Month: June 2013

A Proper Party Dress. Part 3: assembling!

We are only one day away from Wee Bear’s big party: we are all in a haze of sleep-deprivation and excitement but at least I won’t be up sewing her dress at 1am (as usual: no, this time I am sewing dresses to match her Tulipe doll!).

Once we had adjusted the pattern of the Chloe Dress it was a dream to assemble the bodice. The simple round necked, sleeveless, lined bodice (I used a super soft acetate type fabric) is self finishing, so the only exposed seam was at the waist:

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I was sewing too fast to take many photographs and the instructions are super clearly illustrated. I have to comment again on how much I enjoy working from their patterns! However, cutting out the yards of net and tulle would have been easier if I had used a roller cutter and mat, as I do for my quilt projects.

20130630-121311.jpg I somehow vastly over ordered, so have enough left for at least one more dress in the same colour – if I changed the under net & lining colour, it could be an adorable blush pink, or maybe a winter ice blue?

However, as it is so fine, the tulle squishes when sewing: my Janome 6500 goes through just about anything (although it hates buttonholes) and it wasn’t long before I had assembled the layers. I chose to gather them separately and it added a bit of bulk (and time) – the matching doll dress was gathered all together and is much neater around the waist.

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It’s a lot of fabric. I think I would find a different way to gather it – I struggled slightly to keep the gathers from stretching out again. When it has been gathered incredibly small, it is simply sewn onto the bodice. I would imagine it is possible to leave the lining a little unattached at the bottom 1cm of the bodice and it could be folded up & sewn to enclose the skirt seam: it is of course quite bulky.

I got around it this time by adding a skirt lining with a rolled hem. I made a skirt>dress>lining sandwich

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So that when the lining was folded down, it covered the exposed skirt edges:

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I attempted to neaten it up & stitched below the seam but It was immediately unpicked. Don’t try at home!

By this time, it was past midnight – so apologies for the shocking pictures! I fluffed the sash assembly but it worked out in the end: a few hand stitches to hold it in place and I was done! I really wish I had bought proper nylon chiffon & tulle from the USA but I am working on my favourite online fabric supplier Plush Addict to import it on rolls for awesome pettiskirts!

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20130630-122814.jpg the sash ties in a large bow: a silk bodice & tie would look beautiful for a bridesmaid or flowergirl.

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The finished dress front. Photos of it being worn to follow!

A Proper Party Dress. Part 2: modifying the pattern & cutting

Once the fabric arrived and we had plenty of fun rolling the net and tulle onto long cardboard tubes, I had a serious look at the Chloe pattern.

The two main pieces, bodice front and back, are very simple and taper slightly in at the waist. My child doesn’t. She has a tummy that is perfectly normal, from looking around her ballet class, and her sensory issues mean that she can’t stand to wear things sitting at certain points on her body.

Getting out our trusty ‘Swedish tracing paper’ from Gloriarty we copied the pieces out & pinned – carefully – onto her body.

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Obviously it doesn’t have the same handle as fabric but there are a few obvious issues: length, tummy, armholes.

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Even taking off the seam allowances, it was going to be uncomfortable (and go unworn, no matter how pretty).

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You can see how much I have taken off the armholes front and back here – even with our dodgy floor as background! (I promise to get nice white matboard soon).

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And in comparison to the ‘standard’ pattern (which is beautifully drawn & clearly marked) – her shoulders are narrow and delicate while she broadens out in the middle. As for an adult pattern, I added length to the centre front but blended it back in to match the side seam length.

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Finally, I used the transparency of the pinable, sewable tracing paper to centre the design on a flower. This is an incredibly wasteful way to use fabric & the opposite of my usual “squeeze ’em in” technique, but for special occasions & large print, it’s worth doing. I did the same across the back and sash, so that when buttoned up the back flower would look unbroken too. This was mostly by eye & I pretended I was putting a zip in to get it right.

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Finally, I cut the same pieces from a smooth & soft lining (once we had confirmed it was smooth enough), and the huge pieces of net and tulle: each layer is made from two panels roughly 16 inches by 2 & 1/2 yards, joined at the sides and gathered into a tiny waist…

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Next part: assembling the dress or ‘how I learned to love tulle’.

A proper party dress. Part 1: the ‘Chloe’ dress by Violette Fields Threads

Quite unable to believe how beautiful my daughter is (really) I decided that we needed a party dress to match. The ‘Chloe’ by Violette Fields was a natural. Their photography is jaw-droppingly beautiful: haunting, evocative, adorable, classic, I can’t find enough words to describe how much I admire their work. Sometimes I just look at the site for some eye-happy-time. (This image courtesy of the incredibly kind team at Violette Fields Threads).

Chloe PDF pattern

The Chloe is simple in concept: yards of tulle, net and nylon chiffon (more on that in a minute) are gathered lovingly onto a straight forward lined bodice with buttons, topped off with a sash to tie in a large bow at the back. The execution takes a bit more patience and care if it is to look as stunning as the images on their site. I mean come on: look at this one – you just want to sew, right?

Fiona bustled dress & top

First choosing the fabric. Wee Bear is remarkably literal at the moment. Things are, largely, black and white. So when she saw the large rose print on the tea-length dress model on the pattern front, that was what we had to have. The *incredibly* helpful ladies at Violette Fields replied to my desperate email trying to source the original: it was a Heather Bailey print, from her Garden District collection of a few years ago. Of course, it is no longer available. However, I found ‘Hello Roses’ which is similar enough for a happy nearly-five year old and her mother.

Hello-Roses-in-Cream-by-Heather-Bailey

The cream looked best and so then we tried tracking down the tulle and net. I wanted something fresh and pretty, so a pale green rather than pink (which can often make the Wee Bear look washed out) was on my search list. Most net greens are, frankly, hideous. I was delighted to find Harrington Fabric and Lace down in Nottingham (where British lace was produced in great quantities last century and a rare surviving remnant of our home cloth production). Their website needs a redesign but again, helpful and speedy service – although the pale green tulle was out of stock. We compromised on green net and ivory tulle, exactly like the original on the cover.

Redeeming the time.

Time is all too precious: I have a small business, painting Orthodox icons; I have a large and unruly garden, populated with weeds and seven hens; I have a husband who works so hard I am chief cook, bottle washer and household manager; most importantly, I have a daughter who is nearly five years old and is smarter than any kind of bear, never mind the average one. She’s called Wee Bear, online. I suppose that makes me Mama Bear and I certainly feel like one when I see her growing up, so strong and fragile all at once.

Tulipe

To celebrate her fifth birthday, we have bought a really special doll: Tulipe, from My Doll Best Friend. Partly because she loves dolls and creating wonderful stories and dialogues with them, partly because she is an only child who has two very busy parents, even though one of them stays at home with her… and partly because I want to encourage her to feel like a child. She has her ‘thin dollies’ already yes, much against my better judgement, although I do my best to undermine them when we play – “aren’t they silly? look their feet don’t go flat!”

Little Tulipe – or whatever her name will become – is going to arrive on the 30th of June 2013. Before then, I want to make Wee Bear at least one dress to match her doll, a carry bag for travelling on adventures and a matching nightdress for them both. Can I do it in less than two weeks? Without letting her see?

Let’s find out.