December Dress Debacle

Well, the end of 2012 brought me some serious sewing lessons. Two dresses I worked on for weeks failed to varying degrees. One was a complete wadder, the other is wearable but with a limited lifespan, and I think I have to just consider it a wearable muslin. Here’s what happened, and what I learned:

The Paisley Dress:

It's not a tumor!
It’s not a tumor!

I got this wonderful border print ITY (ITY? I don’t really know how to tell if something is ITY.) on super sale, and thought I’d have a ball making a dress out of it. Well, it was the first time I tried to do something with a border print, and I learned a LOT! First, my original dream of making a Vogue wrap dress with it was all off, as that’s a fraction-of-a-circle skirt, so it wouldn’t play nicely with the border print at all! I finally settled on Simplicity 2145 and spent a good 2 hours one evening trying different placements for the pattern pieces to get a good effect with all the bold print options. I feel I did pretty well with this, with one exception: the strange “tumor” I created for my abdomen when the fabric’s 1) pleated and 2) NOT covered by the waist detail (as I’d expected).

With that tackled, I went about construction. I was a bit overwhelmed by the pleating and such, and made my biggest mistake by far due to the overwhelm: I sewed things with straight stitches. STRAIGHT STITCHES. On a knit. I mean, I get it when we’re talking about basting a pleat, but what in god’s name made me forget to switch to a narrow zigzag when it came to the first real seam? I am seriously considering embroidering a pre-stitch checklist to help me avoid this kind of thing in the future. I think I really need a couple of checklists, really. Pre-trace, pre-cut, pre-stitch. I’ll work them out and post them here, in case they might also be helpful to someone else.

Needs a swayback adjustment and a smaller tush!
Needs a swayback adjustment and a smaller tush!

Back to the dress, I happily constructed along, not realizing that I was setting myself up for popping stitches every time I stretched significantly as I sewed those seams. All was well, until it came to the zipper. This slippery, slinky poly jersey would NOT accept a zipper gracefully. I inserted and picked it out three times, the last time trying with Steam-a-Seam to get all the slipperies in line. Then I realized (except for possibly popping stitches) that it was likely stretchy enough without a zipper. And it is, mostly. Steam-a-seam is stiffer than the fabric, though, so I have some wonkiness in the CB seam, right over my Tuchus! Sigh.

All in all, I learned a TON on this dress. I like the pattern placement for the most part, and I am really happy with the fitting, except for a plan to do a swayback adjustment on the next version. I have enough of the fabric left over that I can make something else out of this fabric, perhaps reusing some of the skirt panels, and I think I’ll just chuck this dress after a few more wearings. Biggest lesson: Checklists! I have to work out failsafes for when my brain is completely out of it! 🙂

The long story of failed dresses on which I worked for WEEKS is not over yet, however! I also put a lot of energy into McCalls 5993, a pattern I picked up on Etsy when searching for flattering-looking empire waist dresses (See the comment about the tush to the left–sometimes a seriously large hip-to-waist ratio just wants a little camouflage.) With this one I learned a very clear lesson about making sure I don’t cut on fabric that’s not properly . . . weighed down? I’m not sure if my usual cat-food pattern weights failed me here, or whether the Ocelittle himself knocked things out of alignment when jumping onto my cutting table, which is something he likes to do.

And that's why you always stay-stitch when the pattern tells you to!
And that’s why you always stay-stitch when the pattern tells you to!

However it happened, the neckline for this one suffered from a wiggly cut, and subsequent forgetting to stay-stitch the neckline. I take two lessons from this: 1. Put the cat in the bedroom for a minute while cutting my fashion fabric and 2. don’t skip steps! For lesson #2, I think two things will help. I’m planning to tick off steps with a pencil as I sew along, and also I’m taking part in a 30-minutes-a-day sew along which I hope will help me hold my focus over several sewing sessions.

In the end I decided that the red dress was also in a fabric I didn’t love (gotta love online shopping!) and so I’ll recover some yardage from the skirt for a workout top or undershirt, and move on. I do actually like the pattern and will likely sew it again some time, again with a swayback adjustment. (Self, please take note: do some pinning and mark up the pattern before you salvage fabric from this dress!)