Thankful Sewing

I have been doing a lot of sewing ‘behind the scenes’ lately, and I have quite a lot to show you, the first of these is a new dress that I made for myself using one of my favourite pattern books. The dress itself is not that complicated, but I really love it, its so comfortable, is easy care wash’n’wear, and it works for any day of the week.

The Pattern

This pattern is from the Ultimate Dress Book by Gretchen Hirsch (for the remainder of this post I will refer to this book as the UDB). In case you’re not familiar with this book, it is the fourth book by “Gertie” Gretchen Hirsch, this book features a series of interchangeable bodice, sleeve and skirt styles that can mixed and matched to create a variety of different retro style dresses.

For this dress I used:

* Princess seam bodice
* 3/4 circle skirt
* 3/4 sleeves
* bodice lining
* bodice facing
* lapped zipper
* in-seam pockets

The Bodice

I have, like many of you I imagine, had a lot of trouble getting a fitted bodice that actually fits me! I find that ready-to-wear is just hopeless – I don’t think of myself as being too far from average proportions, but the ready-to-wear manufacturers are certainly using a different set of figures to mine. But I’m really happy with the way that this bodice fits me. Its not quite perfect, there are a couple of minor adjustments that I’ll make the next time that I use this pattern.

To get this fit I blended between a few different sizes. It took me a while to become confident at doing this, and for anyone who isn’t sure about how to go about doing this, I would recommend three things:

1. I took a pattern drafting course. My husband (bless him!) found local classes for me, and its one of the best things that I’ve ever done. It was a flat pattern drafting course, and it all makes so much sense now. At the end of it, I feel quite capable of making adjustments to a flat pattern (either purchased paper or printed pdf).

2. I attended a dress-making workshop where I was properly fitted for a basic bodice. In my case, it was with Gertie – and this was the very first time that I ended up with a well-fitting dress. I am still blown away by it (its my Lemon Dress by the way, and I wear it at least once a week!). During the fitting process at the workshop I noted down all the modifications that I made to the basic pattern – in other words, I wrote down all the steps needed to make the standard pattern into a custom-fitted one for me.

3. Make a toile. Make as many as you need. Use cheap fabric, old sheets, whatever, as long as its similar to what you will eventually sew with. Definitely not a step to be missed though, unless you’re making a repeat of an already well-fitting garment.

I have only made the basic bodice from the UDB, but this is the princess seam bodice, and is therefore a new pattern for me. I really like the scoop neckline on this bodice, but as I hadn’t made this specific pattern before, I made a toile for this dress, after tracing my pattern and making a few adjustments – adjustments that were in line with my previous basic bodice pattern. And the toile was absolutely spot-on. It could not have been easier, and I put it all down to the prep work behind it.

The Skirt

I used the 3/4 skirt, also from the UDB, I have used this skirt pattern before, it is one of my favourite looks. This time I added in-seam pockets. I’m not thrilled with how they turned out though. As you can see from this picture:

I had this rather silly notion that I should make the pockets out of the same batiste that I used for me dress lining. I was thinking that it would make them less bulky so that they didn’t ruin the line of the seam…but they gape. I’m not sure if its because the seams of the 3/4 circle skirt are on the bias or if its just the nature of this fabric, but … they gape. By the time that I realised this, the dress was basically finished, so I opted to just leave them as they are, with a good pressing they are not that noticeable. At least from a distance. Lol.

Lining the Bodice

I briefly mentioned above that I used batiste to line the bodice. I used a white batiste, left-over from other projects. It is nice and soft to wear against the skin. I wanted to do a full lining in this bodice because of the princess seams. I didn’t want to just overlock the raw edges, because I would end up with ridges from that, so I trimmed and clipped the seams around the curves for both the lining and outer bodice, so that the insides look like the picture below:

Because the main fabric is quite a loose weave, and the neckline for this bodice is scooped, it needs a bit more structure than what the lining alone would add. So I also used a neckline facing, in the main fabric, with iron-on interfacing applied. This also prevents any peek-a-boo of the contrast lining showing. I stitched the wrong side of the facing to the right side of the lining, with neck edges matching. I also stitched down the lower edge to the lining to hold it in place. For the remaining construction of the dress I treated these as one piece.

