Archive | June, 2012

Rising to the Challenge of the Little Black Dress

30 Jun

I’ve been thinking, since my retail exception for the black dresses, of what it might take, in a sewing project, to make it appealing to undertake a black dress project. Would it be fabric–something with drape, or an appealing texture? A particularly unique design? Some fun technique that I wanted to try so much, it wouldn’t even matter if the fabric was black?

I couldn’t come up with an answer to that question…until a couple of nights ago, out for cocktails, a woman at the venue wore a dress I couldn’t keep my eyes off of. Hers was green, but it had a decorative detail that was so fun and simple and intriguing to me, I thought “I’d like to try to make that, myself…and that’s a dress that I could even make, in black.”

What’s more, the dress requires a knit, with a bit of stretch, and I happen to have a bolt of a smooth black knit in my stash that I think I could use just for this purpose. I’m going to try it: without buying any new fabrics or patterns, I’d like to imitate the effect of the woman’s green dress, for myself: in black.

(Not even close to the black dress I’m attempting…but a pretty neat one just the same. Those women on the far right, they wish they had a black dress!)

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Personal fashion from other people’s fabric

26 Jun

I got another really cool gift of fabric. This was actually a while ago, and although I quickly knew what I wanted to do with it, it’s taken me some time.

It was this great length of an African printed textile:


I was describing this fabric to someone, saying “It’s a wide stripe, with another pattern layered over that, and then gold peacock feathers printed over that…” and the other person went “Whoah….that sounds like some fabric!” and I realized that what I was describing sounded really horrible, actually.

But there it is: you can see it for yourself. It’s got wide stripes, and a pattern of lines intersecting that, and then gold peacock feathers scattered over that.

At any rate, it was originally an sarong-style wrap skirt. It was hemmed on the edges, including a kind of wide, stiff hem along one side. I almost suspect the friend who offered it to me meant it to be used as a tablecloth, or in some other home decor application, but I wanted to see it as a more shaped, fitted garment. I was limited by the yardage, though: there simply wasn’t much there, and I was going to have to (gasp!) match stripes.

I used “See and Sew” pattern B5664, which is supposed to be really easy. (It says so right on the package: “YES! It’s easy!”) but it took me a while. I averaged a single step every few days…and it’s fully lined, so once you finish one thing, you get to do it all over again.

I’m quite happy with the way it came out, I have to say. I made one alteration: the neck was too low and the neckline gapped in the back, so I took a full 1″ out of the top seam, along the top of the shoulders, lifting the whole bodice up to fit closer.

What I like best about it is that it has center seams, both front and back. I think this gives it extra curvature–instead of a straight grainline like most dresses cut symmetrically on the fold, this one has a slightly shaped center seam, in addition to the side darts. And with the 1″ lift, the waistline hits me right at the natural waist, so I think, for me, this is a pattern I can/will use again.

When I make this pattern the next time, I’m going to add a kick-pleat in the center back, to give a little extra space for climbing steeps steps, like on public transportation. But I’m keeping the rest the same.

Shift-ing into Summer

9 Jun

Turning my back on black, it’s time to bring out the color. I went back to the embroidered Indian fabric I originally bought for a skirt, in March, when the weather was still cold. I wanted more than a skirt. Plus, I haven’t been sewing in a few weeks (other projects took over my attention) so I needed something light and easy to get back into it.

I chose what is becoming my standby, my “Wear the Shift” pattern:

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I laid the pattern out right along the lace edging of the fabric, to use the fabric’s border as a hem. And since it was scalloped on both sides, I cut the strip of scallops off the opposite side to use that, as well, as a double-layered scallop. Since the lace needed to be fully lined, anyway, I attached the second strip of lace to the hem of the lining underneath.

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It’s bright, it’s summery, it’s decidedly not black, and all of that is good. However, reading sewing blogs has made me paranoid about wrinkles, and this dress definitely wrinkles. If wrinkles point out areas of poor fit, then something is surely off, here, which is troubling, because this is my custom built-for-me dress pattern that I’ve made a half dozen times. It could be the way the lace lays over the lining, or it could be the way the grain shifted slightly as I lined the pattern up by the hem rather than the true grainline…or it could be a few added pounds. It’s difficult to say for sure, except the one sure thing I am learning in this project is that “fit is hard”.

And even the old “tried and true” can throw you for a loop, when you’re getting all creative with it.