Tomorrow or in the next few days, I'll update this post to add more photos and details. (Because you know how I love writing way too much about the details.) But I'm posting it now because I really want to have it in time to add to the Project Sewn linky thing, and according to their timer, I have 17 minutes left to do so.
So. I made the Coffee Date dress. Lots of changes along the way (pockets! sleeves! piping! trim! lapped zipper! plus the usual load of adjustments for fit--more on all that later) but I got all it done. And in the end (aside from the neck facing, which still needs a little more pressing or something) the dress came out pretty much exactly as I wanted. I am so so happy right now.
Okay that's it for now I hope I've made it in time bye.
Okay here's the new. (Sorry the photos still aren't that great; the weather this weekend was less than its best.)
I find sew-alongs and online sewing challenges and contests fascinating. There’s something about the idea of everyone making the same thing, but different. (Endless variations on the same theme never really tire me.) And, if judging or a popular vote is involved, I really like seeing the difference between what I would select and what other people consider to be the best.
I started following Project Sewn this spring, during their first “season.” That ended at the end of May, but a couple weeks ago, the announcement for the Coffee Date dress challenge popped up. I’ve seen the Coffee Date dress before—from time to time I peruse the Selfish Seamstress’s blog (she’s the one who designed it, it being the pattern for the dress). I thought it was pretty, and may have even considered making it, because the pattern is free—but I hate, absolutely hate, PDF patterns. Guh. Guh. I’m lucky if I can even get the first two pieces to line up.
Apparently, though, the timing was right and I felt up to the challenge. I’d wanted to sew along with the PS contestants this spring, but never quite found the time (they did a complete outfit every week) or inspiration. With the Coffee Date dress, I think it helped a lot that I saw the line drawing and the sample pic and almost immediately envisioned exactly what I wanted to do. And I already had the fabric.
Originally I was going to use the actual pattern. But as I was taping and watching it come together, I realized I was going to have to add like six inches in length to the bodice, and probably also the skirt. (It’s designed for petites. I’m not petite.) And add seam allowances. And draft sleeves. And probably redraw the armscyes, because they didn’t look right for what I wanted. I remembered seeing a comment from one of the PS organizers that said if size issues presented themselves, it was okay to use another pattern, so that’s what I did.
These are the patterns I used. So yes, the dress is very much Frankensteined. But it looks right, doesn’t it?
I used the top of Butterick 3029 for the fitted bodice, with the armscye from Simplicity 4883. (Yes, the armscye of an unprinted children’s nightgown pattern from the 1940s is what fits me best. No, I don’t understand it, either.) Sleeves from Simplicity 5513 (with a bit of 4883 again), and the skirt from McCall’s 4535. I was going to use the actual Coffee Date pattern for the neckline, but in the end I just did it freehand. (The in-seam pockets were freehand, too, if you're wondering. They're just little half-hearts.)
I didn’t make a muslin, but I measured a lot and even after combining all the pattern lines together, each piece underwent substantial changes on the tissue before I cut anything out. I probably wound up doing just as much work adjusting my pre-tested patterns as I would have had I actually used the Coffee Date dress one. Ah well.
Once I’d started assembling, I made even more adjustments. For some reason I decided I didn’t mind unpicking and re-sewing everything repeatedly. Usually I get tired after just a few and decide it’s either good enough or unwearable, and in both cases I stop. This time, however, on the entire dress, I think the only things I did not re-sew even once were the front bodice darts and the hem (coincidentally the first and last things I did, ha). A lot of bits saw multiple takes, too.
Since I hadn’t put my paper patterns away yet, I faithfully transferred all of these changes, so, assuming I transferred everything right, I’ll hopefully now have a really nicely-fitted bodice block for future use. I’d still like to do a little work around the armscye and sleeve head, but even now they fit me better than pretty much anything else with sleeves that I’ve made. And look how far I can reach above my head!
The ruffle was my biggest worry—I thought I might have to cut a single layer and just finish the edge with bias binding to reduce the double-layer bulk, but I think it worked okay. The piping isn’t perfect (and I somehow confused the piping piece with the one I was going to turn inside-out for the cord, so there’s a raw seam midway through; it’s very small and tidy, though, and I’m hoping it’ll be okay because it’s on the bias) but I like it a lot. It’s the effect I originally envisioned, and even with the extra volume, I think it works.
