Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dressing Myself

I made myself another piece of clothing. Actually I made this one first, but didn't totally finish it until last week. I'm a slacker sometimes. But back to the subject. I made myself a summer dress. Although it sounds like an ambitious project, it was really pretty easy.

I have realized that I sew like I cook, without a recipe. My mom is just the opposite in sewing and cooking. I know now that's why we always fought in the kitchen. She wanted me to do things a certain way and I liked to wing it. That's also why, I think, I had zero interest when she tried to teach me to sew. There was too much terminology and too many instructions.

I visited one sewing class in 4-H too. (Yes, I was in 4-H. Yes, I was in 4-H for 10 years. I have a very nice pen and pencil set to prove it.) I didn't like it. There was a lot of pressure. We practiced sewing straight lines on a piece of paper. Then someone checked our stitching. Once you were deemed proficient enough on the paper, you could start sewing a project, usually a draw-string laundry bag. Seams were checked for uniformity, and then ripped out and done again. Blech. Of course, those girls are probably sewing up all sorts of fabulous things now and I'm still just learning. And some people do well in that kind of environment, but I sometimes like a little more freedom.

And freedom it was as I made my first dress. And by made I mean, MADE, as in, made the pattern and sewed it up. It wasn't as hard as it sounds, but I'm still really proud of myself.

Let's start at the beginning. I found some fabric at the thrift store for $0.75. It was, in the words of my friend, "the ugliest fabric I've ever seen," but for some reason I just really liked it. There was something about the color combination that I loved. I bought it. I brought it home and looked at it a lot trying to decide what to make. Finally I landed on a summer dress. I had a vision in my mind of what it would look like, so I headed off to find a pattern. No luck. Pattern makers really need to update their inventory. It was settled then, I was going to attempt to make my own pattern.

First I gathered some supplies. Brown paper (That kept rolling up. Annoying. So I weighted the corners with magazines.) A pencil and a cutting mat to use for straight edges. 
I took my measurements to ensure a good fit and then added a few inches to allow for seams and so the dress was kind of loose. I was going to add elastic to the top and I wanted it to gather up some.

After drawing and cutting out my pattern, I laid out my fabric. Eek! This was where I started to get nervous.

I pinned on the pattern and it was time to cut! No turning back now!

This is where I stopped taking pictures. Lame-o. But here's the run down of what I did to create the finished, and wearable I might add, product. After cutting out the pattern I had an identical front and back. First I stitched up both sides. Then I folded down a casing at the top for the elastic. I measured the elastic around myself and threaded it through the casing. I pinned the elastic and tried it on. Too big. Why does elastic always end up being a little big? I don't get it. Anyway, I adjusted the elastic and stitched it all up. I planned to tie a sash around the dress as a belt so the top would be "blousey." Messing with a sash to ensure even "blousey-ness" can be annoying so I decided to add some elastic to the waist too. No casing here because I already started the project. Uh-oh! Not to worry, a few online tutorials later, I was stitching thin elastic directly to the dress. And it worked! Ok, I did have to rip it out once because, again, it was too big. Seriously, how does that happen?

At this point I had a strapless A-line dress that was totally wearable. I wore it to a picnic with a black sash and found myself nervous that it was slipping down the whole night. Plus, I hadn't hemmed it at all and it was an unflattering length. (I made sure the bottom edge was the selvage, so it wasn't a totally raw edge.)

The dress was cute but needed straps. So I added some. And found some fabric to make a turquoise sash, which I liked much better. Then, after putting it off and putting it off, I finally did the hem. It's hard to hem a dress by yourself. Lots of pinning and trying on involved.

Finally the dress was finished and ready to wear for a date night with Adam. Of course, we had to stop by a friend's house on the way to dinner so she could take some pictures for the blog. Ha ha! (She's painting her dining room that awesome shade of blue, so that's why there's paper taped on the floor. Also don't mind that I'm standing so awkwardly.)

I love how it turned out. It's comfortable to wear and super fun for summer. Plus the cost of the whole thing was less than $5.00!

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