Liberty Silk


Right then, picking up where we left off! Here’s the dress, in progress:

The entire thing is only five seams (bodice front and back, skirt front and back, bodice to skirt, oh and the facing so I guess that’s two more), but the silk was pretty slippery and tricky to work with. A week was just the right amount of time to make it, because even though the construction was quite straightforward, there was a lot of hand-finishing to do.

The hardest part, would you believe, was sewing the armholes! I mean sure, draping the skirt onto the petersham waistband so the folds fell exactly right wasn’t exactly easy, but the armholes were another matter entirely. I ended up doing them three times each, sinking about six hours into the damn things. As the bodice was cut on the bias, I didn’t need to sew on separate bias binding for the armholes and could fold and roll over the raw edges of the armholes to bind them instead. I thought this would be simple. It wasn’t. The first time I did it (which took AAAAGES), they ended up too bubbly and warped because I’d rolled back too much fabric (about 1/2″ in total). So then I had to go back and do them again turning them back even less, ultimately dealing with 1/16″ at a time!! Arrgh.

But I got there in the end.

After the armholes I had to delicately hand-sew tiny little stitches all along the facing to keep it from flapping around unpleasantly, and to give the neck and back a nice, clean edge. That took a while, but not as long as the armholes and not as long as the hem. I hemmed it with a flat-catch stitch (or herringbone stitch, as they call it over here), but it was sewn just onto the seam allowance of the hem and not the outer fabric of the dress which was a bit awkward at first, because I had to work out the best way to hold it. It didn’t occur to me at the time to take photos of all these little details, but if anyone desperately wants to see them do let me know and I’ll whip the dress out and post some snaps.

The placket took a while as well, mostly due to sewing on all the snaps (or “press studs” to the Anglican folk) as sturdily and at the same time as delicately as possible. No one wants unsightly stab-stitches on the side of a lovely gown, do they?

The last step was… the belt! Just a nice little feature to finish it off. Pretty quick and easy to do; sew a rectangle, turn it inside out, attach a nice buckle, ta-dah!!

And here’s the finished, belted product:

It’s not a great photo, but sadly the best one I have that shows the back as well because the ones from the photo shoot just didn’t do anything for me or the dress. This one, though, isn’t bad for detail:

Can you tell it fits me a bit differently than the form? My natural waist is a higher, so the bodice blouses out a bit more when I wear it while it hangs down straighter on the form. Although, we were lucky to have gotten it on the form at ALL! We just about squeezed it over the shoulders of the mannequin, and that was after I’d extended the placket by a good four inches. Nightmare.

But, if we’re giving out awards to the most fraught moment of the final project, then the accolade definitely goes to my Being an Idiot When Trimming Down Seam Allowance Around the Petersham and Cutting a Hole in the Back of the Dress moment.

Oh my god, I very nearly had a breakdown when I realized what I’d done. I swear by all the Liberty silk in the world that I’ll never make that mistake again. I almost started crying. I panicked, knowing that while I had enough fabric to make another bodice, I most certainly didn’t have the time.

BUT! Level-headedness and problem-solving prevailed. There were a few things that were in my favor when solving this problem:

1. The hole was in the back of the dress, not the front
2. It’s very nearly hidden by the cowl back
3. It wasn’t really a hole, rather a V-shaped cut about an inch deep (so not as massive as it could have been)

And, my saving grace…
4. The print of the fabric is relatively small-scale and complex, so it disguises mistakes well

So, what’s a girl to do? Match that flappy V back up to the surrounding pattern and whack a bit of interfacing on, of course!

I wasn’t hyperventilating by the time I got to the ironing board, but I was shaking and had to give myself a serious pep talk before working up the courage to gently, s-l-o-w-l-y, c–a–r–e–f–u–l–l–y press the interfacing on to patch it up.

And it worked! I showed the patch job to all the girls, holding it right under their noses, and they had to properly search the fabric before they found anything untoward. Even Pauline didn’t see it right away, and when I did point it out to her she congratulated me on a brilliant piece of engineering. Aaaand letting out a massive sigh of relief in three, two, one…


Coming up! The Moment In Which Rebecca Is Very Nearly Defeated By Cover Buttons. Stay tuned!