So. I have an audition on Friday, for which I want to make a good impression. And last weekend, I happened to be in Sew Me Something where they had just 2.5m left of a gorgeous heathery purple polka dot which had caught my eye last time I was there. Well 2.5m is a usable amount, right? So I decided to snaffle it, and make a dress for my audition.
I shopped online, and stumbled upon a Burda pattern for a fifties retro dress, with a v-back and cowl collar. Cool. It’d look lovely in heathery purple polka dot, so I clicked and bought.
I started on Thursday. I got Mr P to help me take my measurements. I was a 16 waist and hips, a 12 bust and an 8 for back waist length. OK. So that was going to take some re-drafting, then.
Only, I didn’t really have time to re-draft. Still, good impressions count, right? So I fettled out the tracing paper. Bugger. Not enough tracing paper. I drew my bust/waist line on the pattern directly, and figured I’d wing it for the back waist length. Only when I’d cut the pattern, it looked OK. You know, the piece of paper held up against my shoulder and floating down my back. That. That looked OK. Over my shoulder, in the hall mirror. Fine. What could possibly go wrong?
I’d thought I’d make the lining with French seams, just to show off my French seam prowess. I went to the shed, to fettle out my roll of lining fabric. No lining fabric. Jesus. Really?? No matter. I stomped off into town, to our funny, inadequate habby shop, and bought some lilac lining. And 3m of fusible lightweight interfacing, since that roll was mysteriously empty, too. No problem.
With hindsight, I really should have realised that the Universe was telling me to put my feet up this weekend, and not sew. But no. I was set on making a good impression.
I got home, and cut out, and retreated into the shed. The dress went together really quickly. I say the dress went together really quickly, but really what I mean is that the bust and waist darts went in really quickly, and the back darts went in really quickly, and the back seam was pretty quick, too. Then it was time to put in the zip.
I fucking hate zips. If I never fasten another garment with a zip again as long as I live, I’ll be a happy woman. From now on, I am all about the buttons and the elastic waists and I don’t care who says it’s not fashionable. The pattern said “insert zipper”. That’s it. “insert zipper”. No pictures, no instructions. Just “insert zipper”. Well. That’s fine, actually, because I’ve been inserting zippers since Noah was in nappies. I have inserted zippers up the wazoo. Not literally, obviously, but you know…. But I *haven’t* inserted a zipper in over 10 years. Still, no matter. It’ll be like riding a bike, right?
I inserted zipper. It gaped, hideously. I took zipper out. I basted seam, and pressed it open. I reinserted zipper. I edge stitched. I took the basting out. The zipper looked like one of the dogs had sewn it in. I took the zipper out. I repressed the fabric. I basted the zipper. I stitched it carefully. I took it out. I must have taken that bloody zip out and put it back in again half a dozen times, before I was satisfied. But no matter. I *was* satisfied in the end, so I stitched the shoulder seams and the side seams, and threw together the lining. And then I remembered that I wanted the lining to have French seams, so I unpicked it and threw it together again, with French seams. And then I pressed the lining. And melted it with the iron. Well. Not *actually* melted it. Not to holeyness. More just done that shrinkle effect on it. Which ironed out, kind of, with the application of some water spray. And then I basted the dress and lining together at neck and arm holes. And I tried the dress on.
Try to ignore the photo-bombing dog, behaving like a media whore… Also, you can click on the photos to embiggen them.
The front was OK – a bit high at the neck, but the pattern’s a bit high at the neck. What was mostly wrong with this view was the bit you can’t see – the lining. In Frenching my seams, I’d forgotten to add additional seam allowance for french seams, so the lining was *way* too tight across my hips. Oh well. What the eye don’t see, and all…
What’s mostly wrong with this view is my size 16 waist. Or fucking big fat tummy, as the tabloid press would most likely put it. Not a good look in a sheath dress… But still. I could buy some tummy control pants, right? Spanx’d fix it?!
But blow me, look at that bloody zipper!!! It’s AWFUL.
So I gave up holding my tummy in, and cracked a smile at the photo bombing dog.
And I put the dress back in the shed, and poured a rather large gin. And another. And another. And I watched Ewan McGregor in Ghost, and I went to bed.
I woke up at 6 o’clock this morning, thinking I KNOW WHAT I’LL DO!! I know how to make the dress right!
- Take out the zipper
- Sew up the centre back seam
- Put an invisible zipper in the side seam
- Release the back waist darts in the lining
- Think about re-cutting the neck
So I went back to the shed, and I took out the zipper. My nemesis. My Achilles’ heel. The accursed zipper. I took it out. And, out of sheer blind spite, I threw it away. Catharsis!!
