🙂
The Sewing: I had a spot of bother putting the bodice together, but that was just because I hadn’t ever done anything like this before. It wasn’t until I sewed dress # 2 from this pattern that I realized my mistake! There are supposed to be sections (kind of like epaulettes) over each shoulder… silly me, I thought these pieces of fabric were just to stabilize the ruching at the shoulder! So I promptly sewed front to back, bypassing the epaulette pieces altogether (they’re inside the dress now!). The resulting bodice is significantly shorter as a result… but I still rather like it. What I didn’t like when I first tried it on was how I looked like a samurai…the elimination of the epaulette pieces jacked with the entire structure of the garment (go figure), so I spent several hours with Don figuring out how to add some pleats (can’t be darts if they’re on the outside, right?) under the bustline without it looking too stupid.
I sewed the pieces together and then treated the seams before moving on… pressing them flat and then doing a bastardized version of a finished seam. I don’t have a serger, and I haven’t been doing this long enough to know what’s going to happen to a piece when I launder it, so I tend to do overkill on the seams. I don’t want any wardrobe malfunctions! Basically, I stitched all the seams using the allotted 5/8″ seam allowance, and then folded each edge of the resulting seam down over itself, and then zigzagged the crap out of it 🙂 I’m pleased with it.
The Reception: I wore this outfit last week and had a ridiculous number of compliments on it. Even from people who *didn’t* already know from facebook that I’d made it myself. 😉 And that was kinda nice. Really nice, actually. It’s so easy to feel slouchy these days, with so much knit this and knit that. A little structure is an anomaly sometimes!
The Aftermath: There was a little bit of tugging on those darned under-bust pleats that I had to insert, but overall it fit very well and was gloriously comfortable on an unusually hot (even for Texas) day. Also, the zipper was ridiculous. I put it in, but I didn’t need it, so I took it back out again. Now I understand what all you sewers are talking about when you gripe about unnecessary zippers!
The Future: I will absolutely make this pattern again — in fact, I already have. Stay tuned for my first adventure in Rayon!