Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Dress...Fast

Getting ready to go to the event this weekend, it was suddenly obvious that I didn't have anything to wear. I had wool dresses, but since the forecast called for a humid day in the 80's, that wasn't my first choice. I'd already been planning to make a new linen dress (which I'll share my research on in a later post), and I had just completed a hot-weather "short cote" supportive dress (which I'll also share in a later post), so Thursday after dinner I pulled out the linen, pulled out my fitted dress pattern, and got to work.

The dress took me 9 and a half hours to complete to a wearable condition. I used my sewing machine for all seams as well as the bottom hem, then finished the neckline and wrist hems by hand. The seams are unfinished, but that will be remedied before the next event, since the linen does fray.

I tried to remember to take photos as I went, but since I was working so quickly, there aren't that many. Here's the play-by-play:

Thursday, 8:00pm
After clearing off the living room floor (essentially just pushing all the toys and furniture into piles against the walls!) I laid out the linen. It is the "Wisteria" medium-weight linen from, a pale blue that leans toward the periwinkle side. I had 5 yards. I was having some trouble visualizing the layout, since the front of the dress is a full, flat front, and I wanted 30" wide gores with the least amount of waste possible, so I had my mom join me to talk it through.

Thursday, 8:15pm
I'd settled on the layout, and the result was that I had two long rectangles left and just barely enough for long sleeves.

I wanted to try a very full skirt, since up to this point, my dress gores had been well below the 28" I have calculated as an ideal base width for gores proportional the my frame (bust size divided by 2). It was really those wide gores that gave me layout issues, since I wanted them to be wider that half the width of my fabric. The saving grace, however, was that my four gore insertion points are not all in the same vertical position, so some gores could be cut from the shorter piece at the end of the panels, and the longer (half) gores could be cut from the half of the fabric not taken up by the panels.

Thursday, 9:00pm
I had all the pieces, except for the sleeves, cut out. I had taken the time to mark my gore insertion points on the pattern pieces, so I made sure to mark those on the fabric. That made a huge difference in the ease of pinning the half gores onto the panels and getting them to line up. It was probably the biggest time saver after using the machine.

The side and back gores were all half gores, and the front, since it would be inserted into a slit, was a full gore. I could have done half gores there as well, but I didn't want the possible delay of getting a perfectly lined up center seam at the gore point. Plus the simplicity of the full gore added into the flat front just seemed to be a better visual to me.

I sewed the dress together gore by gore, completing one pair by sewing each to their respective panels, sewing them together, then moving on to the next gore pair. This worked out well, until I sewed one half gore to the wrong panel. Then when I realized something was wrong, I pulled the wrong half gore off, not realizing that the other half gore was the problem. This set me back a bit, since I basically brought myself back to square one on that set, but it was a minor hiccup.

Thursday, 10:45pm

After sewing the three sets of half gores and the shoulders together, I called it a night. The insertion of the center front gore (and the cutting of its corresponding slit) just wasn't something I wanted to attempt at that point, and I figured I'd do myself more favors by going to bed.

Friday, 7:45am
After waking up a bit in the morning, I started by putting my short cote on. The blue dress itself isn't a supportive dress, but rather a fashion-layer "gown", so in order to wear it, I have to have a supportive kirtle on underneath.

There was too much fabric in the top, since the pattern was just a starter, and not specific to the shape the short cote provided. After pulling it up about and inch (both the front and back) I had a much better fit across the back. I didn't see any major need to change the other seams, so I left those alone. I made the adjustment, put it on again then marked the front gore point and started to get some marks in place for the neckline and armholes.

I took the dress off again and marked the full line for the center front gore slit, making sure to keep it as much on grain as I could. I also made some initial cuts on the neckline and armholes, just to make it a bit more comfortable to wear the next time I put it on. I started to sew the gore in by hand, but I hadn't really gotten that far before it was time for breakfast.

Friday, 9:30am
When I got back to sewing, I really wasn't having a good time getting the gore in place by hand. After a bit I decided to try using the machine instead. I got a perfect point on the first try.

Friday, 10:00am
I tried the dress on again and marked the sleeve holes and neckline with chalk. I wanted to get a wide, low neckline, since it was the style I needed to achieve, but also because my frame isn't all that well suited to the flat front style anyway, so the more neck and collar I can show, the better. Happy with my marks, I took the dress off and cut the neckline and armholes down.

Friday, 11:00am
I measured my sleeve holes, biceps, wrists and arm lengths and started to make my calculations for drafting the sleeve patterns so that the drafting step could go as quickly as possible. I still use the method in the Medieval Tailor's Assistant for drafting sleeves, which is pretty mathematical, so doing this step ahead of time is a good time saver. At 11:30, I stopped to run some errands.

Friday, 2:00pm
When I got home, I pulled out some scrap paper, my calculations, and a few colors of markers to draft the sleeves. I worked each step of the process for both sleeves at the same time, to save time. Once they were drafted, I transferred one to another piece of paper, cut them out and laid them out on my linen. I had just enough fabric. I normally prefer to do a sample sleeve in waste fabric first, in case there are problems with the drafting, but I charged forward without that step because I didn't have any waste fabric on hand and I didn't want to take more time that needed.

Friday, 3:30pm
With the sleeves cut out, I went back to the sewing machine. I sewed them together and did an initial pin-in on the dress and found that the top of the right sleeve was much larger than it needed to be. I couldn't take the time to troubleshoot the problem to figure out what I had done wrong, but it was either an incorrect measurement or a goof on one of the drafting steps. I corrected it by opening the sleeve and resewing to the sleeve head size I needed. After that, both sleeves went in easily, though I did get a small catch that was easy to pull out and correct.

Friday, 4:00pm

I had less than an hour left to get the dress to a point where I could do what was left at the event (since we needed to get packed and leave to camp), so I pinned the hem to sew that on the machine.

Friday, 4:15pm
The dress was complete and hemmed (longest hem I've ever sewn!), lacking only the finishing on the neckline and wrists. I packed it up, and we headed to the event.

I don't know what time I finally sat down and sewed the neckline, but I was working on it for about a half hour, since I only had feeble lantern light to work by. I used a simple running stitch to make quick work of it.

Saturday, 7:30am
After breakfast I ducked into the pavilion, sat on the bed and sewed the wrist hems, which took about 10 minutes. I used running stitch on those as well. Then I put the dress on for the day!

There are some issues with the dress. The neckline, sleeves and shoulders are not quite right, so as the day went on the dress slid to the back, giving me more fabric across my shoulder blades than I needed, and making the left shoulder slide toward my arm. However, these issues can easily be attributed to my rush in getting it done, and they don't make me dislike the dress in any way. I am extremely happy with it, and I enjoyed wearing it all day. I especially love the fullness of the skirt, and the troubles the wide gores gave me during layout were totally justified.

Now that I have time, I'll give it a wash and do another fitting to see if and where I can make any corrections to the fit. The side seams probably do need some adjustments, and I'd like to try and correct the shoulder issues if I can see a way to do it. I'll also finish the seams, since this is probably going to be my go-to summer gown for a while and I want it to last!

I wasn't really able to get many photos when I wore it yesterday, but I do plan on getting some better, detailed shots here at home, probably after I can see about making the adjustments.

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