Tuesday, 5 June 2012

In to the great unknown!

I have been a knitter for some years now and a big fan of pretty clothes for even longer. I'm sure I speak for many girls as I vent my frustration about being able to find interesting, well-fitting clothes in the shops only if they have a massive price tag. So, for a while I've been toying with the idea of making my own, much more awesome, much cheaper clothes. My immense fear of ruining a perfectly good piece of fabric (can't be unravelled like a knitting project gone wrong!) and lack of sewing machine have stood in my way. Recently, however, a good friend came to the rescue with her sewing machine, and I went to battle.

My first project was a very pretty dress by McCalls which I hoped to wear to a friend's wedding party, although told myself it probably wouldn't be ready in time, or wearable.

Sewing machine: Bernina 1008
Pattern: M6504

Size: 14 (29" waist)
Fabric: Viscose from Ditto Fabrics

The process

As I said earlier, I was pretty terrified so decided to just go for it one day when I had some time on my hands. Cutting out the fabric was a bit tricksy as I don't have a large table so had to use the floor. This meant a lot of crawling around and trying to convince Little Minx to not sleep on my lovely viscose. I definitely could have been more accurate but was a little hasty in my eagerness to get tot he sewing part. As I went along I realised that this lack of accuracy was rather a pain and although I worked around it, I made a mental note (MN) to be more patient next time (not one of my strong points).

Once I got to the sewing it was surprisingly easy and despite the great number of panel pieces, it came together really quickly. In a couple of hours I had sewn together all the front pieces and the back pieces but decided to leave it at that for the day before my luck ran out.

Next was the zip which I felt was going to lose me sleep if I didn't just get on with it and not think too hard about it. It turned out that, whilst time-consuming, it really wasn't that difficult! I took it slowly and pinned and tacked before sewing in place. I was convinced I had a zipper foot but refused to let it beat me when I discoverd this wasn't the case. I managed to sew the zip in a reasonable fashion with just the normal foot. MN: Get zipper foot for next time. It's not going to win awards, but it was a pretty good attempt at an invisible zip and unless you stare at it closely you won't see its little flaws.

Riding high from zip success, I thought the dress must nearly be finished! I congratulated myself on how simple I had found it. Until I got to the facing. As zips seem to be the nemesis of many sewers (people who sew, not places where rats live), facing is definitely mine! The instructions were a bit confusing and it was a nightmare of twisting bits, fitting bits, overstitching bits. Here was a place when more accuracy when cutting would have made things a lot easier. MN: Cut more accurately! Also, after my third attempt I started to understand better what was required, so I feel confident that next time will be a little neater! So, the shoulder seams are the part of the dress I'm least happy with, but it was a learning curve!

Happy bits:
I made a dress! A wearable, pretty dress that fits me really nicely.
At least 3 people have admired it and not realised it was homemade which is the highest compliment one can receive in my opinion.
I conquered a lot of fears.
I inserted a zip.

Sad bits:
Shoulder seams are not very neat due to horrible facing incident as described above.
The front is a bit low so I ended up wearing a vest top underneath, but as it has a lacy edge, that looked rather nice.

I love sewing and can't wait to do more! I have all sorts of projects lined up which I will report on as they arrive.
This dress was (mostly) fun to make. I'm really pleased with the choice of fabric and it has a lovely swishy movement to it and makes me feel very girly. I did make the dipped hem which means the dress isn't particularly versatile as it's a bit posh for day-to-day wear, but we should all have the odd thing we save just for best, right?

I did wear the dress to the party as I had hoped, and here she is in a garden photo shoot (thanks Big Minx for being cameraman). I call her my peacock dress.


  1. Great post! The dress looks like a perfect fit! I came across this post when I was about to cut my fabric for the same pattern... and then I got nervous that I picked the wrong size... The finished garment measurements pegs be for a 6 with the breast size, but then for the sizing of the "misses" dresses I'm a 14 at the waist. I'm worried about picking the right size. Any thoughts?

    1. Thanks very much! I would definitely recommend going by the finished measurements. If you're a bit unsure you could go for a size above and then you can always take it in. or try a muslin if you can bear cutting all those pieces twice! Good luck. :-)