Because the fabric I’m using for my early 1930s dress is such a bold design, it was important to cut the pieces out with the pattern in mind, rather than my usual approach of using as little fabric as possible. To make this easier, I cut out duplicates of the main pattern pieces. I didn’t draft patterns for the skirt or the belt, as these are just rectangles.
|The main pattern pieces|
I cut out the front pieces with the trees and birds at much the same height, and the back piece with the design more or less symmetrical around the centre back. Finally I cut the back facing in such a way that it would provide a contrast to the main back piece.
|Fronts and back cut out|
First I attached the back facing to the back. It felt totally wrong, applying a facing right side to wrong side.
|Attaching the back facing|
I trimmed the neck seam as normal, pressed the lower edge of the facing along the line of the interfacing, trimmed off the excess fabric, turned the facing to the right side of the back and stitched the edge down.
|The finished back facing|
The front facing was originally traced off the main front piece, but for the crossover ‘tabs’ I changed the pattern slightly, making the main front piece slightly larger and the facing slightly smaller. When I sewed them together matching the raw edges this meant that I had to gather the front piece slightly. When the completed front was turned right side out, the result was that the sewing was all on the facing side, so does not show on the right side.
|Front tab from the wrong side, and the pattern for the different sized ends|
Then I understitched the front edges by hand, you can just see a bit of it in the above photograph. It's a good job I've finally learned to use a thimble, as the fabric is quite closely woven.
The centre front panel was cut from a slightly slubby satin-backed crepe, lined with cotton as it was a bit too thin on its own. The top edge was bound with a scrap of the main fabric, as on the original dress.
|Completed centre front panel|
I then attached the fronts to the centre panel (which is slightly too long).
|The front pieces pinned together|
When I turned the pinned front over, I was relieved to see that the raw edges of the facings were in line with the raw edges of the centre panel, as planned.
|The wrong side - everything fits!|
The next thing was to pin the vertical pleats from the shoulder together, and the front was then ready to be stitched to the back along the shoulder seams.
|With the shoulder pleats in place|
If you look carefully at the photographs above, you will see a number of tufts of thread sticking out of the dress pieces. These are tailor tacks, and I couldn’t have put the dress front together without them.
Tailor tacks are a way of transferring information from the pattern to the fabric without using a medium such as chalk or pencil, which might leave a mark. Click here to see how they are made.
In the above photograph, the circles mark the tailor tacks used for different purposes, as follows:
black - where to attach the button through the two tabs and the centre panel
pink - where the centre panel meets the front pieces
brown - where the gathered part of the sleeve head begins
blue - the left and matching right tacks come together to form the first pleat
green - as above, for the second pleat.
Tailor tacks are not that widely used now, but I still find them the best thing for some marking tasks. Watching the Great British Sewing Bee recently I nearly cheered out loud when Ann, the eventual winner, extolled their usefulness while making a beautiful and complex lace-covered evening dress.
Having sewn the shoulder seams I then set in the sleeves, added the sleeve cuffs, and sewed the sleeve and side seam together in one go. Almost certainly not at all period-correct, but I always find sleeves easier to do this way.
I would have liked to make the skirt with the pattern matching at the side seams, but unfortunately this was not possible with the width of the pattern repeat. However I wanted to add pockets (not sure if the original dress has them, but I like to have pockets in my dresses), and as I had enough spare fabric to do it, I decided to cut the pocket backs out in such a way that the join of pocket to skirt would be invisible if the pocket gaped slightly. This was partly inspired by this fabulous dress by The Dreamstress. It was a bit wasteful, fabric-wise, but the pockets were all I had left to cut out, and the end result did look good.
|Skirt piece and matching pockets|
And then, and only then, did I remember that I needed to cut out the belt. Bother. Wailing and gnashing of teeth etc.
I looked at my various leftover pieces of fabric, none of which are remotely large enough for the belt, wailed and gnashed a bit more, and then decided that the best thing was to give up for now, sleep on it, and in the meantime make the most of the current good weather and go for a walk with Mr Tulip.
So this challenge will be a bit late.