Monday, January 28, 2013

The What-Was-I-Thinking Dress

I've noticed that my sewing projects have gotten more and more boring. I guess it's because I'm drawn to classic styles which tend to be, well, boring. On my last pattern shopping trip I decided to break out of my mold and buy some things that were a little different, that weren't obviously "me" but that I could possibly get away with wearing.

A side note here: There are these places called Department Stores, and they have these wonderful things called Dressing Rooms, where you are free to try on different styles to your heart's content without any commitment of money or time (as in time spent sewing, not time in the dressing room). Next time I feel the need to wear something a little different from my norm I should really start in the dressing room, not in the pattern department.

There are so many errors in judgement with this dress that I hardly know where to start.

I guess Mistake #1 was the picture on the pattern envelope:
I mean, she looks so weird and uncomfortable! 

Mistake #2 started out innocently enough with the line drawing. 
Line Art

Simple t-shirt top (I can wear that), fairly straight skirt (I can wear that) and big floppy pockets on the hips (what?).  Pockets are always good, but pockets that make your hips look bigger? Seriously, how did I think that was a good idea?

Mistake #3, fabric selection. I love, love, love the color! Sure it's a super thin, super stretchy polyester spandex blend, but how could I resist the color? Its not black (HUGE accomplishment for me) and  it's colorful without being too obvious. The fabric is way too thin to wear on its own, but I solved that problem with some knit lining. FYI: super-stretchy knit dress + kinda-stretchy knit lining = disaster waiting to happen.

Mistake #4, lack of experience with this kind of fabric. It stretched while I was cutting it and I couldn't find a single stitch on my sewing machine that wouldn't make the seams stretch out of shape. It sewed up beautifully on the serger, but I had to use the sewing machine to put those pockets together. Eventually I got tired of testing different seams in the search for something that would work and I just made my best guess. That worked out ok on the pockets but I ended up having to cut off the whole hem and start over.

From here on out the biggest mistake was probably plowing ahead with an obviously hopeless project. Really it was only curiosity that kept me going. I really wanted to have that dressing room moment and see how the dress would look on me.  Plus I had already started this blog post and didn't want to waste it.
I thought I solved the hem problem by serging the skirt and lining right sides together, turning the skirt right side out, and sewing it together at the waist. It was definitely better than my first hem, but the super-stretchy + kinda-stretchy issue gave it a very amateurish look. I could live with it, but I wouldn't like it.  Unfortunately, this was the only way I could think of to hem the sleeves as well.

As this point the dress had one redeeming feature that could possibly save it from the garbage can.  The neckline finish is two strips of fabric with raw edges that, when stretched, will curl into tight little rolls. In fact, I realized I could use this same finish on the sleeves and maybe even the hem. Now we're getting somewhere!  I tried out the stretch-and-curl thing on some scraps, everything looked great, and I sewed the pieces onto the neckline. Sew... Stretch... 

Where's the curl? Not on my neck, that's for sure! I think the strips were too wide for this fabric, and the fabric was just to limp to hold the curl. Now the neck looks like a worn out t-shirt.

And yet I can't give up. In one last ditch effort I cut off the neckline finish (can't pick stitches out of this fabric) and replaced it with a plain folded over strip of fabric. I used the same finish on the sleeves and hem (after cutting off hem #2).  Yay, I'm done! We're ready for the dressing room moment, although if I saw this dress hanging in a store I don't think it would make it into the dressing room with me.

Guess what, I kind of like it! After wearing it for a few hours I really like it. I don't think I'll ever love it. There are just too many imperfections. Besides, the dress and I got off to a rocky start and we may never be able to fully repair our relationship. But I think we can maintain a comfortable friendship, this dress and I.
Now its time to move on to the next project. It's very tempting to make an easy skirt to boost my confidence a little, but we'll see. Maybe I can handle another challenge.

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