A few posts ago, I told you guys how I had a friend getting married… and how I planned to make a dress for her wedding…and how it would all be fine because I had just under a month to do it… Well, I started it 2 weeks before the wedding, after a successful shopping trip in London with a close friend and some last minute changes to the design in my head!! No matter how I plan things in my head, I always end up leaving my sewing plans until the last minute… I guess that’s just how I roll!!
So, lets start at the beginning of this plan, shall we? Firstly I aimed to draft the pattern all by myself (I’d describe the dress to you but I do plan to make it eventually so I’m going to keep the design in my head for now!!) but, in reality, this could have only happened if I’d progressed further than drafting my basic bodice block 3 months ago, which I haven’t! Next, I planned to use half a pattern that I know fits me, and use part-draping and part simple pattern drafting to complete the design. I probably could have done this if I’d started the dress more than 2 weeks before the wedding. Instead, I decided I’d use a pattern I already own, and have made before but make it in more suitable fabrics for a wedding. In hindsight, I probably should have gone fabric window/research shopping first, then designed the dress, figured out the pattern and bought the fabrics in the required quantities… but where is the fun in that?! So I set my heart on a colour, the types of fabrics I wanted to use and just went with it!
The Simple Sew Ruby Dress pattern, which I bought off eBay as I’d missed the the issue of Love Sewing magazine that it came with (but you can now buy it, and all of the other Simple Sew patterns, from here), has a fitted bodice, V-neckline on the back, full circle skirt and a concealed zip. The neckline and armholes are finished with a facing, which at first seems a little confusing to construct but as soon as you’ve completed the construction once, it’s super easy peasy (I think this might be partly due to the instructions, which aren’t as detailed as other patterns out there but as it originally came free with a magazine you can’t really complain too much!).
I have wanted to sew with sequins for a while, I love some of the all-over-sequin styles on the high-street and feel they add a little bling to a style without overdoing it, if it’s done right. I love the colour navy and wear it 80% of the time, and it was the colour I’d set my heart on for this dress. I found this beautiful duchess satin for a £6.00 per meter, it’s a lovely quality, heavyweight satin, perfect to add a little bit of a formal look to a garment. However, I then struggled to find a matching sequin in the same colour! Luckily, I did find some and the assistant in the shop assured me his was the best quality all-over-sequin fabric as the sequins are stitched on instead of glued on… At £15.00 a meter, I decided it would be worth it, plus it was the best colour match between the sequins and satin that I’d seen all day, so I went with it!
Originally, my plan was to make the dress with a fitted sequin bodice, and to use the duchess satin to fully line the bodice instead of using the facing around the neckline and armholes. That was when I remembered just how big the waist darts are and I worried about how these would look so I did a little tester dart and the sequins just weren’t sitting right. I thought about re-drafting the bodice pattern to make this work, but I originally learned how to manipulate darts in my first year of university and after that I studied menswear where there were significantly less darts to play with!! I could have spoken to some of the girls at work, but I wanted to sew the dress together right there and then, so I cheated…
Instead of amending the pattern properly, I decided I would cut out the full dress in duchess satin, and the bodice pieces in sequin with no amendments. I knew by using the pattern without constructing the darts, it would give the front bodice enough fullness to act as a draped layer over the body, and I think it worked quite effectively.
The construction of the dress was essentially the same, except that I had 2 layers of the bodice. I constructed the satin bodice, by following the instructions and prepared the facing by overlocking the raw edges where necessary, however I didn’t add interfacing because the satin was pretty structured and I knew it could hold its own. I prepared the sequin bodice by overlocking all of the raw edges (this prevented the sequins from falling off as I’m sewing the garment together) and stitched the front to the back on the shoulder seams, completely ignoring any reference to the darts. It was then just a case of laying the prepared sequin bodice over the full satin bodice wrong side to right side (as it would look on the dress) and laying the facing on top right side to right side of the sequin bodice so the sequins were essentially sandwiched in.
I stitched around the neckline and under-stitched it accordingly. The pattern doesn’t call for this, but it prevents the seam from rolling out of the neckline of the dress giving it more of a professional finish, plus I just really like the process. I then stitched the armholes and pulled the backs of the bodice through the shoulders of the dress to bring it all through to the right side of the fabric – it makes sense when you do it!! It is important to note that the side seams and centre back seam has not been stitched, which is why it is possible to do this!!
