Sunday, 13 September 2015

In The Navy

Sooo, peeps, I have finally got around to making the shirt dress I have been promising for the past few weeks (read: months).  I decided a couple of weeks ago that I had a free weekend stretching ahead of me (this was the weekend before bank holiday), so I would dedicate that weekend to tackling the shirt dress.

***warning . . . this is a long post . . . I talk about many things other than sewing and my dress, including but not limited to Bake Off, my new found sewing engineer skills, general exhaustion***

I chopped my head off this pic as my face just looked awful

I was inspired to make this by the lovely Mary of Idle Fancy, who it seems is queen of shirt dresses.  I love to read her blog, so I see a fair few shirtdresses.  I love how they look.  I have also noticed that a few of the other sewing blogs I follow love this dress muchly.  I have always veered away from anything with buttons down the front due to the inevitable gapage, but that is the joy of sewing your own.  McCalls 6696 comes highly recommended AND it even has different cup size options for the larger buxomed amongst us (I still went for the largest of the cup size options - a D).

I bought the pattern (and the fabric for that matter) aaaages ago and cut out the pattern.  Then I left it for a few weeks, not daring to start it.  I always have a fear of the unknown so I usually try to put them off as long as possible (I would like to point out that this was totally acceptable with my disaster of a first pair of trousers).  But anyway, I had a day on my own coming up at work (the rest of my fellow LAs were on holiday) so I knew I wouldn't get to leave my desk at lunch, so I needed something I could do sat at my desk but didn't involve looking at the computer, so I decided that I would start to cut out my dress.

I had bought some cheapish navy polycotton, thinking along the lines of wearable muslin, and had done a little doodle in my sketch pad of what I wanted he finished dress to look like.  The step-mother (non-wicked) liked the drawing, so after being told that I knew that I needed to make the dress awesome, which probably upped the nervous levels of making the first cut.

Anyway, as usual I am transgressing (just for a change).

My desk wasn't quite big enough to deal with the 4 metres of fabric and the pattern pieces for the skirt were slightly wider than my desk, but I managed (just).  It took me about half an hour to cut out the skirt pieces, the band and some of the collar.  The rest would either have to wait until I got home or for another day.  Due to the fact that I immediately fell asleep on the sofa when I got home, it waited until the following lunchtime, and took me about half of that to finish off my cutting.  This was just the fabric though . . . the interfacing had to wait until I could go get some more.  And I have to say, out of 4 metres of fabric, there wasn't much left.  I might, just might, get a child's dress out of it with some creative cutting.

Cutting out the interfacing had to wait another couple of days - in fact Friday night when I got home, and I had intended in starting the sewing that evening, but hubby came home unusually early, so we had tea and then went for a walk by the river and then just watched some telly, but it is nice to spend some time with him, as we so rarely see each other these days - we are both such busy people.

So, anyway, actual sewing commenced on the Saturday afternoon after I had run my errands and had some lunch.

Sorry, this is turning out to be a long post. 

Normally, when making a dress, I am inclined to do the skirt bit first, as I always think this is easier than the bodice, but as I was so anxious about this one, I decided to follow the instructions in the correct order for once, and that had me assemble the bodice first.  This was actually quite straight forward - a bust dart and side dart at each side, some gathering to the top and bottom of the back piece, and sew on the back yoke.  Simples.  At this point I decided to go for a little jaunt out to Guiseley to see my big sister and the nieces (the eldest of which wasn't even dressed and it was about 3.30 - I am dreading her teenage years, can't imagine what my sister feels).

When I got back home I had some tea and watched a spot of telly (caught up on The Scandalous Lady W, which had been on a few days before, but I had only half-watched).  After that, I decided to crack on with the dress.

I wasn't too sure about adding the yoke facing, but unusually for me, the instructions seemed to make perfect sense, so that bit really was a breeze and I am pleased to announce that I now think that I am adequate at yokes.  The shoulder seams of the yoke facing needed hand-stitching, so I did that whilst watching The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice.  Who else is watching GBBO?  Who is your fave?  I have to admit that I had a soft spot for Sandy and I was sad to see her go - I don't know if it is because she is quite local to me, or because she is pretty nuts, but I like her.  Cake week upset me because I really wanted one of the black forest gateaux (by 'one', please read 'all') but as I can't eat chocolate I was getting a bit depressed about it.  By the end I was just thinking 'I'll take the migraine, give me a cake!!!!!'  Nobody brought be a cake :-(  At the moment, I couldn't say who I think would win - Ian is doing well, but it is never a good  thing to peak early in GBBO and I can't help thinking the other contestants are going to get annoyed with him and he will have a kitchen-related "accident" . . . I mean, there are a lot of sharp knives in that tent . . . .

