Monday, 2 June 2014

May's Garment: Sew Over It Tea Dress

I seem to be keeping up with my 12 month garment challenge (okay, April is still in progress - but I have a couple of work trips coming up, where hotel stays mean I can knit all evening!) and have even managed a bonus garment in May.  The main garment of this month was a Sew Over It Tea Dress - I had wanted to do this with the sew-a-long that they had back in February, but it didn't fit in with my crafting schedule! But I earmarked it for later on in the year when I had the time to spare.

After measuring myself and debating which size to cut out - I decided to err on the side of caution and traced and cut out a size 12.  I also thought that the skirt looked a bit short, so I added 3 inches to the bottom of each skirt panel.  I found some fab floral cotton on ebay (and also some cool teapot fabric that I shall make a second dress in the Summer) which was a bargain of £6 a metre.  I also decided to add pockets to the pattern and used the pocket pattern piece from my Sewaholic Crescent Skirt - cutting these and the contrasting cuffs from some sky blue polka dot fabric.
Ready for Tea Dress Number 2!
The pattern comes with a detailed (with drawings) booklet that takes you through step-by-step the construction of the dress, I also used it alongside the blog posts from the sew-a-long, which go into even more detail.  The bodice was a little tricky in places and I had to unpick the bust panels two and half times before I got it sewn in without any huge puckers or catching material in the seam.

However, by some fluke, I managed to set my sleeves first time.  I put this down to a combination of using lots of pins (as the instructions suggest) and I also used my machine to do the gathering stitches rather than hand sewing.  This meant that the tiny gathers stayed in place, rather than moving about.  I set my stitch length to the longest I could and then gently pulled on one of the threads, moving the gathers along so that it was even.
Sleeve details - buttons & ric rac
All those tiny gathers
I added some ric rac to the sleeves, by sewing it on to the main fabric just over the seam allowance, before I sewed the contrast cuff to the main fabric, making sure I was to the left of my ric rac stitches.  This was a bit of an experiment, but one I shall do again.  I also added buttons to the turn ups, although only sewn on afterwards, not quite ready to conquer the button hole with my machine.

The one thing that really bugs me about women's clothes is the lack of pockets - so I decided to add some to this dress - it was a bit of an experiment, as I didn't really have any reference points.  The pocket pattern piece had a notch in where it was matched up on the skirt pattern, so I decided to match this to a similarly placed notch on the skirt of the Tea Dress.  It worked and although you probably couldn't put much more than a handkerchief in them, at least I've got somewhere to put my hands!  As the pockets where not sewn into the waist line - I added some supporting ribbon, so that they would lie flat under the skirt.

Pockets view from the inside

I did managed conquer the invisible zip on this dress - I decided that buying a new foot for my machine was a good investment and although I could have got a cheaper one, I went with an official Brother foot.  As I decided this would be better in the long run.  As I had made a size 12, I did have more fabric that the 1.5cm seam allowance, thankfully I had my husband on hand and he was tasked with pinning me into my dress to get everything sitting nicely at the back.

My invisible zip - first time!
He pinned me in and then drew chalk lines on the fabric where it should meet in the middle.  I then used these lines to fold the fabric over and pin in the zip to try it on before ironing in the creases and sewing in the zip.  It took a bit of faffing about, but the resulting fit was definitely worth it.  The Sew-Over-It blog has a great tutorial on how to insert an invisible zip - I managed mine first time!!

Button detail on the bodice
I think next time I think I will add a fourth inch to the skirt, as I only put the tiniest hem on the skirt.  I zig-zag stitched the raw edge, then I turned it up half a centimetre and stitched it on the machine.

This pattern certainly tested my sewing skills and it was certainly nice to stitch it over a few weekends and have the back up of the blog posts to understand the different steps.  Although it required huge amounts of concentration at times, the Sew-Over-It patterns are ace and I shall certainly be purchasing some more.  I really hope that they bring out a pattern for their Mad Men Joan Dress!