Two for the Price of One
Back in April, my first project on my new sewing machine, with fabric bought in this new-to-me country, was actually a pair of pyjamas, and while they’re functional, they’re not terribly exciting or sexy. They’re also a bit worn now, so there’s that.
That new-to-me fabric came from Mood Fabrics in New York. Going to Mood was like visiting a TV set. Everything looked so familiar! Tell you what, I was not prepared for how large Mood is. I’m used to stores the size of The Fabric Store in Fitzroy, maaaybe a hugeass Spotlight like the one in Essendon. This was next level. And I’ve since learned that there are some stores even bigger than Mood, but that’s a topic for another day. I picked out some seersucker for my pyjamas — stripy seersucker, because my cutting mat hadn’t arrived yet and I wanted to guarantee what I did ended up on grain — and despite furiously studying the back of the pattern envelope, I ended up with a lot of left over fabric.
Leftover fabric was not something that I wanted. I had spent all this time and energy downsizing my stash to fit into a suitcase (which at the time was on a boat), I certainly didn’t want to start hoarding more. I committed to finding a use for the fabric ASAP. I had brought a select couple of patterns in my checked luggage with me, one of them being McCall’s 6696, AKA The Shirt Dress That Everyone Has Made. The pattern envelope said I didn’t have quite enough fabric, but who was I to trust a pattern envelope these days?
I bought 6696 some time after my failed attempt to make Gertie’s Shirtwaist Dress. I elected not to salvage the project in the end, which was hard. I really loved the fabric ($4 for around 4m of plaid from an op shop!) and I really wanted the project to work, but my enjoyment of sewing was more important to me than how frustrated that garment tried to make me feel. The move allowed for these kinds of fresh starts, so in the bin it went. The decision to buy the 6696 was because it is, hands-down, the most documented shirt dress on the entire Internet. If there was something wrong with this pattern, I was going to bloody know about it. This documentation provided the safety net I needed to get back on the wagon.
I managed to eek out the slim skirt version with the short sleeves out of my leftover fabric. I had to throw stripe matching to the wind, but that is something you truly only notice when you sew. I went back to Mood for the buttons. I had my heart set on these very sweet pink buttons, but at $2 a pop or whatever, I settled for something a little less expensive!
I was so enamoured with this dress, that when my fabric stashed arrived from Australia, I set about making a second one, this time with the big, swooshy skirt. The fabric is from Phillip’s Shirts in Melbourne. Every now and then they have a warehouse sale, where you can buy lengths of fabric and old stock, plus have a poke around their studio. I got 3m of this black, polka dotted seersucker but didn’t have time to sew with it before we left.
If I thought I had to be frugal with fabric before, I was really challenged this time. The fabric wasn’t very wide at all, as in, not even 115cm wide. I still had dreams of the full skirt though, so I played pattern tetris like I had never played before. Once again, I ended up with just a handful of scraps in the end, which does make my heart sing.
The buttons also came from my stash, they’re originally from Jimmy’s Buttons in Fitzroy. I was very excited about using them until it actually came time to make the buttonholes. The buttons are HUGE. They’re shank buttons made for a coat I assume (that’s what I originally bought them for anyway). I said “fuck it,” and made huge buttonholes. Upon reflection, it looks slightly ridiculous, but only if you’re staring right at my chest. Black seersucker hides a multitude of sins.
The fit! It was my first time using a pattern with different pattern pieces for different cup sizes, and I must say, it saved a bit of work. I used the C cup pattern, because the difference between my upperbust and bust is almost 3 inches (note that in the Real World, this doesn’t make me a C cup, but I’ve found it’s easier to think of myself as an actual FF cup, but a sewing C cup, if that makes sense. It’s suggested to use a lot more measurements than just two to determine a cup size). On the black dress, I did a tiny 1cm FBA — I refitted myself for a bra when we moved, and which has made me feel a lot better, but has had a dramatic effect on how my clothes fit!
I also enjoyed all the documentation the internet provided me. I knew to try Jen’s burrito method for making the yoke, and the Four Wall’s method of attaching the collar. I love handsewing, but there’s a lot on this dress, so if there’s a feasible way to skip it, sometimes I will elect to do that.
I used calico as interfacing in the first dress. Do you think I remembered to prewash calico? Of course I didn’t. The collar on the dress looked amazing when I finished, but when it came out of the wash for the first time, I knew immediately I’d made a mistake. A shrunken, puckered mistake. I actually have enough fabric to cut a new collar and stand, so I just have to decide whether I want to or not. A heavy duty pressing and steaming session usually makes it wearable. I’ve documented it here as-is for future reference.
The second dress fell victim to overfitting. After I finished the first dress, which had a 1.5cm forward shoulder adjustment and not much else, I felt that the shoulder needed more work, so I went to town on a sloping shoulder adjustment and a narrow shoulder adjustment. This ended up in a dress that was too short at the waist for me, alongside a neckline that hit my earlobes almost, mainly due to the sloping shoulder adjustment. I’m not sure if I executed it badly or not, but I don’t think I need it that much. I trimmed down the neckline, which of course, resulted in the collar not fitting correctly… what a calamity. I still wear the dress — that creeping waistline is a reminder to just relax sometimes.
I did learn from one dress to another. I bought some proper interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply for the second dress, which turned out much better. I learned some fitting tweaks between the dresses too, which was handy. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that sure, I can make toile after toile after toile, but sometimes it’s better to just cut into the fabric and make something. Will it be perfect, as in the perfect in my mind? Of course not. Will it be wearable? Likely! The lesson here? Just fucking sew it!