Oh wow, I made a dress!

18 Jun

I’ve done it! I’ve finished my first dress! And I am really happy with how it’s turned out! I’ve been making it in my dressmaking classes, and then working on it in between classes at home as well. I knew that it would be the last few bits which I found hard to finish off (isn’t that always the way, you get 90% of something done, but then it takes you about 5 times as long to do the last little bit) so I set myself the task of getting it finished by Sunday. I was going down to my parents’ for the day on Sunday for father’s day and, as they gave me my sewing machine for Christmas, I thought it would be a good occasion for my dress’s first outing!

And here it is!

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I thought a photo of me and my dad would be fitting for father’s day, unfortunately in the 8 or so we took, one or the other of us is pulling a silly face in every one!

I have to say that, overall, I found the whole experience a lot less stressful than I was expecting. I had wondered whether I should choose an easier pattern for my first piece of clothing, but I’m actually really glad that I chose the one I did.

My choice of pattern was largely decided by some lovely versions I’d seen that other people had made, and I can’t say how much it helped being able to read their blog posts on it first, and discover the issues that they’d had with the pattern (when I then had the same issues, I was expecting them, and didn’t think I’d done something horribly wrong!). Some of my favourite versions were Lauren’s (versions 1 and 2), Gertie’s, Shanni’s and Jamie’s. Once I decided on the pattern, I decided that I would definitely end up making two versions – a nice summery print one with the yoke neck, and a also a capped sleeve version, out of some kind of black fabric, which I thought would make a nice dress for work.

Actually, I lie when I say it wasn’t stressful. Buying the pattern was stressful in itself! I’d read on the above blogs, among others, that the pattern included a lot of ease, and that most of them had had to go down a size or two. So I headed off to Masons to buy the pattern and realise that my measurements place me somewhere between the two pattern sizes, particularly if I ended up having to go down sizes. I spent a little while pondering, eventually asked the advice of two lovely old ladies who were also browsing patterns, who were very nice, and ended up buying both sizes of the pattern! What I didn’t want to was to turn up for my dressmaking class and then find that, actually, I needed the other size, and not be able to do anything in the class. Also, all the simplicity patterns were half price, so I figured it was better to buy them both at that price then to go back and buy the other at full price later, if I realised I bought the wrong one! As it turns out, I ended up making the 12, which is on both pattern sizes! Choosing the fabric also took me about an hour. I wanted something summery, probably floral, but a large enough print that I didn’t need to worry about matching up the pattern. I eventually stumbled on VIT Flower by Poppy, which, at £8.49/m, was slightly more than I wanted to pay for my first dress, but I fell in love with it and just knew it was the right one! Plus, I’d pretty much exhausted the rest of the shop by then!

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Ozzie the dog wanted to join in the photoshoot!

I think one of the most stressful parts was actually cutting out the fabric – I’m a real perfectionist, and trying to get it folded in half so the selvedges were perfectly straight was a little stressful. I just had to remind myself that if a pattern piece was a couple of millimetres off vertical, it really wasn’t going to be noticeable in the final dress! Also helped that I cut the fabric out at class, where there are actually tables big enough to do so!

I sewed the first couple of seams in the dress in the class, and we then didn’t have a class for 3 weeks. Over the bank holiday weekend, I spent managed to spend quite a bit of time working on it. I kept reaching stages in the pattern instructions that I didn’t really understand, and thinking that I’d have to wait until the next class so I could get some guidance on it, but after a bit of thought, I managed to work them all out. I actually think it did me good to have a bit of time to work through it by myself, and I learnt a lot. Possibly the most exciting part of making the whole dress was when I sewed the first princess seam, and it worked first time!

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Most bits worked first time, there were just a couple of times when I realised after I’d sewn them that there was some small bit which I hadn’t done exactly right, but nothing consequential. I did run into a few issues, but a lot of them were ones I’d read about on other blogs, and so was prepared for!

Yeah, the size! I measured up as somewhere between a 14 and a 16, but based on the actual garment measurements, I decided to make the 12, and it is pretty much a perfect fit.

I realised after I’d sewn most of the seams on the bodice that the needle on my sewing machine was actually in the left hand position, and so my seam allowances were slightly bigger than the 1.5cm they should have been, but it fits really well as it is, so maybe that was a good thing!

I decided to put an invisible zip in rather than the standard, lapped zipper that the pattern suggested. This was probably easier to put in, but it did mean that I couldn’t tidy the ends of the zip away in the way the pattern suggested. I wasn’t entirely sure how to do it, but kind of bodged something, and it seems to have worked ok!

