Last Of The Summer Sewing

Ok so it isn't really summer dress sewing weather right now, but there's always room for one last hurrah. Plus I promised myself I'd make this pattern and use some of this gorgeous fabric ages ago. The two make a winning combo and will come in handy for my trip to the Canaries in October. If you won't be seeing any more sunshine this year I'll also share my fabric recommendations to create an on trend Autumn/Winter evening dress with the maxi pattern.

On the surface this dress looked like a super simple make. The straps meant I wouldn't need to worry about fitting across my problem back and shoulder area. The elasticated waist should be easy peasy too. However, a lot of silly mistakes on my part made it a lot more fiddly than it should have been.

It turned into one of those projects where you feel like giving up, but are determined to win. In the end I feel like I won (I hope you agree!) I think the dress is lovely and if you bear in mind the learning points I share below it could be a very easy make.

I also think the maxi version on the packet cover would make a fantastic Christmas party dress in the right colour. Our beautiful quality John Kaldor Prestige crepe would be just the ticket. Available in this season's must have colours wine and plum or black for a classic look. Plus a whole host of other stunning colours.

McCalls 7591

Sewing the Bodice

The bodice came together easily, although I made my first boo boo sewing the straps. Biggest rookie error ever. I machine stitched them in place at the back as per the pattern instructions, but sewed them poking into the inside of the dress rather than the outside! This caused me a lot of problems with positioning them correctly once I realised my mistake because I had already attached the lining and was trying to fiddle between layers of fabric. I got there in the end, but it certainly wasn't as perfect as it would have been if I got it right first time. Through my love of sewing I have learned to look upon this in a positive light though. I certainly won't make that mistake again!

Sewing Racer Back Straps

When it came to sewing the straps to the front of the dress I wasn't keen on the instructions. They suggested machine sewing the straps at the back then hand sewing them to the front after constructing the bodice. I thought it would be neater to leave a little gap then insert the strap at the front and machine stitch it in place. However, when I tried to work out where to position the straps I realised why hand stitching was necessary. It was really difficult to get an idea of where the dress would sit without understitching and pressing the lining in place. Plus the weight of the skirt would make a big difference too. I decided to stick to the instructions and stop trying to be clever.

I took great care to do a neat job of the hand stitching and make sure the straps were the same length. Sadly I sewed them on at the wrong angle so they don't sit quite right. Doh! This is something I can unpick and do again, but I think it is relatively unnoticeable to the untrained eye!

Hand Sewn Dress Straps

If I hadn't been such a doughnut with the straps the bodice was an incredibly easy sew. The polycotton lining worked really well with the double Georgette fabric. Understitching and pressing was easy and the lining gave the dress a luxurious feel. The Georgette fabric was still able to move and drape the way I wanted it to. So far so good.

Fitting the Bodice

Unfortunately when I came to try the bodice on the fit was terrible. The armholes came way too low exposing my bra and even the skin beneath it. Obviously the elasticated waist would eventually take everything in once the skirt was attached, but nowhere near enough. I considered whether I should have made a smaller size, but that wouldn't have made enough difference either.

Messing around in front of the mirror I realised if I took the side seams in quite substantially it would resolve the problem. It was a fiddly job because I had already clipped, trimmed and understitched the neckline and armholes, but was totally doable. I took two inches off either side under the arms and tapered back out to the waist seam. I decided to do this rather than take it in all the way down because I wanted the skirt to fit the bodice and I didn't want to lose the blouson, gathered effect.

When I attached the skirt I realised I should have taken the bodice side seams in all the way down. There was way too much fabric at the waist.

What I'd Do Differently Next Time

In hindsight I was put off by the thought of having to gather the skirt to fit the bodice because I hate gathering. Another learning point - always question why you're avoiding something to make sure your logic is sound. Here it definitely wasn't!

I was able to rectify things by unpicking and restitching the side seams. Angela also suggested adding a small dart at the waist on either side to take out some of the fullness.

Adding a Dart at the Waist Seam

However, the moral of the story here is to make a quick toile. If I had made even a very rough toile I would have been able to see these issues straight away. I could have adapted the pattern first rather than trying to fix it along the way. I know a lot of people are put off by the thought of a toile, but in this case it would have taken minutes to stitch the bodice front and back pieces together to get an idea of fit.

Sewing a Dress in Parrot Fabric

Sewing the Skirt

Sewing the skirt was super easy. Unless your name is Lucy and you left your brain in the clouds somewhere!

Three panels make the skirt - one back and two front. One of the front panels is a lot narrower than the other and lines up nicely with where the bodice overlaps. This is also where the slit goes. Super simple sewing, what could possibly go wrong?

Firstly you could mistake the centre front line marked on the wider skirt panel as the cutting line and cut the panel way too small. You could then only realise this once you come to assemble the skirt.

Secondly you could forget to check which way the front pattern pieces should be placed on the fabric. You cut them on a single layer rather than on the fold. I forgot to check and got it wrong.

I'm guessing your going to choose not to make these daft mistakes. In that case the skirt will be very simple to sew!

I stitched two rows of gathering stitches 1/4" and 1/2" from the raw edge. I stopped and started the stitching four or five times to make it easier to gather. You can see more information on how to gather or ruffle fabric here. I then gathered the skirt to match the now reduced in size bodice then joined them.

Sewing the Hem and Slit

I used my favourite method for sewing delicate hems. Three thread overlock the raw edge, press in place and stitch down. It gives a nice delicate finish without the time commitment of sewing a rolled hem. I simply continued the stitching line up the side of the slit, across and down the other side.

Sewing a Dress with a Slit

Angela advised me how to cut the lining around the slit and it was much easier than I thought. You can see below I cut it wider and then overlocked the edge and stitched it in place.

Sewing a Dress with a Slit and Lining

A Quick Summary

I realise I have shared a lot of information in this post! I hope that it will be useful to you and help others to avoid my catalogue of errors on what should have been a very quick, easy sew.

I'm sure most of you wouldn't make many of the mistakes I mentioned. They were down to lack of concentration and complacency on my part.

The one thing you might encounter with this pattern is a fit issue. However, please don't let this put you off. From my experience you may just need to take the side seams in then gather the skirt to fit the bodice before attaching it. If you make a very simple toille of the bodice first you could make these changes straight away and it would still be a super easy sew.

I absolutely love the dress and am so glad I persevered. There is nothing like laughing in the face of your own stupidity when you finally overcome it! I'm especially pleased with the fit of the bodice. Not a bra strap in sight!

Sewing a Dress in Parrot Fabric

Have fun sewing!

Lucy

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