Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A new dress and pricked fingers

Having had a chat one evening with my totally brilliant sister, K, about all the 'crafty' stuff she makes, she inspired me - the person without a crafty bone in my body! - to have a go at something. I had a think and decided I would try and make a dress for S.  I thought I was bound to get a little pattern that was pretty much two pieces I could stitch together.  Maybe they are out there but did I find one. No. I managed to get something out of Project flipping Runway and whilst it looked simple, it did have some weird and wonderful bits to it.

Now, bear in mind that when I started this exercise, I knew nothing about sewing.  I had once sewn a black blouse. I was a secondary school at the time and very into Gary Numan. By the time said blouse was actually finished, it didn't fit me as I'd grown out of it (and probably Numan as well). Not the most successful needlework then. Other than that, cross-stitch at infant school was it.  So, now you know the depth of my experience :)

So, off I go to Google to find a pattern.  Easy enough.  How much though?  I only want a pattern, not the finished dress. That was the first shock.

Pattern arrived so now I needed material.  It is coming into Autumn so I thought I’d opt for a nice summer fabric.  The basis of this was that it would still fit next year.  Ok, no it wasn’t. It was that my sister suggested working with polycotton was best for my first attempt. All polycotton fabric seems to have a very summery print. Oh well.  I phoned the local needlework shop and found that cotton was £11.99 per metre!  What?  I could buy a dress from Monsoon for the amount I would want.  Another dip into Google and I found an online material shop which sold polycotton at £2.50 a metre.  That was more like it.  Hey, it may not turn out at all so I’m not going to spend much am I.

Buttons, matching thread, something called interfacing and something else called bias later and I definitely could have bought a dress from Harrods Monsoon!  I nearly bought a sewing machine to which would have made this the most expensive dress S has yet!  I resisted.  This is going to be hand-sewn.

Right, here we go.  Spoke to K first to get a bit of a clue about how to do things here. She gave me some of the basics, including how to lay out the material (like I even expected that it would work better one way than the other!?). 

I think I bought a little too much material
Material laid out as per the pattern and pattern pieces cut out, pinned on and then cut out.  Boy, I was flying today J


Now, sewing starts.  Some of it makes sense but much does not.  Another Google required to find out what the heck some of the stitchings are and, more to the point, how to do them.  No-one said this would be easy...


Pieces were coming together though. It was starting to look like I could do it. 

Did I mention this is all hand sewn as I have no sewing maching?  My poor pricked fingers.

Pockets next. I liked this bit. It was easy not too demanding for me.  Improvising again, I put some more braid on.  Braid and I were to become good friends as it is a great way of hiding your mistakes looks so pretty.


My eyesight started to suffer a bit.  I definitely needed my reading glasses.  I think I’m getting old as it took a while for me to see anything once I took my glasses off after sewing.  Did I mention my pricked fingers yet?


Back piece put together and it looked good.  Wow, perhaps I have missed a skill here.  Perhaps not.  Trying to turn the tiny stupid bloody hook inside out after stitching it was no mean feat.  “Use strong thread and simply pull through” said the instructions. Nope.  Brute force and the clever use of a cocktail stick got there in the end though.  See, doesn’t it look great. Did I mention I pricked my finger with the cocktail stick?  Don’t worry if you come over for things on sticks at some point, it broke and I threw it away.  The sellotope wouldn’t hold it together anyway ;-)


I got confused about turning up/in/over whatever it was.  I needed 1cm or 6mm or something.  It was all a bit random at times.  I was sure when I put the pieces together it would look like something sewn especially for the bride of Frankenstein, you know, all short sleeve there and long bit here.  I’ll keep on going though.  Back done.  Yippee!


Front and back sewn together so S had a try on to make sure it fitted. Of course I was keeping my fingers crossed and holding my breath knew it would ;-) 


N had to have a go too.  Little big on her though. She’ll grow into it (I keep all S's clothes for her - hand-me-down-girl).


I opted for ruffles on the arms rather than the sleeve (pattern gave me choices don’t you know).  It seemed more appropriate far easier.  The pattern suggested I simply blanket stitch the outer edge. I could see that fraying away into nothing so I decided to do a little turn in/up/whatever and then put some of the braiding on.  Pretty don’t you think.


Did I mention my pricked thumbs/fingers?

Pinning the ruffle to the dress via bias was no mean feat. Sewing it was a bloody nightmare quite hard going.  My fingers are now getting painful. Perhaps it’s time to use the thimble?


It looked nice once it was done but the bottom of the sleeve was all raggy.  No turn in/up/under requested here. Perhaps I’d missed something.  Another read through the pattern and I couldn’t spot anything. Oh well, I’ll have to just do a little turn in thingy myself (I’m getting good at sewing speak as you can see).  I fiddled and turned and pricked my fingers some more.  However, the 3mm I had to play with turned into a little seam thing.  Shame I couldn’t hide this with the braid but it was letting me down this time.

Next was the neck.  Bias used again around this and I had to really think hard about what the pattern was trying to tell me. I think they need to invent versions of patterns, graded by how stupid you are sewing ability.  A bit of stomping around swearing under my breath thinking logically and I could see what was required.  One completed neckline.


Now for the hem.  I know this word see J  However, the pattern had this really strange feature again. I had cut out two 2” pieces of long material, same width as the back and front of the pattern, stuck the interfacing on it (the wrong way around the first time so it melted onto the damn iron!) and now apparently I was supposed to sew this all around the dress.  What kind of juvenile decides to print this pattern?  Surely just CUT THE DRESS 2” LONGER!

See the silly extra 'hockey stick' shaped pieces for the hem? Pointless!
Another chat to K and she also thought this was a silly thing to do so I opted for a simple hem, which K talked me through first. I didn’t know anything about turning it up 1.5” then the 0.5” tucking under need her talking me through it but I reasoned she would like to feel helpful so I let her ;-)

Hem done and braid utilised again to give the dress a pretty little finish.  What do you think?

S loves it.  She wanted to wear it all day in the garden but I don’t think my hand sewing is quite up to garden play. She is going to wear it out tomorrow though so I hope it’s not too gusty out or she doesn’t want to walk at too brisk a pace.  Actually, I am very proud of my little dress.  Not bad for a first attempt huh?

Did I mention I pricked my fingers a lot!?

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