Thursday, April 4, 2013

Plaid Progress + Sleeve Question

It's not often that I show projects in progress, mostly because I don't like the look of raw edges and unfinished details. But my current dress-in-waiting is very presentable, even in its unfinished state, so I thought I'd make an exception.

This may be my first plaid project ever. I can't recall another. So many points to match, even on a relatively simple garment! Spatial thinking is not my greatest strength. Questions with which I have wrestled in the making of this dress have included: "Is this a truly symmetrical plaid?" (subtly, no) "How do I place these skirt pieces to cut them on the bias and maintain the fabric's direction?" (with much experimentation and drawing of chalk lines for trial layouts) and "Can I align the dominant white column at both center front and center back and match the plaid at the shoulders?" (really don't think so).

Despite all the head scratching, it's gone well and I am happy with how it's looking so far. The fabric is from FabricMart and it has both crispness and drape (how is that even possible?). There is a quiet mauve stripe (in the center of the chocolate bars) which coordinates perfectly with some vintage buttons I've had for a long time. Very serendipitous! If only I had a mauve belt buckle!

Inspiration dress: vintage Marimekko

Much as I adore this vintage Marimekko dress and find it amazing, I didn't think the gathered skirt would do much for me. So I made a mashup of some previous successful dresses.

The bodice is Simplicity 4171, a now-out-of-print shirtdress that I've made a number of times. The pattern has a full-length placket and an a-line skirt. I am fairly happy with where I've gotten the fit of the 4171 bodice, but I didn't want such a straight dress this time out. I wanted fullness and an opportunity to create those lovely chevrons, so I used the skirt from Simplicity 1880. Many of the participants in last year's sew-a-long for this pattern, hosted by Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch, noted that the skirt, with its four panels, hangs a bit oddly. There is too much fullness at the center front and center back skirt seams. Cutting the panels on the bias rather than the marked straight grain fixes that problem right up. The drape is so much nicer.

Matching the plaid at the center back was a particular challenge. On the first go-round, I was unhappy with my cutting choices. Since I had plenty of fabric, I decided to try again. On the second set of back bodice pieces, I just could not sew it to my satisfaction. Tiny shifts kept occurring, no matter how careful I was. Then a technique from my very brief career in home dec sewing came back to me. I haven't seen it explained in the garment sewing context--I took photos as I worked, so I'll be posting a little how-to soon.

When I started this post, I was planning to say that my remaining tasks were to cut and insert the sleeves, hem the skirt and perhaps insert a waist stay. As I've been typing, I've started to wonder whether I want short sleeves or not. Usually I like sleeves, and I'm an aficionado of short sleeved dresses (which can be difficult to find in RTW). But in this case I'm wondering. This dress is meant as a day dress and also for swing dancing. When dancing, especially in the summer, even the cold-natured among us get sweaty. Sleeveless is nice for that. The dress would work better with a cardigan without sleeves, and I have already made a coordinating cardigan just for it.

From a design standpoint, I'm not totally sure how to orient the plaid on the sleeves, which sleeve design to use and whether adding sleeves to the dark color and sober design of the dress will make it feel too matronly.

But I may also be motivated by laziness! Help me decide--cut out sleeves and give them a try (a considerable amount of additional head scratching) or go sleeveless?


  1. Try the sleeves. You don't have to keep them.

    Your dress is lovely. The plaid is very effective. I so relate to your dilemmas over how to cut the fabric. Those sorts of questions happen to me all the time.


  2. Cute dress! I'd do bias sleeves.

  3. Nice! I think bias sleeves would link nice with the bias skirt. Try 'em. You can always go back to sleeveless!

  4. Bias sleeve was my recommendation too! Or a tiny cap sleeve, just a half moon sliver (an oval folded into half) - if you're familiar with Marcy Tilton's V8876, that's what I mean.
    xxx juli