Night-blooming Garden Dress

My Upton dress party dress project is thisclose to finished! I installed the zipper and finished the back seams last night. All that’s left is two hems, hand stitching the lining’s waistline down, and adding a hook and eye to the top of the zipper opening. Here’s a preview of the finished dress, which I’ve dubbed the Night-blooming Garden Dress.

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The color rendering in my sewing room is strange because the walls are lime-juice green.

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Upton dress progress!

Holiday weekends can be lifesavers when it comes to making steady progress on projects. This Labor Day weekend I spent mostly in my sewing room working on my hand-printed Upton dress, and I made great progress. Which is good, because my friend’s wedding is next Sunday. Eek!

I did quite a bit of hand basting, rather unexpectedly. I hand basted all the bodice darts, because I suck at aligning dart legs without this special ladder basting I learned from Threads magazine. This technique works perfectly, and I use it every time I have to sew a dart.

 

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Hand basting darts is tedious. But it works every time!

Assembling the bodice and the lining went pretty quickly after I got all 16–yes 16 (8 for the lining, 8 for the shell)–darts sewn. I’m not sure whether I like the method the Upton pattern uses for preventing the lining from rolling to the outside better than I like understitching, but it certainly was faster and it seems to do the trick just fine. The method, in case you’re wondering, is simply trimming the neckline and armscyes on the bodice lining by 1/16 inch so that the lining is a tad smaller in those spots and the outer shell rolls to the inside a bit.

 

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You can see along the back neckline how the shell rolls just slightly to the inside because the lining is a smidge smaller. Loving that custom label, especially how it coordinates with my dress!

 

Sewing the side seams of the front and back together went okay, but could have been better. I’m pretty sure it’s my fault that the pattern is longer through the front along the side seam–by about 1/8 inch–because I graded out and lengthened the front a bit. That doesn’t sound like a lot of excess, but easing it into the back side seam, especially on the lining, was a pain. AND it made getting the waistband seams to align properly much harder, even though I basted the side seams before sewing! I had to redo the first side seam I sewed 3 times before the waistband seams aligned even close to properly. Apparently I suck at this, too. But the second side seam went much better and worked the first time. At least I learn.

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Baste, baste, baste. It’s time-consuming, but so is ripping out seams and redoing them.

 

With the bodice prepped as far as the instructions have it to this point, I started on the skirt.

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Skirt front section and its lining pleated together.

 

I made some additions here. The pattern is for an unlined skirt, but I wanted a bit of extra floof; plus I prefer lined skirts, especially if they’re full. I used the same cotton lawn as for the bodice lining. I pleated the lining and shell skirt sections together, after basting along the upper edges. I left about 1 inch free at the side seams, because the shell and lining side seams will be sewn separately to place the pockets between the layers. Once all 3 skirt sections were pleated, I sewed the lining side seams. Next the shell side seams and pockets will be sewn, then I’ll baste the final bit of shell and lining waistline together, and it’ll be ready to be set into the bodice.

Thank goodness I still have 4 days to work on this dress!

Painting my Upton dress

For the past few days, I’ve been working on the surface design for my Cashmerette Upton dress, the one I’ll be wearing to a friend’s wedding in a couple weeks. At first I thought I could use the technique I call “shattered lace”–which is basically printing through lace with liquid dye. I really love the effect on a silk scarf I made during my work group’s holiday crafting party a few years ago. (Yeah, we do that kind of fun thing.) I want to do more of this. It would look great on a dress!

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This silk habotai scarf was printed by spraying liquid dye through scraps of lace. I call the effect it creates “shattered lace” because that’s what it looks like to me.

Just not this one. I realized that this technique probably wouldn’t take well on shantung, or at least not as well as on habotai. So I purchased some pretty stencils, a large rubber stamp, and a set of Jacquard Lumiere and Textile paints, and tested out the effects on scraps of my silk shantung. I settled on one stencil and the stamp and started by printing the dress bodice sections. If it turned out horrible, I had enough leftover fabric to cut new bodice pieces. I cut the bodice sections from the fabric, pinned them to large sheets of paper to keep them stable, covered my dining room table with a huge plastic drop cloth, and got to work!

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My fabric, before cutting and printing.

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Printed bodice front.

I wasn’t sure at first whether I liked the effect, but it grew on me pretty quickly. Especially as I added metallic gold and metallic purple accents to the black print to give it more dimension. The design is very random and has kind of a hodgepodge appearance because of the branches with flowers and birds and then the large scattered blossoms of a different variety that in no way relate to the branches. This is the effect I would have wanted with the lace printing technique. I like the design a little more every time I look at it.

 

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I really like how these back sections now seem to glow. That’s the splotchy dye-job, but now it almost looks like an intentional part of the surface design.

 

And just yesterday I realized that even if I had used the lace printing technique, there are no metallic liquid dyes. Duh. So I would have had to use some form of hand painting or printing/stamping anyway to do the metallic accents. Sigh. What a happy accident!

Jacquard’s textile paints are great because they don’t spread willly nilly (unless you’re using DyNaFlow), and they heat set very easily with a hot iron. Once a painted design is heat-set, the fabric is washable. This dress won’t be washed often, though, as it will remain a semi-special occasion garment.

