Visiting old friends – McCalls 3562

Have you ever held an idea for a sewing project in your head for so long that when it comes time to sit down and sew it, you’re no longer inspired?

I was going to make up this cute late 60s dress in navy with a contrasting yoke in white, maybe with some gold buttons to give it a jaunty sailor vibe. My mom gave me some lovely linen from NY Fashion Center for my birthday last summer, and the pattern and fabric have been dancing around together in my head for the past year.

But when it came time to put the two together, I wasn’t feelin it any more. The hot Indiana summer is on its way, and when I sifted through my pattern stash and came across this one, I decided to shift my plans:

This is the same pattern I made a maxi dress from several years back…

Despite looking a little preggers in that photo, I love this dress to pieces. I don’t even care about all its beginner-sewist flaws, like the fact that my straps are different widths where they cross over the shoulders and that the hem is uneven and poorly finished with some sorta weird stiff hem tape. I don’t notice any of those problems when I wear it. All I notice is how lovely and swishy the rayon challis feels. I feel like a pretty pretty princess. A pretty pretty comfortable princess, since it is also loose and flowing – perfect for a hot Indiana summer. Isn’t it nice to know that the sewing flaws we brood over sometimes don’t matter at all in the finished project?

So I decided to make up this pattern again (in the shorter version this time), using my navy for the main body and the white for the contrast straps.

I love how it turned out! Also, if you tie the straps in front, you won’t cause consternation in people who can’t tell if you’re expecting or not! (Although I could definitely still carry a basketball around under this dress if necessary.) Also, check out how vibrant and green Indiana looks in that photo. I haven’t messed with the colors at all. C’mon Mom and Dad – don’t you think you’d like to try Indiana out just a little?

Moving on, I traced off this pattern again in the shorter length because I have a feeling I’m going to want more of these. First of all, it’s a super simple sew. One pattern piece for the front, one for the back, and a couple for the straps. No closures. Easy peasy. Second of all, it’s the perfect dress to throw on when the weather is hot and you can’t be bothered with anything finicky or clingy.

This dress also makes me feel like a pretty pretty princess – a low-maintenance princess who frequents farmers markets and likes berry picking. The lace helps. It is leftover from my sister’s wedding dress, and I think it was the perfect finishing touch.

I sewed it on like a facing flipped to the outside, which made for a very easy hem finish. Here’s the deets:

1. Cut two strips of lace of equal width and long enough to go around your hem when pieced together (unless you’re able to cut one very long strip equal to your hem circumference).

2. Put your strips right sides together and serge or zigzag along one short end.

3. Press your seam allowance to one side. Turn your dress inside out and lay the right side of your long lace strip against the wrong side of your hem. Pin all the way around until you figure out how long you need your lace strip. If possible, make sure the seams on your lace fall somewhere inconspicuous, like at the side seams, and not at the center front – like I did. Whoops.

4. Mark the point where the lace ends meet. Serge or zigzag this short end together, and cut off the excess.

5. Finish pinning the lace to the hem, and then serge or zigzag all the way around the hemline, joining the lace and skirt fabric.

6. Press the lace to the right side of the garment. You probably want to use a press cloth like I did, or you might melt your lace (as I have done in the past). Try a test swatch first before putting any heat on it.

7. If your lace is shifty like mine, measure and pin the top edge so that it maintains an equal width all the way around your hem. Then you can either put a basting stitch in to hold everything in place or just charge right ahead and secure the top edge with a zigzag stitch. I used a basting stitch first, and I’m glad I did.

And that’s all there is to it! Almost not worthy of a tutorial. I really like the result though – I’m always meaning to put more effort into embellishing my makes. I think I’m going to use this technique again, maybe to hem some shorts or the sleeves on a shirt.

Other things I did with this dress – I changed the back neckline to a V, partially because I thought it would look nice and partially because it allowed me to cut down past a weird bubble I had created in my French seams. This dress is all about embracing imperfections.

The neckline facing (which is on the outside and turns into the straps) is just kinda sandwiched inside of that center back seam. Not proper technique, I know, but who’s gonna criticize me? I top-stitched the bottom edge of the facing to keep it secured against the bodice of the dress.

Also, I should mention that I cut the fabric on the bias for this dress. It’s the first time I’ve dealt with a bias cut dress, and this is a nice and easy starter pattern for doing it. The pattern doesn’t say to do this, but I thought it couldn’t hurt.

I let the pattern pieces hang on my dress form for a day (maybe two?) so that they could stretch out. It created some weird puckers around the armhole where I had put in stay stitching.

You can kinda see the puckering in the photo above. I ended up pulling out the stay stitches to get rid of this, and I’m still not really clear on the rules of bias sewing. You’re supposed to let the garment hang to stretch out, but what about areas that you don’t typically want to stretch out? I read some forums on Pattern Review that say to let your garment pieces stretch out, then lay them down again with the pattern paper on top and trim off areas where they grew. That seems like a big hassle. I also read that some people recommend cutting your pieces with extra wide seam allowances, so that if they stretch vertically you don’t loose too much width. That seems like an even bigger hassle. In the end, I put my stay stitching back in after I let the pieces stretch. I used twill tape or organza strips to stabilize the neck and armholes against further stretching. I hope my methods work, but only time will tell.

As for the bias affecting the drape of the dress – I’m not sure if it helped or not. Even though this is handkerchief linen and very lightweight, it’s not particularly drapey, so maybe the bias cut helped a little. I definitely wouldn’t make this dress in anything less drapey or much heavier – it’s best suited to fabrics like the challis I used on the maxi version. But I think the linen works, especially for the short version.

Nothing else to report on this one, so I’ll leave you with this glamour shot:

Haha! That’s how I work it.

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