Saturday, 31 August 2013

Completed: Cambie Dress, Take I

First of all, thanks for all the lovely comments on my first post! It's so nice to have people comment who appreciate the sewing as well as the dress. (Although, it's nice to have people compliment your clothing when they have no idea you made it, as well!) It was great to have everyone visit after seeing my post on We Sew Retro, too!

This was my first Cambie Dress, which I made earlier in the summer. The fabric is a cotton voile that was around $8 a metre, I believe, and I lined it with some white cotton voile that cost about $6 a metre, both purchased locally. I didn't want to spend too much on my first version in case it didn't turn out, but overall I'm very happy with it! I started my second version right after finishing the first, and I have a feeling I will make many more (including possibly a silk version for a grad dress? I'm brainstorming).

I cut a straight size 0, even though I could have graded up to a 2 on top. My shoulders are very narrow, so I usually cut out the smallest size on top and then adjust the bust. Although for this pattern, it appears I could have cut a size 2 on top because the straps could be a little wider on top. I might try to make them a little wider on the next version I make. 

I made a muslin and I'm SO glad I did. The pattern is very well-drafted, no doubt about it, but I've never had anything fit without alterations. My shoulders are very sloped, so altering the shoulder seams so that they fit and were in the right spot took a little bit of fiddling. In the end, I just took out the seams and had my mom help me pin them together so the seam would be in the right place (thanks, Mom!), and then adjusted the pieces so that they aligned properly. I also added on an inch to the top of the bodice and shortened the straps, which is why my straps look a little wider at the bottom than they're supposed to. I meant to taper them in a little bit for my second version, because I think I like them a bit better thinner, but I forgot... which reminds me, I should do that soon otherwise I'll forget on my third version, too (which might just be a button-front version... if you haven't seen this tutorial, check it out! It's super cute).

I also had to move the side seams to the back a little, because they didn't sit quite right, and I added on about half an inch on each side of the bodice front, then made the darts bigger. I'm calling this my makeshift FBA, although it might have been easier to attempt a proper one. Oh well! I'm very happy with the fit now. The only thing I would have done differently was sewn the waistband as well when I made my muslin. It ended up being a little too short, and I had to ease the fabric in a bit. I then had to take a 1/4" seam allowance rather than 5/8" when I sewed the zipper, which might have contributed to my zipper problems (keep reading...).

That muslin was definitely worth it!
Other than the waistband issue, the construction was fairly straightforward until the invisible zipper. I've done invisible zippers before and I've never found them any more difficult than a regular zipper... but they definitely aren't as strong. I made a Hollyburn Skirt and put in an invisible zipper, only to have it break after a couple months (a regular zipper is recommended, and that's probably why). Actually, it broke while I was making this dress. I should have realised then...

First of all, I decided that I would be lazy and wouldn't bother with basting or anything beforehand, thinking it would take too much time. Right. Well, this was my first attempt:

Okay, I know it could have been worse. Everyone I showed this to said it was barely noticeable. I could have just gone with it. But... no. Being a perfectionist, I ripped the whole thing out and redid it... twice. It took me three tries to get it right, all because I didn't want to "waste time" and baste. Lesson learned.

Oh, and in the process, my chalk pen exploded all over my dress.

Needless to say, I was feeling a little discouraged by this point, and definitely didn't need any more mishaps. I was so relieved when I finally got the zipper right that I never even took a picture, and jumped right ahead to sewing my lining to it.

I was finally feeling that the project was going well, until...

Definitely not the best picture, but the only one I took.

The FIRST time I tried it on after attaching the lining, the zipper broke. Words cannot express how frustrated I was - mind you, it wasn't that bad at first, I just had to open it up even more to get the dress off. I have since given up on invisible zippers (at least, for anything this fitted). Try as I might, I couldn't fix the zipper and ripped it all out a third time, except this time I had to rip out the lining, too.

However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I had been curious for a while about hand-picked zippers, having seen them pop up on different blogs I follow, so I decided to try one after reading Tasia's tutorial on how to insert one in the Cambie Dress. You basically sew the lining and the main fabric together down the back, and insert the zipper afterwards.

It's not perfect, but it's not bad for a first attempt. It did take a little while, but less time than it took me to repeatedly sew and unpick the invisible zipper. I didn't bother with an invisible one for my second dress and did a hand-picked zipper right away, which turned out a nicer than my first try. Actually, I haven't sewn in a single zipper by machine since making this dress.

The neckline didn't turn out quite as nicely as I expected - it looks more like a curve than a sweetheart. When I sewed this, I was trying to take a slightly bigger seam allowance out of the lining so that it would sit to the inside, but the seam allowance I took on both fabrics ended up being not very consistent. My fault, not the pattern's!

For my second one, I tried understitching the neckline as an alternative to this, which meant I kept the sweetheart shape.

