As I mentioned in my last post, RR’s lovely cousin Miss L got married last month, and I spent the summer sewing away to create two different outfits I could wear to her wedding. My fair weather option was a beautiful 1950s-inspired sundress with contrasting collar and cuffs (which I was happily able to wear – it was a glorious day!) – but as you can never really count on the weather in England, I also had a chilly day standby option – my beautiful peplum dress.
Back at the start of the summer, when I initially made the toile for this dress, I had plans to make it in a beautiful blue and white heavyweight stretch cotton.
But as I was making adjustments to my pattern, it occurred to me that this fabric would be far better suited to a summer-weight coat instead. And once I had this thought, I couldn’t get rid of it. I couldn’t envisage it as a dress fabric anymore, it was definitely coat fabric! So although I loved the pattern, and the toile was fitting beautifully, I needed a Plan B.
Cue a morning of fabric rummaging, as I made my way through my dressmaking stash, and hit upon what, if it worked, could be an absolutely stunning option. The remnants of my pink bouclé fabric I’d purchased last year for my couture sewing class with Susan Khalje, and which ended up becoming my Marfy jacket.
Me in my Marfy jacket
At the time, at Alice’s insistence, I’d bought enough of this glorious fabric to make a matching skirt, but had never quite got around to it. And now I realised why – this fabric was just crying out to be made into a beautiful dress instead! Especially when paired with a divine purple silk satin lining I’d picked up at The Silk Society on Berwick Street on my last trip home.
The only problem was, the pattern called for 2.3m of fabric, and I had a mere 1.3m left. And the fabric has a directional weave, limiting my layout options. What’s more, I’m a bit OCD about pattern matching, so I wanted the weave to follow through across the width of the dress. Nothing like trying to make things easy for myself, eh?!
But nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say! And so I cut my pattern pieces out of silk organza underlining, spent pretty much an entire weekend playing with the layout until I managed to get it all to fit.
And without including any hem allowance, leaving out the collar, and scrapping any idea of a belt.
Still, a hem can be faced, a collar wasn’t absolutely necessary, and I don’t much like belts on dresses anyway, so this wasn’t a huge issue for me!
So I basted the organza to the bouclé fabric, took a deep breath, and cut. And then very slowly started to sew.
At first, it all seemed to be going like a dream. I used the same couture techniques I had learned from Susan to make my jacket (using a silk organza underlining, then catch stitching all the hem allowances down to the underlining to control any fraying), and used a walking foot to make sure the fabric didn’t slip as I was sewing it.
The dress was almost finished, and fit like a glove, when the unthinkable happened.
When trimming back my seam allowances, just before catch stitching the final seam, I accidentally cut off the skirt vent on one half of the back of the dress. I just wasn’t concentrating, and before I knew it, that little rectangle of fabric was no longer attached to my dress, but sitting forlornly on my sewing table, asking me what the heck I was thinking of.
It has to be admitted that at this point some Very Very Bad Words were uttered, and I can neither confirm nor deny whether they rhymed with “Oh bucket!” They may well have done, and worse too!
Still, I’d invested a lot of time into this dress, and the fabric could in no way be described as inexpensive, so what’s a girl to do? Gather the scraps and try and carefully piece them back together to make some kind of vent facing, which could then be sewn back onto the dress as if nothing had happened.
So that’s exactly what I did! I am a quilter, after all…
Gathering the scraps
Matching pattern and sewing together to make a large enough piece for the vent
Attaching the new vent onto the bottom of the centre back seam
Buoyed by my success, I wondered whether I could repeat this exploit to create a collar for the dress too. I mean, it didn’t strictly speaking need one, but it would be a lovely addition if I could. So, after a whole day’s work with silk organza, fabric scraps, needle and thread, I created this lovely piece of FrankenFabric…
… which was just big enough to allow me to cut out the collar piece. Yay!!!
Finally, I added the hem facing and attached the lining, to create my glorious, beautiful, learning experience of a dress.
Finished peplum dress
Lovely little side peplum
Magnificently pieced bias-cut collar
Divine (and exceedingly flattering!) little cap style sleeves
With my Marfy jacket (sporting newly attached trim!)
And after all that, this is all the fabric I had left.
So the fabric may not have been cheap, but at least nobody can accuse me of wasteful extravagance, can they?!
Now I’m not usually one to moan, but by heck have I been grouching and grumping around the place these past 2 weeks. Summer’s hit us here in Switzerland, and it’s hot. Really hot. Deeply, unpleasantly, airlessly hot. It’s been well into the 30s every day for 2 weeks now, with pretty much no breeze to speak of. It’s the kind of weather that is physically and mentally draining, where you only feel clean for about the 30 seconds after you get out of the shower, and it takes at least an hour to summon up the energy to make dinner, let alone eat it.
Yup – we’re in the middle of a heatwave. La canicule as they call it here. And – guess what – I really do not like the heat!
Last Monday, I finally persuaded RR to hook up our portable air conditioner for the summer, so I can now get some relief by sitting in a chair right in front of it, but as soon as I move the wall of heat hits me again. This means I’ve barely moved from the dining table for the past week…
But I’ve been keeping myself occupied, nonetheless. RR’s lovely cousin Miss L is getting married in September, so, of course, this means plenty of sewing to keep me busy over the summer. I’m not only making Miss L and Mr D a quilt as a wedding gift (of which more at a future date), I’m also planning to sew myself an outfit to wear on their big day.
And so, while the weather’s been all hot and bothersome outside, I’ve been narrowing down pattern and fabric options, and I’ve got it down to a shortlist of 2.
Option 1 is a classic and elegant Vogue pattern for a sleeveless sheath dress with a cute little peplum detail at the waist, and a separate belt to tie in the back (pattern number Vogue 1399)
I was thinking to use this beautiful white and navy cotton print, which I bought from Harlequin Fabrics in Leamington Spa when I was back visiting Mum earlier in the year.
It’s reasonably heavy weight, so I think it will give the dress a nice amount of structure, and it also has a little stretch to it, so it should be comfortable to wear.
My second option is something altogether different – a Butterick Retro pattern for a 1950s style dress with a fitted bodice, flared, panelled skirt, and lovely detailing with turned back lapels, faux buttons on the bodice, and pointed turn-back cuffs on the sleeves (pattern number Butterick 6018)
For this option, I’ve kind of earmarked some beautiful Art Gallery fabric –Butterfly Bliss by Pat Bravo, and I think it would look super-cute if I made the collar and cuffs in a plain white lawn as a contrast to the main fabric.
I’d originally bought this to make a dress for my niece, the lovely Miss B, but as she has yet to send me any of her measurements, I thought I’d appropriate it for me… Hee hee!
So – pattern and fabric choices narrowed down, I started work on a toile for each one. Sitting at the dining table. In front of the air conditioner!
Here they are on my sorry excuse for a dress form (it’s fine for holding my works in progress but no good at all for fitting; no matter how I adjust it, I just can’t get it right – it seems I have odd proportions! One day I’ll get a custom one made just for me, with all my lumps, bumps, and wobbly bits, but in the meantime, the one I have is better than nothing…)
1st toile for V1399
1st toile for B6018
Now, both toiles need a little adjustment (the Vogue one more than the Butterick one) and that is (hopefully) going to happen tomorrow, when I trot off for my new sewing class. The weather’s also due to break tomorrow, so fingers crossed, I should soon be able to get sewing 🙂
Here’s hoping, anyway!