First a button through shirtdress with cap sleeves and a tie belt, made from a cotton rayon mix. The pattern was cut from a standard block, is slightly A line, and has a high stand collar. The belt is made as a channel with a drawstring rouleau ending in a small leather trim and knot.
The next is also a shirtdress, button through, with a shirt collar. This one’s sleeveless and is made in a navy silk dupion.
Then I made another of the dress somewhat plagiarised from a Philip Lim. This time DD asked for it to be made in some old gold coloured silk dupion. I wasn’t sure about it in this fabric, but now it’s done I think it might be ok.
I chucked the pattern after the first one I made. Redoing it I tried again to see if there was a logical way to construct the curves on the armhole pieces. The front armhole curve on the block is quite sharp because it’s drafted for a D cup, whereas the back curve is more gradual. Not wanting to depart too far from the natural armhole, a mathematically even set of curves didn’t work, so I drew these freehand and checked the rough pattern on the stand.
These pieces were cut without a shoulder seam and interfaced.
They were stitched to an identical facing piece on both curvy edges, with a second row of stitching a couple of millimetres from the first. The dupion frays readily, the double stitching helped to prevent the fabric from splitting when cutting into the curves to turn the pieces through.
If you get the second row of stitches close enough it’s often possible to just snip in to that row. Eye strain is lessened if your machine has multiple needle positions like my ancient Bernina Sport. Together with a reliable foot position, so that you know precisely where the needle hits in relation to the centre foot mark, I place this high on the list of things to look for in a machine.
On the previous version of this dress I stitched the two underarm seams by machine on the right side, but in fraying silk I went for backstitching the right sides together by hand and slip stitching the facing underarm seam.
There’s an invisible zip set into the side seam.
I use the invisible zipper foot, stitching each side, then switching to a standard zipper foot to get in close above and below the zipper with the side seam, before switching again to a standard foot to complete the seam. The only tips I have for this way of zipper setting are to mark carefully both sides of the zipper tape and corresponding seam positions, and to turn back pin the spare bit of zipper out of the way when you match up the seam above and below the zipper. I don’t snip this spare bit off until the seam is done, as it’s easier to pin back when its longer. I switch back again to the standard zipper foot to stitch an inch or so of the bottom zipper tape to the seam allowance, so there’s a lot of foot changing.
On the pattern I moved the bust dart from the side position this time. I’m not sure if I like it in this fabric, but reserve judgement until I’ve seen it worn.
Might need that old franc at the top if the euro goes belly up eh?
The back armhole curve is gentler.
This is how the arm piece looks from the side.
The last dress I made is in a printed cotton elastane. Its a simple A line, with a side bust dart, waist darts and Vee neckline.
I didn’t have an invisible zipper to hand for this and resorted to a standard zipper. Setting these in to a curvy side seam is frankly a bit of a pain. There are many ways of doing this – I used this one. Stitch the side seam leaving a gap for the zipper. Place the zipper face down on the back and stitch close to the teeth with a zipper foot. Flip it over and press. Press the front seam allowance under. This is the hard part. The edge of the seam allowance is shorter than the fold edge and than where the stitching goes, because it’s curved. You can’t snip merrily in right to the curve because that would make a mess of the flap that goes over the zipper teeth. I snip in several places at what seems to be just shy of where the stitching will end up and use steam to try to get the seam allowance to lie flat. Lay the fold over the zipper teeth positioning it so that it meets the fitting line of the back side seam. Stitch down close to the teeth. Tips? I learnt from a technical assistant I once had (who’d worked as a machinist in high end rtw for years) not to attempt to stitch either of these two lines in one pass. She stitched up to within an inch of the puller, stopped, unzipped a bit pulling the bulky puller out of the way, then completed the line of stitching. Phew! So very much easier.
All of these dresses are based on a standard dress block (well two blocks, one for each dd). They’re very simple adaptations and fairly quick to make up.
Here’s a shot of the fabrics DD picked out for turning into basic shift/sheath styles.
The stand I’ve got these dresses on is a size smaller than the pattern, hopefully they will fit a bit more snugly, though I got a text last night. You know, one of those the seamstress dreads. ‘Lost a lot of weight’. I’ll pack the seam ripper.