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Gill’s dress has been finished for a couple of days now.  There’s only one thing left – pressing.

This is the vital last step to make it look smashing.  It’s been pressed at each of the component stages, but has acquired some creases and wrinkles during the final construction.

Once it’s carefully pressed, it’s off to be packed in my father’s suitcase for delivery to Canada.

I was missing it the other day so I hand overcast all the inside seam allowances in the skirt lining.  I’d been feeling a bit cranky but by the time I finished I was all over that.  There’s something quite soothing about the hand-sewing.

Speaking of hand sewing – a tape was applied along the top of the dress and foundation to provide some curve, the seam allowances were turned to the inside and catch stitched, and then the lining was fell stitched in.  The hems of the skirt and the skirt lining were hand hemmed.   It was lovely.  I am obviously bonkers.


Last night I fitted the lining into Gill’s dress and fell stitched the lot.

I’m apparently mad because I love the hand stitching.  I like making the stitches, spacing them evenly, making sure as little shows as possible, and there’s just that idea of luxury.  I could have used the method for attaching the lining as per the pattern instructions, but the outside of the garment wouldn’t look anywhere near as swish.  Nor the inside.

There are only two things left on this dress – the narrow hems for lining and outer layer, and the final pressing.  Then I have to find a nice garment bag and some bubble wrap so I can wrap it to send over to Gill with my father.

I’ve started dreaming about working on it.  Which is kind of cute.

In other news, yesterday Mary-Lou and I found her fabric at the Braybrook Spotlight.  It’s a taffeta-like silk,  red shot with black.  I haven’t seen it at the Moorabbin store, so we got it on the spot.  It’s rustly, like taffeta, but without the ribs.  The texture is smooth with a sheen, it will suit the dress well.  Dupion was another option, but it’s often a bit fuzzy, and the slubby texture wasn’t quite right.

I’m using a relatively new machine.  It’s a Brother.  I bought it on sale at Spotlight, when it was roughly what it would cost to have my Elna serviced.

I love my Elna.  However I have worked the poor wee thing to death in the last 16 years.  As a domestic machine used by a rabid home sewer, it has aged beyond its years.  The upper thread tension has been a bit off for the last few years, coming to a head with some top-stitching where it totally failed to maintain any kind of tension at all, with only the minor challenge of fake suede and top-stitching thread.

So currently she’s sitting on the shelves, and I’m getting used to a Japanese machine.

It’s a good little work-horse.  It apparently has 50 stitches or something insane like that.  I really only use the straight, the zig-zag and the button hole (yeah i am a slacker because i have always had automatic buttonholers).  It even has a needle threading widget.  I love that because i am long-sighted and only going to get worse.  It’s a bit weird because the needle is offset to the left.  If, like me, you use the 1.5 cm guide (yeah, once again, force of habit and commercial patterns) then you have keep it to the left or eyeball about 2.5 mm to the right.

The thing i immediately liked though was the excellent tension.

Except tonight.  For some reason it wasn’t playing fair.  The top thread was so loose i had to check that i hadn’t put up the Elna instead.  (nope.  I would have noticed the 5 kg difference in weight).  I re-seated the bobbin a million times, because i am a bit tired and slow and it was the TOP thread that was loose.

Finally I remembered that the bobbin winding had seemed a bit hinky for the first little stretch.  So what the hey…  I wound a new bobbin.

Presto.  Back to perfect tension.

In other news, I have taken the “no pins” philosophy to heart and am attempting to reduce my dependence on the little pointy bugger.  Even with slippery, slinky silk crepe satin I sewed some gorgeous curves around the princess seams at the front, using just a couple here and there .  It did make a big difference to the amount of time it took to sew the bodice lining, as in reduced it considerably.

Project progress continues apace.  I completed the lining today (6 bodice pieces and 2 skirt pieces), attached the foundation to the skirt lining (the skirt lining is actually inserted with the right side against the wrong side of the outside of the garment) and inserted the foundation zipper.

Tomorrow I will finish assembling the garment.  I think there is little chance of Gill taking it with her – she flies back into Melbourne tomorrow, then out again tomorrow night to the UK, but it will definitely be done for my father to take it next Saturday.

