Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My 5th Dress- 60's Boho with Bell Sleeves COMPLETED

Tailoring the beast
Don't I look wind-blown? Or is that exasperation?

My seam ripper and I are besties

The previous post shows the Simplicity pattern I used for my fifth dress. I picked view 1. I was hoping for a cute boho mini dress. I even picked out this geometric pattern at Joann's that I thought was really cool. I don't "hate" the dress per se. But, I'm not gonna lie. I don't "like" this dress. But hey, at least it wasn't my fault, as you'll see below.

What follows is the rundown of what I learned and the problems I encountered. Oh, and you better believe it, there WERE problems ; - )

1.) PRINTS: Be very careful with prints. It may seem fabulous when you pick it out at the store, but if you're petite like me, prints can really swamp your frame. I think that's one of the big problems with this dress. Plus, this print looked way more 60's on the bolt. Once it became a dress, somehow it lost that flavor for me. I guess I should have picked a double-sided pattern, too, since the sleeve insides are shown in this design.

2.) MATERIAL: I doubt I will ever use 100% cotton ever again. It didn't drape well. It was stiff. It was boxy. And since I LOVE LOVE LOVE (did I say LOVE) to tailor my dresses for a close-fit, it drove me nuts that I couldn't get the cotton to nip in well at the waist. I totally lost my waist in this dress. I hope to find it again, someday...

By the way, I literally machine-basted this monster three times, trying to tailor it. It was a total Goldilocks moment (except for the last part where it's "just right"-- fairytales aint real after all).

3.) INVISIBLE ZIPPERS: Yay! I finally figured them out. It wasn't rocket science, but if anyone asks, it was. Shhhhhhh! Don't tell.

4.) SLEEVES: I did my first long sleeves with this dress. Honestly, the only thing that I truly like about this dress is the sleeves. I think that's why I fell for this pattern in the first place-- a total love affair with bell/angel sleeves. Since I don't like this result, though, I'll probably do another bell sleeve dress in the future.
My biggest problem with the sleeves: somehow when I'm doing curves, the fabric often bunches on me and I end up sewing a bunch of overlapping fabric that I then have to rip out with my seam ripper. It seems to happen even when I'm being super careful, and I think it's not happening. Oh and of course, this never happens when I am basting, only when I am stitching tiny little stitches that then take forever to rip out. Damn Murphy's Law.

5.) MYSTERY ISSUE: When I first started laying out my fabric and pattern pieces, it was abundantly clear that I did not have enough fabric. I told the lady at Joann's the correct yardage. Did she short-fabric me by accident? Was she wrong about the width which caused me to pick the wrong yardage (I always have to ask what the width is, because I don't know where to find it on the Joann's bolt)? Was it a shrinkage issue from pre-washing/drying? I guess this will remain one of the many mysteries of the universe. What I ended up doing was "making it work" as Tim Gunn would say.
6.) CONSTRUCTION: I'm going to say it and I hope I don't jinx myself. Construction-wise, this probably turned out the best of any of my dresses. So, even though I'm not pleased with the result, I learned a lot and I guess I'm getting better, right? Fingers crossed. Pressing forward.

Look closely at the photo below, and you'll see the tinge of pain in my face...


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  2. Okay, you are doing a great job considering you just picked up sewing a month ago! I think your problem with the fit of the dress is the actual style of the dress, not the fabric. I use vintage patterns as well (mostly 50's) which have a real tailored look and I always use 100% cotton. Tip: An easy fix to tailoring, add more darts!

  3. I think your dress turned out super cool! BTW, a similar thing happend to me when buying lace trim for a blouse...I thought I messed up or I was "short laced" by the cutting lady...it turned out, however, that the pattern was wrong when it came to measurement/quantity! So, it could be a pattern mistake and not a cutting lady error...but the dress turned out great anyway! Great job!

  4. 1. I don't think the dress is as bad as you do, I think perhaps you should belt it to give more waist definition and also to break the pattern which does as you say swamp you slightly.

    2. The issue is not the cotton in the tailoring, rather the style - from what I can tell you like your mod/boho stuff, but you prefer it shorter and tighter - (which is fine it looks great on you) but the style is one that is slightly waistless in design (or drop waisted), therefore without moving/adding darts it will be hard to get the cotton to behave as you want, and should likely get something with a bit of stretch to it. (of cause I am basing this only on photos having not seen the actual thing.) Maybe you should look into adding darts to the front of the dress to shape the waist.

    All in all you are doing fantastically, and I look forward to seeing more of your stuff.

