Thursday, May 6, 2010

Too Close To Call

The three things in sewing that scare me the most are buttons, multiple gores in the main body, and un-marked patterns. Naturally, this super cute jumper pattern from 1940 has all three. This is the closest I've come to a total wadder in a really long time.

I'm sure I would have done better with a marked pattern...or better instructions. Some of these old patterns assume that you know what you're doing and only give you the bare minimum of instruction and pictures. It makes it tough on self-taught sewists like myself.

There was just barely enough blue linen left from these overalls to make this jumper. The only reason I was able to cut this out at all was because (even though I made the longer view) I had to reduce the length by about four inches. I am shorty short short. Despite the fact that I measured each pattern piece very carefully before shortening it, all of the pieces ended up being different lengths when sewn together.

The pattern calls for seven buttons up the back, but I am far too frightened of making that many button holes. Instead, after sewing in the front, side and back seams, I folded the fabric in and put a zipper in the center where the buttons would have met/overlapped. I ended up with a garment that was a giant sack. Uy.

My next step was to take it in by re-sewing all the seams. Hooray! It mostly fit, except for the boob area, which was still too big. Starting from the waistline I increased the seam allowances in the front bust to make it fit closer to my body. I had to do it a couple of times to get it right. This left me with a giant wad of fabric behind the breast so I trimmed the excess.

The band no longer lined up properly because I'd taken in the dress so much. I trimmed the pattern pieces at the seam allowances, and attached a smaller version of the band. Then I realized that I'd set the zipper in too low and if I attached the band I'd have a two inch gap of unfinished fabric between the band and the zipper.

Ugh! Un-picked the band. Un-picked the zipper. Re-installed the zipper and band. ...and now the dress is TOO SMALL!!!!!!! I've already TRIMMED some of my seams and there is NO MORE FABRIC!!!!!

oh. my.

I still thought I could save it, somehow, so I slept on it. The next day, I inspected my seams closely and discovered I could let out the bust seams without making a complete mess. I unpicked the seams in the band and sewed it back together at the very edge of the cuts. Miraculously, it was now the right size. I re-attached it and was pretty surprised that it looked okay.

I still couldn't figure out how to install the straps properly, so I just bunged them on behind the band. Its ugly and shameful but it works.

Finishing the skirt hem took a LOT of thought. The shortest panel was 24.5 inches long from the waist and I really didn't want to go much shorter than that. It had to be hemmed...but how?

I used part one of Gertie's technique for circle skirt hems to make all the panels the same length. While wearing the dress, I put pins in at the natural waist and sides, trying to make sure they were even. Then I took the dress off, added pins around the back and made adjustments until there was a perfectly straight line of pins marking the waist.

Laying the dress out flat, I used a measuring tape to measure 24.5 inches between the pinned waist line and the hem line on each panel. I marked the line with pins (about 1 pin per inch) and then with chalk so that I had a nice white line to follow all the way around the bottom of the skirt. After removing the pins, I made a line of stitching along the chalk line and then trimmed below the stitching. Then I ran the hem through the machine once more using the rolled hem foot. It totally worked! Its all one length, managed to keep the bottom below my knee, and the rolled hem came out great! Even on the inside!

So. This one was a close call but I pulled it out after all. After many, many hours and more seam ripping and re-sewing than I care to remember, I'm proud to say it actually looks like the dress on the pattern envelope. Its a little snug, but I expect that the linen will grow as I wear it.

Unfortunately, the back band still has major funk. I left it open at the top because I thought it would be a cute detail. It just looks unfinished. Also, the band itself is kind of lumpy because I faced it when I shouldn't have. Uy.

I think at some point I will re-install the zipper so that it goes all the way up, remove and re-install the band without facing, and attach the pockets. Not any time soon however.

I think that it's a wearable jumper so I wouldn't call it a complete failure but it still needs some fiddling. I may go back and mess with it some more...or I may not. I think that if I could work out the issue with the band, it would be just right.


  1. i think this is really cute! i love that you left it open in the back!

    i know it's only been, like, 3 days, but how's the etsy stuff coming? ;)

  2. It is such a gorgeous pattern that I hope you will fiddle and try again. It's always been a favorite of mine.

  3. Maybe you could just use some hook and eyes for the gap at the back?

  4. hahaha Buttons also scare me. Well buttons don't really... buttonholes are the terrifying bit. The prospect of ruining an almost finished dress with dodgy buttonholes is stressful indeed! You did a brilliant job. Love it. :)