I finished this dress on time! Just barely. I know that sewing on a deadline is not my friend, but in this case I had backed myself into corner, since I really wanted to finish in time for my annual family and friends women’s craft retreat. You see, last year at the same event we batiked fabric (which was ridiculously fun) and I dyed this panel with this sundress in mind. I should at least be able to sew one dress in one year, right? Well, sure, but a whole lot of other projects of various types jumped ahead of it in line throughout the year, until I found myself headed to retreat 2012 with the mostly-finished dress and my hand sewing kit. I finished the hem in the car on the way over.
When I got there I tried it on again. Although I had carefully tested out this pattern in a previous version, I decided that the darts from that version were a little out of hand. Although I liked the fit, the darts just took up a lot of the bodice, and I thought that they might not look so good with the sparser print of my batik fabric. So I decided to convert the darts to gathers. Lesson 1 from this project: darts and gathers are not the same thing! Although they both take up excess fabric and fit it into a smaller area, darts control the release of the excess up to a certain point, while gathers release it all right away. Although I liked the gathers at center front, the ones under the bust were clearly not working, they created a big poof of fabric right under (definitely not at) the fullest point of my bust. There’s no picture of this, it looked ridiculous.
Since I had already sewn the gathers, and my sewing machine was hundreds of miles away by this time, my idea was to hand sew a few of the gathers closed, essentially creating a few small darts to release the extra fabric where I wanted it, which hopefully would not look too jarring. I tried it out by basting the darts in place. Have I mentioned I love basting? It’s just a collection of fairly loose, impermanent stitches, but it’s one of the sewing world’s most perfect tools. I truly don’t understand why anyone complains about it, it’s so wonderfully precise and useful, and you can see exactly how something is going to come out before you commit to sew it, without the distortion of pins or clips.
Anyway, I basted my new tiny darts in place, using the places where the gathers naturally wanted to make a deeper fold. I tried on again, then hand sewed them in place. I used all tiny backstitches, which was probably overkill, but for such a small seam it didn’t slow me down very much, and I wanted a similar look to the rest of the machine-sewn seams on the dress. If I was at home with my machine, I could also have taken out the gathers, planned and measured for the darts, sewed them in place and stitched the bodice down again. To be honest I’m not sure it would look much better, although it would look more precise and even on each side. However, I have been comfortable with this dress having a handmade, not-so-perfect look ever since the very first flower I drew in wax (note the splotches/wax drips).
Checking out the final result, I am overall thrilled. Probably what makes me the happiest is that I was able to plan the print on the fabric in a way that worked how I envisioned when I went to sew the dress! It also makes me happy to look at the little bits of hand stitching on the inside, for some reason I can’t explain I love that look, when I worked at a museum I used to spend much longer than necessary checking out hand stitching on antique garments. I will tweak the bodice a little more in further versions of this dress, it still has a funny wrinkle or two, but as I said this project was not meant to be a showpiece and I think it looks cute. I wore it all day, on a retreat field trip to the fiber festival at El Rancho de las Golodrinas and then out to dinner with the whole group. One of my favorite things about custom-fit clothing is how comfortable it is – I could easily have also worn this dress to sleep in, but restrained myself, after all it was pretty dusty out, and the dress doesn’t need that wear and tear.
I realize as I’m working on this post that some of these pictures have quite a different color cast, some are from my iPhone on the trip which may explain it. If you are curious, the laundry line picture is probably the closest to the real colors.
Although I don’t have a specific project like this to be ready for next summer, I am so hoping I have learned my lesson about timing and leaving things until the last minute. We shall see.