Oh my! Did I get over ambitious and oh did it go wrong. But finally I have a wearable dress and a bunch of fabric and stuff happened. This is the Blitz dress pattern again, for the first time made out of fabric rather than an old sheet, but not yet made with the very expensive fabric. The lovely lacy collar was a thrifted find, from Leona who has a online shoppe called Thriftola.
1. The dress turned out to be a bit too see through.
Having bought it in a fabric shop closing down sale, I now doubted whether it was real Liberty fabric, as I’ve never had this problem with other Liberty prints.
I’m lucky enough to live in London, so can visit the big beautiful Liberty department store. Strictly speaking, this has nothing to do with finishing the dress, but without it this post will be a list of sewing fails and sucking at stuff. I must have wanted to procrastinate and put of difficult things.
Not needing much of an excuse to visit my fabric heaven, I combined it with afternoon tea in the cafe with my boyfriend Mr Useful.
Mini Review: The pot of tea was nice, the scones were good, but the cakes were a bit blah. We actually left a few untouched. Not as good as the Ritz or Fortum and Masons, though more reasonably priced. Also you don’t have to book and they are open till 9pm. I’ve never had a problem getting a table and it is an oasis of calm compared with nearby Oxford St eateries. If you visit I recommend you eat this toasted tea cake instead, snapped on my phone on a previous trip. Delicious and under £5.
I visited Liberty on a loyalty card bonus day, so snaffled a couple of bargains (OK 10% off expensive is still quite expensive) and sensibly bought matching threads and zips, so my new projects are ready to go. I have noticed differences when I use higher quality fabric, such as Liberty Tana Lawn. They have been easier to work with, less likely to become skewed or disintegrate and looked better at the end, so are more likely to be worn compared to cheap fabric, curtain or table cloth made clothes.
I established that my fabric is indeed a Liberty print called Claire-Aude and was a 1970s print based on earlier 1930s designs. Liberty has been in the fabric business since 1870s so they have a big archive. This pattern seems to be the only one which is slightly see through. It is sold out online, but they do have some in store if you want it or head to Shaukat’s website for a bigger range of Liberty than Liberty themselves. It reminds me of the water colour illustrations in the old Rupert the Bear Annuals I used to have as a child (which were already antiques in the 1980s).
I was going to buy some plain cotton to use as a lining, but it was £22 per metre, so pants to that idea! Here are the exciting prints for blouses I bought instead.
These are this seasons Liberty collection and excitingly they aren’t all the usual Tana Lawn weight cotton, as Liberty have started using all sorts of fabric, from denim, chambray, Georgette and one I hadn’t even heard of called Dobby. I got some crepe in a print called Mitsi. This is it in the red colourway. I bought the blue, which isn’t on their website at the moment.
This is around £3 more expensive per metre than lawn cotton and has a wonderful drapeyness. Also it isn’t slippery or shiny, important things for an amateur to think about, as slippery fabric is harder to cut and sew accurately.
I also got some poplin, which is cheaper and thicker than the tana lawn, so won’t be see through. It is also a wider roll of fabric at 150cm (Liberty usually is a random 133cm wide). This is called Ros and I had a real problem choosing, as the mustardy colourway was also awesome. Eventually I got blue, to match a 30s style hat I have no outfit for.
…………Now back to the “disaster” dress
2. I melted the zip with an iron and had to buy a new one.
The instructions didn’t give a great guide to how to put in the zip and it turned out to be a pain. I sewed it in and then was trying to iron the thing flat before sewing down the lining and it just got more ripply. The tape part of the zip didn’t like the heat obviously.
It is an American tutorial and a couple of products are used that I didn’t have, so I improvised. They used a type of double-sided tape intended for sewing. My logic went that sticks things to fabric, this craft glue sticks things to fabric, therefore it is the same. Someone from my sewing bee group says you can get the tape stuff from John Lewis department store, but it makes your needle sticky. The tape is supposed to hold the zip in place while you sew.
See how flat this is and there aren’t any stitches in it yet. The pins are holding the fabric in place on the ironing board. Thankfully it worked, partly due to perhaps another tip I learned from the tutorial, which is to add some seam tape or a strip of iron on interfacing. Usually when I sew a zip on, all the pins make it ruck up or ripple rather than lying flat. By ironing the seam allowances and then lightly sticking it down before machining, there are no ripples. I’m not sure if I’d recommend it, as if you glue in the wrong place, it might not be fixable.
3. I had to rip out the side and back seams and resew them at 5mm instead of 1.5cm.
I invented my own fit to body system when trying on the muslin. It involves trying on and grabbing the excess fabric at your back and marking with a sharpie, then removing a centimetre and trying again, then marking in a different colour sharpie. I also transferred a marked excess triangle of fabric into a dart, by tracing the excess shape on to tissue, then using that as a dart template and moving it to the middle of the back pieces. It ended up fitting very well at my lower back curve, but the first dart was 4.5cm too long. This disaster dress was made from alterations to the tissue pattern, including a right sized pair of back darts.
This fitting system is a little punk and DIY and says pooh to sensible measuring and remeasuring. It has potential to work, but I didn’t bother to add the zip to the muslin, so when I made real first try dress and added the zipper, suddenly the dress was too small around the hips. So I had to seam rip up to 58cm from the bottom edge and resew the seams.
I also got a bit confused over whether I had remembered to remove the same amounts from the tissue pattern as the muslin and whether I’d remembered to allow a seam allowance. I did take notes, but for the next dress I’ll try and be more thorough.
4. I had to line the skirt after the dress was made, which is harder than lining it as you go along. I should have paid more and bought better lining fabric, but instead skimped on lining to pay for fabric for another project. I wasn’t feeling too well by this point in the week and so went to a more local fabric shop. A bus from outside my house stops at Ridley Road market in Dalston, so I visited Dalston Mill. They have a big shop (it has an upstairs and hidden back rooms with other types of fabric in) and I bought some £2 pale yellow muslin for the lining and some fine wool fabric to make some trousers. Suddenly feeling better (it is fabric shopping medcine) I made a further foray around Dalston to a charity shop called Traid which has a fabric section at the back. I was lucky enough to find some treasure – below on right some striped wool fabric, perfect for trousers to go with my Liberty blouse fabrics and a matching dinky satchel handbag.
I then made the lining to the original pattern size, so when I had to seam rip and increase the size of the skirt part, I should have done the same to the lining, only it was too unravely to stand the seam ripper, so I decided to add the extra fabric to it instead. That means the seams inside the dress don’t line up with the lining seams.
I also got a little crazy with my scissors when triming the lining to be shorter than the dress. I just hacked at it in a fit of stupid! Here is the lining with extra bits added. What a mess! I have since finished the edges properly.
In the end this turned out to be a great fitting dress that was great to wear. After our mini photo shoot in the communal garden of the block I live in, we went out for dinner and the dress behaved well. It didn’t ride up awkwardly or statically cling to my tights. It was a tiny bit windy, so in this picture I am holding the collar down.
Ta Dah! :