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Monday Makes: A Summer Mess (part 2 of 2)

Let this two-part near-descent into sewing madness be a cautionary tale to you all. That is no typo in the title because, dear reader, despite starting all over again, taking careful measurements, leaving generous seam allowances and putting in about 9 hours of work, this mess could not be worn by any human being I have ever met.

I’ve certainly never met anyone with a 30″ waist and the shoulder span of a scrum-half; have you?

Probably not.

It looks deceptively dress-like, but trust me, it’s unwearable.

It started off with real promise: I took careful, accurate measurements of my shoulders, the circumference for the armholes, my bust, waist, hips, bum, legs.

I transferred the measurements to the fabric and painstakingly used them to draw out the dress template and cut out two panels. Then used these as templates on my lining fabric.

I did a zig-zag stitch all around the edges to prevent fabric fraying, then pressed down and sewed in skinny hems on the necklines and arm-holes. I pressed and sewed a half inch hem along the bottom of each panel. I then used a long running stitch to tack the two panels together.

And this is where I begin to lose my mind. You’ll notice the photos stop abruptly at this point.

I slip the dress on over my head to see how the fit is and make any adjustments before I sew with the machine. I say ‘slip’, I wrestle my way into it, pulling out most of the tacking stitches as I go.

The dress is skin-tight around my stomach, just about covers my bum and gapes comically at the shoulders, back and bust.

I then spend a couple of hours attempting to turn this into a dress. Ha ha.

I re-sew the tacking stitches. They burst out again. I try to pin the dress into a vaguely better-fitting garment, but when I try to take it off, I sustain several flesh wounds from the pins.

I plough on, attempting to sew roughly what I think needs to be sewn. I lose patience and tack the dress together when it’s right sides out and sew over multiple folds of fabric, creating a hideous puckered seam on one side of the dress.

I realise there is not enough fabric in the seam to put a zip in the side, so I begin hand-sewing in snap fasteners. I do two before I give up, take a photo of the monstrosity I have created, and retire to the corner of the room, where I remain in the foetal position, weeping gently, for the remainder of the evening.

Joking aside, this has not been a waste of time, in fact it has been a very useful exercise. Here’s what I’ve learnt.

  1. You can’t wing it every time when you’re a beginner – With straightforward things like bags and skirts, you can make it up as you go along. A dress, however simple, has a lot more contours to cover smoothly, so you need either lessons/instructions, a pattern, a bit of experience, or all three to make something like this.

  2. I need better equipment – They say a bad craftsman blames his tools, but I definitely need a new tailor’s chalk (I’ve been using biro since my last one ran out!), a rotary cutter and self-healing cutting board, and ideally a cutting table. Each of my panels was a slightly different size and shape to the one next to it. I need more accuracy.

  3. There are a lot of things I’m doing right – Although I’ve still a long way to go, I can see myself improving too. I had issues with threading, the bobbin, tension…and I was able to fix them. My sewing, although, again, not perfect yet, is definitely improving. I am becoming more confident and sewing straighter and more accurately.

I definitely want to receive some more official tuition, so that is something I will be looking into in the coming weeks and months. For my next sewing project, I will either seek experienced guidance and help, or will be following a set of detailed instructions.

I didn’t get my summer dress, but hopefully I gave you a bit of a laugh and some what-not-to-dos at least! And it’s still Monday. Just…

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