Saturday, 11 January 2014

Babydoll dress: a super-cheap toile.

I've never sewn with knits before.   As I blathered on about here, I've become all excited about filling my near-empty wardrobe with jersey dresses that are easy to wear while crawling after my son on the floor.  My stretch jersey arrived on Wednesday morning, and by Friday night I had a dress!  Thank you, CBeebies, for a Friday afternoon to sew (bad mother confession).

The fabric quality is fine, but its not the colour and print I'd have chosen.  It's also slinkier than I wanted.  Nevertheless, it was about £6 including postage.  This dress has not been finished to my usual standard; in fact, I can't believe how slap-dash I've been!  I couldn't be bothered to buy matching thread or a walking foot or a twin ballpoint needle for my first test.  So the hem is a bit wobbly, the neckline stretched a bit (letting some of the stabilising elastic pull out), and the threads used are light blue and dark grey.  Whoops.  But, time is precious, the fabric was only £6 and I really didn't believe it was going to fit.  It really is a toile.  As further evidence of my shoddy work:  I didn't even remove the left (un-threaded) needle from my overlocker when doing the seams, so there is a line of punched holes next to every seam.  Lazy or what?

I can't believe how weird it is to sew with Jersey after 14 years of sewing with wovens.  This Jersey had no body or structure and just pooled in a heap by my machine.  The edges curl up as you cut it out, and it's just so floppy!  I found it really hard to be neat when pinning.  However,  it probably hides all those little piecing inaccuracies pretty well with the stretch (just not errors like "wrong thread colour").

I've worn my £6 dress for a day while I decide which pattern modifications to make.  Sewing it up was pleasingly easy and quick, although "Sew U Home Stretch" was not brimming with correct directions:
1)  The exact cutting layout given was impossible on fabric of 60" or less, and I've not seen too many bolts over 60" wide.  Nevertheless, 2m is still ample for the babydoll from 60" wide fabric.
2)  The directions were missing for how to finish the neck when turned under (I went for zig-zag).
3)  The pattern instructs you to "gather sleeve caps", but the image shows gathering of the whole sleeve head.  Since the bottoms of sleeves are normally set in smoothly with minimal easing, I suspect you are actually just supposed to gather between the upper three dots on the sleeve head.

I'm sorry that these photos are taken in the kitchen while cooking dinner (I get childcare for this task).  My husband can't take a non-shaky photo for toffee, so I'm using the self-timer.  Note the slightly-stressed post-IKEA face.

Having worn my dress for 5 hours now, I'm already totally cross about the fit.  The waist is much too wide, meaning it hangs sadly underneath my bust.  I suspect I need a full-bust adjustment, as the dress is only tight in this area and it pulls the whole dress front up.

The waistline has also been pulled down at the back, I suspect by the weight of the skirt and because the bodice is not tight enough.  I think the whole back is a bit loose; it certainly is loose around the back neckline, which is also an inch too low for my liking.

The sleeve tops are too baggy for my taste.  I'm sad (see photo).  I already added 1/2" to the shoulder length toward the neck and removed 1" from the scoop neck at the front.  Here's a list of my likely further pattern adjustments:
  • Reduce waist size by at least 2" from current size; potentially by a combination of side-seams and sloping centre-front, leaving the same bust size.  I need to check my textbook to decide the best route.
  • Take 1/2 - 1" off the top of the shoulders, making the armholes slightly smaller and bringing the neckline higher.  (This is an adjustment I make for my figure in almost every pattern, normally by 2" or more.  It's why I can't buy any ready-to-wear dresses in woven fabric.)
  • Re-draft the sleeve cap to reduce the height and also remove some fullness, making it tighter at the arm top (because I prefer it) and to match the reduced armhole.
  • Potentially make a full-bust adjustment, but start with a smaller bodice pattern to do this on.
  • Make the back neckline 1" higher and make whole back piece narrower at centre back.
  • Lop another inch off the adjusted bodice and move it to the skirt, so the seam sits more underneath my bust.  I like the current front waist position, but I suspect that's not where the pattern would normally have it on a smaller bust.
Hopefully this will fix the pulling down on the back waist, but if it's still sad in that department then I'll have to think of something to fix that.  Are you a super-pattern-drafter and do you disagree with my pattern fix list above?  Let me know!  I'll probably change my mind in an hour anyway, after a bit more time looking at full busts (har har) with Mr Google.

Next time I make it up I'll add 1/4" elastic into the waist seam too (as for the neckline), because I think it needs stabilising here: it's all loose and stretchy from the weight of the skirt and all the gathers.  For the full works, I'd probably underline the whole bodice in a light knit.

I think that's it for now.  I'll zip down the side-seams on this dress to fudge the worst fitting problem and make it a little more liveable with.  I've got enough jersey to make the bodice again without sleeves to test my pattern adjustments, and then I'll probably order more jersey to do another toile.  I might splash out at £5/metre this time: whoa!  I hope my adjustments will still be good if the new jersey has less stretch: fingers crossed.  Until this pattern is fixed to my shape, I'll just have to continue longingly looking at the £10/m star-print jersey on my computer screen.

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