And I found a 7″ invisible zip in my stash, and I unpicked the side seams, of dress and lining, and I sewed in that invisible zip like a professional tailoring BOSS. And it was beautiful. And I took out the basting, and pressed it, and it gaped like a motherfucker. Still, I wasn’t taking it out again. No, no no. I’d done with that. So I hand basted the seam back shut again, and I hand stitched the zip in place, taking tiny, invisible (ish) prick stitches through the dress, to keep the seams in place. And I took out my basting, and IT WORKED! It was a beautiful, invisible zip. So I hand stitched the lining to the zipper tape, and it was beautiful and all was good. Until I tried it on, and realised I’d misplaced the lining. But still. It’s under my armpit. Who’s ever going to look there, right? Well you are, you lucky people, because I’m going to show you.
See that wrinkle at the top? That’s what I’m talking about. It’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful, beautiful zipper. Apart from that wrinkle where I’ve fastened the lining down in the wrong bloody place.
Still, moving on…. I released the back waist darts in the lining. Still too tight. So I did what any reasonable woman would do. I lost my temper and cut the lining at the bottom of my waist. Cut it out. Lost it altogether. Rolled a quick hem around the cut edge and decided they’d have to take my word for prowess with French seams. It’s now a half lined dress. Too bad!
And then I tried it on. And, you know what? Better. Much better.
Less tight across the hips, without the lining. Still needing tummy control pants, but you know. Whatever.
There’s an invisible zip in that armpit, if you know where to look!
And that’s *so* much better without a zip straining to be released into the wild. Isn’t it?? I say better. It’s still too long but you know. Apart from that. Better.
Encouraged, I retreated back to my shed, to put the facings in. The interlined facings. All cut and neatly stacked on the work top in the shed.
I ironed the first piece of interfacing into place, down a strip of back facing. Bada bing! Turned my attention to the front facing. Iron on it. Fizzle. Fizzle??? That’s not supposed to happen. Pick up iron. Facing comes with. A melted, black, sticky mess of interfacing, all over the sole plate of my iron. Arse. So I re-cut the front interfacing, and tried again. This time with a tea towel over the top. And so on. The facings went together, I trimmed seam allowances, clipped seams, pressed (with tea towel), and understitched. Perfect. Looking good.
Hang on. This dress is supposed to have a collar, isn’t it? Where’s the instructions for the collar???
Arse, buggeration and fuckety fuck. I’ve missed out the collar. Which was supposed to be sewn into the neckline with the facings.
And breathe, Vicki. BREATHE!!
Actually, thinking about it, sewing the collar into the facings would make an *extremely* bulky neckline. So I came up with a plan B. I couldn’t unpick the facings because they were trimmed, clipped and understitched. So I ironed the interfacing onto one collar piece, sewed the collar pieces together, clipped corners, turned out, pressed. I’d left the top (neck) edge unstitched, and instead I turned in a small seam allowance on both sides. I was going to *bind* the collar in place, like a quilt binding. I pinned, and *very* carefully understitched the underside of the collar to the right side of the neck, and then hand stitched the top side to the top edge of the facing, hiding all the various edges in a very small, very tidy lapped edge. It worked. It was beautiful.
I went to press. I pressed. I remembered (too late!!) the need for a tea towel. The iron had smeared burnt black goo all over my beautifully improvised collar. Oh, for fuck’s sake!!!!
I let go of the last shred of my sense of humour. I didn’t even miss it, if I’m honest. I roared, and I rampaged, and I sewed in the armhole facings. The wrong way round. OF COURSE I DID!!! OF BLOODY COURSE. I did it on purpose!!! Why wouldn’t you want your armhole facings the wrong way round??? Anyone who puts armhole facings in the *right* way round is a BLOODY IDIOT!!!!!!!
And all that remained was the hem, which was uneventful. Pressed up (with tea towel) and hand stitched, invisibly. Done.
And here’s the finished article.
You can barely tell, from the expression on my face, how pissed off I am, can you???
I should’ve gone with my plan to re-cut the neck. To be honest, I should’ve abandoned this project last night and taken more time over it at some other date, but still. Failing that, I should’ve re-cut the neck.
Yup. Still too long in the back, and my improvised collar method creates a wrinkle that Josh and I just couldn’t get rid of…
Still, I’ll say this for it: it still looks better without that bloody enormous zip straining to get out of the back!
So. I’m unlikely to wear this to my audition on Friday. Very unlikely. But it’s not *entirely* unwearable. And if I lost half a stone it’d probably be fine. In fact, if I could lose half a stone and grow a foot it’d be gorgeous.
Positives? Well. Nobody died. At this point, I’m counting that as a bloody triumph. As are the children.
This was a remarkably technical piece. I should’ve paused at the point I didn’t have the tracing paper to make a pattern which would’ve fit me better. But I didn’t. However, I *did* make a well made, technical dress in two days. That’s quick. And I improvised well on the collar. And I sewed a bloody amazing invisible zip.
So it’s not a disaster…
Oh, who am I kidding??? It’s a total fucking disaster.
Still. Nice fabric, right??