I had in mind an everyday casual dress with a retro feel – simple yet with a few comfy details. What seemed to me to be a good start in pattern drafting, taking a basic sleeveless shift & adding in-seam pockets, a cut into neck & a drawstring waist felt manageable, not too ambitious, even perhaps a little cheating to pass it off as pattern drafting… however, the extra bits caused trouble. Plus, that it took place over a number of evenings, this on the face of it simple shift dress was also an exercise in self restraint. It would have taken me an evening to make in my usual breakneck sewing, but I did slow it down (objective met – tick!) – but enough?
Now, I am happy with the finished dress, the style suits the fabric & it is easy to wear. Looking on the overall design, there would be a few changes I would make next time, and some things I learnt through a bit of trial & error.
Lessons in drafting:
Although they work fine, the pockets are set too high in the side seams- when I was drafting them I only thought about the pocket opening, & didn’t take into account all of the extra seam allowances that these pockets have – the good couple of inches of pocket either side of the opening. This meant that they interfered with the inside tunnel for the drawstring waist – in some ways this is good because the top of the pockets & their edges are held nicely in place inside the tunnel, but it did mean having to be careful about the pocket opening looking nice & neat & not getting pulled out of place on the outside.
I followed the Built by Wendy instructions for the pockets & must have misunderstood, because I ended up with pockets right sides out & had to re do them.
The neckline was also not thought through – the dress front was a single piece cut on the fold, & I faced the neck. Whilst I have ended up with quite a nice detail at the neck I must be honest here & admit to it not following the original design. I had thought that each side of the opening would meet nice & neatly, but as shown in the pics, there’s a gap. Of course there is – that’s the seam allowance. To make each side of the vertical opening meet at the centre, I would have either had to cut the front in two pieces with an outcrop for the stitching line, or as my sew guru Mama knowingly advised, I could have bound the neck edge. Lesson learnt.
Now, the next challenge came from the drawstring waist. It would have been so easy to add belt loops & cinch the waist in on the outside with a self belt, or black webbing. But no, I had in mind drawstring, so drawstring it had to be. Something I should have done on my muslin … (o foolish girl, leaping in & although being slow, still not slow enough). So, setting the position for the tunnel took a couple of attempts. I’d sewn button holes in the front, for the belt to emerge from before stitching the tunnel which meant that I had to carefully unpick the first attempt & worry over the impact on the fabric. Luckily second fitting was right.
Now what this makes me think, is that actually I didn’t really make a muslin, because all my “customised” bits were tested on the real dress, not the muslin. Ooops. So in effect my dress was its own muslin.
Still, despite picking over the flaws (don’t we always do that when we make something?) I have considered it a success: I have actually made my first Built-by-Wendy-with-some-of-my-own-drafting-dress. I am glad I went for something simple (because I found out that it wasn’t!)
Detail I added at the end: machine embroidered heart on the end of the tape to keep the hem in place.
So, here are the other things I learnt along the way that will help with drafting more patterns (oh, they are so obvious!):
- make sure you have a nice clear space (firm like a table top) to spread out your new pattern pieces with room for drawing – move the sewing machines, laptop & light away somewhere else
- get a nice long clear ruler like Wendy Mullin suggests
- get detail sorted out at pattern & muslin stage so that markings can be transferred to the final fabric (for me this means spend more time at these stages, now I know what I am looking for)
- I liked using brown paper for pattern pieces (I can remember my Mum always used to use newspaper ….)
Will I be able to wear it to London this weekend? What’s the weather going to be like ?