One bonus is that it does iron well and doesn’t mind a bit of steam.  So if it does get a little tired in the travelling, it will at least be recoverable.

Winter brings its own challenges to sewing.  It’s nice not to be perspiring, but unfortunately I am at that time in winter where my hands are like sandpaper.  It doesn’t help that sailing (my other “S” hobby) means salt water and blisters.  There is a risk of snagging the floats of the satin on my horrible crocodile skin.

This morning I used olive oil and sugar to abrade the worst of the loose and flaking skin.  Now I am applying hand cream every time i wash my hands.  I’ll wear gloves when I leave the building to avoid drying them out even more.

The Natio stuff i use is nice.  It’s lavender and rosemary, made in Australia, smells yum and soaks in nicely.  It also works well to smooth out the skin.  I discovered it on a trip to Mildura in 1994 so have been using it a while.  They haven’t discontinued it yet.  I will cry if they do.  It doesn’t leave your hands greasy, so there’s less worry about leaving sticky marks on the fabric.

My fingernails aren’t much better than my hands, but much easier to fix.  I have chopped them all off and filed them into submission.

Nothing worse than managing to damage the fabric just by touching it.   The side benefit is that looking after my sewing will make my hands look less scruffy.  Not that anyone ever looks at my hands.  It’s not like i’m a hand model.  Not with these stumpy fingers 🙂

I couldn’t figure out quite why there was no lining fabric in the pattern I am using for the sister of the groom.  Then I realised that it was self lined.

The lining instructions have you interface the lining sections, the bone them.  I don’t quite approve of this method, not the least as they have you apply the bones up the seams.  I am going to have a look at Susan Khalije and check what she says about bones.

Main changes so far are that I am using taffeta for the foundation, to which I will apply the bones.  This will go between the outer dress and the lining so that the bones don’t show on the outside, but are not in the lining.  The pattern directions have you interface the lining – I’m not really a fan of iron-on interfacing on silk satin.  I think that would be a) icky and b) stiff.  The taffeta has enough stiffness to substitute for interfaced silk, and I use it a lot as an underlining where more structure is required.  It doesn’t stretch, move or do anything unpredictable.

This pattern also has TWO side zippers – one for the foundation and one for the dress.  This might have something to do with the outer dress being cut on the bias.  If I attach the zipper for the foundation and lining to the dress, it might ruin the floaty effect of the outer layer on that side, effectively anchoring it to the side of the body.  I suspect I will go with the two zippers just to keep it as free as possible.

I had to buy another rotary cutter this weekend.  I haven’t been able to find mine, and I’m also missing a box of long dressmaker pins.  This lends weight to my theory that I have taken them somewhere for a project, and haven’t unpacked my bag.  I couldn’t face cutting out all the bits required without the cutter.

I found skinny pins that are a little longer at spotlight, but am going to have to make another expedition into RJ whasisname to get more pins.  What a shame.  I’m interested to see if they have silk thread in more colours – there is Gutermann silk at Clegs (in the display) but only in a limited range of colours.

Tomorrow I will work on the bride.  I need to piece the bodice parts to make a toile pattern – there’s a contrast section around the top and it needs to be grafted onto the lower section to make one piece.  The front is undergoing some reasonably heavy modifications.

I think I found her fabric – the style suits a stiffer fabric, but I am not sure about Dupion – I’m thinking something smooth and perhaps a little weightier.  I found a delustred Cathedral satin at Spotlight – not my usual source of specialty fabric but heck… It’s about the right colour and the right weight and stiffness.  And not horribly expensive.  I am not sure I will be able to find the colour we’re looking for in the right weight of silk satin, and the other option I would consider – cotton sateen – seems to come in a stretch variety but not in a regular.  It might not be quite special enough for a bride either.

Back at work.  For some reason I am much better motivated and get more done when I am at work.  Better at managing my time when I have less of it perhaps?

I have a bolt containing four metres of silk satin awaiting my tender mercies.  At some stage in the next 24 hours I will unwrap it, cut it and perhaps even start sewing it.  Lovely anticipation.  It’s gorgeous fabric.  I got some microtex needles – don’t want blunt needles making horrid pulls.