Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Big Stitch - part 2, a whole lot of hand sewing

I had hoped to have a finished dress to post about, but my first Big Stitch project (the black, white and yellow cotton sundress) has involved a lot more hand sewing than I’d expected. As a result, I’ve only got the bodice complete.

I had already decided to discard the original bodice, so the first thing I did was separate it from the skirt. I left the zip attached to the skirt, with the idea that I might be able to sew it into whatever new bodice I added, but I quickly realised that the ‘spare’ part was too long to fit comfortably into anything else. So I unpicked it altogether.

In the meantime I was also considering what pattern to use for the new bodice. I was tempted to go with Butterick 6620 because I love it so much, but I wasn’t sure how the long sleeves would work on something that’s sewn onto a skirt (I know I'm being picky, but I do like to be able to move my arms!) Instead I went with Vogue 8789, which I used for my DIY Horrockses dress.

This has the advantage of having an entirely straight neckline. Only after I’d bought some yellow cotton for the new bodice did I remember that yellow next to the skin isn’t a good look for me. It would need some sort of trimming round the neck to hide the yellowness (of both me and the fabric - that's the effect it has!) I found some chunky cotton lace which I thought would be ideal, but which wouldn’t work around curves.

Raw materials: skirt, zip, yellow and black cotton, and the lace

I decided to sew the lace onto the four bodice pieces by hand, just overcasting along the straight edges. Unfortunately once I started to sew I discovered that it wasn’t all that robustly made, and was coming apart in places. So I had to sew down loose bits and remake some of the joining bars in sewing thread as I went along. Once I’d finally finished this, I decided that a single length of lace looked a bit puny, so had the repeat the whole exercise with a second row. All this took time. A long, long time.

Trim sewn onto a bodice back section

To make the white voile lining, I cut out the bodice pieces, minus the self-facing round the neck. Then I slightly trimmed the neckline and armscyes of the lining pieces. I made up the lining and bodice separately, sewed the two right sides together round the armscyes, and turned the whole thing right way out. I wanted to understitch the lining round the armscye, but this would be nigh-on impossible by machine, so I did it by hand.

The lining sewn in place round the armscye

Next the raw edge of the bodice self-facing was turned under, making the facing the same width as the double lace strip. This meant that when I slip-stitched the facing onto the lining I could catch the whole thing down to the main bodice occasionally, with the stitches being hidden by the edge of the lace.

The right side of the bodice was sewn up completely, the left just at the top. The skirt is wider at the front than the back, and I wanted to replicate this in the bodice. I did this by tapering the centre front seam and altering the side seams so that the raw edges didn’t match. It was only after I’d done all this that I realised it would have been far simpler just to make the substantial front darts slightly less substantial! Oh well, live and learn.

Next I attached the skirt to the bodice. In keeping with the ethos of the project, I re-used the existing zip. Re-attaching an invisible zip into a made-up garment was another thing which would be awkward by machine, so I hand sewed that as well, with a small back stitch. Finally (for now) I slip-stitched the lining (yet more hand sewing) in place around the waist.

Inside view of the bodice back, showing how the front is wider

Bodice front

Next up, finishing the skirt.

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