Now that the bodice sections are done, I’m starting to work on the 4 skirt sections.

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The right skirt back. The left one is similar. I might have gone a tad overboard, but it’s hard to know when to say “enough.”

 

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Another view of the right skirt back (upside down) with the two back waistbands.

Upton Dress muslin

Considering that most of my major pattern changes are already incorporated into the draft, I shouldn’t be so surprised that only one muslin for the Cashmerette Upton dress bodice was necessary. I made a few small tweaks to muslin #1, but nothing that required a fresh mock-up.

Before sewing up the bodice muslin, I made a few size modifications to the pattern at the side seams, grading out from a 14 at the shoulders and bust to a 16 at the upper waist. Initially, based on the pattern measurements compared to my own, I used the size 16 for the back waistband, but for the front waistband I graded out from a 16 where it joins the bodice to a 20 where it joins the skirt, because I’ve got some tummy that I wasn’t sure the size 18 would fully accommodate. But I saw immediately that all this excess needed to come right back out when I put the bodice on and zipped it up. I pinned the excess at the waistband and it turned out to shrink it back down to a straight 16. Even with a more snug fit through the waistband, it felt comfortable when I sat; if you have any fleshy bits in your torso you know sitting causes that flesh to expand. So I ended up using a straight 16 waistband. There’s just enough ease for comfort.

The short, torpedo-shaped waist dart with its curved legs was problematic for me because my bust is set very high and its fullness is evenly distributed from top to bottom. This waist dart shape nicely scoops in the bodice at the torso under the bust, but it ends too abruptly for my shape. This would probably work best for someone whose bust is low-set and is fuller on the lower half. For my shape, I needed to extend the dart and create a more gradual taper toward the point, while retaining the arced dart leg shapes. Below you can see the original waist dart shape (the shortest one) and the two extended versions I tried before deciding on the tallest one. Yes, that puts the dart point very close to my actual bust point, but for a garment with minimal ease, that works ok.

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When I made the Appleton knit wrap dress, I didn’t do any length adjustments, and the dress’s waist hit me just above my natural waist, which was perfect. It was pretty much the same for this pattern. Jenny, the pattern designer, described Upton’s lengthwise fit as “the top edge of the waistband sits at the high waist.” The dress may be designed to be a tad short-waisted on a person with an average torso length, to rest above tummy fluff. My torso is short and my waist is pretty clearly defined, even with my fluff. I wanted the waistband to rest closer to my natural waist, which it did without lengthening the pattern anywhere. However, I did need to add about 1/4 inch length to the front bodice waist to make the waistline level, because mine dips a bit in front, while it tilts up in back. The pattern’s included swayback alteration was still a teensy bit too long for me, so I took it up an additional 1/4 inch at center-back, tapering it to nothing at the side seams.

One other area of fit concern was across my shoulder blades. I have a very erect posture (thank you scoliosis, childhood horse riding lessons, and yoga), and many bodices bag out at my upper back. Even though I’m using the V-neck back bodice sections for this dress, I needed to take a bit of volume out of the upper shoulder and center-back areas. I took a few tiny darts out of the back neckline to remove some of that bagginess. I’ll have to do this to the scoop-neck version, too.

All in all, this was an extremely easy dress bodice to fit! The built-in customized cup sizes, swayback alteration, and shortened torso made getting the fit right faster than any other bodice I’ve fitted.

I’ve cut all the dress sections from fabric, and now I’m working on printing them. More on that later!

Dress Decision 2016

After polling all my coworkers, some key friends, and the fine folks following me on this blog and over at Instagram (@stephani.miller), I have decided on the design I will sew for my friend’s afternoon, outdoor/barn, September wedding. *trumpetssound*

Here’s the winner:

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The indigo (I’ve decided it’s indigo, not royal or cornflower; maybe I’m wrong) silk shantung in the Cashmerette Upton dress, pleated skirt with V neck, not the scoop neck I was originally thinking of. A coworker pointed out to me that scoop necks seem a bit more casual, and I would usually choose the V neck anyway. But for the other Upton dresses that are to come, I will most likely make the scoop neck version.

Anyway, I’m going to use the shattered lace printing effect that I love so much, so I’ll try to blog about that process here. I’m expecting the Jacquard Lumiere and Textile Paints I ordered to arrive early next week. I love Jacquard’s textile paints and dyes! They’re so easy to use. I’ve selected some lace scraps and will try out the printing process on other fabric scraps once the paints arrive to make sure I like the effect.

To print the shantung for the dress, I plan to either outline the pattern shapes on the fabric first, or just go ahead and cut the fabric before printing so I don’t waste paint and can be more strategic in the print placement and composition.

The fabric may get a vinegar/water bath before printing just to super-extra-fix the dye job.

Time to clean off my dining room table so I can use it for the printing! But even before that, I need to muslin the Upton’s bodice to make sure of my size and any adjustments.

What to make for a friend’s wedding??

What to make for a friend’s wedding??

