A dirndl kind of day.

February 24, 2010

Pattern: Dirndl dress basic pattern from Built by Wendy: Dresses (with modifications)

Fabric: Cotton lawn from Gorgeous Fabrics (same as before…I’m thrifty)

Other Notions: invisible zipper

Wendy warns her readers not to be put off by the weird name (dirndl), and I’ll admit that I was…until I saw the patterns and possibilities! After making my first dress in this book and discovering the areas of poor fit, I decided to make a muslin of this dress pattern. The muslin looked great, so I plowed ahead.

I altered the neckline drastically. I like low (not obscenely low) necklines because I am a small person and I don’t like feeling swallowed up by my clothing. High necks and long sleeves are not for me. Another reason for wearing low necklines is my fair skin and red hair. It makes me feel uncomfortable to have most colors too close to my face because I worry about being washed out. I usually only wear reds and greens near my face.

Anyway, moving past my insecurities and into this dress’ many positive attributes…I love everything about it, except my fabric choice and the suggestion of binding around the armholes and neck.

The dress seems to want more drape, and the cotton lawn is too airy to allow you to fully appreciate the shape, structure, and flow of the dress.  That was my mistake, and I think it still works…it just doesn’t reach its full potential. I think the only area that the bad fabric choice really affected was the neckline and armholes. I sewed a binding on, as instructed, but it stuck out and looked crinkly, so I turned it over, tacked it inside like a facing, and topstitched:

…much better. The defining characteristic (and real magic) of this dress is the gathered skirt, which has a vintage feel that I love:

I admit that I did have some trouble inserting the zipper. I am going to iron it into submission next time, because it was all wrinkly from having been in the package since the 80s (seriously…the packaging was almost deteriorating) and didn’t stick on, despite massive quantities of Scotch tape. I chose a thread that matches the little brown morning glories, but I used a cream zipper to match the background fabric…it looked fine from the outside, but the inside does not look very professional. I know I need to work on my zipper inserting techniques!

All in all, it was a fast and rewarding project that I probably will wear in the summer. This dress also made me truly love garment sewing. I have no garment fabric right now because I don’t have a stash, but I have enough quilts going on (FIVE…unacceptable) to keep me busy, as well as my pinwheel blocks, which look great. I bought a big scrap of vintage fabric that combines well with remnants from earlier projects…I’ll have those blocks to show you soon.

In the meantime, I’m waiting on this fabric from Denver Fabrics for another dirndl-style dress (this time with a V neck and longer sleeves):

I have high hopes for this!

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Chinese pastoral

February 22, 2010

Pattern: American Pastoral from Built by Wendy: Dresses

Fabric: cotton lawn, 1.25 yards

Other notions: covered buttons

First of all, thank you SO MUCH for all of your wonderfully supportive comments about the wonky star quilt. Y’all are right…I need to wash it (well) and get it quilted. I decided to do a wonky nine-patch block in all the colors used in the stars for the back, so it will be a double-sided quilt. I think that will make me much happier in the end.

Onto the dress…this project marked my first foray into garment sewing, and it was a good one! I bought three yards of this lawn cotton from Gorgeous Fabrics a few weeks ago (as well as a fabric I shouldn’t have bought, which I think is destined to become a quilt back). I love the fabric, which looks exactly like a Liberty print called “Poppy and Honesty.”

The pattern called for ticking and a yoke.  I chose not to sew it with the yoke, which was basically a design element for directional fabrics like ticking, and would have looked odd in this pattern. Here are my notes on various project features:

Sleeves: I gave my sleeves a small cuff and am still debating sewing my leftover buttons onto the edges…my suspicion is that they will disappear because it is a busy fabric and will be a waste of time in the end. I prefer 3/4-length sleeves, and these do not disappoint…although there is a significant amount of excess fabric to be gathered into the sleeve of the XS. I am going to try a new technique, taught to me by my mother, next time I attempt this pattern.  I want to reduce bulk in the shoulders, as these border on puff sleeves…an 80s fashion element I do not want to revive. Ever.

Fabric: I’m happy with the fabric itself, but not in this dress. The dress requires a more structured, heavier, less drapey fabric (hence its original incarnation in ticking), and the lawn is much less structured than I would like. I suspect my fabric choice may have rendered it unsuitable for regular wear.

Fit: I have a feeling fit is going to be a frequent issue for me. I am very petite–my hip measurements are a full 2″ smaller than the smallest measurement given for the XS size.  I had to adjust the length of the pattern by about 4″ and I think that made the fullness in the hip less noticeable.  Luckily, Wendy has given me confidence in adjusting patterns to fit, so I do not think it will be a problem for me to modify for my shape!

Collar: The pattern calls for a mandarin collar, which I made…I love mandarin collars. Sewers, beware: there is an error in the collar directions, but I think even novice sewers could spot it. The pattern calls for you to cut a 1/2″ x 19″ strip for the collar…obviously, that wouldn’t work, and you would end up with a finished collar of 1/8″, at most. I cut a 3″ by 19″ strip and am happy with how it turned out!

Mistakes/ lessons: I interfaced neither the collar nor the button placket, both of which needed it desperately.  I didn’t know about how important interfacing is before I did this (I know, it’s shameful).  My button placket fabric puckered a bit. It’s not noticeable to others, probably, but is to me!

All in all, I would say it was a success and I enjoyed the process so much. Thank you, Wendy Mullin, for giving me a new reason to get up in the morning.