  5. I think you've done a great job and like you say it's a great learning process. I do agree with you re. the fabric though, I think this style probably wanted something quite a bit more drapey, soft and weighty than 100% cotton. Possibly even with a little stretch. I think fabric choice is so important. I see a lot of people online sewing with stuff that they picked up super-cheap, but would they have bought it otherwise? Why put all that effort in with less-than-great fabric? My only attempt so far with op-shop fabric turned out horrible.... Also I agree with you about prints. Sometimes they're better used as highlights. I can totally see why you liked this geometric print though, for the style of dress. Hey, the fabric might soften and become more 'you-shaped' with a bit of washing and wearing?

  6. @jenn: Lots to think about there. I appreciate the input. It might be a combination of the lack of darts in the actual pattern plus the fact that the fabric's print just didn't work for me.

    @Sew Loquacious Angela: Thanks for the compliment! ; - ) Maybe it will grow on me with time. I never thought about a pattern mistake. Good point!

    @Heather: Good idea regarding the belt. I do prefer a shorter, tighter styling. I think it stems from my long time love of the pin-up look, which incidentally I've never worn, but can totally play with now that I know how to sew. I think you're right about the actual shape too. I don't think I considered that fully when I envisioned my results. Since I started, I've been able to make everything into a mini dress with very little problem, but I'm going to be a little more wary about certain shapes now. And I think I will stick to things with a little stretch, if nothing else, because I'm more comfortable working with some stretch.

    @Jane: Yeah, that's what I was looking for-- something with a softer drape and a little stretchier. I guess I should have recognized that when picking my fabric. I will remember next time. I hadn't thought about the possibility of the fabric changing with washing/wearing. That's a good point. Maybe I'll also check into some local fabric stores. Joann's is okay, but I feel like there's a lack of colors/variety.

  7. I think it's cute. If the white insides of the sleeves keep bothering you, you could probably add a black lining fairly easily - just hand-tack it to the seams if you don't want to take the dress apart again.

  8. Woohoo! Great efforts! I'm frequently stumped,and always wing it,and make as many stuff ups as successes! I've been sewing for years,but never apply myself hard enough to be really good!
    I love using 60's & 70's patterns,I have heaps that I want,want,want to make.....but never seem to have the time!Alterations/customisations are my main thing.
    I love what you're doing,keep going,cos' I wanna keep reading now that I've found you!

  9. I think the dress is really cute on you, though I can understand not liking it if the fabric doesn't drape well and feels stiff.

    Don't give up on 100% cotton. Cotton is just a fiber. The drape and stiffness come from how it's used in the cloth. I'm currently sewing with cotton lawn, and you couldn't ask for a softer fabric with a lovlier drape. Stay away from the quilting wall and test the drape over your hand and you should be fine. The plus side of cotton is that it's easy to sew.

  10. It may not be what you envisioned, but I have to say, it looks absolutely true to the picture on the pattern in terms of shape. And I think it's very flattering on you as well! I've been talking myself up to try an invisible zipper, but haven't gotten up the courage yet. Did you use any particular tutorial or resource to get good results? Great job with the dress!

  11. I think you made great progress for someone so new to sewing and it shows. Hey, you mastered the invisible zipper, right? Does this mean you bought an invisible zipper foot?

    I'd also like to know how tall you are since you say you are Petite. I'm 5'05" myself and usually have to shorten bodice length and skirt length. One piece of good advice: take the most complete set of measurements you can of your body. Helps tremendously with fitting, trust me!

    Ex: I only shorten US patterns btw Bust and Waist only since the distance btw Shoulder and Bust works for me. This is not the case in Burdastyle magazine patterns where I have to shorten at both points.

    Do you know www.patternreview.com? I'm a free member (I don't feel there's a clear advantage to pay $30/yr) and there are a lot of pattern reviews on there, granted vintage is a minority but you can also get good sewing tips and the message boards are a gold mine of online ressources.

    Good luck with your next project!

  12. Wow! A blog after my own heart. I love 60's clothing and have tooooo much fabric in my stash from this era (but not willing to share). lol Monique xx

  13. It looks just fine in the pictures, if that helps.

    100% cotton is never going to be the right fabric for those Sixties mod dresses--they were intended for polyester with some stretch. I always use cotton, but most of my patterns are 1940's and early 1950's, and don't factor stretch into the fit. The Sixties were not the era of natural fibers.

  14. @Monika: Thanks! And that's a good suggestion too...I may have to do that if I can learn to like it first ; - ) Lol.

    @Helga: I am the same way. I wing it all the time and I struggle to really force myself to do things right. I guess the problem is that I'm a big picture kind of person, as opposed to a detail-oriented person (I wish I could be both). I'm so anxious to see the results, that sometimes I am too sloppy with the details. Do you feel like that? Anyway, thanks so much for the compliment and insight. I appreciate it ; - )

    @Fairevergreen: You're so right about cotton being easy to sew. It was my first time with cotton and I noticed that. That was a plus. I didn't know cottons were different-- very interesting. Do you happen to know if Joann's carries any cotton lawn? I'd like to look at it and feel it, but I didn't see any last time I was there. Then again, I wasn't looking for it. I really need to check out some local fabric stores as well.