I love the pockets! They sit nicely to the inside of the seam and are completely invisible. And thanks to the full skirt, it never looks like you have anything in them, even if you do!

Most of the photos are taken with a crinoline, although this skirt has quite a bit of volume without. I actually inadvertently took lots of photos that show off the crinoline, because it seemed to poke out the bottom every time I grabbed the skirt. Oh well! I'm happy with how they turned out.

The only other things I would do differently are: 1) adding onto the skirt pieces to allow for a bigger hem allowance, because even with a catchstiched hem I think it's quite visible, especially in photos (I did this on my second dress), 2) adding some understitching to keep the lining to the inside (this, too, I did on my second version), and 3) lowering the armholes just a bit. When I added on an inch to the top of the bodice, I tapered it down so that it would meet the back piece, but not enough. It's a bit high there and rubs a little. I tried fixing this on my second dress, but it's still not perfect. I might have to move where the straps go in and taper it a little more gradually. 

I love the swishiness (is that even a word?) the crinoline gives it! Now I just need to make a circle skirt...
Overall, I love it. There are a couple things that aren't perfect, but this was meant as a trial run of the pattern anyways. I'm really glad I worked through the fiasco with the zipper and made it work.

Without a crinoline

The skirt, as you can see above, has a fair amount of volume without a crinoline. Even though the fabric is simpler, it feels a bit more dramatic than my second version!

Again, without a crinoline. I'll probably wear it more often this way, no matter how much I love the crinoline.
This has been great for summer, especially since this summer has been unusually hot! I also love the the straps and the higher back protect against the sun. The sun and I have a love-hate relationship. As much as I enjoy the summer weather (although I do enjoy rain, too - it's so relaxing), the sun really hates me, so I have to be careful about not exposing too much skin. Spaghetti straps and low backs are not good summer styles for me!

More photos on my Flickr.

I'll leave you with a photo that was taken by accident but I actually really like.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Completed: Cambie Dress, Take II

I’m pretty sure it’s my favourite garment I’ve ever sewn. I do have other recent projects that I may or may not blog about, but why save the best for last?

I’m calling this my “duvet dress” because I made it out of an old duvet cover, purchased at the thrift store for $6.99! I keep thinking that someday I will run into its old owner, and they will say, “It’s funny, I used to have a duvet with the exact same pattern as your dress…” And then I will shuffle my feet and awkwardly try to explain….

I wish I had taken a better picture – this was taken on my phone. You can see a small stain on the striped fabric, but other than that and a very small hole near one of the edges, the fabric was in excellent condition.
After I cut the edges off, I was left with 2 and a half metres of each fabric. As if it wasn’t a good enough deal already, the fabric was about 84 inches wide, rather than the usual 60… which means that it was a lot of fabric for $6.99! The striped fabric, for the time being, has gone to my stash. Since it is 100% cotton, I’m considering participating in the Fall for Cotton sew along and using it for another dress, but living in Vancouver, cotton dresses are not the most practical fall clothing. Maybe a shirt?

Isn't the design amazing?

I have no idea how old this duvet is. If anyone has more experience working with vintage fabrics than I do, I would love some help dating it! Not that it really matters; I love it no matter how old it is. It’s 100% cotton, which I wouldn’t have believed before I found the tag. It’s so soft and drapey that I could have sworn it had some rayon in it! The tag also said that it was made in Canada, which (in my mind, anyways) means it’s not very recent. I wish I had of taken a photo of the tag, but now I can’t find it! I don’t remember cutting it off, but it’s definitely not there anymore. 

So, the dress! The floral pattern is on a pretty large scale, so I thought the pattern was better suited to a dress rather than a blouse. I really felt that this fabric would suit a vintage-style full-skirted dress. However, my collection of vintage patterns is pretty minimal at the moment. So, having recently made the Sewaholic Cambie dress in view B and been pleased with the results, I took a deep breath and started cutting it out.

Although it was great that the fabric was so wide, I did have trouble fitting it on my cutting table! And again, sorry for the bad photo - this was just snapped on my phone because I couldn't be bothered to go and get the camera.

I decided on a self-lined bodice because on my first version (which I may or may not get around to blogging about), there are a couple places where the lining shows. Even with a self-lined bodice, I got the whole dress (minus the skirt lining) out of 1.5 metres of fabric! 

I do love the self-lined bodice! Sorry about the bad lighting... I wanted to take detail photos in natural light but it's been raining all day.

