Friday, 27 October 2017

Emerald Green Party Dress

The story of this dress is quite a saga. I almost gave up on it more than once. Which was a surprise to me as although fiddly, I expected it to be straightforward given that I was using patterns I'd had success with before and familiar techniques. But then again I always seem to learn something from every project I tackle! I've had a few press nights and dressed-up events to go to recently and decided my wardrobe could definitely do with another glamorous, feel good dress. And let's face it, this is the kind of sewing that I really, really love. It might seem like my wardrobe is full of dresses but a lot of my occasion ones I made quite a long time ago and now don't fit quite right or just don't seem as well made as they did back then. The curse of improving sewing and fitting skills! A lot of them are also more suitable for weddings and such occasions rather than a night out. And there are only so many times I can wear my favourite jumpsuit around a lot of the same people!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Emerald Wool Crepe Green Party Dress using Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt and Rosie Dress sewing patterns

I didn't have time to go fabric shopping so decided to make the most of my stash which has grown a little larger than usual throughout the year. Almost forgotten at the bottom of the basket was this lovely little length of wool crepe in a vivid shade of jewel toned green. The perfect choice of colour as one of the events was press night for Young Frankenstein. I didn't have a huge amount of it, less than a metre and a half I would say. The lack of fabric determined the design choice and I was more than happy to go with a classic strappy, wiggle dress. I didn't have much time on my hands to be fiddling with fit, I wanted a project to sink my teeth into but that would come together smoothly and not be too taxing on a tired brain so I turned to the patterns I already had in my stash so I knew what to expect. I needed up using a combination of two Sew Over It patterns. I always seem to be pretty successful with the fit of these and their Ultimate Pencil Skirt is my go to pattern for that silhouette. I paired it with the bodice from the Rosie Dress which I loved the simple cut and shape of when I tested it a few months back, along with the super skinny rouleaux straps.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Emerald Wool Crepe Green Party Dress using Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt and Rosie Dress sewing patterns

I cut between the size 8 and 10 for both patterns FYI which is standard for me with Sew Over It and spot on my measurements. I only made a couple of changes to the patterns (to begin with at least!) as I was very happy with how they had turned out previously. First I took a bit of width out of the top edge of the bodice at the side seams as my first version didn't sit quite close enough to the body in that area for my liking. I believe I removed about 1/2" at the top and graded down to nothing at the waist along that seam. Secondly I moved the darts in the skirt a little so they would match up with the princess seams of the bodice. This takes a little bit of thought and a lot of measuring!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Emerald Wool Crepe Green Party Dress using Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt and Rosie Dress sewing patterns

As I had worked with the patterns before I didn't make a muslin and despite my careful thinking through and confidence in the patterns when I first put in the zip and had a try on the result was a complete disaster. I had wrinkles and drag lines all over the place, it was way too tight around the hips and clinging in all the wrong places. At first I thought it's fine, I'll unpick the side seams and sew them back up with a smaller seam allowance to give me a bit more room. No luck. I'd sewn myself the least flattering thing I'd ever made. I just didn't understand as both patterns had fit so well before and I knew my weight had been fluctuating of late but not to that extreme. I was so excited about the idea of this dress and it was incredibly frustrating to have wasted a fair bit of my precious sewing time on such a mess. The only thing that stopped me throwing it straight in the bin was the waste of that luxurious fabric!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Emerald Wool Crepe Green Party Dress using Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt and Rosie Dress sewing patterns

It took a couple of weeks away from it and a couple of other quick and successful sewing projects under my belt one weekend to make me revisit the dress. I put my original Ultimate Pencil Skirts on and they still fitted well so there must be something else going on. As soon as I put it back on with a clear head I realised. The skirt pattern has a super high waist; very flattering and lovely in a skirt but it's not made to be joined straight on to a bodice. I had way too much length in the waist and everything needed to be lifted up a bit giving me much more room in the hip when the curves of the skirt matched the curves of my body. I folded the skirt up at the waist until things seemed to be sitting correctly and pinned in place. I unpicked the zip, separated the skirt and bodice and took 1.5" off the top of the skirt then reassembled. A vast improvement and such an easy fix! It did unfortunately mean that all my hard work moving the darts to line up with the princess seams of the bodice went to waste at the back but they still match at the front and side seams at least.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Emerald Wool Crepe Green Party Dress using Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt and Rosie Dress sewing patterns