I did use a different fabric for the pockets and the neck facing, though not for contrast. (I actually picked the piece I had that was closest in color to the self fabric.) The main fabric is fairly thick and also kind of sticky, if you know what I mean, so I needed something different to reduce bulk and to keep the skirt smooth over the pockets. I considered using white to match the piping, but thought that might look odd if the pockets actually showed.
Oh, and instead of the directed invisible zipper, I did a lapped zipper. I’m not entirely sure why. I haven’t done a lapped zipper in a long time, and I don’t know that it’ll do anything to make me not mind that the zipper is at the center back instead of on the side (which I prefer), but I think it looks all right. Better than an invisible one, anyway. (Okay so allegedly an invisible zipper doesn’t look at all, so I shouldn’t really have a problem with its appearance. I just don’t like them, for some reason. I prefer metal.)
The only thing left to mention is the fabric. Another mystery one. I bought it at an estate sale quite recently (the best estate sale I’ve been to, by the way—I always feel awful and morbid, but then the lady in charge of the craft room told me that the owner was still alive, but had just gone to live in an assisted care place and was selling all her extra stuff—so nice to know), $2.00 for two yards at 60”. It’s weird. It feels like a knit or double-knit, but is actually woven; the weight seems like it’s right on the line and could go either the apparel or home dec way. (Okay, it was probably meant for home dec. But that’s never stopped me before.) It also has just a little bit of crosswise stretch—enough to help with the fit, but not so much as to be inconvenient. I actually really like it.
You can really only see this in the close-up photos, but it’s also very slubby—probably because it seems to stick a little bit on everything. I’m choosing to believe this is a design feature to make it look more like linen or silk. I’m really bad at fabric identification and have no idea what it’s made of (well, I’m certain it isn’t actually linen or silk), but suspect some nylon content due to the aforementioned snagging propensity.
I’m also guessing it’s vintage from the 70s, due to the more recognizable age of most of the rest of the estate fabric collection, and because it’s just got some unidentifiable quality that I associate with the 70s. For the most part, I have little fondness for the 70s, and I wish it was not the easiest decade for me to pick out, but it seems that it is. Vivian had a lot of 70s stuff; maybe that’s why. I’m slowly getting better at identifying other eras, especially sewing patterns, but overall I’ve probably been exposed to far more 70s than earlier years.
I guess that’s it. As I’ve said several times already, I’m very happy. I could have saved these ingredients to knock off this Joan dress (another thing I realized after finishing), which I've been wanting to do, but this one, with the fuller skirt, will be more wearable. And it’s not like I’ll never make anything blue and white again.
I feel like this dress meets all of those requirements. I haven’t made a “favorite” garment in a long time—but I think this one qualifies. I know I almost always say nice things about the stuff I’ve made, but with this one, I really, really like it. No complaints. Sadly, the weather’s still a bit too warm to wear it right now (and this is the only sad part about the current weather; honestly I would rather never get to wear this dress at all if it would in exchange stay sunny all the time), but I’m really looking forward to wearing it in the fall and winter. Really really. Yay!
Okay project details:
Fabric: Two yards of blue mystery fabric from estate sale $2.00
Pattern: Er… (I’ve used them all before, though (except the Coffee Date one, which actually was free) so I’m saying free overall anyway)
Year: Several, ranging from 1944 (I think) to 2009
Notions: 24” zipper $0.45, self-made piping and surface cording: 1 package bias tape $0.75, appx. 2 yards cotton braid ~$0.15
Time to Complete: I started and finished within a week, and did a lot of the structural stuff last Saturday—spent most of the afternoon. Beyond that, I don’t know.
Made before: I've used all the patterns except the actual Coffee Date one, but obviously I've never done them up quite like this before.
Make again: Possibly.
Sewing soundtrack: Ballboy
First worn: Not yet.
Wear again: Yes. It’s a bit too warm right now, but I’ll definitely wear it to work during the fall and winter, maybe even spring.
Total cost: $3.35