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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 was reading a post on Fashion-Incubator about pins vs pattern weights.  The argument was illustrated, and convincingly, that using pins to hold the paper pattern onto the fabric brought physics into play in a way that could have a material outcome on the success of the garment.

I’m a pinner.  Largely because that was how I was taught, and because I haven’t had much success with pattern weights.  However my use of pins has decreased over the last few years.  I now tend to only pin the corners, the middles of curves and really long straight runs.

One of the alternatives to pins is pattern weights.  I’ve never had much success with just weighing the paper down onto the fabric.  One problem is that when you cut out a pattern on fabric with scissors, the lower blade lifts the fabric and then things tend to move around.

However with the rotary cutter (my new best friend) one does not need to lift the fabric, and therefore nothing should move.  I tested this theory tonight with the first series of Rome and a CD holder.  It was much easier to cut the silk on the bias.  I am going to do some research on pattern weights and see what people suggest.  The Rome DVDs don’t belong to me, but I do have seven series of Buffy that could substitute quite easily.

I like to learn new techniques.  I think now that I am converted to the rotary cutter, my residual issues with weights melt away.  Advantages I see are less time farting around with pins, therefore less time playing with sharp things that might make me bleed all over the expensive fabric, and a reduced chance of damage to the fabric from a pin.  Some of the disadvantages are due to the limitations of my sewing room and my sewing table – even 115cm wide fabric exceeds the width of my table and almost of the available space in my room.  Even the most delicate of maneuvering around the table may lead to a bump which makes everything leap a centimetre to the left.   Temporary work-around is large, flat (lots of friction) objects which are less likely to move.  It worked well today.

Project progress – the silk satin is completely cut out and all the marks are transferred.  I used silk thread for those and the finest needles i can thread.

Tomorrow I do construction and another fitting.  The foundation is stitched and boned, even though I had a little brain explosion and had half of it stitched inside out.  Hooray for X-Men to keep me amused for the ripping and re-stitching.

Oh and non-amusing technical discovery of the day – the tape-measure that was purchased for the measurements is missing about 3mm from under the metal end.  I thought there was something odd about it, but it wasn’t until I was marking a seamline today that I realised that it was short.  I wouldn’t mind so much except that I used it for the preliminary measurements for Gill.  grrrr.  At least 3mm isn’t so much of a shortfall as it could be – it’s proportionally more over 1.5 cm than it is over 60cm.

There’s some interesting information in Fit for Real People about what dress sizes originally represented.

I remember when we found out in the 80s that Sportsgirl (an Australian fashion brand) were generally a size larger than their label size.  This meant that people who actually care about what size they fit into would be kidded into thinking they were really a size ten when they were an 8.   I remember the days when a size 8 was the smallest you could get in a shop.

Generally dress patterns fit a size smaller than ready-to-wear, for example if you are a 10 in the shops you are an 8 in the pattern.  This isn’t a hard and fast rule, and in these days of vanity sizing you would think it might actually be more different than that.   I decided to play it safe with the two garments I am making first (bride and wedding guest) and use the body measurements of the intended wearers to find the appropriate size from the stated body measurements on the pattern envelope.

Yeah, right.  Lucky this was the muslin or toile stage.

One pattern is an evening/designer.  If I went for the body measurement it I should have cut a 16.  I cut a 14.  I should have cut a 12 – and the wearer is generally a size 10.

Since I did this one first, I figured for the next dress I was making I would cut it a single size smaller than the body measurements would suggest.  It’s a vintage vogue pattern.  It came out at least a size too small.  I hadn’t actually asked the wearer what her normal garment size is – I usually don’t care much about it except for selecting the correct pattern range to use as the template.

One garment is fitted, the other is cut on the bias.  That could make a difference, except the one on the bias has a fitted and boned foundation, and that’s what I fitted.  It would be interesting to try the same pattern on one person and see whether it’s the style or not.  The vintage patterns are rumoured to run small.  Unfortunately the first pattern hasn’t been reviewed at, I’m going to have to look up the second.

This just reinforces the benefit of fitting a muslin.  I could tissue-fit, but I find good results with the muslin with far less twitching of the client.  I may have to find someone compliant to practice on so I am a little faster.