A Hot Weather Sundress, and Making Spaghetti Straps

 

hot weather dress hollyhocks 1

 

I’m catching up here.  You know how sometimes, if you prepare carefully for something, it doesn’t happen?  I made this dress for Me-Made-May, but didn’t end up wearing it until the middle of June, due to unseasonably cool and rainy weather all month long.  This year I wanted to up my pledge for May, so that I wore at least two items of me-made clothing at all times.  When it’s really hot out, I like to wear only two items of clothing period, one of which must be a sundress, which allows as much heat to escape from my skin as possible.  My airiest one in particular was 1. wearing out and 2. not me-made, so I clearly needed to replace it before May.  It had a couple of features which I wanted to replicate in my self-stitched version: just about the lowest neckline I am comfortable wearing in public, layers of very light fabric, and gathering at the empire waist.

 

hot weather dress hollyhocks 2

 

I used my self-drafted sundress pattern again, altering it this time for a cross-over gathered front.  Each time I make a new version of this dress, I change the back in an attempt to make it not pull up at the center back, and both times so far it has not worked.  Any ideas?  I’m pretty happy with how the front came out though.  One thing I’ve learned: the key to keeping the bodice from immediately gaping open when I bend forward is to ease the top edges into a slightly shorter binding, so that I take some of the fullness around the bust out again. It’s especially important since I replaced the darts on this version with gathers.

 

hot weather dress fabrics

 

This fabric is a cotton batiste, I’m sorry to say I have no recollection of where it came from, I just remember it being in my stash for a long, long time.  My first idea was to use plain white for the lining layer.  As I was cutting out the main fabric pieces, I dropped a piece in my fabric scrap pile, and it happened to land on top of a piece of felt in this light minty green color.  I suddenly remembered that I had another piece of lightweight cotton in a really similar color, which might look great as the inner layer.  It turned out there was just enough of that fabric for the lining and bindings, and I really like how the green adds a little hint of color under the main fabric, and how it looks peaking out at the hem, a detail I added to show off the second color.  Even though I decided not to join any of the official fabric stash-busting challenges going on this year (despite this cool anime dinosaur logo) I have been making a conscious effort to use the fabric I already have, and making some good progress, in part inspired by all the other sewers who are doing the same.

 

hot weather dress spaghetti straps

Click on this picture (or any of the others) to enlarge for easy reading.

 

With all the sundresses and tanks I’ve been making the last year or so, I’ve gotten a lot of practice making thin “spaghetti” straps, and come up with a method that I like.  If the fabric is lightweight, like this one, I’ll use two fabric layers for each strap.  Since the dress will hang from the straps for most of its life, I want them to be fairly sturdy.  I cut each one 1 1/4″ wide, and a couple inches longer than I think I’ll need.  I get the best results when I zigzag the two strap layers together first, with a narrow zigzag right on the edges.  It keeps the layers from shifting as I sew, and from unraveling as I turn the strap right side out.  Then I press the strap in half, to get a clean even fold.  I stitch the strap seam with a short straight stitch, 1/4″ from the edges.  Then turn it right side out.  I use a long wire, as explained here.  The straps come out about 1/4″ wide, and somewhat thick and rounded.  If you do the math, the extra 1/4″ in the width becomes the “turn of cloth”, the extra fabric needed to go around the seam allowances which fill the middle of the strap.

 

hot weather dress hollyhocks 4

 

I decided to use light blue thread for topstitching the bindings and hems on both layers.  I topstitched over the straps as well, to go with the look of the bindings.  At one point, I started to wonder if I was going overboard using up things from my stash and adding more colors.  But if I took a step back, I realized that if I saw this dress in a store window, I would want it immediately.  So that was a good imaginary test!  Since I’ve been wearing it, I’ve noticed that all the colors in the print go with lots of other things in my wardrobe too.

 

hot weather dress hollyhocks 3

 

Special thanks to my aunt Barbara for taking the pictures of wearing the dress, and for letting me use the beautiful hollyhocks in her garden as a backdrop!  That was the first time it was warm enough to wear the dress, as you can probably tell from my lack of tan here. . .   What about you?  Are you making anything for your current weather, or the coming season?

 

My First Real Self-Drafted Pattern—Sundress!

 

My sundress is finished!  I’m really excited because a) it’s done in time for summer, and b) this is the first pattern I have really made from scratch, not by copying a garment or altering an existing pattern.  I draped the top part with the help of my dress form, and measured and flat drafted the pieces for the skirt and ruffle.