As for the skirt lining, I decided on Bemberg rayon lining. I wanted a “proper” lining this time because I wanted it to match the drape of the fabric. It was actually my first time working with proper lining, which was a bit of a learning experience for me. I never realised how slippery it is! However, I think this was probably a good project to try out proper lining, because all I used it for was the gathered skirt. Now I know what to expect the next time I use it! Although if I do use it again, I would figure out a better way to finish the seams. I tried serging the edges, my go-to finishing technique, but the fabric puckered horribly, and looked really messy. Ironing didn’t help at all! I tried a couple different methods and in the end I just did a couple rows of straight stitching. It doesn’t look as nice as serging, but at least it’s on the inside. (If anyone has any tips on how to finish Bemberg lining, they would be much appreciated!)

My lining pieces before they were sewn in.

The construction went pretty quickly, for me anyways! I tend to be a slow sewer. The fabric was beautiful to sew with. Although it has gorgeous drape, is wasn’t slippery in the slightest and went together wonderfully.

It has pockets!
Having already made and fitted the dress, I made very few changes to the fit. I had to shorten the straps a little, even though I made then exactly the same length as my first dress. Funny how much the fabric can make a difference! I also had to take a bigger seam allowance in the back. In my last version, it was a little tight and I had to take a smaller seam allowance, but I guess I overcompensated when I added onto the pattern piece. In retrospect, I could have taken a little more out – the waistband isn’t quite as snug as I would like it. When I put anything in the pocket, it pulls down a bit. It’s such a minor thing that I don’t think it’s worth going back and redoing it – and of course, by the time I noticed, fixing it would involve ripping out and redoing quite a bit of the dress, including a fair amount of hand stitching, so I didn’t bother.

This photo doesn't actually do this dress justice - it looks a little bit more fitted than that in real life (at least... I think it does?). I think it was just the way I was standing... but all the same, I could have taken more out of the waistband and slightly above it.

I also decided to understich the sweetheart neckline, which was probably a mistake. At first, it made it sit much more smoothly, keeping the lining to the inside, but once I put the straps in, it gaped oddly. I think the understiching might have just stretched it out a little. I fixed the problem by sewing another line of stitching in between the seam and the understiching and easing it in slightly. It’s not very pretty on the inside, but it will do.

You can see the original understitching, and then the second line where I eased it in.

Other than that, it went really smoothly. After a disastrous invisible zipper on my first version (more on that later when I blog about my first one), I cut to the chase and did a hand-picked zipper, according to Tasia’s tutorial. I love this technique! It does take a little more time but I love the finished look. As per Tasia’s tutorial for hand-picking a zipper in the Cambie dress, I sewed the lining and the main fabric together in the back where the zipper goes in, and then inserted the zipper by hand. I considered sewing the zipper to just the main fabric and then slipstiching the lining to it, but I figured that even if the lining does show, it’s the same as the fabric so no one will be able to tell. In retrospect, it probably would have looked neater on the inside to do it that way, but I couldn’t be bothered to do all that extra hand sewing.

Sorry about the wonky background colours in this photo! This dress does not like to be photographed... getting the colours of the dress accurate involves sacrificing the background.

To contradict myself, I catchstiched the hem by hand, which took a good hour or so. I nearly always hem by hand; I just love the way it looks so much more than a line of stitching across the bottom. I know, with this busy a print, it wouldn’t have shown much, but I’m still glad I did. It would have looked nice to use seam binding for the hem, even though I didn’t need to ease it in, but I hadn’t bought any and I was so close to finishing that I didn’t want a trip to the store. I also added on 2" when I cut out the skirt pieces - I find a more generous hem is less visible, and adds to the swishyness (is that even a word?) of the skirt. I actually did the same on the lining - although I sewed it by machine - but looking back, I could have saved a few inches of fabric and just done a regular 1" hem.

Overall, I’m really pleased with the end result.

I love the fabric. It’s wonderful to wear and I love the feel of the lining, too. I really like that the fabric is very colourful without being too bright. I love the soft, girly, vintage-inspired look of this dress.

In most of these pictures, it’s worn with a crinoline. I found that even with all the gathers, the skirt didn’t have the same oomph as my first version; I suppose just because the fabric was drapier. I still love it! In fact, the less dramatic skirt makes me feel a little more at ease wearing it places that I wouldn’t normally wear more dramatic clothing. And then if I need a little more volume, I can add the crinoline! Or… maybe not, because it itches like crazy. It’s vintage, given to me by my aunt, who wore it for her graduation in 1960. I love it, but the tulle is really stiff and itchy.

As I said before, I’m pretty sure this is my favourite piece I’ve ever sewn. The fit is very good overall – even if it’s a little big at the waist, it’s still very flattering and comfortable.

Without a crinoline - it looks a little flat, in my opinion, but I'll probably wear it without more often that I'll wear it with.

Well, there you have it, my first actual blog post! Special thanks to my brother for helping me with the photos. I hope you visit again! (That is, if anyone is reading this in the first place.)

More photos on my flickr, so check it out!

Shoes: Thrifted