    @SemiCharmedWife: Thanks for the compliment! There was one tutorial on youtube that I saw and that helped me realize what I was doing wrong. I'm a very visual person, so sometimes I need more than just still images to figure things out. Here's the youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RneYzsqOyD0&feature=related I hope it helps you out!

    @lakaribane: Thanks for the compliment ; - ) I cheated a little and didn't use the invisible zipper foot. One came with my sewing machine, but I couldn't figure out how to get it right. The regular foot seemed to work okay for now. I'm 5 foot 4 inches, but always wear 5 inch platform boots so everyone thinks I'm a lot taller. When it comes to measurements, I go with my bust at 36 and then the waist is always a bit too big, so I tailor that in every time. I am a bit tailor-happy--I'll admit. I do the same thing as you with my shortening-- I don't have to shorten shoulder to bust either. I have come upon patternreview and signed up for the free membership, but haven't really explored it quite yet. Since you recommend it, I'll check it out ASAP. Thanks for the advice ; - )

    @Original Mischief: I don't blame you for not wanting to share. I'm a total collector/hoarder. I can never have enough vintage whether it be patterns or anything else I collect (and I collect about a million things). Anyway, you have a cool blog too and I just added you to the blogs I'm following ; - )

    @Little Black Car: I'm glad it looks better in the pics than in person. My husband takes about 50 photos until he's satisfied that there's been enough, so we have quantity of pictures in our favor. I went through a period where I wouldn't let him take my picture so I think he's making up for lost time ; - ) That's very insightful regarding fabric (I.e. synthetics being better than naturals for 60's projects). When you go to the source, that's what they used then, so it makes sense to use it now when recreating the look.

  15. Hi Astrid, thanks for following. I've added you to my blog roll so more people can see your fab creations! Monique xx

  16. I think that your dress looks wonderful, 'specially since it is only your 5th dress. (I know that I am my own worst critic, and see all the flaws in what I do, where others see a nice dress, or whatever...)

    As someone who was learning to sew in the era when these mod clothes were first in fashion, I will say that I must politely disagree with Little Black Car; while there were plenty of synthetic fabrics coming into use, there were also plenty of natural fiber fabrics back in the day as well. I learned to sew on various cottons, corduroy, wool and other blended fabrics. What there was not a lot of was fabrics with lycra, which was invented in 1959. Woven fabrics were not stretchy at all. And sewing knitted fabrics at home was quite challenging, as sergers/overlock machines had not really reached the home sewing market either...

    One thing that helps me a lot, especially when sewing a new to me pattern, is that many vintage patterns will say on the back of the envelope, what type of fabrics are recommended to use with that pattern. That gives a clue as to whether you should be looking for a drapey fabric, a stiff fabric, a textured fabric, a sheer fabric, or whatever the original designer intended.

    I think that you are off to a great start, and am looking forward to seeing your future sewing projects

  17. I agree with a lot of the comments above, and the dress does look good on you. It's a real challenge learning how to sew, not least of which is how to choose fabric for the pattern. Cotton is wonderful, and there are many different "feels" to cotton. Give yourself a lesson - go through the fabric store and just feel the cloth, how it feels in your hand - is it stiff? does it drape? is it well constructed? is it soft and flimsy? Also, really look at the label on the bolt. It will give all the dimensions and the fibre content. I think you're doing very well, but maybe your stitches are too small. Sew seams with the scrap fabric after cutting out the pattern, and play with stitch length and tension to find the best for that piece.

  18. @Original Mischief: Thanks!

    @Alison: Thank you for the advice and input! Some of the fabrics listed on vintage patterns were not at the fabric store. I'm thinking some of the names have changed and/or some are not available? That has confused me a bit when I'm trying to find fabrics. Perhaps there's an online resource that discusses fabric names throughout history? That would be very helpful, but I doubt that's available. Perhaps I should just individually google ones that I'm not sure about.

    @customdesigns4ubynan: Thank you for the suggestions and advice. I will try that ; - )

  19. A hint to find the width: Set the bolt on the table with the measure tape and measure it lengthwise. It'll usually be about 25-30 inches. Simply double that and you have the width of the fabric to see what it is. You'll be surprised at the number of them that are 54-56" instead of a full 60", and eventually you'll be able to just pull them down and figure it out.

  20. Can you post a picture of your feet in those black pantyhose?