Anyway, the dress, yes the dress.  I'm normally not a huge fan of hand stitching.  I don't mind it if I have some telly to watch, but otherwise I just can't be bothered, but at this point I was enjoying making this dress, so I wasn't minding too much.  I would, however, next time just top-stitch these seams and call it a design element.  I didn't do it this time as I was trying to be good and follow the instructions to this letter.  I can assure you this didn't last.  In fact, it didn't last long at all . . . 

Next up was the binding on the armhole edges.  Now, I had bought what I thought was coordinating navy binding, as I couldn't be bothered to make binding.  However, when I came to start the binding, I realised it didn't match perfectly.  I knew this would bother me.  Other people might not notice it, but I would know it was there and it would be glaringly obvious to me every time I caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye.

So, I decided to go for a total contrast binding and raided my stash, where I found a few options.  I decided to go for the red stripe, as I had already bought my buttons (or rather button options x 3) and these were red.  I had also been considering some red top-stitching and I knew that I would wear this dress with possibly a red skinny belt (if I ever find one) and some shoes which are navy and red.  I decided against the top stitching in the end, and I have to admit that I wasn't too sure about the binding, but I showed my little sis and my friend, Sally, and they both approved it.

The only 'amendment' I made was to hand stitch the binding at the back, as although the instructions say to topstitch, I couldn't decide what colour to use.  Of course,  this meant that I could watch some more telly, in this case Nashville, which I desperately needed to catch up on.  I think at the moment I am three weeks behind. 

I also turned some of the binding inside out so that I could get the stripes as mirror images of each other on each armhole, and that was me done for that day.  It did take me a while to figure out that I needed to turn the binding inside out - who knew that just turning it upside down wouldn't work!!!!  I do worry about my mind some days . . .  I didn't actually finish sewing the binding then, so I left it to the next day.

I left all the pins in etc. and started on the band and the skirt.  All pretty straight forward until my damn sewing machine broke.  Just stopped.  Couldn't turn the handwheel at all.   When I had about 3cm left to go on a seam - my last seam for the day!!!! SOOOOO annoyed, as it is only about 6 weeks since it went in for it's service, and I have already had it in pieces once as it hadn't been put back together properly.  

So, me and hubby wasted about an hour of our Sunday afternoon taking the machine apart, which was a trial in itself and trying to figure out what had caused the problem.  We still don't know, but the handwheel now turns again.  Random!  Anyway, I don't know what we did taking it apart/putting it back together, but then the tension was way off.  So, I ended up sewing that same bit of 3cm seam a gazillion times until I got it right,  I kept trying it out on scraps of fabric, and it would be fine, but when it came to the actual dress, it would all be off again.  I wonder if it has something to do with the three layers of fabric and one of interfacing?  Maybe that's what broke it in the first place?!  Hubby seems to think he may have put the tension dial back on wrong, but he has yet to remedy this.  The machine works, it just doesn't seem right, if that makes any sense?

Anyway, I got there in the end then decided I would do the handstitching sat in my sister's garden.  I had the band  to sew down and the armholes to finish still.  Again, I didn't quite get this finished - it rained, so we went inside and then I decided to have a colouring and designing sesh with the little sister and the eldest niece.  So, the band and armholes actually took me about 3 days to sew on rare lunchbreaks and when I had an even rarer few minutes free at home.  I got there in the end though.  Then it was time to do the button bands . . .

I have  to admit, I had to read the instructions about 5 times for this bit - it wasn't that they were difficult, I just couldn't visualise it in my head.  I was just about to go online for some help, when the light bulb finally turned itself on and I finally understood.  I am going to blame the fact that I had just had my B12 injection and was waiting for it to actually take effect for my brain to work properly again - it is well known that when my B12 is low I become more of an idiot that usual.  This was actually obvious from my uni grades last year - I did much better on the assignments that were written and handed in when my B12 was high/normal than those that were done when my injection was due.

I am also suffering with more tiredness than usual, so the B12 injection alone isn't solving the issue.  I've been seeing a counsellor recently as I have just felt rubbish, and she thinks that I am suffering from exhaustion, which would account for the extra tiredness.  She might not be far off the mark to be honest - I am one of those people who never stops . . . ever!  I fear that if I stop I will never start again, so I am always doing.  I am aware that I need to scale back my life a bit and learn to say no to doing things, but I always feel bad if someone wants to do something and I say no.  For example, last week, I had one evening to myself, and that was then spent doing the housework - see no rest.  So, I am trying to make a promise to myself to calm my life down.  I'm not sure if this would mean more time  to sew or if I should also take a rest from that?  I've got quite a busy September, but I'm hoping that October and November will stay pretty clear, and then I am on holiday in December, so that will be a bit of an enforced rest, as I can't very well say yes to everything if I'm in the Caribbean with my phone turned off can I?