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The zip was also the only bit that I ended up unpicking and sewing more than once. I originally did it with the standard 1.5cm seam allowance, but the dress wasn’t fitted enough, and gaped a bit at the back when I stood up straight (which I need to do so that the front lies as it should!). I also realised that it wasn’t entirely level. I basted it in again twice before finding a position I was happy with. I used a 3cm seam allowance at the top, tapering it down to 2cm at the waist. It still gapes a little at the back at times, but I don’t think it’s too noticeable. I kind of wish I’d made it a bit more fitted at the waist, but I have just lost a little bit of weight (no sugar!) and with it an inch off my waist, and I didn’t want to risk it not fitting if I put it on again.

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There’s a little gaping at the back, although having seen this photo, I think it feels worse than it looks!

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I do love the scoop back though! And my invisible zip really is invisible!

I agree with what other people have said about the yoke front – in the position it should be according to the pattern, it sat really high, and did feel a little bit like it was choking me. Even though I knew this might be an issue beforehand, I wasn’t entirely sure how to do anything about it – it’s hard to see how it’s actually going to be until you put it all together. I managed to position it a bit lower down from the original position, although any more, and it pulled the shoulders up too much. I’m just about happy with how it is now, although if I’d worked it out before, I think I would have cut a bit away from the neckline of the yoke. The other odd bit about it is that, if you go by the pattern, the yoke is only attached to the front of the bodice at the armholes, which meant that it gaped open a bit. I decided to top stitch the yoke to the front of the bodice, and topstitched the top of the bodice as well to match. Other than not quite even topstitching, I like how it looks. I must also remember that, if I change my stitch length for topstitching, to change it back again afterwards! And lengthen again when I topstitch the next bit…I’ll learn!

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Actually, you can’t see the topstitching at all unless you’re really up close. Also, how cool is that T-shirt?!

It was only after I’d completely finished the dress, and went to change to a ball point needle to sewing something onto a t-shirt that I realised there had been a ball point needle in my machine all along from last time I’d tried (and failed) to sew jersey. It doesn’t seem to have done it any harm, but something I must remember to check!

I bought 3m of the fabric, but only actually ended up using about 1.5, so it only ended up costing me about £12 in terms of fabric. And I’ve got some left to make something else! The fabric is quite thin, and could possibly actually have done with lining, although that wasn’t called for in the pattern (and the yoke would make it a little more tricky). I think I’d definitely line a similar weight fabric in future though.

And the overall verdict – I love it! I’m so glad I went for this fabric, as it really works with the dress, and I love the dress pattern itself. I will definitely be making more versions of this. It fits really well, although I might tweak the waist a bit more on the next one. Now I just need to decide what I’m going to make next…

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Slightly over-exposed photo, oops!

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10 Responses to “Oh wow, I made a dress!”

  1. ShanniLoves June 18, 2013 at 18:10 #

    Wow outstanding job for your first dress!! It looks great, the fit is fab and I love the print you chose. You’ll get lots of wear out of it.

    • Kelly June 19, 2013 at 00:28 #

      Thanks so much, I’m really happy with it. And thanks for your blog post on it, it was really helpful!

  2. Jamie June 18, 2013 at 22:09 #

    Beautiful!! You did a wonderful job, the dress looks stunning on you! Well done :)

    • Kelly June 19, 2013 at 00:34 #

      Thank you! And thanks for your one for inspiration! I really love your fabric – big-ish prints seem to work really well for the pattern. My yoke goes scrunchy too though :(

  3. Fiona Parker June 19, 2013 at 20:01 #

    Amazing job! I can’t believe it’s only your first dress, it looks great! I still get a little flustered when choosing fabric for a project, it takes me ages! But the stress does reduce, promise!

    • Kelly June 19, 2013 at 22:36 #

      Thanks :) I have my lovely stash of fabrics from Waltamstow market to keep me going for a while – now I just have to match the patterns to the fabric!

  4. tania@sewitanyway June 20, 2013 at 19:12 #

    You’ve done some serious techniques on this- your first dress! Well done!! It’s really lovely!

    • Kelly June 21, 2013 at 18:45 #

      Thanks! I’m hoping that it’s not just beginners luck! Now onto the next one…

  5. Miss J November 26, 2014 at 20:40 #

    This is a fantastic dress on you! Lovely! Excellent sewing pattern,well made!

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