Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shifty 70s

Working on this 1973 shift dress drove me crazy.

All the problems are my own fault for being impatient and not following instructions to the letter, but still...  It is so frustrating when things don't work!  This one was tossed into (and retrieved from) my sewing trash bin more than once before it was declared complete.

It called for a stretch fabric and I used a woven poly gabardine with only a little give.  The sleeves aren't too tight (for once) and I can move my arms just fine, but the back neck curves up towards my hairline and floats away from my neck in this really strange way.  It might not do that if it was able to stretch properly across the shoulders.

My trusty Husqvarna portable died (permanently this time) mid-sew and I used the Pfaff, which does not have a zipper foot, to complete the dress.   ...why yes, I did attempt to stitch in a zipper with a regular foot.  In case you were wondering, it doesn't really work all that well.

I ended up sewing over the zipper teeth in a few (read: a zillion) places.  In other places the fabric is stitched so close to the zipper that it catches badly.  For a while there the zipper was completely un-usable.  Because I'd stitched it in with extremely tiny stitches and the fabric was fraying like a mo-fo,  ripping the whole thing out and starting over wasn't going to work.  Instead I had to carefully pick out all of the stitches between the teeth with a seam ripper and then tack the zipper down again.  Next time I haven't got the right foot I will sew the zipper in by hand.  I detest hand-picking but it couldn't have been worse than the amount of struggling I had to do to get the zipper to work.  It mostly works now and it doesn't look as bad as I'd feared.

Side Note:  All my seam ripping and crying made my husband feel very bad for me and, as usual he came to my rescue.  He figured out a way to make the old Husqvarna's snap-in feet work on my Pfaff...AND bought me a new vintage Husqvarna machine.  Yay!

Anyway, despite being snug in the shoulders and hips, I still had about 4 inches of extra fabric in the waist.  After re-curving the side seams and adding back darts it looks much better.  It was worth all the suffering and I like the way it came out, but next time when a pattern calls for stretch fabric, I'll use stretch fabric!


  1. I can't even imagine the frustration when having to re-do this and that to get something just right..or just decent! It does look really nice though, glad you were able to work through it all and come out with a very pretty dress! I have yet to begin sewing but I'm hoping I can do a basic pencil skirt when I give my first project a go :)

  2. @ Retro Natural: Thanks SO much! A pencil skirt is the perfect first project. That's exactly what I started with. It took forever to complete and all the steps seemed really fiddly at the time but when I was done and I had a wearable garment in my hands, I felt like I'd performed a miracle. Knowing I could make a skirt, made we want to try making other things. And I still wear that skirt!

  3. Hi Gabrielle. I love the colour on you. The fit seems perfect. All of your frustration/angst paid off in the end.

  4. Looks ace- I adore the colour- definitely worth perservering with.

  5. It turned out great: good for you for persevering!! Some projects are just like that aren't they - from start to finish, nothing but trouble. And yes, I've done that before using a woven for a knit pattern. Didn't realize it until I was sewing and started to wonder where the heck the zipper was supposed to go, lol!

  6. Looks so nice! Love the retro touch!

  7. It is VERY va-va-voom! Sexy! I love my clothes to be snug too when i buy off the rack. Problem is, my sewing teacher doesn't understand this is how I like my clothes to fit, so when she does my fitting, I always have too much ease. I love your dress. I'm a new reader to your blog, HAHA at "shouting I made this to a rando passerby" :)
    Are you taking the Julia bobbin Mad Men challenge??