Anyway, enough with my problems and moans, I would like to say all was going well with the button bands.  I had even inserted some piping.  Admittedly this was tres wonky, but it is the first time I have ever put piping on a garment, so I am impressed with myself.  It is made from the binding I used on the armholes.  So, as I was saying, all was going well, until I realised the damn button bands are too short.  I can't remember if from the reviews I have read whether this is an actual problem, or my cutting was just dodgy.  I wouldn't have  minded too much if I hadn't already chopped two inches off the hem because it was way too long for my short-ass self.

I hoped I could wing it and the collar would hide this fact.  In a way it did, but my collar is a bit of a bodge if I am honest.  It is the first time I have done a proper collar and I am still impressed with myself.  If it wasn't for the short button bands, it would have been perfect.  So, how did I resolve the short button bands issue - I added a 'design element' of course.  Basically, the top of the button band now turns back on itself for a lovely small lapel effect.  It works, and that is all I care about.

So that was that done, and I just needed to do the buttonholes and sew the buttons on.  Seriously people, do not let me sew when I am tired.  I started the buttonholes on the wrong side, but didn't realise until I had already done 4, so my dress now opens the wrong way, but never mind, I will manage I'm sure.
I do not know how I managed to achieve
THIS level of wonkiness with the

Then THEN . . . having done my buttonholes and sewed my buttons on - how cute are these little red hearts by the way? - I discovered that something had gone seriously wrong with my waistband.  The dress all measures up - the bottom hem is in line, as is the collar/top bit of the dress, but the waistband just doesn't match - it's about 1.5 inches out.   It was on when I was sewing the waistband that my machine broke, so I don't know if this has anything to do with it (doubt it), but I have absolutely no idea how I have managed this, and it wasn't even like I sewed the waistband on an evening when I was a bit tired - I did it Sunday lunchtime.  I suppose I could blame hunger. . . . Anyway, I'm hoping no-one will notice, because there is no way I am unpicking all the way back to that. 

However, when I came to try on the dress, it fit almost perfectly, and I did enjoy making it.  There is a bit of gaping at the armholes, but nothing a small FBA won't fix.  I had read on other blogs that there seemed to be too much blousing at the back.  I was concerned about this, and it did seem that this could be the case when I was trying the dress on as I was making it, but the final product has a manageable amount of blousing - might have something to do with my wonky waistband?  AND I think the shape and fit is quite flattering on me.  You may think otherwise . . .

Despite all the things that need improving, I am quite happy with this - it was only supposed to be a test muslin anyway, but I do have some awesome shoes that will go with it, and I'm hoping that unless it is pointed out to peeps, they will never notice the wonkiest waistband on earth.  I'm thinking not wearing a belt will be the best option - no need to bring attention to it now is there.  Or, I could make up a red obi belt and that would hide it completely, now there's a plan.
I could bind these inside edges

So, what would I do differently next time (there WILL be a next time, I promise)?

1.  Maybe forget about the piping - I need more practice before I let that loose ion garments again.
2.  There is a bit of gaping at the armholes, so maybe a small FBA is required, even though I did use the D cup
3.  Figure out what the hell I did with that waistband!  And not do it again.
4. Top stitch instead of all the hand stitching - we shall call it a 'design feature'.  It might mean I actually get it done in my intended weekend.  Hand stitching on this included:  the yoke facing shoulder seams; the waist facing; the binding; the button bands (x2) and the collar facing.
5.  Either make sure I cut the button band correctly, or add some length to it.  This might help me with the collar.
6.  As there are hardly any exposed seams, I could hong-kong finish those that are there.  I might also doing the facings in contrast fabric to add a bit of interest . . . maybe

As already said, there will be a next time, maybe with the narrower skirt, although do like the fuler skirt.  I have my eye on this seeksucker from White Tree Fabrics (hint hint hubby - don't think he actually reads this blog though - and I have just found out as I have an NUS card I get student discount - Awesome!) but maybe I should focus on autumn/winter fabrics and colours rather than more summer?  I do have a holiday in December though that I will need clothes for . . .

Anyway, that is this particular epic post done. I am on with a holiday dress next, providing all goes well with it.  I have also just downloaded the Deer & Doe Plantain Tee, so that will be a new challenge for me - any advice peeps?  

As always, I'll let you know how they go.

Happy Crafting!


the dress has a bit of twirlability


  1. Love your dress and I love the way you write too! Straight off the cuff! Shame about the waistband but I can't see that it notices tbh. I can identify with the not being able to say no thing. But I'm currently in training! :-)

    1. Thanks Janene. I blog-write as I think - it's a bit like therapy but does show my lack of attention span!

      Work on the saying no - I found out the hard way that it can break you, but that lesson is now learned!

      Holly x


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