The Fabric

The main fabric is cotton flannel, I found it on the bargain table at Spotlight and instantly fell in love with it. I’m not sure if it was my Scottish heritage or if I felt the need to break out into the chorus from Brigadoon, but I really wanted this fabric for me. There are a couple of tricky points with this fabric however:

Firstly, it is very soft and quite a loose weave, so while it drapes nicely, it also stretches out on the bias quite easily. Stay-stitching was definitely required here. Although this did make the curved hem easier to sew, once it had been evened up that is – as always advised for curved hems, I hung the dress on my mannequin for a couple of days before hemming, you can see in this picture here how much variation there was:

In case you haven’t heard of this before, the dress is hung to allow the hem to ‘drop’. This is necessary for a curved hem, the greater the curve – the more it will probably drop unevenly. This happens because the hemline is not straight across the grain, but is mostly on varying degrees of bias. This happens with knits as well as wovens.

Secondly, the woven plaid pattern needed managing. I did a lot of fussy cutting to make sure that there was a nice flow of the pattern down the centre front and down the centre back (although I seem to have omitted a decent photograph of the back, but it matches much the same as the front). I cut the side bodice pieces and sleeves on the bias, partly to create visual interest, and partly because it was easier to pattern match that way.

An interesting note about the sleeves – the bias cut also makes the fit a bit more forgiving, as they have a lot more ‘give’ than if they were cut straight across the grain.

Blog Tour

This month’s blog tour is all about being thankful. I am thankful for so much – family, friends, life – but today I’m going to mention a small thing that I am really thankful for, and that is the wonderful online sewing community that I have come to enjoy being a part of. There are a number of groups on facebook where I find sewing inspiration, advise and fun, and I thought that I would share some of these here, feel free to follow any of the links to join in:

Gertie’s Show and Tell: If you are interested in sewing anything from any of Gertie’s books or paper patterns, this is the place to go for inspiration. This is a group specifically for discussing Gertie’s patterns and fabrics.

Capsule Wardrobe Sew Along: If you ever wondered about “capsuling” this is the place to be. You will find lots of fascinating information about streamlining your wardrobe and working out what suits you. There is often great discussion about different body types/shapes, colour-coordinating and wardrobe planning.

Curvy Sewing Collective Community: This group is all about sewing for a curvy body, with a constructive and body-positive environment. A group for sewists of all ages, shapes and abilities to share and discuss sewing.

Our Thankful Sewing Bloggers are creating something special to share with you to celebrate this month of Thanksgivings! As an extra special surprise, we also have a couple giveaways during each week of the tour. Share your thanks with Petite Stitchery who has a new pattern to share with us, a free pattern giveaway from Sew by Pattern Pieces, and a chance to win a shop credit each week from Simply by Ti!

Intro to the tour

November 1st: mahlicadesignsSewing with Sarah

Week 1:

Nov 1st: Tenille’s Thread

Nov 2nd: Candace Ayala

Nov 3rd: Hazelnut Handmade

Nov 4th: Musing of a Seamstress

Monday Nov 6th: mahlicadesigns

Nov 7th: Seams Sew Lo

Week 2:

Nov 8th: Margarita on the Ross

Nov 9th: Stitched by Jennie

Nov 10th: Sewing with D

Monday Nov 13th: 5 outof 4 Patterns

Nov 14th: Tales of a Southern Mom

Week 3:

Nov 15th: Hazelnut Handmade

Nov 16th: Octaves of Color

Nov 17th: Kainara Stitches

Nov 18th: Kutti Couture

Nov 19th: The Petite Sewist

Monday Nov 20th: My Heart will Sew On

Nov 21st: Needles to Say

Week 4:

Nov 22nd: Back 40 Life

Nov 23rd: Lovemade Handmade

Nov 24th: Sewing by Ti

Nov 25th: On Wednesdays We Sew

Nov 26th: Paisley Roots

Monday Nov 27th: Mermaid Mama Designs

Nov 28th: Sew Haute Blog

Nov 29th: Ma Moose Handmade

Nov 30th: Everything Your Mama Made & More


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    • Tenille

      Thank you! Melbourne weather is a funny thing, I expect I’ll get the chance to wear it all year round.

  1. Shelby

    What a lovely dress! It fits you beautifully. I have never hung my curved hems before I sewed them up (it seems I’m always rushing!). How do you go about marking an even length after it has settled?

    • Tenille

      Thank you. I mark my hem by putting the mannequin up on the table and measuring all the way around from the table up, I used to have a special hem measurement tool that fit onto the mannequin – that was easier!

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