The fabric is a very lightweight soft cotton which I am about 98% sure came from Gayfeather Fabrics in Madison, WI – a great place to stop if you are nearby.  It’s lined with a similar plain white cotton which I still have a fair amount of from the former Buttons n’ Bolts in Tucson – I miss that place.

 

 

Although I am thrilled with how it came out, there are still a couple of alterations I’d like to make.  I had made enough versions of the top out of muslin that I thought it was safe to try one in “real” fabric.  At least for me there are some things I never can tell unless I’m really wearing something around, not just trying it on for a few minutes in front of a mirror in a partially finished state. I think it would be more flattering if the join between the top and the skirt was about 1/2″ higher, which means I’ll extend the top up at the neckline as well, otherwise I think there will be too little top part.  One of the darts needs to be more curved, although the wrinkle it’s making now is kind of cute.  For the next version there won’t be a ruffle at the bottom, because I’m making it out of fabric I batiked last summer, and I made a border for the print!  For that version I think I will have the skirt a little less gathered at the top, flaring out to about the same width.

My plan was to put the dress on my form for photos, (especially since the high was 47 F the day I finished).  But I neglected the fact that while I like minimal closures and shimmying my clothes over my head, my duct tape form has immovable shoulders, there was no way I could shimmy the dress onto it!  So thanks to my dad, who stopped by this morning, for taking these snapshots.  Luckily, it was much warmer today as well, although unfortunately not warm enough to wear this all day.

Hope this gives you some ideas for summer projects!

Wire Turns Fabric Tubes!

The other day I was making fabric straps, and the time came to turn them right side out.  I never bought one of those proprietary tube-turning things, and I don’t do this very often, so usually I just tie the seam ends to a blunt needle and slide it through the tube bit by bit.  It’s kind of a pain but it usually works.  However, on this day my studio was somehow completely devoid of blunt needles.  I don’t know where they went, but I suspect karma is involved, since I always tell even my knitting students to buy sharp ones for burying ends.  I tried it with a sharp one, but that was clearly the wrong idea, of course the needle point kept piercing the inside of the tube.

After stewing it around in my brain for a while, I remembered that I had some millinery wire left over from another project.  I twisted one end into a loop, tied the thread ends to it, and pulled it through – viola!  Then I tried it with beading wire, which is much thinner and more flexible, but also worked just fine.

This is why we invented pliers, so you can make a loop smaller than your finger.  You may need to squash the loop flatter with the pliers to get it to be narrow enough to go through your tube.

Twist the wire around itself – it’s more secure if you twist both the end and the main wire around each other, not just one around the other.

Cover the pokey wire end with some tape to keep it from catching on the fabric  – I used artist’s tape, electrical tape or painter’s tape should also work, duct tape is too gooey.

Ok!  Slide your new wire tube turner inside your tube.  Take the ends left from sewing the seam and tie them securely around the wire loop.  If your knot is not secure it may pull out part way through the turning process – terrible!  I pushed two thread ends through the loop one way, and two through the other way, and tied them in several square knots on top of the loop.

Pull the wire into the fabric tube, and the tube should start to turn inside itself.  Sometimes it’s a bit hard to get it started, you can try using your finger nails to pull the scrunched up fabric over the end.

General tube turning tips:  Don’t get so much fabric bunched up right where the tube is turning that it gets packed in and won’t turn.  If you get stuck, back the bunched up fabric away from the end and try moving a smaller amount through the turn.  Pull on the wire threader and the turning point, stretching a bit can help.  Once you get going, pull on the fabric end inside the tube instead of the wire, so there’s no danger of the thread breaking.

It’s much easier if you have a slippery fabric!  Mine at the moment is two layers of cotton, not slippery at ALL, but it still worked without too much fuss.  I wanted my straps to be as thin as possible, the limit with this fabric was a 1/4″ seam.  With a slipperier fabric smaller could work, keep in mind though that you have to have enough seam allowance so that your finished tube won’t unravel, and that seam allowance has to fit inside the finished tube!  I zigzaged over my SA since I absolutely do not want to take my dress apart later due to straps coming apart.

What am I making with these tubes anyway? A sundress!  I took this picture on Sunday during our giant spring snowstorm, which is now melting like crazy.  Whatever the weather says, it’s time for spring/summer sewing!  I used the fabric tubes for the straps, and also button loops at the top.  I’m glad to have my new wire turner, I can make some more straps for tops and dresses for the upcoming season.

Here is my sketch of the finished sundress.  I haven’t decided whether to do the big patch pockets or not.

What do you think?  What are you making now?