I just realized it’s August. Funny how that happens. The months roll by, you think you have enough time for all the projects on your plate, and BOOM! It’s all gone.

This finally hit me today because in just a bit over a month, a friend of mine is getting married and I can’t decide what to make to wear. I’ve got a 2-year-old UFO that’s all underlined and pleated and ready to be sewn together that I could finish. The fabric is a beautiful mulberry-colored metallic jacquard I picked up from the Haberman Fabrics booth at American Sewing Expo three or four years ago. The pattern is from an issue of BurdaStyle magazine from 2011. I still love the fabric, I still love the dress, and as it’s ready for assembly it would be easy to finish. But I’m not sure it hits the right note for an early September wedding and reception in a rustic barn in Connecticut at 3 p.m.

I could change plans pretty easily at this point and instead make the Cashmerette Upton dress with the full pleated skirt option. If past experience with Cashmerette’s patterns carries through to this one, most of my pattern alterations are already included in the pattern’s draft. I’d have to do a muslin, of course, and I’d have to pick a fabric. I have lots in my stash to choose from, but half my stash is now at my parents’ house 8 hours away, as I’m prepping for a move. What I do have on-hand is mostly casual, or intended for historical costume, or fancier but not enough yardage.

Here’s what I have that could make a just-fancy-enough-but-not-too-fancy Upton for my friend’s wedding:

A beautiful fuchsia jacquard-weave linen, which I’ve already planned to make into this dress anyway. I’ve got a solid 4 yards of this. The color looks a little hot in this photo, but it’s not far off the real color. There’s a large Art Nouveau-ish design woven into the fabric, and the linen has a beautiful hand, stiff body, and full drape, plus that lovely linen luminescence. I’d wash this by dunking it a few times in warm water and letting it air dry before pressing to preserve some of its crispness and the fiber’s natural glow.

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A silk shantung that started out periwinkle, but which I dyed to what I’ll call royal purple. Or maybe cornflower. It came out a tad splotchy in areas, but one more spin through the wash cleared most of that up. Still, the subtle sheen of shantung was diminished by the hot dye bath and washing it afterward. It definitely has a sand-washed appearance now. I have 3 yards of this 59-inch-wide fabric, which should be JUST enough for an Upton dress. I’d like to try a bit of painting on this one to disguise any remaining splotches, with black and gold paints. It would be semi-fancy, original, and just challenging and creative enough to keep my attention on it.

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Then there’s the 7+ yards of rose-gold silk dupioni that I bought for a Regency gown, but then decided it would be too stiff even after washing. It is very highly slubbed and medium weight. It would probably look great after a gentle wash with baby shampoo. Despite the texture and pretty color and nice sheen, it would be a rather plain dress. So I’d probably do some painting on it to give the dress more interest.

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What do you do when you’re faced with several good options and can’t decide which would be best? If there wasn’t a deadline involved I’d say: I’ll make them all and it doesn’t matter which one comes first. But since this is sewing for a goal, a dress to wear to a friend’s wedding, deciding is kind of important.

Here’s what I do when I can’t decide: sketch. I either free-hand draw the design, then color it in to get the full effect, or I use the pattern flats. Since the Upton is a very simple design and the flats are already nicely proportioned for my kind of figure, I decided to use them as the basis for my sketches.

Here’s option 1, from the linen jacquard:

Sketch 3-A

Here’s option 2, from the royal/cornflower shantung. I would apply a painted design that I call “shattered lace,” which is done by dabbing fabric paint or spraying liquid dye onto the fabric through scraps of lace. I love this technique because it’s so interesting. I’d use black and gold and scatter the patterns around the fabric randomly.

Sketch 1

And option 3, which is hard to get an accurate sketch for because the color is hard to reproduce with marker (I did some color saturation adjustment). For this option, I’d also apply a shattered lace effect, but in gold and bronze color paints, and probably only concentrated around the dress’s hemline. I tried to mimic the dupioni texture with metallic gold pen, but the color adjustment reduced its effect.

Sketch 2-ab copy

I really like all of these options, and making a decision is going to be tough. All the colors would look good with my complexion, I think. The linen is a fancy fabric, despite being made from a humble fiber, and it’s in one of my favorite colors. And it would require no additional embellishment.

The royal/cornflower shantung offers a real creative opportunity and could be a very unique, beautiful dress.

But the rose-gold dupioni also offers creativity, although it would be a more subtle paint-job. And the fabric is a bit fancier because of its sheen, maybe too fancy for the wedding time.

I’m leaning towards the royal/cornflower shantung, because I like to make things hard on myself, apparently. But it wouldn’t take much time to accomplish the painting. However, I have a lot of projects on my plate at the moment: I’m helping another friend with her wedding dress (for October), I’m supposed to be whipping up my fitting muslin for the Chanel jacket to contribute to a project at work (in September), and I’m trying to get some blouses made AND pack my belongings.

What would you do? Which would you wear to a 3 p.m. early September (read: potentially hot) wedding in a barn?

I know there aren’t a lot of followers of this blog out there, and it’s not often I ask for opinions because I usually have pretty firm ones of my own–but if you would like to share yours, please do! Help me out, folks!