I was triumphant after figuring it out and the excitement for the project retuned. Unfortunately the dress wasn't quite done testing my patience yet. After the saga of the fit I had the saga of the straps. I spent one whole evening doing a fair bit of swearing whilst attempting to turn through skinny little straps with my loop turner. To get a super delicate lovely rouleaux strap you need to trim your seam allowance right down. However, if you do that on wool crepe it will fray and spread as you turn those straps out until the seams burst open. I wanted my straps as skinny as I could get them but I had no choice but to make them thicker then intended because of the fabric. A lot of trial and error then ensued figuring out the perfect width and using up the last of my crepe. I almost resorted to using the satin lining or some ribbon but am glad I didn't. In actual fact it would totally work strapless as I could have done with making the straps a bit shorter and when they slip down everything still stays in place. That must be proof that the bodice fits right!

I absolutely love wool crepe for it's combination of weight and drape as well as the way stitches sink into it almost invisibly, but it does need the right handling and treatment. It should really only be dry cleaned and you do need to be careful with the heat from your iron as this fabric loves to shrink. It's a good idea to at least give it a good steamy press before cutting to preshrink a little. There's various tips out there on the internet advising on the best ways to pretreat wool. I got this fabric years back from a Broadwick Silks remnant sale and first used it back then for a Charlotte Skirt. It didn't come out so well because my lack of fabric handling experience meant I didn't get those seams pressed nice and flat and the overall look felt a bit 'bouncy' rather than tailored as a result. This time around I had my trusty tailors clapper to hand and am a bit more liberal with the pressing so I'm much happier!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Emerald Wool Crepe Green Party Dress using Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt and Rosie Dress sewing patterns

I used a piece of the Stoff & Stil acetate lining that I used for my version of B5814 earlier this year as it was a good colour match and also nice and strong to attached the boning to. I used the same method of inserting the boning as I did with this dress rather than as instructed in the Rosie pattern. This has you cover the ends of rigilene with small squares of fabric then just sew these ends to the lining. I had some covered plastic boning and so opted to sew it down all the way along the length. I had no problems with the boning in my first Rosie dress but just like the thought of it being securely attached in place. I decided not to line the skirt. For a special occasion dress like this I usually would do but I didn't have any nice soft lining or silk in a good colour to hand and the acetate I used for the bodice was too stiff; I wanted to keep some softness to it.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Emerald Wool Crepe Green Party Dress using Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt and Rosie Dress sewing patterns

I'm really proud of my crisp little skirt vent. It must be my fourth or fifth time using this pattern so I should be able to turn out a pretty good one by now! In the end I was so pleased with the dress that I went the whole hog and finished a lot of it with hand-stitching - including the hem. From complete frustration to real pride in the course of one garment!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Emerald Wool Crepe Green Party Dress using Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt and Rosie Dress sewing patterns

I hope I haven't bored you all to tears with that tale but at least it has a happy ending! I'm so pleased I went back to it and it didn't end up in the bin the first time around. It's far from perfect and the fit could do with some more tweaking if I'd had the patience but I adore this colour and feel super comfortable in the dress, which is an achievement for such a boned and fitted number. I think perhaps my wardrobe could benefit from one in black. I've got one more press night to go to this year and might treat myself to something else new. I've actually spotted a tuxedo inspired jumpsuit which I might try and recreate and think I've found the perfect fabric. Now to hunt down the right pattern(s) to serve as a starting point...

32 comments:

  1. That dress looks stunning on you! I’m sorry to hear that thecdress gave you so much trouble, but looks like all that struggle was worth it!

    Clever use of both patterns and in figuring out the high waist causing the problem. And oh my! you got perseverence!!

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    1. Thank you very much Kay, I'm glad I persisted and also glad that the fitting issues could be solved fairly easily once I figured out what the problem was!
      I loved this fabric so was determined to make it a success!