From this point forwards, I pretty much ignored the sequin layer until I had constructed the rest of the dress with a few exceptions – when stitching the side seams and inserting the zip. But first, I attached the skirt front to the satin bodice front, and each corresponding skirt back to the back bodice pieces. Now, before we go any further on this, I faced some issues here and I still haven’t figured out why, but the skirt front would not fit onto the bodice front – I can’t figure out if I accidentally took the darts in too much, or whether the skirt was cut slightly off the grain and caused the skirt to stretch slightly – I stitched these two pieces together 4 times before I was happy with the finish and it still isn’t perfect. It’s something I didn’t come across on the first Ruby dress I stitched because I did that in a 4-way stretch jersey fabric but it is something I will re-assess the next time I make the Ruby dress.
Once I was happy with how the skirts were attached, I stitched the side seams together from the top of the facing down the side of the bodice to the hem of the skirt. I pulled the sequin fabric away from the seam so that it wouldn’t be caught in except at the very bottom of the armhole so that it could hang loose. I wanted the finish of this dress to be top quality so I took particular care to match the waist seams… I’m pretty happy with this result:
Next it was time to insert the invisible zip. For this, I used a concealed zipper foot on my machine, it was the first time I used this presser foot so I took my time, plus I wanted the sequin overlay hem to be level on the zip – this is something I have always struggled with and I think it’s about time I get into good sewing habits, like matching seams when inserting zips!
Here is one area where I didn’t cheat, I actually stitched the zip in twice. I heard some great advice form a colleague at work who said she would first stitch the zip in close to the zipper teeth but just far enough to make unpicking easy if necessary. This allowed her to check she was happy with the zip placement and make sure seams were level, before stitching the zip in a second time, as close to the zipper teeth as possible. This is what I did, and it’s pretty safe to say it worked perfectly:
I know you can see the zip but it’s less noticeable in person or, you know, not zoomed…. at least that’s my excuse, but just LOOK AT HOW LEVEL THE SEQUIN HEM IS!!
It was plain sailing from here, I stitched up the rest of the centre back seam and stitched up the side seams of the sequin bodice. Now, because I didn’t amend the front bodice pattern piece for the sequin, I had some overhang on the front compared to the back, I decided to use this to my advantage to add some weight to the sequin overlay front and stitched a deeper hem on the front than I did on the back pieces.
To hem the skirt, the pattern only asks for the 0.5cm hem, but when I made the first Ruby Dress I used a 2cm hem allowance and the length was perfect, so I did the same on this one. As this is a circle skirt, I would pin or hang my dress on my mannequin whenever it wasn’t being sewn so that it would allow the skirt to drop in the places where it isn’t cut on the grain, and I could determine if the hem needed levelling before it is stitched. However, I found that the fabric I used didn’t drop very much at all so no trimming was necessary to level the hem, and I just pressed the hem allowance up and stitched it in place. This is the one area I am not happy with on this dress – really I should have trimmed this down first as it wouldn’t sit right. I didn’t want to unpick and keep pressing and stitching as at this point it was the night before the wedding and I wanted it to be finished so I could wear it!! You can’t really tell there is this hem issue, and I got away with it on the day but it might be something I fix before I wear it again!! I finished the dress off by hand-stitching the facing down and adding in one of my little labels, overall I am really happy with it!!
The wedding was the most perfect day, the sun was shining and everyone had a great time!! This is a pattern I can see myself making again, I really like my first version and wear it regularly, and this was a fun take on it too!
The rest of the bank holiday weekend passed quickly, but I did manage to find time to pop to Ikea for a new addition to my sewing room – the Raskog trolley. I have seen this trolley used by so many other sewists, on Instagram and on other blogs and I wanted one for myself to keep my sewing tins in, previously I’d have my main sewing tin on the floor and I’d have to reach down to it every 5 minutes for another piece of my kit. The trolley will also allow me to keep my desk clearer during sewing, instead of accumulating tailors chalk, 2x pairs of scissors, my quick-unpick and my sewing gauge etc etc!! I believe the Raskog trolley is no longer in production, so if you’re thinking of getting one, I’d do it sooner rather than later!!
In other news, I’ve really enjoyed watching Me-Made-May on Instagram and the updates on various blogs. I didn’t take part because I don’t have enough me-mades but that is something I would like to change!! It has certainly got me thinking about what I want to sew and wear, and I have a sort of plan to get that started, which is good because without this direction I’d probably just make things for special occasions that I can’t wear very often!! I’ll elaborate more on this in the next post, but I’ve been thinking a lot more about my sewing and the skills I want to learn and where I want to take this little blog in the future. Having seen May talk at The Big Simplicity Blog Meet and how passionately she feels about sewing, it has pushed me to start making actions in creating these big changes… and that’s pretty exciting!!
Thanks for stopping by :), what things have you guys been sewing lately?