Sunday, 15 July 2012

The "If it can go wrong" dress

There are some projects which just don't want to work. More often than not, it's when there is a shortage of time or materials involved, and in this case I was short of both.

Along with some of the Ya Raqs girls I was going to a dance show where some of my costumes would be on display, and I decided that I really ought to wear a dress I'd made myself. I decided to use New Look pattern 6000. Unfortunately other projects got in the way, so I started rather later than planned. Things started to go awry when I pre-washed the material, as I always do. This was how I discovered that my idea of 'hand hot' water is hotter than the 30 degree wash recommended for the fabric. The black dye ran, badly. It was worse in some places than others; in some areas it was barely noticeable, whereas other parts were unusable. Unfortunately nowhere was there an unmarked stretch long enough for the main dress pieces.

Dye run disaster

There was however nearly enough, so I considered how and where to join the usable parts together. The plan I came up with was for a separate yoke, the width of the shoulder seams, edged with black piping. So that this wasn't the only place on the dress with piping, I decided  to add it to the bottom of the sleeves as well. I drew new pattern pieces and tried laying them out on the material. Bizarrely, given the state of the fabric, I was able to cut all the pieces so that the pattern matched perfectly along the piped join. There were a few areas where the colour run was apparent, but only if you looked closely.

I had never made and used my own piping before, and there were a few false starts and a lot of time wasted before I got this right. However I eventually got the yoke joined to the dress front and backs, and the sleeve ends piped and faced.

The next challenge was attaching the sleeves. This was where I began to regret making the yoke the full width of the shoulder seam. Setting in sleeves is always a bit tricky, and having the piping to negotiate as well would make it even worse. Fortunately, in a rare moment of things going well, I thought about this before I sewed the dress side seams up. Instead of setting the sleeves the usual way, I attached the flat sleeve pieces to the flat dress piece first, and then sewed the sleeve and side together in a single seam.

Because the fabric was such a bold pattern, I didn't want to detract from it with contrast stitching showing. This meant that the sleeve facings, hem and zip all had to be sewn in several different colours. Black, white, red and maroon threads were all used - not the best thing to be doing when you're short of time. However miraculously, the dress was finished in time, and I wasn't even sewing it in the hotel before the show!

The completed dress

When I got home I tried washing the remaining, stained bits of fabric in a 'colour run fix' product. It worked like a charm,  so I washed dress as well, and it came out sparkling. Obviously if I'd been thinking straight, I would have done this before I started cutting the dress out, but I don't think that the end result would have looked nearly as good. So despite everything that went wrong, the end result was right.

With the girls before the show

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