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    1. Thank you vey much! I'm delighted with it

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  3. WOW so beautiful - I always forget about wool crepe! It is so luscious and is the perfect fabric for making garments on the bias. Have you tried that with it?

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    1. Thank you Kathleen! I haven't sewn with wool crepe in ages and forgot what a pleasure it is. Aren't the vivid colours dreamy?
      I haven't tried sewing with it on the bias no but now I really want to! I haven't done much bias cut so the thought makes me a little nervous but maybe I should push myself

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  4. So glad you figured out what the problem was! It looks fantastic, the color and fit are perfect!

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    1. Thanks Kelly, I'm so glad too! I think there are still some fitting things that I could work on but sometimes that feels like a never ending rabbit hole doesn't it?!!

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  5. so pretty, what a great color and nice fit. I love wool crepe, and I'm surprised I don't see it sewn more often. I think it is more sophisticated for dresses and comes in such gorgeous colors. You look ready for the holidays!

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    1. Thank you Beth, that means a lot coming from you who always sews and fits so beautifully!
      You're right, I really must sew with more wool crepe. I think people don't really turn to wool for party dresses much but in such vivid colours and luscious textures wool crepe is a wonderful choice!

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  6. Your dress is beautiful and fits you so well. Gorgeous! Thank you so much for describing how you handled the challenges of this project - it is a relief to see that I'm not the only one who runs into roadblocks, feeling terrible in wasting previous sewing time! I also learn something (many things!) each time I read your posts. 😊

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    1. O EVERYONE runs in to road blocks. I'm fairly certain I get to a point of frustration with nearly every project I take on! I have such limited sewing time that it really is so frustrating to waste any of it. But I always try and think that it's never a waste because I've learnt something that will make the next project a bit better
      So good to hear that you enjoy and learn from my posts, that's what I like most about blogging!

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  7. Wowsers! This is absolutely gorgeous, and yey to saving it.

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    1. Thanks very much Lynne. Yey indeed!!

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  8. This is a beautiful dress and is so flattering on you! Way to persevere!

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    1. Thank you very much, I'm really proud of it!

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  9. So great that you persevered and saved it - what a stunning dress! Amazing colour. Whatever the fitting tweaks you're thinking of might be, nobody else is going to see them. I think you have a real knack for restraint and it makes for some very classic and expensive-looking garments.

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    1. Thanks very much Nina, that's so reassuring to hear.
      And the knack for restraint I think is one of the best compliments I've ever been paid on here! What a lovely phrase. I definitely think I set out to hit the right balance of flare and wearability so to hear that is wonderful!

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  10. This dress is so beautiful. All your determination and hard work has really paid off. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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    1. Thanks Rosemary! I'm glad you enjoyed reading about it

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  11. That is one glamorous dress! It fits well, it looks fantastic, and the colour is lovely.

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    1. Thank you very much! It feels pretty glamorous! Love the green so much

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  12. Lovely dress, so classy! Have you tried mitring tour vents to get a really clean look?

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    1. Oo Mags that sounds like a technique I would like! I mitred the corners of the split hem on my toaster sweater and loved that. What a great idea to do that on a skirt.
      Thank you!

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  13. You look fabulous! The dress is perfect- color, style, and fit. Love it!

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    1. Thanks very much Kristie, it's lovely to hear such good things about it. I keep picking at it because the memory of the hassle it was to make is still fresh but I'm starting to see it as a big success now!

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  14. This is gorgeous, and you have inspired me not to wad things up immediately when they go wrong!

    Re washing wool crepe - I bought a few lengths from a fashionablestitch back when she had a really nice online shop with quality fabrics. She told me she prewashes her wool crepe in the machine and then always washes by hand, and it always comes out beautiful.... I made a Chardon with a piece and it looks great even though I've washed it a few times:). I hate drycleaning with a vengeance so I thought I'd pass that on in case you do too:)

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    1. O that's a great tip thanks Francesca! I was most of my fabrics in the machine including silk but have never been brave enough to try with wool crepe. I certainly will now. That might change my winter wardrobe entirely!
      Thank yo very much

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  15. Beautiful dress that looks simply stunning on you!!!!

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    1. Thank you very much! I love this simple style and the green is my favourite colour

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!