Sunday, 24 May 2020

May dress (Vogue 7422) - part 1

This month for the Vintage Sew A Dress A Month I'm making up this 1951 pattern in a striped seersucker which I bought some years ago one of my trips to Goldhawk Road. It's one of my UseNine2020 fabrics.

The blue is for the collar and cuffs

I bought the fabric with the intention of using it for a 1950s Maudella pattern which also has the bodice cut on the bias. However on closer inspection of the pattern I realised that the bodice fastens with buttons and buttonholes, so the 'V' of the stripes meeting would not have been in the centre but slightly to the left, and I didn't want that. So into the stash the fabric went.

Vogue 7422 has an edge-to-edge front, fastening with buttons and loops, and a panel underneath to prevent any gapping. I'm not going to extend the buttons below the waist, however, as to me it looks a bit odd. Instead I'll fasten the skirt part with snaps.

Envelope detail showing how the dress fastens

The first thing I had to do was alter the pattern to fit me. Because of my recent body changes, it had to be both sized-up and shortened, which made redrafting the bodice darts quite an exercise. I made a toile, and to my astonishment it was pretty much right - woot!

When I moved on to my actual fabric, it struck my that I couldn't remember when I had last used seersucker. I think it was in school sewing lessons, which is a very long time ago indeed. I wasn't sure if there was anything particular I needed to know about working with such a textured fabric, and most of my sewing books didn't have any advice to offer. Eventually I found the information I needed in Dana Willard's The Fabric Selector. This also included a reference to Seersucker Thursday in the United States, which led me down the rabbit hole of seersucker suits, and just when and how they could be worn. . .

Anyway, dragging myself back to the job in hand - I had assumed that the stripes on the fabric were symmetrical, but when I looked at it closely I discovered that this is not actually the case. The orange and yellow parts are symmetrical, but in the grey sections the lighter grey is always on the left.

Fabric close-up

I already knew that I would have to cut out carefully, to match the stripes, but this added another layer of complexity. Fortunately, becase the pattern is woven in rather than printed, both sides of the fabric are the same. This meant that I could cut out one piece, then lay both it and the pattern on top of the fabric, align the stripes all round, pin through all three layers, and cut out the second piece. Once flipped over, it should be the perfect match. I had worried about whether I would have enough fabric, but because everything was cut from a single layer, there was very little wastage and I managed it with a little to spare.

Pattern piece cut out once, and laid on top of the fabric

When sewing together pieces where I want the stripes to match, I found it easiest to pin along the white stripes. They are easy to see, reasonably spaced, and narrow enough to pin through the centre and be sure that they will match properly.

Pinning along the white stripes

I sewed the bodice back first, and all the time and effort spent in cutting out and pinning proved worth it.

Matching stripes

Can we just take a minute to admire this in detail?

Yes, I am pleased with this!

Seersucker is tricky to press without flattening it altogether, but fortunately I have recently made myself a seam stick. It's just an offcut of thick dowel wrapped in several layers of felt, but it's perfect for pressing seams open without squashing the fabric on either side.

DIY seam stick

The skirt pieces are on the grain at the sides, and somewhere between grain and true bias at the centre front and back. Naturally, I added pockets in the side seams. I was worried about two extra layers of seersucker under the skirt adding extra fullness, so I decided to make the pocket bags out of plain fabric, with just a strip of the patterned fabric at the pocket opening. Then I discovered that it is possible to ease out the puckers created by the weaving process, so I did that on the pocket strips to reduce the bulk even further.

The pattern doesn't call for interfacing at all. I considered adding it to the facings, and experimented with an offcut. Ironing on interfacing flattens the fabric completely, which I didn't like.

Pocket piece, untreated seersucker (top), and with iron-on interfacing (bottom)

However because the bodice front openings and their facings are all cut on the bias, I do think I will need to stabilise them in some way. The underpanel is cut on the straight grain, and I have applied a fine iron-on interfacing to it as I'm quite happy for this piece to be flat. The underpanel is attached to the left side of the bodice, and will stop it from stretching. For the right side, I will add a stay tape when sewing the bodice and facing together. There is also the small matter of all those buttons and loops to add!

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