It’s been two months but I’m back!
November was one insanely busy month for me. On top of all the work I had to do for university, I also needed to finish four separate dresses… The amount of time needed to get everything done was quite overwhelming, but luckily I managed to make it to the beginning of December in one piece. ( I have heard some people talking about “no chill November”, it’s absolutely the most accurate description of the most recent month of my life I can possibly find.)
Needless to say, I’ve had very little time to blog. Good thing is that I’ve been sewing like crazy and have now enough material for three in-depth tutorials on dressmaking. The first and easiest to write of the lot is this post on a purple and grey wrap around dress.
I love wrap dresses for they are so versatile: they are easy to adjust to different body sizes, they are easy to put on and take off and they are pretty easy to alter to fit different styles by altering the pattern and changing fabric. (I’m not professional though, so please regard these as my personal opinions :)) One of my favorite dresses I have made with a bought pattern is this – and surprisingly it happens to be a wrap around dress, too.
This purple and grey dress was my first attempt at making patterns for wrap dresses. What made the process all the more exciting, is that the finished dress was for somebody else but me. I had long thought about taking commissions and when a friend of ours asked me to sew a fine outfit for her trip abroad, I couldn’t say no :). With her permission I’m today blogging about the making of her custom-order.
As I stated above, I feel wrap around dresses flatter many body types. At least when the pattern is tailored properly. However, I had never made patterns for them, so the first thing I had to find a solution to was how to craft a pattern that best compliments my client. The most logical approach was to use a ready dress that looked good on her and draw the new pattern according to its measurements. Below you can see the dress (that zips up) that I used for pattern making.
Because my client wasn’t going to use the dress anymore, I could cut it to pieces. I placed the pieces to paper, traced around them and added seam allowances. To be honest, the back piece was the only one I used as it was. The front piece (there are two of them but they are identical) was made with help from the back piece: I measured approx. 5 centimeters from the bottom edge, marked a dot there and connected it to the edge of the opposite shoulder. I made the line quite straight.
Of course these weren’t usable as they were; the mock-up needed to be tried on first. I sewed the pieces I had together and put it on my mannequin. The skirt at this point was made from three pieces that were 1/8 of a circle each.
During the test fitting we realized together with the client that the neckline was too deep and armholes too small, so afterwards I altered the straight line I had made a couple of steps earlier to be more curved and raised it several centimeters higher. I also cut the armholes larger, adjusted the shoulder seams’ angle and drew a slight curve to the lower edge of the front panel (which was made back straight after the fitting; regard this as a beginner’s mistake).
The new mock-up looked like this. The bodice of the new version had quite a bit some extra seam allowances. Because I had very small amount of the fabric I was going to use for the actual dress, the skirt was this time cut a rectangle with two godets (this was also to keep the decorations on the hem a continuous line).
Then it was again time for fitting. Mock-up number 2 was taken inward a few centimeters on the sides, the armholes were reshaped and a pleat was made on the center of the front piece as well as on the back piece. After these adjustments we were both happy with the shape of the dress so I cut it again to pieces and moved on to the cutting of the actual fabric.
Here you can see what my pattern looked like when laid flat. I cut the extra material off of the pleat on the front panel and marked where the inverted box pleat on the back would be with a pencil.
I was so quick to start cutting that I only realized to photograph the fabric itself when I had half of it left :D. This is the remaining half, originally there were decorations on either sides of the piece of fabric.
The first things I cut were the rectangle and two triangles that form the skirt because I wanted to have an even line of decorations on the hem. The amount of fabric that remained was used to cut the bodice pieces.
To assemble the skirt, I measured one third of the width away from each edge of the rectangular piece, cut it into three and sewed the two godets into the slits. Here’s what the skirt looked like before ironing:
Before I could assemble the bodice, I needed to secure the pleats. The box pleat on the back got zigzagged into its place first.
Followed by the pleat on the front side that I sewed with straight stitch. I didn’t iron the pleat on the back because I wanted it to drape nicely, but this one I ironed flat however.
I was running so low on fabric that the other front piece of the bodice needed to be cut on two. If you look closely, you can see the seam in the next picture (I took it once again before ironing). It’s definitely something worth being proud of: I was able to cut all the necessary pieces from a piece of fabric that was approximately 1,5 meters x 1,75 meters!
No worries, the seam doesn’t show on the finished dress because it gets covered by the other front piece.
Now that all the bodice pieces were ready, I could sew shoulder and side seams. I left a gap of 2 centimeters on the right side seam, near the waist, for the closing mechanism that is satin ribbon.
The next thing the dress needed was facing to finish the neckline. I traced the neckline of front and back pieces into their own pattern (a 3 centimeters wide strip) that I cut from burgundy cupro fabric which had interfacing ironed to the wrong side. I sewed a zigzag to the edges that would be otherwise left unfinished and then sewed its shoulder seams + ironed it.
I also had 3 meters of satin ribbon in burgundy that I cut into two. The next picture is a bit shaky, but hopefully clear enough for you to get the idea of the facing and see the mess that is the ribbon.
The facing was sewed to the neckline right sides facing each other. The ribbons were attached by placing them into the seam.
I clipped the curves, turned the facing to the underside and stitched it secured by sewing with a machine a centimeter away from the edge (for decorative purposes I sewed another row of stitches a centimeter from the first stitching). I was careful to keep the back pleat in its place while sewing them.
Mirror mirror on the wall, whose the shakiest of them all? It’s got to be the next picture, but it was the only one I had from sewing the waist seam so it will have to suffice. This was the only seam that I sewed with a French seam, the others were straight stitching finished with a zigzag.
A little close-up from the edge of front piece. Here you can see the stitching that holds the facing in place and shows the place were the ribbon was actually sewn onto. Did I already mention that the unfinished side edges of the skirt were folded twice inward, stitched and ironed before sewing the waist seam?
At this point I secured the gap in the right side seam, i.e. stitching the seam allowances into their place with a straight stitch. Excuse my fingers, I had to stretch the fabric a bit so I could get a proper picture of the gap:).
One of the last things included finishing the hem. We decided a length that was a little above the knees, and that meant the red stripe on the front side would be approximately as wide as the ribbon. I sewed this step with machine and with ironing the end result was perfect.
The raw edges on arm holes were finished with bias tape that was sewn on by hand with invisible stitches.
With that the purple and grey wrap around dress was done! Or nearly done. The bias tape on the armholes stuck too much out, so I still had to gather them.
Let’s take a moment to admire the back this dress has. I’m in love with the shape and the draping. Colors aren’t that bad either.
Anyhow, to gather the bias tape on the armholes, I sewed small running stitches with heavy-duty thread to the inside of the dress, as close to the edge I could possibly get.
Then my client put the dress on and I tightened the thread so that the tape didn’t stick out anymore.
It’s harder to tell which one of was happier with dress, as both the client and I love it to no end. What really made me smile was the way I was able to follow the wishes of another and sew something that actually filled those expectations.
One more word before I sign out for today. You probably noticed that the colors looked a little different in every photo of this post… That is because I kept sewing day and night and took some of the pictures on my living room’s floor late in the evening with electric lightning. Not the best option for photography but it will have to do when I couldn’t use natural lightning (there is so little of it at this time of the year, anyway). I did my best with adjusting the colors as close to their natural counterparts as I could but sometimes the end result left a lot to be desired… But I’m getting better with it!
Anyhow, thank you very much for reading! With the holidays almost here, I should be back to blogging sooner rather than later.